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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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.

Signs of Spring

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