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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Signs of Spring Scavenger Hunt: a gift from the Unplugged Family Activity Book

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As spring arrives with so many of us hunkered down safe at home, I can’t help but wish that my new book was already out in the world and in your hands. Because what a lovely resource it would be right now, with kids and parents finding their way, searching for new routines and rhythms during uncertain times.

So I talked with my publisher and we decided that the finest thing we could do right now was to pre-release a bit of content from The Unplugged Family Activity Book, not only to those who pre-ordered their copy already but to everyone. So that all of you can enjoy a bit of the simple goodness we tucked into these pages.

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Today, I’m sharing the “Signs of Spring Scavenger Hunt” for you to print out and enjoy with your kids.

Suitable for those in rural, urban, and suburban areas alike, as long as you can still go for walks in your region you can dive in and enjoy.

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While I know too well how difficult it can be to motivate ourselves up and out the door, each time my kids and I have done it in the past two weeks, we have found that our anxiety and frustration drop and our spirits and energy lift.

Here’s hoping you enjoy the same magic when you grab this pre-release and head out the door.

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A lifeline

Before you head outside, can I ask a favor of you? As things rapidly change in the book sales world with current events, the finest thing you could possibly do is to pre-order a copy of The Unplugged Family Activity Book now and spread the word about my new book to your family and friends. (You can read more about the book here.)

If you have the means and will want your own copy eventually, ordering now is the very best way to ensure that book stores pick up copies once my book is released.

And because of the crazy times, we are all finding ourselves in, getting our pre-order numbers where we need them will be challenging at best.

If you have a local, indie book shop in your neighborhood, please order from them. They could use a lifeline right now, and this is a small and simple way to do it.

If you don’t have an independent book store in your area, please order from me! That’s a lifeline as well at the moment. You can find my book pre-order page here.

Spam me with your questions about the book (or anything). And many thanks, dear one.
And now, let’s get our scavenger hunt on! Find the downloadable PDF below.
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Signs of Spring Scavenger Hunt

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Enjoy!

Note: If you don’t have access to a home printer, invite your kids to illustrate their own versions to bring outside, or simply transfer the list of words to a notebook.

The included illustrations were done by my talented friend Lucky Nielsen of Happy Go Lucky Creations. (Lucky also created the sweet herbal paper dolls from Herbal Adventures.) Thanks, Lucky! 

 

 

Reaching for grace

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I don’t know who needs to hear this right now, but here goes.

Life is upside down. Kids, work, family, health, finances–everything.

Even as life-long homeschoolers, with kids who have never known a school routine in their 17 and 13 years, our usual schedule has been shredded.

Even as a family who rocked work-at-home for almost a decade, we’re a hot mess with work-life balance. Even as a family that is used to “doing it all” in many regards, it feels like we’re hardly getting anything done.

In the past two weeks (since our family began to shelter-at-home), we have yet to have a normal homeschooling day. Not one day of “table time” or math, Spanish or typing, history or the rest. No rhythm; no normalcy.

Let me say that again: We have yet to find our rhythm, and school at home is what we have always done.

Since we brought our work home, it has seeped into every aspect of our family and life, caused tension and hours of time lost before our screens, and yet it feels somehow like we’ve gotten nothing done.

Let me say that again: as experienced home-business owners, we’re falling behind.

But instead of taking ourselves to task for sucking at this new normal we’ve all tumbled headlong into, we’re baking cookies. We’re cooking down maple sap. We’re playing board games. We’re making art and walking in the woods. We’re getting by, just as best as we can.

It’s messy, it’s not ideal, but it’s us.

This is an imperfect time. So what if instead of trying to get it all done, we reach instead for leaning in with as much grace, forgiveness, and compassion as we can possibly muster? What if we make space for our and our children’s and our partner’s messy, difficult emotions, and simply take this moment to hold one another while we weep, or rage, or tremble?

What if instead of striving for perfection, we simply reach for love?

What if simply being together, validating one another’s fears, and reaching for grace is enough?

How to make Beet Kvass (the 5-minute ferment)

Need a happy, healthy, nourishing diversion from day-to-day pandemic woes? Don’t we all.

How about something beautiful, delicious, and probiotic? Something liver-loving, detoxifying, gut-flora feeding, and full of life? That sounds like what most of us could use at the moment.

Well, at long last, my beet kvass tutorial is here. And just in time for this global pandemic! So grab some beets if you’ve got ’em, and let’s do this. Our gut-flora are counting on is.

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Homemade Beet Kvass

A past Herbal Retreat participant got me hooked on beet kvass. Originally from Poland, she grew up drinking kvass, and her own kids are now doing the same. She credited kvass with some serious health benefits, and being a fan of both nutrient-dense and detoxifying beets and probiotic foods, I could believe it.

While our family has long made a habit of eating probiotic foods each day, adding beet kvass to our routine was a welcome change from kraut, kimchi, and ginger carrots.

And since I would wager that all of us could use some probiotic love these days (now more than ever, as healthy gut flora has systemic health benefits that we could all utilize at the moment, for both mind and body), I thought it was time to dust off this blog post that I meant to share back in November and bring it to you now.

This recipe is so quick and easy to throw together, it literally takes under 5 minutes to assemble. It does the rest on its own and requires very little babysitting. And right now, that’s my kind of kitchen project.

Are you ready to make some kvass? Then grab beets, salt, and a mason jar and let’s do this.

Because this is pandemic preparedness at it’s most vibrant.

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Homemade Beet Kvass

Ingredients

  • 2 medium, organic beets
  • 2 tsp non-iodized sea salt
  • 1 quart filtered water, spring water, or well water

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Instructions

  • Gently wash your beets, but do not scrub or peel (the probiotics live in the peels, so we want to preserve those for the fermentation).
  • Cut off the leaves (if attached) and the top (the coarse end of the beet, where the leaves attached), and compost or discard.
  • Cut beets into approximately 1″ cubes.
  • Place the beet cubes into a clean quart-sized mason jar.
  • Add salt to the jar.
  • Top with water to fill just beyond the shoulders, to the narrowest part of the jar.
  • Tightly lid and shake gently to dissolve the salt.

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  • Place your jar on a plate or in a bowl on the kitchen counter (out of direct sunlight). Allow to ferment for 7-10 days, “burping” daily by unscrewing the lid to release any pressure. After a few days you’ll begin to see small bubbles rising to the surface, especially during burping.
  • After day 5, open the jar fully, and remove any scum or mold that has formed. (If you’re freaking out, scroll to the bottom to talk mold with me.) The color will be rich, deep, red, and nearly opaque. Taste the kvass! When the flavor is strong enough for you (salty + sour + earthy + yum), it’s time to strain.
  • After de-scumming the surface, pour your kvass through a colander. Transfer the liquid to a clean jar, and return the beets to your fermenting jar. Add a second round of salt and water, and repeat for a second batch from the same beets. (How thrifty we are!)
  • Repeat the process above with your second round of brine, then compost the remaining beet chunks, or better yet, add them to a beet-friendly recipe, like soups, stews, or roasted veggies.
  • Store finished kvass in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
  • Drink your kvass by the shot glass daily, diluted with fizzy or regular water, or add to salad dressing.

You have questions. I have answers! A few notes are below…

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Beet Kvass Q+A

Afraid of the mold or slime? We get it. Mold can be scary. But here’s a fun fact: due to the salt content of the brine, the mold can not grow in the liquid or in the submerged beets, so there is no risk of food poisoning if you added the suggested amount of salt.

Seriously. Just toss that funky stuff and drink the kvass. Everything is going to be fine.

Beet Brown kvass? I find that (on occasion) the second batch of kvass looses its vibrant color after sitting in the fridge for a couple of weeks. This is normal, and the flavor is still amazing, even if the color is brown crossed with meh.

Beet kvass will stain. Keep this in mind when handing a tumbler-full to your two-year-old.

Oh, poo. For some, beet kvass will cause loose bowels. (Again, consider yourself warned if giving copious amounts to a toddler.) Start slow, and consider a serving to be 1/4 cup or less until your body is accustom to it. We normally pour a shot glass full for everyone in the morning.

What if I hate beets? Then why are you making beet kvass, I ask? It tastes like beets crossed with live-fermented sauerkraut, so if you like both of those things, you’re golden. However, if you’re in the “beets-taste-like-dirt” camp, perhaps homemade ‘kraut is more your speed.

 

What’s happening in your kitchen these days, friends? Share your favorite links below! 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Happy Dumpling” Homeschool Crafts

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Lupine and I have been talking at length about how to offer guidance, support, and fun to families suddenly finding themselves stuck at home.

As many of you know, our family has chosen to homeschool. But chosen homeschooling is a whole different ball game than what’s happening to so many families right now, with many kids and their grown-ups thrown into a stressful home + school reality so unexpectedly.

Lupine reflected on her love of making art and doing simple crafts and realized that she could bring that gift to young children who are home right now. Kids who are feeling bored, restless, anxious, or a little stir crazy, and looking for a simple outlet and a bit of creative fun.

So she put together a YouTube channel, The Happy Dumpling, just for kids. Her plan is to post approximately one how-to video each week. Her target audience is 7-10-year-olds, but she would be delighted if kids (and grownups) of all ages joined in the fun!

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She posted her first video, sharing how to transform an empty toilet paper tube into a sweet little bunny. Just in time for spring!

Be sure to subscribe to her channel, so you know when the next episode is live (I hear old-fashioned soup can telephones may be in the works).

You can watch her video here, then leave a comment below letting Lupine know what other projects you’d like her to share with you. As for me, I also have something special in the works for parents and kids.

Subscribe through the green link below and you’ll be the first to know when it’s ready!

Need more inspiration? Check my blog archives. They’re loaded with more than a decade of simple, accessible projects and ideas for parents and kids.

Stay safe and well, loves. And we’ll do the same.

 

Suddenly homeschooling? Read this.

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Hey, parents + caregivers. How are you holding up? Goodness, what a week. Life is upside down, and fear and anxiety have shown up in spades. Fear for our health and our finances, our family and friends, our present and future.

What a heavy load that is to carry.

And kids suddenly home, on top of it all! I know that some of you are in your bliss having your people together. Maybe you have the financial freedom to be present in a different way right now, or maybe you’ve always longed to bring your kids home. For others, though, I know it’s not so easy.

And for those who are struggling right now, I thought that you might need to hear these words tonight, as one messy day draws to a close, and you look ahead to another. And that is simply this:

You’re doing it right, right now. In all of your imperfection and flaws, you’re doing it right.

In your messy, worried, overwhelmed, impatient way, you’re doing it, day by day. Whatever you have to give–it’s enough right now.

And if you aren’t intentional homeschoolers, having your kids home from school doesn’t mean that this transition will be a graceful one. Expect tears and chaos, frustration and boredom, attitude and overwhelm. Expect messy tables and messier floors and even messier feelings (from everyone).

Because what you’ve just been thrown into is nothing like what many of us have chosen to do. Homeschooling, at its best, is a choice. Homeschooling, at its best, takes place with the freedom for kids and parents connecting with people and resources and the beautiful world. And homeschooling, at its best, isn’t something you are thrown into with little warning and less preparation.

What so many of you are waking up to is not homeschooling. It’s more like stress and chaos and hardship.

This is disaster mitigation, not an education model. So cut yourself (and your kids) all the slack and grace you can muster. Please.

Because you aren’t behind if you choose to simply be. To hang out for the next day or week or month, while you throw everything you’ve got into keeping people fed and your head above water.

That might look like a family read-aloud and it may look like kids watching movies. It may be teaching your kids how to cook or mend or forage, or it may look like video games. But know this: wherever you are right now? It’s the best you can do, all things considered. And right now that is more than enough.

I see you. This is hard. And we’re all in this.

Together.

 

Breathe

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Good morning, loves. Can we take a moment and check-in? Are you weighed down with anxiety, worry, or fear? You are not alone.

How is your breathing? Quick, shallow, stressed? Close your eyes and draw a deep, breath through your nose, deep into your belly, then slowly release. Good. Do it again. And again.

How is your heart? Place both hands over your heart, palms toward your body, and breathe again, this time into your heart-space. You may feel emotions shift and rise. Let them flow. If you have any rose remedies (flower essence, tincture, tea) savor some now, with gratitude. If you don’t have any, picture an opening rosebud in your mind, and imagine its scent, its beauty, its medicine.

Are you feeling fearful; anxious; powerless? Place your hands over your belly and breathe into your power. Repeat, repeat, repeat. If you have tulsi (tea, tincture, elixir) enjoy some now to support a calm, eased mind. Picture a towering pine tree dancing in a wind, flexible but unbreaking, its roots woven deep into the Earth.

Good. You’re finding your center again… your own deep and stable roots.

What else can you do? So many things. Here are a few that came to mind…

Go off-line. The internet is a powerful source of information and connection, but also misinformation and fear. Press pause. You can catch up tomorrow.

Cultivate laughter, alone or with your loves.

Read aloud. Create something beautiful. Make a family collage on an old piece of plywood.

Sing. Dance. Laugh. Go outside. Look at the moon. Listen to the birds.

Power clean. Kitchens, bathrooms, basements await.

Knead bread dough with love and strength until you are breathless, in tears, or both.

Do something kind. If you have the means, buy a gift certificate from your favorite small, local shop, to throw them a lifeline during lean times. Take a hot Epsom bath. Smell something made with lavender. Massage your feet. Massage your love’s feet. Call someone you care about to offer support.

Make a pot of soup. Brew a pot of tea.

Make medicine. Make magic. Make love. Make peace.

Plant seeds.

And repeat the words in your mind, “This too shall pass.”

We’re all in this together.

Breathe.

 

Love,
Rachel

Big, big news (a new book)!

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If you’ve been around here a while, you know my passion for putting down my laptop and phone, pulling on my boots, and getting out there with my kids–no matter the season. 

Since they were small, we’ve taken any excuse we could find to toss the to-do list aside and dive headlong into seasonal projects, recipes, and celebrations (both when we lived in town and here on the farm). 

To immerse ourselves in nature and the magic that exists when we unplug and connect with each other and the seasons, all through the year. From boisterous summer adventures to quiet winter celebrations, nature–and time together enjoying it–offers us so much.

Because this is where the memories happen.

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So when Herbal Adventures was finally out in the world and my editor came to me to ask if I was willing to write a second book, I jumped at the chance.

And I knew exactly the book that I wanted to share. 

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In my heart for more than a decade had been a book that was begging to be written: a book of joyful, creative, seasonal activities for kids and their families to enjoy together, no matter where they call home.

With projects that are simple, accessible, sustainable, and fun (and best of all, almost always made with supplies you already have on hand). Projects that are as fun in the city as they are in the country; when done alone, as a family, or with a gaggle of friends.

A book that helps you find meaningful ways to celebrate of seasons, no matter what else your family holds dear.

And so a new book was born. The Unplugged Family Activity Book.

Because there is such fun to be discovered when we put away our devices for an hour, a day, or even longer. And wherever you are is the just right place to start.

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Within these pages, I invite you and your loved ones to connect, create, and play all year long. There’s no right or wrong way to unplug–all we have to do is begin. And with simple projects, delicious recipes, and joyful celebrations, you’ll find that more fun awaits than you ever imagined–all through the year.

With more than 50 projects, crafts, and recipes, plus ideas for gatherings to share with family and friends, there are adventures to be had in every season.

Host a springtime tea party, where you’ll nibble shortbread cookies and craft a mossy fairy garden in a teacup.

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Or gather with friends for a summer potluck party. Blow giant bubbles,  race leaf-and-bark boats, or camp out in your own backyard.

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In the fall, enjoy a harvest party with your friends. Create a fall leaf rainbow, sip mulled cider, and bake bread over a campfire.

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When winter comes, celebrate the longest night of the year with twinkling ice lanterns. Try your hand at candle dipping, make your own play dough, and pen your wishes for the coming year. 

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The Unplugged Family Activity Book includes ideas for four seasonal celebrations to enjoy with family and friends, plus instruction and recipes for:

  • Candied violets
  • Herbal first aid balm
  • Rose petal tea
  • Teacup fairy gardens
  • Infused honey
  • Homemade ice cream
  • Summer flower buntings
  • Giant bubbles
  • Homemade dragonfly wings
  • Mulled cider
  • Felted acorn necklaces
  • Autumn gratitude tree
  • Decorative lanterns
  • Baked apples
  • Winter stargazing
  • Maple lollipops
  • A giant snow fort
  • Dried citrus garland
  • Plus dozens more crafts, projects, and recipes! 

In The Unplugged Family Activity Book you’ll fall in love with every season–wherever you call home. So grab your family and friends, and get ready for an unplugged adventure that will last all through the year.

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Best of all, The Unplugged Family Activity Book is already available for pre-order! (Release date scheduled for the Summer Solstice, June 2020.) For those looking for independent booksellers who will be offering my book, look no further than the links below, or request that your favorite indie book shop carries it come June. 

Indie Bound

BAM! Books-a-Million

 

Friends in the UK, Canada, and Australia, you find links to retailers in your region here.

Or add your name to the email sign-up form below, then I’ll be sure to drop you a note when my new book is released.

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And finally, A huge thank you to everyone who has encouraged me to keep writing by reading my words here, purchasing copies of Herbal Adventures, and dropping sweet notes in my inbox through the years.

I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for your unflagging encouragement and enthusiasm. I mean that with my everything.

P.S. In other news, Herbal Adventures has been translated to French, and is coming out later this month! You can find the French translation here and a link to both (all three?) of my books here. The fun never ends! 

Leave a comment below telling me what you think about this upcoming book. Are you on a mission to unplug with your family just a little more? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear about your journey. 

Love,
Rachel

 

 

Elderberry Gummies Recipe (plus six tips to support your immune system, all year round)

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Cold season, the flu, and now the dreaded coronavirus. Many of us worry to some degree about falling ill in the winter every year, especially during the bridge between seasons when the weather swings unpredictably from cold to warm.

And with the onset of every potential pandemic, we worry even more.

OUR FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE TO ANY VIRUS? A HEALTHY, ROBUST IMMUNE SYSTEM.

Today, I’m over on Happy, Healthy Family (the LüSa Organics Blog) sharing six of my favorite tips to support a robust immune system.

Find all the juicy details (including my elderberry gummy recipe) here!

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Our friend Al

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The world lost one of its finest yesterday. And my, will he be missed.

Our friend Al (whom I’ve introduced you to time and again here on the blog, plus countless more on Instagram), ended his battle with cancer yesterday, after a fast and fierce run.

And my, will we miss him.

Al lived more in one season than most of us do in a lifetime. He lived with passion and authenticity and humor, and shaped the world for the better during his too-brief time among us. What an inspiration he has been for my kids, for Pete, and for myself. He made us laugh, he worked hard by our sides, and he taught us so much.

I can’t help but hope that an eternity of quirky inventions, bad puns, and off-grid magic awaits him somewhere on the other side. Complete with epic prairie burns, well-equipped workshops, and endless gardens in which to tinker away forever. (With no garlic mustard or honeysuckle to distract from other pursuits.)

Travel well, dear friend. This valley won’t be the same without you.

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