Friday, March 21, 2014

All in a day's work ... literally.

We finally did it!  We gathered enough sap from the four maples we tapped in our backyard to boil it into syrup.  This was a perfect activity for the first day of spring to share with the girls!  

As you can see from the first photo above, we had a decent amount of sap.  Two of the white buckets were almost full, one was about half full and the blue container had about 1/4 sap in it.  We boiled and boiled and boiled.  For the ENTIRE DAY.  Approximately 8 hours to be exact and this is what we got:

 Yep.  That's it!  All of that sap for not even a half of a jar of syrup!  But, OMG it was the most absolute delicious syrup we have ever tasted and the girls were amazed that they were able to make their own from trees in their backyard.  Fresh, unprocessed and pure.  

Of course, we had pancakes the very next morning.  Our syrup got firm in the refrigerator so I'm thinking I likely cooked it just a bit too much.  At the very end of the process, it can go from the right temp to cooking too much pretty quickly.  I think I learned this time around and hopefully will do better next time.  In either case, we were able to warm up the syrup and it was fine.  

Definitely hooked on the process!  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Restore Workshop Winner!!!

I have to apologize for not posting our Restore Workshop Winner last night.  My oldest daughter came home from college this week and it was also her 20th birthday!  I'll post more on that later.  Without futher adieu...

Our winner is:

Donna Marie!!!

Donna said...

My name is Donna Marie and I live in NW NJ. I am the mother of 10, have a new baby, homeschool, and I constantly have to re-invent the wheel to have balance and order in my life. It is hard not to be overwhelmed, teach from a peaceful place, make do with less, and keep up my prayer life. I feel like my family's whole world depends on me being in balance.

Congratulations on winning a place in this amazing program.  Please contact us at info (at) so we can put you in touch with the instructors.  

We hope those of you who did not win but feel the need to RESTORE will consider purchasing a place in the program and joining us and we thank you all for your participation in our contest.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Restore Workshop *Giveaway* for Lent with Elizabeth Foss!

A beautiful online friend of mine, Elizabeth Foss from In the Heart of my Home, has teamed up with Joy Messimer to offer a wonderful Restore Workshop during Lent.

Elizabeth is a Catholic homeschooling mother, blogger and author who's light shines through cyberland to many of us through her blog.  This course is designed for women of all faiths and denominations who have struggled with burnout and want to restore their souls during Lent.

We are so excited that Elizabeth will be offering one Little Acorn Learning reader a FREE spot in this amazing six week program (a $65 value!).  We know so many of you are busy mothers working so very hard to provide your children with a beautiful childhood.  You deserve to give yourself the gift of self-care.

In order to enter to win a space in this class for FREE, please leave a comment on this post telling us your name, location and what you are struggling with the most at this time in your life or what you hope to get from the workshop.

We will then choose a random winner on March 15th (a day before the workshop begins) and announce it here on our blog.

Best of luck to you all!

What is the Restore Workshop?

The Restore Workshop is a six week online course geared towards adult women who have struggled or are struggling with or want to avoid burnout. It is for any woman who wants to nurture joy within her life and the lives of those around her. 

What content can I expect?

Each week is full to the brim with helps and tools. In Week 5, which falls during Holy Week, there will only be quiet time meditations each day.  There is a daily quiet time encouragement each day of the workshop, seven days a week. Each week has one podcast with writers and mothers who have struggled with burnout themselves. Elizabeth shares three in-depth essays per week, exploring the tools we must use to restore ourselves to His vision of us. Also included in each week’s content is a tutorial for creating something related to the topic of the week, something to lift your spirits and invite beauty into your lives.  Along the way, we hope you will be delighted by special gifts from our hearts to yours, like a place to journal and beautiful quote and verse printables to print out and hang. Perhaps most importantly, you will have a chance to converse and talk with your fellow participants, and with Elizabeth throughout the course, in a private, encouraging, and restful place, learning from and sharing your journey with others. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Backyard Maple Syruping

There are many really awesome things about living in New England and Maple Syruping is definitely one of them.  We have an abundance of maples in Connecticut and it is something I've wanted to do for a really long time.  This past Saturday we attended a class on Backyard Maple Syruping at a farm we are members of.  The class was very informational and really gave us all of the basics on what we needed to get started.   
 With the weather warming up in the 40's this week, it is a perfect time to give it a try.  We went home and started simple with inexpensive buckets and lids and spouts that were gifted to us by a maple syrup farm nearby.  
 The biggest challenge for us is definitely identifying maples in the winter.  While the bark can be easy to spot in a mature tree, younger trees look different and I found it quite confusing.  The teacher at our class taught us that maples are one of the few trees that have adjacent branches which really helps but when trees are VERY tall, it is hard to see for sure.  
 I think we did ok.  If not, we will be making Oak and Birch syrup I guess.  :)  My spouts are leaking a bit so I am going to hammer them in more but we are finally getting some syrup.  It is slow but steady.  
Tomorrow is supposed to rain so I'm a little anxious about what to do.  I used tubing and secured the lids but I'm not convinced the rain won't get into our makeshift supplies.  I may either try to cover any openings with tape or even bag around the bucket.  

Do any of you do this in your own backyards?  Stay tuned to see if it works out for us!  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Leaning into Lent

Lent, the forty days leading toward Easter, is a sacred season of reflection for many Christians as they remember Christ retreating into solitude for forty days and forty nights where he resisted temptation and stood true to his connection to Truth and Light.
What is your truth? What, in your life, is tempting you? What is pulling you away from joy and light in your life?
Christ sacrificed his own popularity and acceptance by continuing to spread his teachings, which eventually ended in the ultimate sacrifice of his own life upon the cross.
“A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.” ~Mahatma Gandhi on Jesus Christ
Many spiritual leaders walk the path of Salvation through Sacrifice. The Buddha abandoned his family to find his Truth. During the process, he too, avoided temptation of evil but through the demon, Mara. To find spiritual truth, the Buddha detached from all material wealth and attachments including comfort, food, family and most human contact. He fasted and sacrificed these luxuries, not to bring pain upon his earthly body but to move away from the greater pain of attachment to the material world.
“The sacrifice which causes sorrow to the doer of the sacrifice is no sacrifice. Real sacrifice lightens the mind of the doer and gives him a sense of peace and joy. The Buddha gave up the pleasures of life because they had become painful to him.”
In both examples, Jesus and Buddha went off into solitude to find their path to spiritual enlightenment. We are unable to connect to our Source without the silent solitude necessary to feed our souls. We need time alone, time to meditate, time to reflect and time to feel God or our Inner Light.
When do you find quiet time for yourself? Have you made it a priority to give yourself and those you love this sacrificial gift? When we take the time to care for ourselves, we are more able to care for those we love.
Regardless of your own spiritual or religious beliefs, this time leading up to Spring is a good time to consider your relationship to ‘things’ and emotions that are no longer serving you.
What are your attachments in this life? Can you let go?
During Lent, we often hear of individuals ‘giving up’ worldly things such as television watching, chocolate or bad habits. And while these are all good tests of our will and free us to focus on more spiritual work and healthy lifestyle, we should also include a Lenten sacrifice that can be looked upon as more of an act of service, or joyful giving.
This Lent, we can be aware of the hold material things have on us. Many of the comforts in life can consume us and keep us trapped, away from the true beauty of simplicity. These forty days and nights, we can work toward freeing our spirits from attachment and allowing unselfish love to flow into our lives.
“To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.” ~ Buddha
We can begin simply by giving others more than we give ourselves. This type of a ‘giving sacrifice’ can be in the form of a clothing or food donation, volunteering in our community or just simply turning off the computer or television and being present with our families. It is impossible for us to truly be with our loved ones or even hear the silence and be alone if we are constantly ‘connected’ to some form of technology.
In these modern times, are we ever really alone? Aren’t we constantly connected to something or someone via text, phone, computer, television or radio? Can we sacrifice the noise in our lives to lead us toward greater spiritual truths?
Those of us who yearn to find ourselves more deeply must first allow ourselves to be alone, free from material attachments and constant connections. At first it can be uncomfortable to be alone or sit in silence – but it is essential to our spiritual growth and physical health. Meditation and prayer are wonderful tools and especially fitting during Lent. You may also consider journaling each day of Lent as part of your Lenten ‘sacrifice’.
“The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are.Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not mortification, a penance. It is joyful freedom.
There is no television here, no this, no that. But we are perfectly happy.” ~Mother Teresa
While the depth and meaning of this sacred time is not something we bring to the children with our words, the reverence we show in our homes this Lent will absolutely feed their souls. In addition, the sacrifice (or gift) of silent reflection and simplicity frees us to truly ‘be’ with the children each day… loving, eating, playing, learning, warming and sleeping.
What more do any of us truly need?

Feel free to share the above article wherever you wish, just please keep the following biography intact and let us know where you shared it:
Eileen is a work-at-home mother to four daughters. She writes and publishes monthly nature guides for parents and caregivers of young children at and has many ideas and activities for parents on her blog at

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Children in Nature Photo Contest!!!!

Do you have photos of your children in nature?  Come join our March 2014 Facebook Photo Contest and enter to win a FREE e-book of your choice from Little Acorn Learning!

How to enter to win a FREE e-book of your choice (a $24.99 value) from Little Acorn Learning:

-Send no more than 3 photos per family or school correlating to our theme to info@littleacornlearning.combefore 3/14/14

-Include your name and written permission for Little Acorn Learning to use your photo in future publications or marketing. 

-Once your photo is posted on our Facebook Page, ask family and friends to LIKE it by sharing the link. 

-The photos with the most LIKES win - we will end our contest on March 14th, 2014

Please do not post photos on our Facebook Group Page as they get lost and do not get put in the correct album for voting. 

We will then ask our readers to click the ones they LIKE the best! Be sure to LIKE your own photos and ask family and friends to do the same. The winners of our contest will receive a FREE e-book of their choice from Little Acorn Learning.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Organic Farmers Winter Conference

I just got home from an amazing Winter Conference in my area put out by the National Organic Farmers Association.  While not farmers, my neighbor and I like to "call" ourselves organic gardeners (even if I'm still learning)

 It was an all day event with workshops and vendors and a delicious lunch.  It was hard to decide which classes to take.  My friend and I decided not to take the same classes so we can share notes with one another.  It's really wonderful to get to know my neighbor.  We have so much in common and have lived next door for at least ten years and have just realized it :) We planned our gardens together this year and split seeds and gardening orders.  She is homeschooling and I've always had a love for homeschooling.  It goes to show how very important it is to take the time to get to know your neighbors and people in your community.  Someone could be living right next door to you that could turn into a wonderful friend - if only you take the time to know.  
 The lunch was delicious.  I decided to take Plant Disease Management for my first class.  It was good but I wish they would have touched upon insect control too.  I had a horrible issue with cabbage worms last year and I promised myself I wouldn't even try to plant anything in the cabbage family this year (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, etc.)... BUT time heals and I decided to try once again.  I am going to try some companion planting and also coverings at night.  

My next class was Wild Plant Foraging which was wonderful.  I have a love for all things survival and naturalist.  The girls and I have often foraged dandelions as well as the wineberries in our yard.  Now I have even MORE information than I needed :) - I never knew that the pretty Red Clover that covers my lawn was also edible.  

 It was a no-brainer which class to take for my third workshop.  Winemaking 101 was right up my alley :) I didn't realize that it was such a fun and inexpensive hobby to have.  The only thing that seems hard is that the wine must ferment for a year or two.  Patience is not my strong suit but I am still inspired enough to give it a try.  This particular class focused on winemaking with fruits other than grapes.  The instructor indicated that his favorite wine was Elderberry Wine (yum).  I also asked if I could use the wild wineberries in my yard and he said absolutely.  Pretty cool.
 It was a long day and I was happy to come home to my girls.  I bought a lot of goodies including some yummy beeswax candles, seeds, organic clothing and an animal tracking field guide.  It really was a fun day.
I'm excited now more than ever for spring to come so I can get my hands dirty again.  But first, I'll need to weather the snowstorm coming tomorrow ;)