A Winter Book List

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Early yesterday morning, Lupine woke with a sore throat and a queasy stomach. It quickly unraveled into something of a mild (yet, um, productive) stomach bug that kept us busy for much of the day. Poor thing. We’re just not “pukers” (if you’ll pardon the expression) and stomach bugs are a particularly nasty surprise to wake up to, especially when the lot of us so rarely throw up.

And so the homeschooling rhythm was scrapped, and a bed was made on the couch by the fire.

There was a hot water bottle filled to soothe a sore tummy, teaspoons of water dispensed, and homeopathic remedies to take.

And, of course, a pile of favorite picture books from when she was small. Because what could be more comforting than that?

Before long the wave of sickness had subsided, a tiny bowl of brothy wild rice + chicken soup was devoured (and then a second, and then a third) and we were well on our way to health once again.

I thought it would be fun to share with you a few of our childhood-long favorite winter books, in case you’ll hoping to restock your winter book basket this season. All of the photos are clickable links (afflinks).

Most of the books listed we happily own; others we check out each December from our public library.

Wishing you all wellness this season. And happy reading!

Love,

Rachel

A Winter Booklist

Around the Year, by Elsa Beskow is one of our favorite books. Though not a winter celebration, it’s a journey through the year. We can’t get enough of Elsa Beskow, or this title in particular.

Sky Sisters, by Jan Bordeau Waboose is a delightful tale of two Ojibway sisters, setting off into the darkness to see the northern lights. We adore this book.

It’s Snowing, by Olivier Dunrea is a simple, charming story about a mother and baby’s adventures in the snow. A gift for Sage when he was small, this book has a permanent spot in our bookshelf.

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, by Gloria Houston is a bittersweet tale of family, motherhood, and Christmas. A tattered paperback copy of this book found its way into our world many years ago, and it’s pulled out each December.

The Shortest Day, by Wendy Pieffer is one of the few Winter Solstice celebrating books out there! We were delighted to stumble upon the whole series at our library years ago, and continue to enjoy these seasonal books.

Children of the Forest, by Elsa Beskow is not a winter-specific tale, but a lovely journey through the year beside the charming forest children and their parents. A perennial favorite in our home since our kids were tiny.

The Big Snow, by Berta and Elmer Hader is an old-fashioned sweet story of wildlife (and people) through a blizzard. It’s charming.

We love Cicely Mary Barker’s fairy books, and the winter collection is no exception. Short poems about plants and their fairies are a simple celebration of the season.

Snipp, Snapp, Snurr, and the Yellow Sled by Maj Lindman is a tale of kindness and generosity. Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the Reindeer is a lovely winter tale as well.

The Return of the Light by Carolyn McVickar Edwards is a collection of winter tales from around the world. On our library reserve list right now!

The Tomten, by Astrid Lindgren (yes, the author of Pippi) is a charming look at the mythical Tomten on the farm. There’s another title, The Tomten’s Christmas Porridge that Lupine also enjoys.

The Wild Christmas Reindeer, by Jan Brett is another wintertime favorite. If you’re familiar with Jan’s artistic style, you can expect this book to captivate you as much as her other titles. Beautiful illustrations and a sweet message.

The Mitten, by Jan Brett, is another visual feast. A charming story of childhood, wildlife, magic, and knitting. What’s not to love?

I would be remiss in not mentioning (one more time) my own book (ahem), Herbal Adventures for winter reading. What better time to get to know the plants that will spring up come April? And some (mullein and pine in particular) can even be foraged now for use this season. You can pick it up on my website as well!

And let’s end where we began, shall we? With another Elsa Beskow favorite, Ollie’s Ski Trip. Magic, innocence, and winter cheer abound in this charming classic tale.

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A new addition

Despite all that I shared about Thanksgiving’s roots and deeper meaning last week, it is still a day my family has long treasured and spent together, focused on gratitude. With this in mind, we slipped away last week for a brief but lovely visit with my parents back at my childhood home.

I’m so grateful to live close enough that a two day trip isn’t a ridiculous prospect, and that we are fortunate enough to have my family to call on–during the holidays and every season.

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We read aloud a couple of the books from the Decolonizing Thanksgiving book list, then dove in being helpful as best we could with dinner preparations. Lupine harvested some of my mom’s herbs, then bundled and labeled them and hung them up to dry. So sweet.

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During the weekend, my mom pulled a worn gold ring out of a jewelry box, and despite not having seen it for nearly 25 years, I recognized it instantly. It was my grandmother’s wedding ring, and I slipped it onto my finger, awash with memories.

Later that night, knitting beside the fire, her ring was in context once more. Juxtaposed against my yarn and needles, the sight of ring and wool together transported me back in time. My grandma was the only knitter I knew as a child, and she (like me today) was rarely far from her yarn.

I suppose she’s at the heart of why I make.

Seeing that ring alongside my yarn took me back to a seat on the floor beside her chair as she patiently talked me through my first clumsy stitches. I watched as she expertly maneuvered the work in her hands. Like magic, those fluid stitches flowed off her needles.

Such a gift to remember her in this way.

And then… another gift happened.

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This guy.

On our return trip from Thanksgiving, we detoured past a farm that we visited on our arrival trip as well. A farm with a single, sweet-faced puppy for sale.

We were smitten the first time we met him, so–logically–we brought him home.

This puppy pick-up wasn’t half so spontaneous as it sounds. It was a year-and-a-half in the making.

A short time after my sweet Charlie died, Lupine began asking in earnest for another house dog. We delayed while my heart healed, but the requests never slowed. A year passed, then more.

She asked weekly, sometimes nearly every day.

Finally, Pete and I decided that we were ready (all of us).

And so, for her 12th birthday, we gave her a book on dog training – this favorite – (afflink) and tucked a coupon inside for a dog or puppy of her choice. Upon reading it she shrieked with joy, disbelief and tears in her eyes. That night as she drifted off to sleep she whispered,  “I can’t believe you gave me a puppy. This is the best gift in the history of every gift that has ever been given to me. In. My. Life.”

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A girl of my heart, she was set on a golden, but when we saw this goldendoodle (half golden retriever, half standard poodle) she was sold. We’re not poodle fans per se, but loved the idea of a golden’s personality crossed with another breed to provide some hybrid strength after losing Charlie so young to kidney failure. The fact that they’re touted as hypoallergenic and non-shedding didn’t hurt his case either.

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This little newcomer’s name has changed a few times since coming home… first Moose, then Fredland, and now O’donoghue, after our favorite pub in Ireland.

I think this last name is going to stick.

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And this little face? Yeah, I think we’re all pretty smitten. Welcome to the family little guy. I hope you love it here.

Decolonizing Thanksgiving

When my great, great grandmother Anna was just 16 years old, she and her sister said goodbye to their parents, their community, and their homeland, then boarded a boat in Norway destined for America.

I wonder what what she thought about on that journey across the sea at such a young age.  Was she fearful, hopeful–both?

And I also wonder–at any moment on that long, 6 week journey did she pause and wonder about the people who already called the “New World” home?

I don’t mean the other European immigrants who had similarly embarked in search of a better life, but the indigenous people of this continent. The people who already occupied the land she now planned to make her home.

This world, of course, was only new to the newcomers.

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On the long timeline of North American human history, my great-great grandmother’s arrival on this continent wasn’t all that long ago. I still have her spinning wheel; her stories of the seven waterfalls of her childhood home in Norway are still shared in our family today.

I’m a fourth generation life-long Wisconsinite. My great, great grandparents arrived here from Norway and Eastern Europe, chasing the dream of a better life that the “new world” offered. These hills looked like the home they had left behind, and so they stayed.

And a brief four generations later, I am keenly aware that I live on stolen land.

State (or national) pride will only take us so far, and what we’re left with is a tragic and violent legacy that as a collective we often choose to ignore.

Growing up in Wisconsin, I remember tracing my hand on brown construction paper each November, then affixing colorful paper “feathers” with paste to create a turkey in elementary school. I also remember cutting a strip from that same shade of brown, and affixing those paper feathers into a mock-headdress as our teacher explained the friendship between the pilgrims and the non-specific Indians of lore.

Most Americans grew up hearing a similar story (if not making similarly culturally inappropriate crafts).

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The land beneath my feet in my childhood suburban Milwaukee home was Peoria, Potawatomi, Menominee, Miami, and Očeti Šakówiŋ (or Sioux) territory. The hills where my dad grew up in the Driftless (and where my family now calls home) was the homeland of Očeti Šakówiŋ, Sauk, and Ho-Chunk. And the northern Wisconsin land that my mom (and her parents before her) grew up was that of the Menominee. 

My mom grew up in a predominately white community just across the county line from the Menominee Reservation. She has a lifelong friend to this day grieves never having learned the traditional Menominee ways.

Despite growing up on the remnant sliver of her people’s tribal land, thanks to colonization, neither her cultural traditions nor her family tongue were passed down to her.

Not because she left her homeland, but because Europeans arrived.

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And each year as Thanksgiving approaches, I think more and more of America’s true history surrounding this holiday. I sit with increasing discomfort at our table laden with food and steeped in myth, struggling with the story we have painted of the first Thanksgiving.

I feel a strong pull in two conflicted directions. The first is to find deep gratitude in this day that we devote to family each year. This is the Thanksgiving I have convinced myself we are celebrating, with our gratitude tree, homemade food, and time shared as a family.

The second pull, of course, is to acknowledge (and begin to heal) the historically accurate version of what we celebrate.

This more important tug is rooted in a need to decolonize a holiday whose traditions run deep in our cultural belief system.

If America focuses on Thanksgiving as simply a day to celebrate the people that we love (as I personally have done for most of my of adulthood), we are conveniently overlooking the bloody handprint that exists upon this day, and upon our place here in North America if we are of European decent.

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To be clear, I’m not here to take your turkey and stuffing away; rather I ask you to dig deeper than modern traditions to understand the backstory of what we celebrate. And then (when they are old enough to be ready) to share that truth with your kids.

I acknowledge that there is discomfort in sitting with these stories, in opening ourselves to the implications. I’m certain in even opening this conversation here I will make some missteps. But putting away the myth and picking up history is our responsibility–as parents, as the descendants and benefactors of colonists, as Americans.

Sure, the tidy history that we learned in elementary school (had it been factual) carries a greater appeal. But learning the truth, and peeling it back layer by layer to realize how it effects indigenous and non-native peoples to this day is crucial for deeper healing.

And sitting in our own discomfort is one small first step along this healing path.

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I have a few links to share today if you, too, are interested in decolonization, putting away the paper headdress-perpetuated stereotypes, and playing your part in acknowledging the generations of violence done to Indigenous people across this continent.

As a white person, what I have to bring to the table is to simply acknowledge that we have work to do, then digging in and beginning to educate myself and my children with facts instead of myths. From there I hand the floor to the people below who know far more than I, many of them indigenous.

I hope you will spend some time reading what they have to share, and reflecting on the true story of the America that we call home.

If you have additional resources to add to the list below, I invite you to include them in the comments. 

Thank you for stepping into this uncomfortable space with me. It’s not easy to change traditions, or to acknowledge that our own actions may cause harm. Healing generations of trauma is no quick fix, but–like so many of you–I’m ready to show up and do what I can to begin moving in that direction.

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Decolonizing Thanksgiving: a few links to get you started:

American Indians in Children’s Literature’s list of good Thanksgiving books for kids

This list includes:

 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving (afflink)

Four Seasons of Corn, A Winnebago Tradition (afflink)

Thanksgiving: a Native American Story

The Native-Lands Map and (as importantly) the accompanying Teacher Guide

With Thanksgiving: a Native American View

The Future is Indigenous: Decolonizing Thanksgiving

Racial Justice Resources for Thanksgiving

Decolonizing Thanksgiving: a Toolkit for Combating Racism in Schools

“Kill the Indian, Save the Man” Indian Boarding Schools

 

Special thanks to my friend Shawn Nadeau for editing help with this post.

 

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Celebration

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Few things are more of a pleasure than celebrating birthdays and holidays with my family.

Our birthday traditions have been pretty well cemented since my kids were small. Yet time continues to catch me by surprise as our need for the candle spiral and birthday buntings seem to grow closer together year after year.

What is the saying when our children are small? “The days are long but the years are short.” And each year they grow shorted still.

This weekend it was Lupine’s turn to celebrate as we marked her twelfth trip around the sun.

In lieu of a friend party, she had requested that we go as a family to a trampoline park an hour or so from home. It was a ridiculous amount of fun for all of us, and a quiet follow-up day on her actual birthday was just the ticket to rebalance that crazy energy. (And rest our collective sore muscles!)

Have you been to a trampoline park with the people you adore the most? It’s madness, I assure you. And totally not our day-to-day jam. But honestly, I can’t recommend it enough. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard, or jumped so high.

Her desires for her birthday itself were simple: a quiet day at home spent eating favorite meals, wearing PJs, and playing board games together. (Yes, please on all counts!)

She pulled out her favorite games, and we whiled away the day drawing one box after another off the heap. I think we got halfway through the stash below before the day was done.

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In the evening as we set out candles and dessert, I found the birthday crown that my sister and I made for her when Lupine turned 2.

It was buried at the bottom of the birthday bin where we keep the buntings, candle spiral, and other celebration necessities. She hasn’t worn it since she was small, having preferred a newer, less juvenile crown that I made her when she was five, or – more recently – none at all.

I jokingly offered the bluebird crown to her last night, and, surprising even herself, she enthusiastically agreed.

I gave her mittens for her birthday the first year she wore this crown. Carefully snipped and sewn from an old cashmere sweater, she adored them. Yesterday, a decade later and with her crown again in place, we repeated that storyline.

New mittens, a beaming smile, and a birthday story by candlelight.

Life changes, children grow, and childhood is fleeting. Yet there are things that – if only through magic – remain poetically the same.

Hang onto your hearts, parents of wee ones. You’re in for a beautiful ride.

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Postscript: If you’re curious about our family’s longstanding birthday traditions, there are a zillion posts in the archives if you search “birthday Lupine” or “birthday Sage”.

I also wrote a two part series some eight years ago about our favorite traditions. You can find them here and here. Many of the customs I outline (from the spiral to the story) are still in joyful use. And my free bunting tutorial is here, and my birthday crown pattern is up in my Etsy shop.

 

 

Annual ice cream bribe

It’s hard sometimes to believe that we’ve been doing this for the past 16 years.

Pressing pause and pulling these old jackets out of the hall closet for our annual photographs (AKA: bribing our kids with ice cream in exchange for a picture).

As homeschoolers, we don’t have annual school pictures to help us mark time. So some 16 years ago, we made up our own tradition.

On the suggestion of a friend, we chose an adult-sized piece of clothing for each of our kids to wear for an annual photograph. Each year we would stage the same picture until someday (in the far distant future), the clothing would fit.

Deeply sentimental at heart, I loved the idea immediately.

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One picture a year? We could manage that.

So we chose Pete’s old leather jacket for Sage and my Grandmother’s for Lupine, propped them up and took a few snaps.

We fell in love with this tradition immediately and we’ve done it every autumn since.

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And from a beginning as seated, chubby, pink one-year-olds draped in heavy coats, we’ve moved on. They’ve grown up.

And today, both coats nearly fit.

When they were small we bribed them with ice cream, to sit still long enough for a photo. It was the one thing I did just for me, the one time I bribed them with refined sugar all year.

And it was always worth it.

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We still make a habit of the ice cream (how could we not?) but somehow–after more than a decade–it has stopped feeling like a bribe, and now feels like more of a celebration.

A celebration of autumn, of childhood, of growing, of becoming.

Yesterday we set off for the creek and captured this year’s edition of the jacket pictures.

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Sitting here, with sixteen years worth of photographs spread out in my lap, I am thumbing through time as it unrelentingly spools out before me. Time is a marvelous and disorienting thing.

Hang onto your heart, parents.

This growing up before your eyes business is no joke. It’s humbling, inspiring, and so much more than most of us imagined when we decided to have “a baby”. Because it’s not a baby we had after all.

It was adults we were raising, from the start.

 

It’s Book Day!

Today is the day that my shiny new (and first ever) book, Herbal Adventures, takes flight out into the world. I’m a bit awe-struck by the whole process, from being asked to write it, to spending an entire summer season experimenting, photographing, and writing about herbs.

And just like that, it’s a real thing that I can hold in my hands.

And – as it turns out – so can you! So many of you have already emailed to tell me that your copy already arrived, and you are already curling up with cups of tea and eager kids to read and explore.

The idea that your kids will grow up knowing more at a young age about herbs than I did as a kid? Well, that makes my heart glad.

If you haven’t yet picked up a copy, there’s still time. I stocked them in my own shop, and you can find them in plenty of local bookstores. (When you order directly for me, be sure to add the code “DOUBLE HERB BOUNS” for a couple of happy extras as well.) And if you share any public posts about the book or your family’s creations, add #herbaladventuresbook so that I might see it, too.

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What more is there to say? Except: happy tea-brewing, poultice-chewing, balm-making, oil-infusing, and syrup-crafting, dear ones!

I can’t wait to see all that you and your family create.

 

And then… snow

Our first frost had only come two days before, killing back the pumpkins, tomatoes, and cucumber vines. And then, surprising us even more than the blanket of frost: snow!

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Pete and Sage were away when it began (driving through a snowstorm of their own in Minnesota), so it was just Lupine and I who raced to find our mittens and winter hats, then set off for the creek.

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And desipte ourselves, we delighted in the magic of it all.

Perhaps “despite ourselves” is the wrong sentiment. Because the first snow always brings out our unbridled joy. I guess in saying that I meant: it’s only October! And I did some quick math and realized we had only a 178 day summer break between snowstorms. That’s less than 6 months! Mid-April and mid-October snowstorms this year. I don’t recall another season quite like it.

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But honestly… who could argue with a little magic like this? Even if it is still two weeks until Halloween.

Harvest Parade

We have lived in this community for twelve years. And for the past nine, our little town has celebrated the return of the harvest season with a magical day of community, art, and autumn.

It’s a highlight of the year, as we all come together to laugh, march, and play.

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Being in a community for this many years, you are a witness to the passage of time. Photographing this year’s event, I noticed young adults whom I first photographed as adorable costumed kids, not so many years ago.

Lupine was not yet four the first time she marched. This year she’s almost 12.

Oh, time.

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Our community comes out in force for the Harvest Parade each year, and together we celebrate autumn and the spirit of this special little town with giant puppets marching down Main Street, alongside unicycles, stilt walkers and our local marching band.

It’s one more layer of this magical place we call home.

And for a town of this size (4,600), I’d say it’s pretty fabulous.

Each year as I watch the parade go by I am reminded of why we moved here. And I smile until my teeth are dry and my cheeks are sore.

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Post parade we gather in our town’s favorite park beneath the oak trees for music, conversation, fire dancing, and food.

And every year I sit back, smiling, and soak it all in. And I think to myself: this place. This place is home.

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No place is perfect. Every community and every geographic location has it’s own set of drawbacks.

But this town?

It’s about as close to perfect as you can get.

 

A special thanks to all of the volunteers who make this annual celebration possible! Learn more about the parade (including more photos from past parades) here.

If you’d like to see past parades, I’ve written about the parade in 2010, 20112012, 2013, and 2017.

Bonus Herbal Adventures recipes

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In less than two weeks, Herbal Adventures will begin shipping out to all of you who pre-ordered your copies. I’m so excited to share this book with each of you! It was honestly an absolute joy to create.

Since it’s been a long wait for some of you, I thought it would be fun to send out some bonus recipes now, to tide you over until the book arrives.

These bonus recipes are not included in the book, and are only available to those who pre-order.

To receive your free recipes, simply pre-order your book, then sign up through the form below or click here for more details about what’s included.

I’ll send you access to the extras right away!

20171119-DSC_3258Thanks again for supporting me along this delightful path.

Warmly,
Rachel