Tashlikh 5775

Shana Tova...

If you would like to see more photos from Tashlikh in years past, you can click here and here; and if you are curious about the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, you can have a look here.


welcoming autumn

The latest peg doll fashion...

Leafy acorn caps.

Welcome autumn!


more inspiration: kusa-e

After I finished writing the blog post on Monday, it struck me that I have another source of inspiration from my childhood: The Prancing Pony by Charlotte B. DeForest & Keiko Hida.

When I was four or five years old, my aunt and uncle (who, at that time, were living in Japan) sent me a copy of this book; I spent hours looking at the gorgeous collage illustrations and reading the odd little poems.

As a child, I was so struck by the artwork that I started painting pictures of children with large, round heads, simple clothing, and faces which were nearly featureless except for small eyes.  My kindergarten teacher noticed that my artwork was very different from the paintings of the other girls and asked why the children I painted looked so sad.  I was too shy to explain that I had been painting in a style observed in a book, and became upset when the teacher insisted I add more detailed features.  Begrudgingly, I added a small nose, but became silent and stubborn when the teacher demanded that I add a mouth.  I find it amusing (and remarkable) that I have not strayed far from my childhood artistic sensibilities...

I had always thought that the illustrations in The Prancing Pony were made in a traditional Japanese collage style, however, when I started doing some research, I found that this form of collage, called kusa-e, was pioneered by the woman who created the illustrations for The Prancing Pony.  Her name is Keiko Hida; she dyed washi paper with grass (kusa) and other natural dyes, then cut simple shapes to create elegant designs.  The publisher's foreword discusses Keiko Hida's depictions of children, saying:

With what simple abbreviations are the children depicted, and yet how real and comprehensible they are.  Often lacking essential features, and with bodies made of simple geometrical shapes, still to us they are dancing and running and singing, gesturing and pointing, smiling and crying... Miss Hida has given us in shorthand the essence of the child, intentionally leaving us to supply the details.

I especially love this illustration for the poem titled A Cat Called Little Bell.  The poem starts off, "Kitty, kitty, pretty thing -- Ting-a-ling a-ling a-ling..."

And, to me, the illustrations of birds are magical...

A Winter's Dream

In an old plum tree
A nightingale nods,
Cold as cold can be.
He dreams a dream
Of flowers in spring
Blooming merrily.

But which illustrations do I like best?  
The ones of children, of course...


Do these children look familiar?  You can find instructions for making them here. There are even images of tiny koinobori (carp-shaped flags) in the book which you can photo copy so your dolls can fly koinobori, too.


inspiration: mary blair

from The New Golden Song Book
Occasionally I am asked about artistic influences for my peg doll designs. Certainly I'm inspired by lovely traditional Waldorf designs and also by figures from Wendt und Kuehn; however I never felt those sources completely captured what has influenced me most.  I couldn't put my finger on where my inspiration was truly coming from until last March when I saw a newspaper article about a museum exhibit of work by Mary Blair.  Suddenly, it clicked, and I knew, on a deeper level, where much of my inspiration lies.

from The Golden Book of Little Verses

The answer was the art and work of Mary Blair. 

Mary Blair was one of the chief designers on the ride It's a Small World at Disneyland.  She also designed murals for the Disneyland Parks, illustrated children's books and created endless sketches which influenced the colors, tone and overall aesthetic of Disney's animated movies through the 1940's & 50's.

I grew up in Los Angeles, and so visits to Disneyland were an exciting part of my childhood.  My favorite ride has always been It's a Small World, and I remember, as a child, admiring the murals Mary Blair designed.  Sadly, those murals at Disneyland are now gone but Mary Blair's design influence remains). 

Even at home, I had books and albums of music with artwork by Mary Blair.

design sketch for Johnny Appleseed

If you'd like to read more about the design of It's a Small World you can have a look here.

design sketch for Cinderella

And to learn more about Mary Blair, this is a good place to start...


three parcels

This afternoon, just as I was settling my little one down for an afternoon sleep, there was a very loud knock at the door.  I marched downstairs, opened the door (feeling irritated) and asked the delivery man whether he needed my signature.  No -- he said he would leave the three parcels on my doorstep.  Fine.  Thank you.  Good-bye.

After little one was settled to sleep, I went back downstairs and opened the door to discover three very large, securely wrapped parcels.  Until I carefully examined the labels I was feeling perplexed, and then... with shaking hands, I attacked one of the parcels with a pair of scissors, got it open as quickly as possible and did a little happy dance!  I wasn't expecting to receive parcels like these for at least another 3 weeks.

Look! Here's the cover...

The title page...

And the back cover!

If you would like a copy for yourself, here's the scoop: The release date for the UK is December 1st, but, for the rest of the world, release dates are still uncertain (early 2015 is the latest projection).  This might seem like bad news for anyone outside the UK, however the silver lining is this: Book Depository, UK, offers free delivery world wide.  If you would like to have a copy of my second book in December, you can pre-order here!

I hope to have more news and updates about the new book in the coming weeks, but for today, perhaps you will join me and do a little happy dance, too...


in the kitchen

The materials for my second book were mostly ready by March, but the editing, proofreading & fine-tooth-combing continued through July.  The final finishing work came only in fits and starts, but by the time all was said and done, I had a serious case of burnout.  This was reflected by my inability to function in the kitchen, and so, for several months, dinner options in my house consisted of pasta with boring-sauce, pizza, more pasta with boring sauce or take-out burritos.  However, a few weeks ago I got my kitchen-mojo back.  It all started with a tomato galette. Coming out of the oven, it looked impressive (despite my dodgy photo) and was lots of fun to make (a certain pre-schooler had a grand time helping me roll the dough for crust, spread the filling, sprinkle marjoram leaves and dot tomatoes over the filling);  however, despite the joy of making the galette, we did not like it much.  The soft ricotta cheese filling with sauteed leeks & marjoram was just not our "thing" (we would have been happier all around with a simple layer of melted Gruyere beneath the tomatoes).

Still, the galette was a kick-start, and I have since tried several other new recipes which are now favorites in my house. I am slightly obsessed with this salad and also this Basque pie (note: friends brought me smoked paprika from Spain, but I think you can get it on Amazon... don't skip the  smoked paprika!)  I have also been having success with a number of recipes from Budget Bytes: this one, this one, and this one, for example. And then there is this recipe which was posted on Orangette way back in June 2013 (don't skip any of the ingredients for this recipe either -- especially not the feta & pine nuts -- but do consider making half the recipe as the full recipe makes an absurd quantity of food).

Now that I've been flexing my muscles in the kitchen for the past few weeks, I wonder what I should make for supper tonight. (sigh. maybe we'll just get take-out from the local Burmese restaurant.)  Have you tried any new recipes lately which you'd recommend? 



Nearly a year ago I shared a trailer for Aaron Becker's first book titled Journey.  Now he has released a new book and it's as breathtaking as his first.


to the sea


I must go down to the sea again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
 (from Sea Fever by by John Masefield)

Hello! I can hardly believe it's been a month since I posted.  With my children off school I haven't had much time to myself, and even while my little one has been having his mid-day sleeps, I decided to set a good example for my big boy.  Instead of tapping away on the computer, I've spent my time flopped with him on the sofa immersed in books.

Now it's the end of August and today we had a last hurrah at the beach; we often visit this one because of the tide pools.  Plus I love the curious sea lions who swim as close at they dare, poking their heads out of the water to gaze at us with round, black eyes as we search for shy sculpins and admire scuttling hermit crabs (I'm convinced some of those sea lions are selkies).

Of course a day at the beach is always made better by the presence of friends.  Today we met up with my friend Caroline and her two boys -- and you should know that, besides being a wonderful person, Caroline has been an indispensable resource for me while working on my books.  I'm convinced that every craft book writer should have a friend like Caroline.  She has an amazing craft stash (white boucle yarn for tiny Nativity sheep?  Thanks Caroline!), and she's an excellent resource for ideas, skills & techniques.  Have I mentioned that she helps me test my patterns, too?  My books are better because of Caroline.

I hope you've had a wonderful summer with many good adventures, and if you are in the southern hemisphere, I wish you a wonderful spring!


maggie rudy's new book

And while we are on the topic of mice, I must tell you about Maggie Rudy's new book.

I love this book... There are practical matters of pet care, comical mishaps and a sweet narrative following little mouse-child who herself seeks the perfect pet.

Oh, look... a book trailer!


la petite souris

In my house we have been reading books about Ernest and Celestine by Gabrielle Vincent (over & over & over...)

The books are currently not in print but we were able to borrow a pile of them through our local library. If you cannot find copies at your local library, editions of some the stories are available here at Book Depository.


Hopefully, however, the new movie of Ernest and Celestine will spark a revival of these sweet books, and perhaps more will be reprinted. 


I watched this new movie a few weeks ago with my sons, and was not at all surprised to discover that the movie adhered neither stylistically nor thematically to the original books (except, of course, for the fact that both feature a childlike mouse & fatherly bear as main characters).  Still, the movie had a charm all it's own.

I was especially intrigued by the story element in the movie which involves mice who retrieve children's baby teeth which have fallen out.  I wondered whether this was a French tradition (similar to the tradition in other countries involving the tooth fairy) and so I did some research.

I learned that in many French and Spanish speaking countries it is indeed a mouse who comes to claim baby teeth which have fallen out.  In France the mouse is called La Petite Souris and in Spanish speaking countries he is called Ratoncito Perez.  If you're interested, you can read more about traditions around the world here, and click here to read about a museum in Madrid dedicated to Raton Perez!

And if you are craving yet more bear & mouse stories after reading this post, I recommend getting ahold of some of these books by Bonnie Becker. So funny. Love them.

Happy reading!