Herbal Adventures is here

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A very special packaged arrived at the house this week.

An advance copy of my new family herbal book, Herbal Adventures!

With my daughter by my side, literally jumping up and down while I opened the envelope, we savored our first peek.

And it was every bit as thrilling as I thought it would be.

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My daughter and I curled up together on the couch, and slowly flipped through all 170-plus pages, drinking in the experience of holding our copy for the first time.

Our book! At last.

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For those of you who were waiting to pick up your own copy (or copies for gifts this holiday season), there is a wild and crazy sale running right now on Amazon. The book is just $15, but I’m not sure for how much longer. (If you pre-ordered already, don’t despair! Your price will drop to this one as well.)

You can find that deal right here.

If you’d prefer to pre-order your copy from your local bookshop (yay, you!) you can find one who carries it here by clicking on the red “I” icon next to US, or the appropriate link for your country if you’re not in the States.

Wishing you each Herbal Adventures of the most delightful sort.

10 favorite family read aloud books (ages 10 and up)

Though my kids are 10 and 16, we still read books aloud together each week. It’s a moment that I treasure as we start our homeschool day, or while they work on washing the lunch dishes, or before everyone heads off to their own books and beds.

Often it’s just my 10 year old and me, but the books that follow captivated my teen as well and we savored them–together.

As summer turns toward autumn, I wanted to encourage you to begin (or continue!) your own family read-aloud tradition by sharing a list of our favorite read-aloud books with you.

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Since one of my children has been sensitive to violent or suspenseful content, I shared
themes you may want to be aware of in the text that follows for families with a tenderheart of their own, or simply for your own awareness. For our family, these themes open doors for meaningful conversations and now that everyone is ready to handle them we don’t shy away.

Many of these books are laced with magic as well. While we love this, I understand it’s not a match for every family’s beliefs and values, so I mention it.

Check your library for these captivating titles, buy them at your local bookstore, or use the afflinked pictures and titles that follow! However you do it, make a habit of reading together as a family. I am certain it’s a choice you won’t regret.

Happy reading, friends.

Our 10 favorite family read aloud books

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

We read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon a few autumns ago and I remember it being the first children’s book that I truly fell in love with as an adult. The day we cracked it open we spread a blanket on the grass and read all day long, carrying our lunches out to the blanket and reading straight through until dinnertime.

It’s that captivating, for adults and children alike, and the subsequent books in the series (Starry River of the Sky, and When the Sea Turned to Silver) are as good as the first.

Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, kidnapping.

 Wildwood Chronciles

We picked up Wildwood on a whim at the library last winter and were hooked from the start (all of us)! We followed up with the sequels without even a pause, and enjoyed the three books so much we’re planning to start the series again soon. We love Wildwood. The characters, the child-heroes, the animals, the magic, everything.

There are some intense parts (especially  in the latter two books), however, so I was glad I waited until my youngest was ready.

Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death.

The Girl who Drank the Moon

 

The night we started this book we thought it might be too much. It begins with a local legend of a witch who lives in the forest and eats children, and is well told (read: scary).

I stopped reading and checked in with my plot-sensitive kid. She wasn’t so sure. So we read the book flap and she decided she was ready to dig in. And how glad we all were! A beautiful book laced with deep magic. If your family isn’t plot sensitive, don’t read the book flap, though. There are major spoilers found there.

Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death, bigotry.

The Inquisitor’s Tale

We fell in love with the main characters in this book from the very start. The girl, the boys, the dog… There is a copious amount blood and other unapologetic violence here, but it’s handled quite well. Themes of racism, sexism, and religious persecution make for excellent conversations after the book has been put away. A family favorite to be sure.

Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death, racism, sexism, spiritual persecution.

The Goblin’s Puzzle

Our current read-aloud, I am as captivated as my 11 and 16 year olds. Some intense themes, but a wonderful read full of strong girls (and boys!) that save the day.

Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death, slavery.

The Penderwicks

Books 1 through 3 are on our very short list of favorite books. (Book 4 takes place much later in the girl’s lives, so it was harder to get into but still an enjoyable read.) Though we read these books years ago, the characters are still discussed often in our home, almost like old friends. There is discussion of cancer and the loss of a parent.

Edited to add: a friend just emailed me to say that there is a 5th Penderwicks book that just came out this spring! Looks like our next read-aloud is scheduled!

Themes: cancer, death.

My Side of the Mountain

A friend picked up a copy of My Side of the Mountain at a thrift store for Sage when he was 8 or 9. We’re read it together several times since then, reveling in the story of a boy’s solitary life in the wilds. An inspiring and captivating tale that will make you want to run off to the hills.

Themes to be aware of: runaway.

The Harry Potter Series

I would be remiss to not mention everyone’s classic family read-aloud, the Harry Potter books. We have gotten as far as book 4 (when things start to get even more intense than in earlier books), and we’re taking a break now. My eldest has read them all, but book four and up are better suited for older or less sensitive kids (okay, and adults).

Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death.

Chronicles of Narnia 

I would be remiss in not mentioning Narnia! Most of us read these as kids ourselves, and they’re every bit as captivating as adults, sharing them with our children. Reading the whole series (rather than just the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) puts Narnia into a greater context.

Themes to be aware of: magic, violence.

The Little House on the Prairie series

Another classic read-aloud series, Little House requires a mention as well. One of my own favorites from childhood, the books are still as captivating as they were back then.

Published in the 1930’s and 40’s, there is unapologetic racism peppered throughout these books that sparked meaningful conversations in our home about the time at which they were written and what life in colonized America might have been like for both First Nations peoples and white immigrants. Don’t miss the opportunity to discuss racism when reading this series.

Themes to be aware of: racism.

And what do you say we add an 11th: my own book, due out this fall!

Herbal Adventures

While a how-to book like Herbal Adventures might not be the first to come to mind as a read-aloud, I’ve written it to be just that! Each plant chapter begins with a first-person plant introduction, and each of these backyard herbs comes to life in their own words.

And since it was designed for parents and kids to explore together, the recipes, crafts, and projects included are the perfect transition from reading time into hands-on learning time–together.

 

What’s your family’s favorite read aloud? Share it in the comments below! 

Family read-aloud book list. Our favorite chapter books for ages 10 and up. #readaloud #familybooklist #chapterbooks

Easy, GIANT backyard bubbles

Giant bubble tutorial. [Clean.]

Giant bubble tutorial. [Clean.]

Giant bubble tutorial. [Clean.]

Giant bubble tutorial. [Clean.]

Giant bubble tutorial. [Clean.]

Yesterday I found myself inexplicably edgy. Grumpy, jumpy, terse, and sour.

So I did what any reasonable person would do in this state.

I mixed up a batch of gigantic bubble juice, made some bubble wands with my kids, and got over myself.

I laughed. I played. I watched my kids laugh and play.

In short, I got a much needed attitude adjustment. Because with six to eight foot bubbles floating across my yard – well, I couldn’t stay crabby even if I wanted to.

Giant bubble tutorial. [Clean.]

And it didn’t cost us a penny. Our supplies list was scavenged up between our basement and our workshop, our kitchen and our brush pile.

Insane, super-sized bubble fun.

And a cure for crabbiness no less.

We ended up making a dozen of the wands in the afternoon to take to our homeschooling potluck. And they were a hit! By the end of the night a full gallon of bubble juice was gone and I think everyone had as much fun as we did making bubbles.

I suggest you stop whatever you had planned for today and do this instead.

Especially if you’re grouchy. 

Here’s how.

Giant bubble tutorial. [Clean.]

MAKE YOUR WAND

All you need are two sticks (any size), two screw eyes (any size), a washer or other smooth weight (any size), and some yarn (any kind). See how flexible this is?

You could replace the sticks with purchased dowels but I ask: why uses dowels when you have sticks? Because sticks are free. And they grow in your yard. (Or your neighbors yard…)

Cut two branches, trimming off any side branches or pokie bits. Shoot for around 12″ to 24″.

In one end of each branch attach a screw eye. (I pre-drilled my holes with a small drill bit to make this easier.)

Cut a length of kitchen twine or yarn (mine was cotton) approximately 6′ long and thread through your sticks and your washer. Tie with an overhand knot anywhere you like.

Giant bubble tutorial. [Clean.]

Giant bubble tutorial. [Clean.]

Giant bubble tutorial. [Clean.]

MAKE SOME BUBBLES!

First, make your bubble juice.

I used this recipe. It was fantastic. My favorite recipe yet.

You can also use my more basic recipe if you don’t have some of her ingredients, like corn starch or glycerin.

(A note about dish soap: I have tried making bubbles with more natural dish soap to no avail. These babies are Dawn, all the way. We don’t use it on our dishes, but for bubbles we keep it on hand.)

Second, dip your string.

Hold the screw-eye and yarn ends of your two sticks together.

Completely submerge the yarn in the bubble juice. (The first dip is the fussiest.)

Lift the wand slowly from the juice, then separate the sticks to open the yarn loop.

Walk slowly backward into the wind and watch your bubbles soar!

You can encourage smaller, (thought still huge!) bubbles to break off and fly free by bringing the yarn loop back together to snip off a bubble here and there.

The bubble below floated clear over our house and was bigger than the biggest watermelon.

Giant bubble tutorial. [Clean.]

Note: if your bubble juice gets frothy on the top from use give it a few minutes to settle down. It works best without foam. Also, one wand in the juice at a time unless you want to spend your time untangling bubble wand strings.

And if you or your kids love to learn about how things work, check out this explanation of bubbles. It was fascinating to my kids.

Enjoy!

P.S. For younger kids the handmade bubble wand tutorial I wrote here is the best. So beautiful and fun.

 

Originally published on CLEAN in 2013.

Easy, GIANT backyard bubbles. A simple DIY! #summer #natural #parenting

25 tips for an old-fashioned summer

25 tips for (a delightfully old-fashioned) summer vacation. | Clean

When I was a child summer meant inner-tubes in the river, camping in the woods, and campfires beneath the stars. It meant chasing fireflies, picking wildflowers, and catching toads.

Summer was endless sunny bike rides, tangled tree branch forts, and calls of “be home before dark!” as we raced down the driveway.

But summer today – like much of life – seems increasingly busy for so many.

And while my family’s life here on the farm feels pretty slow and old-school, I recognize that we’re not the norm.

The norm, I suspect, is summer school and soccer league. Overnight camp and enrichment activities. Full schedules from June through September.

And when you add to this the constant allure of our glowing screens, an old-fashioned summer feels like something that went extinct generations ago.

25 tips for (a delightfully old-fashioned) summer vacation. | Clean

But what if…

What if we made a choice to resurrect that old-fashioned summer break?

What if we brought back just a little of the slowness, the magic, and the dirt-under-your-fingernails experience of a hands-on, real-live summer?

No, you don’t need to give away your IPod, shut off the WIFI, or cancel your child’s slot at camp (we won’t be anyway). Because those things have a place in modern life, too. But what do you say we embrace our fast-paced lives while we remember what’s worth keeping from slower days gone by?

And if you did, what would your kids never forget about this summer?

25 tips for (a delightfully old-fashioned) summer vacation. | Clean

Below are 25 simple and free ideas to make summer a slowed-down, pulled-back, just-right experience.

Many of the suggestions below are links. Click through for more details, ideas, and recipes.

Dig in for an afternoon, a week, or the whole season and delight in what unfolds.

Because these are the moments you will savor and remember.

25 tips for (a delightfully old-fashioned) summer vacation. | Clean

25 Tips for (a delightfully old-fashioned)

summer vacation

1. Slow down.

There’s no hurry to get anywhere, so let’s savor where we are. You only have one chance at this day, this season, this relationship, this childhood.

2. Under-schedule.

Less on your calender means more space for the people you love. If your kids are accustom to a pretty full plate it might take them a bit to adjust. But when they do a whole world of possibilities will open up before them.

3. Make space for simple play.

I can’t say enough about the magic that this brings.

25 tips for (a delightfully old-fashioned) summer vacation. | Clean

4. Invite friends over for a picnic.

And don’t clean first. Spread an old blanket on the grass and dig in. Memorable, real, and unplugged in the best way.

5. Have a campfire.

If only because it’s high time you teach your kids what “I hate white rabbits” means. (Or as my kids say it (between coughs), “I don’t like white bunnies!”)

25 tips for (a delightfully old-fashioned) summer vacation. | Clean

6. Build a quick and easy backyard fort.

It’ll take you ten minutes and keep your kids entertained for the summer. No Pinterest perfection required. Just a bedsheet and some rope. Boom.

7. Make a habit of saying “yes”.

Can we go swimming? Can we have dessert? Will you read me a book? Embrace the yes and see where it takes you.

8. Stay up late chasing fireflies.

Because what could be better?

And besides. Bedtime is over-rated. (Just ask your kids.)

25 tips for (a delightfully old-fashioned) summer vacation. | Clean

9. Blow some epic bubbles.

I mean honestly. How could you not? These bubbles will captivate everyone, young and old.

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10. Go swimming in a lake.

Or the ocean. Or a creek. But get your feet wet in nature. And if the water is cold I double dare you to dunk!

11. Sleep out in your backyard.

With or without a tent. Under the moon and stars, just you and your family. Summer was made for this.

If you want to take the sleep out even further, plan a road trip to a National Park. Because the Parks somehow feel like everyone’s backyard.

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12. Explore without agenda

Your block, a city, the forest, your home state. Make an adventure of it. On bike, on foot, by car, or by train, get out there and find new places to love.

13. Listen to your children’s stories.

As Catherine Wallace brilliantly put it, “Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”

Don’t wait. Start today.

14. Have less rules.

The world is safer now than it has ever been. Safer than when I zipped down the driveway with no helmet and was told to “be home before dark”. Children learn best through freedom, and we adults thrive with less “should” and more “want to” in each day.

25 tips for (a delightfully old-fashioned) summer vacation. | Clean

15. Churn some ice cream.

Tonight, tomorrow, everyday. Always churn ice cream. It’s one of summer’s simple pleasures.

16. Go outside and play.

Games without rules, just you and your kids. Sword-fight with pool noodles or toss the softball, grab your rollerblades or find that dusty bucket of sidewalk chalk.

Play feeds our souls. Especially when we do it together.

And remember, we deeply need nature. Let yourself go into the calm bliss of biofilia. It will heal you in so many ways.

17. Prioritize joy.

So often “joy” takes the backseat. Work? Yes. Commitment? Always. Responsibility? Bring it!

But joy? Oh. We forgot about joy.

Joy fills us in ways that nothing else can. Put it first this summer.

25 tips for (a delightfully old-fashioned) summer vacation. | Clean

18. Dance in the rain.

Barefoot. With your kids or alone. It can’t help but transform you. Note: dancing in the rain will cause epic laughter as well (which spins it’s own healing magic).

19. Make some play dough.

Because you might not want to dance in every rain storm this summer. Play dough will fill the leftover rainy days quite nicely.

20. Do something you’ve never done before.

Dye your hair pink, head out without a plan or a map, or cook some Thai food. Surprise yourself and find joy in the unexpected.

25 tips for (a delightfully old-fashioned) summer vacation. | Clean

21. Get gloriously, unapologetically dirty.

When was the last time you made mud pies or jumped in puddles? Feel this summer in every possible way. In the garden, the woods, or the river, be in it. Without hesitation.

As an added bonus, getting dirty builds healthy immunity. Who knew?

22. Fear not the unscheduled days.

For they are the most delicious days of all.

23. Unplug.

For an hour, a day, or a whole juicy week. Unplug.

Make eye contact with your loved ones. Play board games. Bake cupcakes. Tell stories.

And do it all without the distraction of technology. You’ll leave your media fast feeling open, free, and deeply grounded.

No, technology isn’t bad, but a break now and then can be a wonderful thing.

25 tips for (a delightfully old-fashioned) summer vacation. | Clean

24. Fall in love with simple pleasures.

Because an old-fashioned summer is really about a return to simple. Simple priorities, simply joys, simple pleasures.

A meal on the porch, a bowl of hand-churned ice cream, a walk at sunset.

Make these your priorities this season.

25. And be nowhere else but here.

Because – honestly – where could be better than this?

This life of yours is more than enough.

 

Originally published in 2015 on my blog Rachel Wolf Clean.

 

25 free, fabulous ideas for simple summer fun. #parenting #summer #kids