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! 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Good morning, 2020

20191220-_RJW9948.jpgGo to the woods. See more sunrises. Walk in the open air. Marvel and wonder at the magic that surrounds us. Stand beneath the stars and feel miniscule.

Unplug more. Play. Talk to plants.

Be brave. Speak up. Stay true. Be kind.

Create beauty. Work fiercely for change.

Remain vulnerable and run deep with empathy.

Never stop feeling. Laugh more. Build community. Teach and learn. Listen. Grow.

Finish what you’ve started.

And most of all, be authentic and real in everything you do. Good morning, 2020. I’m ready for you.

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Thirteen times around the sun

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Lupine turned 13 yesterday.

Thirteen! A refined version of who she has always been, I marvel as she becomes more gentle and fierce, authentic and kind, courageous and confident with every passing year.

What an honor to watch her–and her brother–grow and become and unfurl.

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For Lupine’s “friend party” (the day before her birthday) she requested a day in the city with some lifelong friends–three siblings we’ve known since Lupine was a newborn.

Their 13 year old couldn’t join us, but Lupine was undeterred.

Along with Sage and I, the eldest sisters were up for a day of thrifting, pho, and other city adventures. Such fun!

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Her birthday itself we enjoyed at home, just the four of us. Board games and favorite meals were on the docket, and nothing else. So mellow, and so Lupine.

Beneath the birthday bunting that we made together when she was turning 4, we played board games, cooked and ate delicious food, and she ever so slowly unwrapped and savored her gifts.

Before dessert, we set up the birthday spiral (as we always have), and read her story, year by year, as she lit the candles.

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I have very few photos to show for the day, which is just fine by me.

More and more my camera has been staying in its bag, and my heart with my family, in the moment, undistracted.

While I love taking photos, sometimes I want to be only here.

Just before bed she said, “Write a blog post about my birthday. Then next year we can look up what kind of cake I made, if we forget.”

So here we are.

It was an angel food cake that we made together, Lulu. (Though you did most of the work. I just helped with all that sifting.) The recipe is in that tattered old copy of the Joy of Cooking that my grandma gave me when I was just a few years older than you. Served with persimmons, of course, because they’re your favorite. Mmm!  

Happy birthday, Lupine. What an honor it truly is to be your mama. I love you so.

* * *

More about our birthday story and spiral can be found here, and a DIY for your own birthday bunting is here.

The first “One Small Step” sustainability challenge

20190808-_RJW554320191105-_RJW8072LusaFarm16-043LusaFarm16-072Hello, hello! The first post in the One Small Step challenge is live over on Happy, Healthy Family, the LüSa Organics blog.

Today I’m talking about bar soaps versus bottles (for obvious reasons) and how making this simple switch will reduce waste. I even included a DIY liquid from bar soap for those of you who aren’t quite ready to kick the soap bottle.

I’m so delighted to be bringing these small changes to the table, and I do hope you’ll join me there, and play along. 

You can find post 1 here.

 

Postcard 7: Into our very bones

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I love the notion of the nutrients and minerals of this place are becoming a part of our very bones.

Our bodies are quietly growing blood and muscle and tissue from this very land, building us of this place before we leave for familiar soil once more.

By foraging, we’re taking Ireland–and Iceland before it–into our bodies where it will linger for so much longer than the sweet or sour or bitter taste on our tongues, weaving its essence into our cells through the magical dance of biology.

We’ll carry it with us for years. This place, in our own bones.

Since departing the Midwest in late August, we have foraged and consumed (and thereby made a part of us) crow berries, lady’s mantle, meadowseet, haddock, cod, kelp, bilberries, blackberries, blackberry leaf, elderberries, rose hips, rowan berries, old friends plantain, yarrow, nettle, and usnea; ripe rose hips and hawthorn and more.

From this free, found bounty, we’ve cooked up jams and teas; healing poultices and nourishing broths.

We’ve also consumed locally grown Icelandic thyme and moss, eaten fermented shark and sipped sweet raw milk; picked and munched fresh Irish apples, and purchased local chicken, beef, lamb, produce, and bread.

This place lives in us now. It’s a part of us.

We’ve fermented beet kvass and sauerkraut from fresh local veggies to add to our evening meals, and the sourdough starter that I have fermenting, is (in my mind at least) is laced with peat smoke and woven with yeast blown in on sea winds and bog rains.

All of this we bring home, even weeks after each meal was consumed.

But our favorite foraging of the trip is neither animal nor vegetable. It is mineral.

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Before arriving in Iceland at the very start of our trip, Sage expressed an interest in crafting a batch of sea salt. Our Icelandic friends were happy to oblige. In the Westfjords, Pete and Sage gathered sea water using our friend’s boat, from the deep cold water of the fjord. Then we cooked it down in a roasting pan until the water was evaporated, finishing it in a dish in a warm oven.

What a delightful process it was! And the salt is delicious.

In Ireland I was excited to give it a second go, with hope of brining home two distinct salts from two different places, two different currents in the Ocean herself. And so we did. Off the western coast of Ireland, we headed back to the sea.

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This water had to be gathered without the aid of a boat, off of the furthest reaches of Dingle Peninsula. Lupine–always game for a spontaneous swim–braved the sea to fill a couple of empty milk bottles, which we brought back to our temporary home to cook down in a nonreactive pan.

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We didn’t make much, but just enough to fill a small, empty jam jar with the precious white flakes.

The resulting salt is rich, bright, and full of memories.

And the perfect souvenir from this journey overseas.

Through the months that follow, as we slowly use these two precious jars of salt in our soups and sautees, in fresh local veggies from our home across the sea, we’ll recall our journey here, and replenish these fare sourced minerals… deep into our bones.

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