A book birthday

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I am over the moon to announce that my second (book) baby was born today!

The Unplugged Family Activity Book is here!

To everyone who pre-ordered, I can not thank you enough. Pre-orders (and online reviews) are a game-changer for the long-term success of a book, and you came through. Goodness, did you ever.

I’m signing the last few pre-order copies this morning here on the farm, and then your books will head out the door, en route to your family’s welcoming arms.

Thank you for cheering me on, again and again! And to anyone who thinks they’re too old to do that thing they set out to do: don’t fall for that story. You’re unfolding at just the right speed. Grab hold of life and do the hard thing! You won’t regret it.

At least I haven’t.

Still waiting to pick up a copy? Find it (along with my first book, Herbal Adventures) on my website! Signed copies are shipping out this week.

Love,

Rachel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you. It means so much.

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

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

click the link below

Neighborhood Bouquet Surprises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet here we are.

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

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

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

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

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Below you’ll find your free, downloadable recipe. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, friends. It means so much.

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

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Wild & Tame Tea Sandwiches

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Stay well and stay safe,

Rachel

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.

 

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. 

My Website, LüSa Organics (signed copies!)

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

 

 

Seventeen years of jacket pictures

Oh, time. Knock it off.

Because, honestly. When did this…

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…become this?

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If you’re new here, I’ll give you a little backstory on why my big kids are dressed in big jackets.

When Sage was about to turn 1, a dear friend suggested a tradition to me that she was just beginning with her own toddler. An annual birthday ritual of dressing your child in an adult-sized piece of clothing, until–eventually–it fits. It is a way to watch the unseeable, their growing into themselves and adulthood, frame by frame.

I knew I was in before she even finished explaining it to me.

And so it’s been our fall tradition for the past seventeen years. First with just Sage, then four years later with Sage and Lupine. Jacket pictures and marking time.

Seventeen years! I’m not sure how that’s possible, yet here we are.

With a 17 and nearly 13 year old. Poof. Just like that. What an honor to watch them grow.

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I will stand by the statements I have made in the past that watching my children grow, and walking this path beside them, has been one of my life’s finest gifts.

Thank you, Sage and Lupine, for choosing me to join you here.

Camp Hygge

The kids and I slipped away for a little “Camp Hygge” time beside the river this week. We embarked last Friday for one week away: our small car piled high with too many books, too much food, and more knitting projects than we could complete in a year. And, of course, three sets of snowshoes and cross-country skis.

We brought board games and sourdough starter; art supplies and wool socks; read-aloud books and bags of yarn. Everything we’d need for a hyggely week away from home, snuggled down in the northwoods at my parent’s cabin.

While it has been a snowy winter, we honestly had no idea how much snow would greet us upon our arrival. I can’t recall the last time we’ve had so much snow! Thigh deep! (And I’m nearly 6′ tall.) So much show, like all of my childhood winter dreams come true.

Needless to say, we’ve spent much of each day outside–snowshoeing, skiing, making ‘camp’ in the woods, and building a quinzhee (our favorite sort of snow fort).

Then back inside we would go, for hot tea, comfort food, and time thawing out by the fire.

Each night, our sleep was long, well-earned, and deep.

On one favorite day, we packed up a can of baked beans, some cold sausages, and a few oatmeal cookies. We added matches, a hand saw, and pocket knives, then strapped into our old woven snowshoes and headed into my family’s woods.

We walked atop of the knee- to thigh-deep snow for some time, then, finding a sunny clearing in the balsams and hemlocks, we set to work clearing snow, gathering firewood, and making camp.

It was only a day camp, but cozy and homey nonetheless.

After a spell, our fire crackled, and our lunch sizzled.

We spent the day in our makeshift camp before extinguishing our fire, packing up, and returning home. We rolled back inside cold and damp, but well fed and contentedly tired, then warmed ourselves with tea and a fire in the fireplace.

After a full, delicious week away, we stumbled back home to the Driftless last night. So happy to reunite with Pete (this is a trip that just the kids and I take each year), Moose and Grandpa (the dogs), the barn cats, and this quiet valley we call home.

We returned much changed.

We are more sore and more fit; more fed and relaxed. We are simultaneously more tired and more rested than we’ve been in a very long while.

And all of it felt just right.

Back home, unpacking our cooler and our car, another adventure is behind and within us; another hyggely winter week enjoyed.

The scent of woodsmoke lingers in our hair, a memento from our magical time away.

Return to the light

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Happy holidays, dear ones!

I hope you are enjoying a joyous holiday season, however and whatever you choose to celebrate.

As many of you already know, our family’s big, annual celebration is the Winter Solstice. While we both grew up celebrating Christmas, Solstice always felt like a wonderful match for our family, and in the past 20-some years, we have woven our own traditions around this celebration of the returning light.

The four of us gather and celebrate the longest night beside the fire, spending our time playing board games, often dipping candles, and exchanging small handmade gifts with one another.

I look forward to our quiet, meaningful, joyful celebration all year.

This year (like last) we spent our holiday at my parent’s cabin alongside the Wolf River. It added so much to our celebration, to step away from the day-to-day of laundry and to-do lists (and Wifi!) and just sink into the silence of the long, dark nights.

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This cabin was built by my grandfather’s and my great grandfather’s hands. Even the smell upon unlocking the door each time we visit is as familiar as home.

This river, where I learned to navigated sharp rocks and swift currents; where I learned to tie on a hook and cast for trout is familiar as well. I know which rocks offer safe purchase, and which ones wobble, which are slippery and which will safely hold my feet. My parents and grandparents before me knew the same, and my children have unlocked many of her secrets as well. This river where we spread my grandma’s ashes, and where Pete and I–both clad in leaky chest waders–became engaged, and later married (arguably better dressed on that latter date).

It’s the river from whom we borrowed our name, and the place where we return again and again.

And so, for Solstice, we returned once more.

To rest, to celebrate, to savor. While this place isn’t home, it really is (if that makes sense).

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We arrived at the cabin a couple of days before Solstice, allowing us time to finish gifts and preparations for the holiday. On Lupine’s request we didn’t cut a scraggly balsam from my parent’s woods as we have before (and as is always my first choice), but instead visited a nearby tree farm to purchase something fuller and, well, a little less “Charlie Brown”. Lupine was over the moon, of course, and I was happy to accommodate.

Back at the cabin strung up twinkle lights, hung our favorite homemade ornaments on the tree (some made by me, and others by my grandmother decades ago just for me, and right next door to where they now were displayed), and  we set to work baking cookies and gingerbread for the coming dark, and wrapped up gifts to exchange throughout the day.

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The gifts we exchange are small and simple: Lupine knitted a cowl for Pete, and I made him a hat; he is carving me a wooden kuksa cup. The kids got a windfall of mama-made Totoro creations on their request (t-shirts, hand knits, and ornaments).

One stand-out handmade gift was the gorgeous burl wood shawl pin that Sage carved for me, after hearing me express my wish for one for years. So thoughtful, so beautiful.

We played board games and nibbled cookies and gathered by the fire long into the night.

It was a lovely celebration.

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After Solstice we packed up and headed to visit my parents for Christmas eve.

More handmade and thoughtfully chosen gifts were exchanged (like the towels my sister printed for my mom and I, below–gah!–), too many cookies were eaten, and lots of time was spent knitting and visiting beside the wood stove in my childhood home.

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And now? We’re home again.

And after a busy season and a full week away, there has never been a cozier sight than that of our farm. This hardworking, scrappy, weathered home—messy floors, worn paint, and all.

It’s home.

And no where else feels better than that.

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Wishing you and yours a joyful winter season, filled with peace and patience, self-love, and kindness for all.

 

Love,
Rachel

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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