blog tour :: the horribly hungry gingerbread boy

FTC Compliant Disclosure:  I was sent a copy of this book by Heyday Books to facilitate this blog tour review., however, all opinions expressed below are entirely my own.

Today I am honored to be participating in a blog tour promoting the newest book by Elisa Kleven: The Horribly Hungry Gingerbread Boy (and please read to the end of this post for a *give away*).

If you're a regular a reader of my blog, you may have seen me mention Elisa Kleven's books once or twice (or thrice).  I love Elisa's work for the peacefulness and hope her work exudes. I love the luminous colors of her artwork, and I love every tiny bird, mouse, turtle, frog, butterfly, ladybug, and ant inhabiting her engagingly detailed illustrations.

I treasure each of Elisa's books for different reasons and what I love most about this newest book is that it is so very funny and feisty.  Elisa's take on the story is utterly original with a Gingerbread Boy who is deeply offended that the child who has created him then tries to eat him.  My favorite lines of the book are:

"Hey you," cried Shirley.  "Stop! Come back!"
"No way!" he said.  "I'm not your snack.
I thought you'd be my friend, but no,
You bit my thumb -- what next, my toe?"

As you can see in the illustration above, all is eventually resolved between Shirley and her Gingerbread Boy, but along the way we are treated to a madcap tour of San Francisco with notes at the end of the book telling us about the Landmarks visited by our two protagonists.  And what's more, at the end of the book there is also a recipe for baking your own gingerbread people (who hopefully won't try to run away).

If you're not up for baking, here is another way to make gingerbread people which Elisa shared with me a few weeks ago.  This sweet craft is one which Elisa sometimes offers at bookstores and schools when she visits to talk about her work.

-- A large sheet of blank paper
-- A sheet of brown paper (or a brown paper bag)
-- A cookie cutter for tracing a template (optional)
-- Colorful bits of paper and/or fabric
-- Buttons or other interesting collage materials
-- A pencil plus markers or crayons
-- White glue for attaching buttons & fabric
-- A glue stick
-- A pair of scissors

STEP ONE :: Using a pencil, sketch the outline of a gingerbread person onto a sheet of brown paper or a brown paper bag and then use a pair of scissors (or have your child use scissors) to cut it out.  Alternatively, if you are uncertain about freehand sketching a gingerbread person, you could trace around a person-shaped cookie cutter.

For extra fun, you could cut out more than one gingerbread person and create a scene with them interacting on the page.

STEP TWO :: Use the glue stick to affix your paper gingerbread folk to a larger piece of plain paper.

STEP 3 :: Cut out clothing from collage materials (paper or fabric) and affix with glue (glue stick for paper or white glue for fabric).

STEP 4 :: Use more collage materials plus pens & crayons to create a sky, clouds, grass & flowers, buttons, faces for your gingerfolk, etc...

And now that we are done with our craft project, please let me tell you about the *give away*.  To participate, leave a comment below, and if you wish, please share your favorite kind of cookie or a favorite cookie-baking memory in your comment.  I will close the give away on Monday December 12 and choose a winner via random number generator.  Thank you to Heyday Books, publisher of The Horribly Hungry Gingerbread Boy, for kindly offering a copy of the book. (Note: due to high postage rates, this give away is limited to participants in the US only.)

If you enjoyed this blog post and are interested in reading more about Elisa & the The Horribly Hungry Gingerbread Boy, you can visit her website HERE. I also invite you to visit the other blogs participating in this blog tour (there is a book *give away* on each blog!)

12/6/16 :: Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)/Tara Lazar
12/7/16 :: We Bloom Here/Margaret Bloom
12/8/16 :: Wee Folk Studio/Salley Mavor
12/9/16 :: KidLit411/Sylvia Liu


a poster by calef brown

Author-illustrator Calef Brown has created this beautiful poster, available for free download to anyone who wants it.  You can click HERE for high resolution images in a variety of sizes & formats so you can print it out to display and share.

How much do I love this poster?  A lot.


holiday gift ideas

Over the past few years (and even more so over the past few weeks), I've been having conversations with friends about how December has become a month of gift buying; and with many people I know focused on minimizing unnecessary possessions, the thought of buying so many gifts feels especially ironic and burdensome.  But even so, I truly enjoy figuring out perfect (if simple) gifts for friends & family.

Handmade gifts are wonderful, but not always right for every recipient, and realistically, I'd need to start working on gifts in January in order to finish making presents for everyone on time (and maybe not even then...)  So, I make a few gifts every year (usually for my children's teachers), but my go-to gift for nearly everyone else is a book -- even used books are fair game, because it's not about how fancy the book is, but what's inside.  And it's gratifying to get a call or email from someone saying, "I just finished reading that book you gave me & it was wonderful."

So, here goes... my list of holiday gift ideas.  However, please note: if you suspect you might be receiving a gift from me, go away. Scram. Now.

1) Donations to Non-Profits :: When my husband asked what I wanted this year as a holiday gift, I told him to please make donations to the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Environmental Defense Fund, and the Violence Policy Center. It's not that I'm feeling like a martyr or don't like gifts, but there's nothing I personally want or need for myself right now and these foundations are doing important work.  This is not to say that donations to non-profits are good gifts for everyone, but it might be something to discuss with your children -- and make a group decision regarding which non-profit (or non-profits) you would want to support as a family with a donation this year.

Not all non-profits are what they seem, so it's a good idea to do a little bit of research into what each organization really supports and what percentage of donations actually go toward doing the work they say they're doing (as opposed to spending your donations on telemarketers, sending endless junk-mail and lining the pockets of their CEO's & CFO's). I checked in with Mother Jones and also appreciated the information in THIS article plus THIS article.

2) Tickets to a Performance or Membership to a Museum ::
Okay... so maybe there IS something I want for myself: tickets to Cirque du Soleil (and because tickets for Cirque du Soleil are crazy-expensive, I think this will count double as my birthday present).  Cirque du Soleil might not be setting up their tent in your town any time soon, but maybe there's a concert, play or ballet performance you've been wanting to see?  A museum you've been wanting to visit? An ice-skating or hiking adventure? You get the idea...


3) Gift Ideas for Teachers ::
Last year I made these for my sons' teachers, and this year I potted grape hyacinth bulbs together with tête–à–tête jonquil bulbs (see photo above).  My other favorite plants to pot and give as gifts are cyclamen or amaryllis bulbs.

4) Books for Teens & Grown-Ups::
These books were my favorites this year (though not all were published this year) and they have made my list of "go-to gifts."  Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate, My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, The Muse by Jessie Burton, The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and also A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy by Sarah Lazarovic. (This last suggestion is sort of an ironic gift, but really, the author's premise is brilliant -- instead of buying things she wanted, the author painted pictures of them and chronicled her impulses to spend & acquire.  It's thoughtful, inspiring, not at all preach-y, and very funny.)

And for my fav Harry Potter fans, young and older, there is THIS and THIS.

5) Books for Younger Children ::  
Home by Carson Ellis (because it's gorgeous), Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi (because there's an impromptu parade through the snow... and cake), The Complete Polly and the Wolf by Catherine Storr (because we could all use a good laugh, and this book is hilarious), and finally The Horribly Hungry Gingerbread Boy (because this delicious version is by Elisa Kleven... and hint-hint... there will be a give-away for a copy here next week).

6) Craft Books for Children (and for the adults who hang out with them) ::
Paper Suncatchers by Christine Gross-Loh -- This little book is sold as a boxed kit with some translucent paper to get you started, but you will quickly need more paper (which you can find HERE).  We are obsessed with making window stars right now so this book lives on the kitchen table; we also love Window Stars by Thomas Berger which is sadly out of print, but if you can find a used copy for a good price, grab it!!

My younger son really enjoys activity books published by Usborne -- especially the Book of Things to Find and Color and I am fascinated by this optical illusion book... 

Make Faces by Tupera Tupera -- My mom gave a copy of this book to my son a few months ago, and trust me -- it's super fun (in fact, I'm surprised Amazon hasn't sold out because I've personally bought so many copies as gifts).

Magical Miniature Gardens & Homes by Donni Webber (there's a give-away for a copy of the book HERE)

7) Other Cool Stuff ::
My teenage son eats so much ice cream that our scoop is perpetually sitting in the sink in a puddle-y mess so I decided he should have his own special ice cream scoop.  This one seems really great so I got one for him.

I bought a box of rocks for my younger son; not regular rocks -- geodes.  He's going to love smashing them open with a hammer.

My parents bought this scooter for my younger son as a splurge-y holiday gift and gave it to him early so we could all enjoy it together over Thanksgiving.  I'm not sure who likes riding it more, me or my 6 year old.

And finally, when another family member asked what to buy as gifts for my kids, I suggested subscriptions to Kiwi Crate.

8) Stuff that Smells Good ::
My newest obsession is this Grapefruit Cardamom Skin Balm by Etta + Billie. It. Smells. So. Good.

9) What Would Dumbledore Want?  
These Socks.

For more ideas, Rachel's list of 101 Toy-Free Gift Ideas on her blog Clean is worth checking. Plus Catherine Newman's list HERE.


magical miniature gardens & homes :: book review and giveaway

FTC Compliant Disclosure:  I was sent a copy of this book by Page Street Publishing Co. to facilitate this review., however, all opinions expressed below are entirely my own.

Dear lovely readers -- I have been in on a secret for a few months and am excited to share some ever-so-lovely fairy sized news with you today. Donni Webber of the blog The Magic Onions has written a book:  Magical Miniature Gardens & Homes.

If you are a reader of The Magic Onions, then you're already aware that, since 2010, Donni has been our ambassadress to the magical realm of fairy gardens. You can click HERE to see the enchantments which Donni has wrought & inspired. Who then would be better qualified to write a book on the topic of tiny, magical gardens?


What I love best about this book, and what I feel makes it unique, is that Donni explains how to make everything instead of relying on purchasing pre-fabricated items.  The book contains instructions for making everything from bedsteads to benches, toadstools to wishing trees; and while these gardens might look intricate, each item, for the most part, can be constructed from objects and craft supplies you might already have lying around the house.  Moreover, Donni's instructions are so very clear and uncomplicated for making each tiny item, that crafting is fun as opposed to intimidating.

Bravo to Donni and the editing team at Page Street Publishing Co. for putting together a book in which the crafts are accessible to children and which sparks their endless capacity for creativity (the book is wonderful for adults who love delving into imagination, too!!).


Now for the give-away.  Please leave a comment below for an opportunity to win a copy of Magical Miniature Gardens & Homes (and just for fun, if you wish, you might, in your comment say what your name would be if you were a fairy).  I will choose a winner via random number generator on Monday, December 5th.  Note: unfortunately, due to the high cost of international postage, this giveaway is only open to residents of the US and Canada.

Thank you to Donni for creating such a wonderful book and opening the fairy realms to all.  Thank you also to Page Street Publishing for spreading fairy magic and for kindly offering a copy of this gorgeous book to my readers.


seeking light

When the sun rose bright Wednesday morning, it felt incongruous after the horrifying results of Tuesday night. I got up to prepare breakfasts and pack lunches for my children with the birds and squirrels, trees and sun sparkling outside the window. There was the usual coffee & toast accompanied by rambunctious chaos in my kitchen, and the world beyond this tiny microcosm seemed dark and scary.

Does it sound naive to say that when in despair, it's time to look towards the light?  And to look in our hearts because there is light there, too?  And do something beautiful with our hands, because it can be healing for ourselves and for the world?  And then start again, raising our voices to stand up for what we know is right?

Here are a few places I've found words which feel helpful and true; and these are not just words of comfort, but words which call us to action, because now, as much as ever, action is needed: Clean, ben and birdy, Tara Lazar, plus this and this at Huffington Post.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: 
only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate: 
only love can do that.  
Martin Luther King Jr.


tutorial :: watercolor leaf garland

A re-post of another favorite autumn craft...

Last week I looked over at my mantelpiece and decided it was in need of a festive autumnal garland.  This thought sent me rummaging through my craft supply cupboard where I found some paper which we had painted with watercolors about a year ago.

To create this garland, I cut an oak leaf shape from a piece of card-stock and traced outlines on the reverse-side of the water-colored paper.

 Then I cut out the leaves...

And used a 1/16 in (approx. 1 mm) hole-punch to add two holes to each leaf (a 1/8 in / 2 mm hole-punch would also work.) If you don't have a small hole punch, you could thread a needle and use it to create holes in the leaves as you string them up for your garland.


 Like so... 

And done.


tutorial :: autumn flutter-kite

This is a re-post of a favorite autumn craft from a few years ago...

These flutter-kites are easy to create, fun, and great for rainy days when everyone is feeling cooped up.  We always seem to have one or two among the book shelves for a quick run around the house when the mood inspires. Just grab the end of the string, take a dash around the sofa, and these little kites will flutter & fly satisfyingly in your wake (or you can take your kites outdoors on fine autumn mornings as we did today.)

I usually make these kites from construction paper, but today I decided to get fancy and cut up some watercolor paintings.


Besides oak leaves, some of our other favorite shapes for kites are butterflies, fish and ladybirds.

Generally, I use cellophane tape to attach short pieces of yarn (about 15 inches long) to the kites; however, for this kite (made from heavy-weight watercolor paper) I trimmed a scrap and glued it to the back of the leaf, sandwiching the yarn between the leaf and the triangular scrap (see photo above.)

The kite is ready & now it's time to fly...

(or sit on a bench and give it a hug.)



Wishing you a spooky Halloween...


jack-o-lantern window garland

I love Halloween decorations -- my favorite ones are the sweet, wonky paper cut-outs of jack-o-lanterns, bats, spiders, owls, witches & cats made by children.  When I see homemade decorations taped up in windows, I know families with young children must live in those houses.

We usually have bats in our windows, but this year I thought it would be fun to make some jack-o-lantern faces.  Originally, I'd planned to just collage some faces onto orange paper circles, but when I started thinking about the fact that these were going in the windows, I couldn't resist bringing out our stack of translucent window-star waxed paper (available for purchase here and here).  Note: if you don't have window-star paper and you're not interested in purchasing new supplies for this project, just use plain orange craft paper, and your jack-o-lantern faces will look just as sweet.

-- Orange paper
-- Black paper
-- [OPTIONAL] Orange window-star paper (you can buy it here or here)
-- Scissors, glue stick, a hole punch, string and sticky-tape

STEP 1 :: If you are using window-star paper, cut it into ovals approx. 16 cm wide by 15 cm high.

STEP 2 :: Draw and cut out craft-paper pumpkins approx. 18 cm wide, and then cut ovals in the centers of the pumpkins approx. 15 cm wide by 14 cm high. (note: if you are not using the window-star paper, don't worry about cutting out ovals in the centers of your pumpkins.)

STEP 3 :: Apply glue stick around the edges of the ovals in the pumpkin centers and secure the window-star paper in place.

STEP 4 :: Cut out small triangles, rectangles, circles and mouth shapes to suit your fancy.

STEP 5 :: Step away and cook supper while your 6 year old (or any other age child) amuses himself making jack-o-lantern faces.

STEP 7 :: Admire your child's attention to detail, especially in the application of expressive eyebrows.  (Aside: please know that my 6 year old is oblivious to the irony of his patriotic Mickey Mouse t-shirt... but thank goodness that even my little son understands it would clearly be a terrible idea to vote for a sleazy, narcissistic businessman.)

STEP 8 :: If you plan to use string to hang your jack-o-lanterns, punch 2 holes at the top of each (otherwise you can just tape them up on the window).

STEP 9 :: Stand back to admire the silly faces, knowing that everyone who passes by your house will smile when they see your decorations.

P.S.  If you're a new-ish visitor to my blog and you haven't yet seen my Halloween tutorial for peg doll bats, you can click HERE.