Lilac Soda Syrup Recipe: A gift from The Unplugged Family Activity Book

Unplugged Family cover

Another pre-release from the Unplugged Family Activity Book? You bet! Since lilacs are bursting for many right now, it felt like the perfect time for this simple, delicious, springtime recipe.

Before we dive in with the download, I have a few quick thoughts to share…

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Just a month from today, my new book will land in the welcoming world. And all things considered, I’d say that just about perfect timing. Don’t you think? 

As so many children and their families and trying to regain their equilibrium from an unprecedented end to the school year, we are all entering a summer that will be equally disorienting. Many of our usual summer activities–from camp to summer school, community potlucks to swimming at the local pool–are off the table for so many of us.

If you pre-ordered, in just four short weeks, The Unplugged Family Activity Book will land on your doorstep, and you’ll be off on a grand adventure all summer (and all year!) long. And I can hardly wait to hear which project, recipe, or celebration you try first.

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Will it be bark boats or infused honey? Campfire bread or giant bubbles? A backyard tea party or a backyard campout? There are so many simple, free activities to enjoy within these pages, I can’t wait to see where you dive in.

In the meantime, can I ask a small favor of you?

Because I could truly use your help. Below are five small, but powerful things you can do to help support me during this launch. And aside from pre-ordering your family’s copy, none of them will cost you a dime.

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1. Pre-Order The Unplugged Family Activity Book

You can pick up a copy for yourself, your family, or a friend directly from me, or through your local bookshop. (Bookshop.org is another great resource that many local, independent bookstores are using in order to stay afloat right now. Use my local bookstore’s portal, or search for your own!)

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2. Contact your library

Drop an email to your local library, requesting they pick up a copy for their shelves. It’s a perfect resource for what will surely prove to be a DIY-fun sort of summer season.

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3. Tell your friends!

Word-of-mouth is everything, so talk it up. I can’t express enough how important this one is. Use social media, email, or a good old-fashioned phone call. Whatever your strategy, I appreciate each and every recommendation.

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4. Post a review

After your copy arrives, post a review online. Goodreads and Amazon are both excellent places to generate some positive buzz that helps other families know better what to expect within the pages. Along with sharing with your friends, reviews are profoundly helpful for the longtime trajectory of any book.

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5. Go outside and play!

Then get out there and enjoy all 60+ ideas, projects, recipes, and celebrations. And savor this season.  If you share photographs online,  use #unpluggedfamilyactivitiybook to share your adventures and creations.

 

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Thanks, friends. It means so much to have your support along this road.

And now… the recipe you’ve been waiting for! Find your download in the link below. Enjoy.

 

Love,

Rachel

Lilac Soda Syrup Recipe

 

Are you drinking “too much” coffee, or just making space for self-care?

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Let’s pivot together.

Last week, one of my dearest friends lovingly challenged my language choice when I reported to her that during COVID we were “drinking unreasonable quantities of tea”.

She had called to check in on our emotional health; to see how we were weathering this collective storm.

“I’m going to challenge your word choice,” she said, sliding into her professional role as therapist. “What if instead of drinking ‘too much tea’ or ‘an unreasonable amount’ you are simply ‘enjoying tea together’ as part of your COVID experience? Because unless we’re talking about you pounding a bottle of vodka every night, drinking an extra two cups of black tea every day is a valid part of your coping strategy.”

Oh, yes. Language matters, doesn’t it?

And so her loving lesson settled in deep.

If you were to swing by our kitchen this season, you would indeed find us enjoying copious and frequent mugs of black tea during quarantine. And on the days when I’m really lucky, you might also find my kids cooking, baking, and churning out gorgeous loaves of bread, lofty and beautiful cakes, and rich rhubarb ice cream for us to savor as well.

Are we eating too much wheat, sugar, and other comfort foods these days? Last week, I would have laughed, and said, “YES!” But this week? I’m going to say no. We’re simply… enjoying a few treats during this time hunkered down at home. And not unlike our garden and house projects, foraging trips to the woods, and hours in the workshop, it’s just another piece of how we’re getting by. No judgment, no baggage, just us: surviving (and even thriving) during quarantine. How comforting it feels to put down that judgment and negativity. Exhale.

How about you? What are you gravitating toward this season? Is it more in the neighborhood of yoga or dark chocolate? Television binging or deep meditation? Lattes or herbal infusions?

All are valid. There’s no shame in your coping game, friends.

 

300 trees: our carbon-offset plan

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Before our first trip to Ireland in 2017 I hadn’t been on an airplane in more than 15 years. I had literally flown one time since 911 (then barely pregnant with Sage, on a work trip for the conservation organization I worked for).

And not unlike when I was doing a lot of travel for conservation education, I was strangely unaware of the environmental impact of our trip just those few years ago.

When we flew again as a family in 2020 (a 6 week trip to Iceland and back to Ireland once more), things felt different. After I purchased our tickets, my consciousness shifted, and I began contemplating the carbon footprint of both of these adventures (with ever-increasing discomfort).

With climate change no longer a future prediction and very much a here-and-now reality, I had discomfort around my decision to load my family on a plane for the sake of education, life experience, and pleasure.

Honestly, as a lifelong environmental advocate and activist, it felt more than a little selfish.

So while we were in Ireland, I proposed a partial solution to my family: instead of making birthday gifts for me this spring, would they all pitch in and plant enough trees to offset our carbon footprint for our family’s air travel?

Everyone was enthusiastically on board.

We settled on 100 trees, then quickly doubled it to cover our first trip as well. 200 trees. That should do it.

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I ordered the bulk of them from our annual county tree sale before I got a bug to plant willows as well (not offered through the county). Willows are not only excellent at water-uptake (something we desperately need here in this valley), but they’re stars at carbon sequestering, trapping more than most other species and holding it there, underground, even after they die. And I’m getting excited to make baskets again, and don’t want to import reed from overseas to do it, so willow baskets it is.

Lupine and I spent an afternoon in late winter taking cuttings at a generous friend’s willow farm. These we set in buckets of water until root nodes appeared, then Pete planted each in tree flats to allow further growth before planting.

With the willows, our 200 became 300.

300. That felt like a solid number of trees to not only offset our second trip but our first as well, along with a few past family road trips in our vintage RV.

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Black walnut and white pine, willow and sugar maple, black birch, white spruce and elderberry, rose and more. A windbreak, a food forest, a medicine garden, a basketry grove, a bit of flood insurance, and some earth-cooling shade.

Plus a carbon-offset for our travels.

Yes, please. Bring it.

Late last week, the tree order arrived, and this weekend we got to work.

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On Saturday, we laid out a circuitous path from our house to the creek, then lined it with an assortment of shade-giving, moisture-loving trees.

The next day (snow flurries be damned!) we put in a windbreak up the valley from our property, something we’ve dreamed of since moving here more than 7 years ago.

After two days of steady planting, we still have more trees left than we’ve put in the ground.

But I’m not discouraged.

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Planting 300 trees is no joke. I had planned a tree planting birthday party, but: social distancing. So it’s just us. And while our moods shifted as dramatically as the weather, we came out of the weekend satisfied by our accomplishments.

In the past 48 hours we were rained on, snowed on, and pelted with sleet, yet still managed a sunburned. There was dirt in my hair, my mouth, and my ears, and I was so tired yesterday that I accidentally blew my nose in my eyeglasses cloth after forgetting why I pulled it from my pocket.

I’d say I’m a hot mess, but after yesterday’s blustery planting, “cold mess” seems more appropriate.

What a weekend. What a project! Only a couple hundred more to go.

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A quick postscript: we all make changes in our lives with positive and negative environmental consequences. Do I propose everyone do this? Of course not. Just like homeschooling my kids or planting a garden, it is a deeply personal choice. That said, I do encourage each of us to look deeply at the impact of our choices. And then if you have the privilege to do so, choose actions that yield a lighter impact.

From choosing second-hand clothing to biking to work, buying organic food to going meat-free one meal each week, buying a more sustainable vehicle to saying no to air travel: most of us can find small and big ways to begin making an impact.

What about you? Is there a small change you are eager to make to tread more softly on the earth?

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Have you participated in a purchased or personal carbon-offset? Let’s inspire each other. What was your method to lighten your footprint on the planet? 

May Day bouquets: a gift from the Unplugged Family Activity Book

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I have always delighted in celebrating the small in-between holidays, to bring a bit of joy to an otherwise ordinary week.

May Day, or Beltane, is certainly on my simple favorites shortlist.

And while we normally celebrate with our friends and neighbors at our community May Day Folk Festival (complete with a colorful, ribboned, towering May Pole), this year we’re back to the basics of celebrating at home.

Thankfully, we can still keep at our favorite May Day tradition, global pandemic or not: tiptoeing around the neighborhood delivering scrappy bouquets to unexpecting neighbors. (Though full disclosure: after 7 years, they *might* just be onto us.)

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A simple gift of love, cheer, and springtime magic. What could be finer–today more than ever?

A simple how-to for you and your family is below–a gift from my soon to be released Unplugged Family Activity Book.

So make up a few bouquets, then leave them hanging from your neighbor’s fence, front gate, paper box, or doorknob, and celebrate the delight of having delivered a bit of cheer during these difficult days.

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One note before we get to the download: For those who have the means, I’d be delighted if you pre-ordered a copy of my book as soon as you are able. As you may have guessed, launching a book during a global pandemic isn’t exactly idyllic timing (who knew!?). But, eternal optimist that I am, I’m going to take it as a shining opportunity to align families with wonderful ways to lean in and connect with one another and each other during this unprecedented season. Think of this as a homemade version of summer camp, but at a fraction of the price.

The upshot is this: pre-ordering is not only a fabulous way to support my work, but it also ensures that more libraries and booksellers find their way to my work and pick up copies for their shelves. Win-win-win.

Order directly from your hometown, independent book shop, or pick up a signed copy straight from me. Then tell all your friends (because that really helps, too). 

Thank you. It means so much.

Now… enough chatter. On with the tutorial! The simple upcycled May Day Bouquet how-to is below! Have at it, and happy merry-making.

Enjoy, friends. Stay well out there!
Love,
Rachel

click the link below

Neighborhood Bouquet Surprises

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Wild and Tame Tea Sandwiches Recipe: a gift from The Unplugged Family Activity Book

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Have I ever mentioned that spring is my favorite time of year?

It is. And I have. Indeed, my very first blog post (posted nearly *12 years ago now) mentions it, and it’s a theme in my life and writing that surfaces again and again.

*12 years of blogging here?! How? What? Whoa. 

And here we are, in the midst of the most curious of springs.

“Curious”: that’s midwestern nice for, “Holy heck this is not what I was planning for this season.”

And day after day, week after week, I keep wishing my book had been printed last season so you would all have it in your hands already: a treasure trove of simple, accessible, no-shopping-necessary projects and recipes and activities.

Resources and ideas to help you connect you with one another, with nature right in your neighborhood, and with the seasons–simply and joyfully.

Yet here we are.

So, I decided: let’s work with what we’ve got! My publisher and I pulled a few more projects from the book to share with you, just in time for this, ahem, most curious of springs.

Our first pre-release was the Signs of Spring Scavenger Hunt.

And today? We’re heading to the kitchen to make a wild and tame pesto and then craft some delicious sandwiches on a miniature scale.

I’m hoping that these free offerings will brighten this shadowy spring, and bring you some cheer and light during these dark and trying days.

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Below you’ll find your free, downloadable recipe. 

Make the pesto and sandwiches with your kids, your live-in quarantine pal, or your partner, or make them all on your own. Then, if the weather permits, head outside for a picnic in the sunshine.

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But before we dive in, may I ask a small favor of you?

If you have the means and the interest, would you consider pre-ordering a copy of my book?

Pre-ordering The Unplugged Family Activity Book today would be the very finest thing you could do if you’d like to support me and my work. Then spread the word to your family and friends!

Book successes these days hinge on pre-orders, and because of current events, it’s no surprise that we’re falling behind a bit from where we’d like to be right now. You can pre-order by calling your local, independent book shop, who could certainly use the business right at the moment.

If you don’t have a local bookshop to call upon, you can order your copy directly from me. I’ll be signing all copies before they ship out in June! You can find my book pre-order page here.

Thank you, friends. It means so much.

20190519-_RJW0430And with that, let’s get on with that recipe! Find your downloadable PDF recipe below. If you make a batch and share any photos online, be sure to tag me with #unpluggedfamilyactivitybook so I can see your delicious creations!

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Wild & Tame Tea Sandwiches

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Stay well and stay safe,

Rachel

Process over product (processing over producing)

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At 13, Lupine is more on her game offering content these days than I am. She’s created and uploaded a weekly craft video for kids, while I’ve stood here froze, a deer in the headlights. (Her latest video is here if you’ve been waiting.)

But goodness. It’s all a lot to integrate right now, isn’t it?

I thought I’d be productive during quarantine: making and donating masks to our small town hospital; doing Instagram live videos for LüSa Organics customers and blog fans; offering book readings and free classes with content from my books.

But here I am, just slowly processing it all.

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And perhaps that alone is enough.

While the rest of our culture seems to be screaming, “Do more! Be more! Have something to show for this!” I’m over here honoring the need to simply process it all. Indeed, there is no need for me to have anything to show for this time aside from a heart that is slightly more healed and intact.

Process over product in the truest sense.

In the dreary rain of Monday, I pulled out my camera–long quiet–and snapped a few pictures of the countryside around our neighborhood on my way home from LüSa. I found beauty in the brokenness. It felt timely for the state of the world, our country, and most certainly my home state of Wisconsin right now.

And there it was. Indeed, there it always is. The bittersweet beauty of the broken places. The perfect imperfection of a world worn hard by time, a world that looks so much like our own tattered souls.

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In the peeling paint and the abandoned, tumble-down farms, in the graffiti and rain showers, beauty was there, quietly waiting.

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Our broken world and broken lives are beautiful, despite–and occasionally because of–our scars. Do you feel it?

There’s no need to have anything to show for this time. Tend your hearts. Or if you’d rather, light the world up with the magic you’ve been saving for a moment just such as this. There’s no right or wrong way to show up right now. Just show up. For yourself, your family, your community, your heart.

You know the way. Move slowly in that direction.

Stay well loves. You matter.

 

Love,

Rachel

 

DIY Felt Easter Eggs

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Happy Saturday! Lupine posted her third video tutorial yesterday, over on The Happy Dumpling. She’s sharing how to make felt Easter Eggs using just sewing thread and scraps of wool (or other) felt.

I shared my own tutorial for these when Lupine was only 5, and it’s so delightful to see how my kids have grown up with these homemade eggs (not purchased plastic eggs) as their spring celebration standard.

You can watch the video below, or pop over to her channel to view her how-to.

Happy making, dear ones.

 

Tin Can Telephone: a Happy Dumpling Tutorial

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You can find Lupine over at The Happy Dumpling today, sharing her second Homeschool Crafts tutorial: this one for an upcycled tin can telephone (she includes instructions for using paper cups or yogurt tubs as well).

Head on over to her YouTube channel, or watch the latest video below (if you want to stay in the loop on future videos, it’s a snap to subscribe).

Happy making, friends! Stay safe, healthy, and kind out there.

Love,
Rachel + Lupine

P.S. Thank you for the many many sweet messages and charming photos of your kids and their projects after last week’s tutorial. Each one was a treasure! 

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