Wednesday, October 30, 2013

painted pumpkins

This Halloween I have come to realize-I'm a painted pumpkin person. I love the look of a jack-o-lantern and I completely appreciate the artistic endeavors of the ambitious carver, but paint is it for me.
These bat pumpkins are definitely on my list for next year. The white one is just awesome.
Stencil painting makes for more grown-up looking autumn decor (unnecessary in these parts, but still lovely!).
A project I wish I had seen a week ago- these mini pumpkins transformed into black cats....

This is surprisingly one of my favorite... the subtle tones/striking graphics combination is perfect. 
Last year I saw this design somewhere in cyberspace and I have copied it many times. I love it- the clown pumpkin....

Sunday, October 27, 2013

tree ghosts

Ghosts in the trees are an easy way to spook up the yard. We put our ghosts up two weekends ago and they have survived the elements -smiles and boos in tact.
All you need for these particular apparitions is a couple of yards of muslin, Styrofoam balls (in any craft store), twine, fishing line and a sharpie. I am hoping they will last for another Halloween season or two. So far, these ghosts seem to have haunting staying power!

Monday, October 21, 2013

pumpkin welcome

It appears to be a very New England thing to place small pumpkins on the entryway ledge. In an attempt to wow you with how charming this autumn tradition can be, I actually found very limited photography on the subject. In my town alone I can think of a half a dozen great examples (must remember to snap shots of these spots).
Seeing as how I am from New England and that I love it even more than usual in the fall months, I am a big fan of the pumpkin welcome.....


Sunday, October 13, 2013

dying for Halloween die cuts

I've decided this year that we will become Halloween people. Try as I might to diminish it - Christmas and Thanksgiving are stressful. There is too much traveling, too much spending, too much stuff you HAVE to do. Halloween doesn't seem to have all those trappings and family obligations. It also takes place during the best time of year. Plus (hello?) there is nothing better than toddler costumes and free candy. 

What's also fun about Halloween is that we get to begin from scratch. There are no inherited decorations or knickknacks that one feels obligated to bring out very year. We get to pick out our own stuff. So the first thing I started looking for are old school Halloween die cuts (also called "cut outs" or super awesome teacher bulletin board art). Yes, I'm talking about those old school double-sided posters. Corny? No doubt. Expensive? Surprisingly so for used cardboard. Worth it? Totally. Because we are Halloween people and we do Halloween right.

Monday, September 16, 2013

little free library

I recently took a trip to Minneapolis. It was my second time there, but the first time in great, just have to be outside weather. On top of all the wonderful activities this lake filled city has to offer during these glorious weather stretches, the whole place is very walkable.
As I trekked through the neighborhoods surrounding the downtown area, my friend pointed out the Little Free Libraries that have popped up all over. The LittleFreeLibrary concept began in Wisconsin, but is quite popular all over now. The community movement is simple-folks put out tiny decorated boxes that serve as lending libraries for the area. There is a site where you can order your own little library or just read about the movement.
NPR did a piece on these tiny libraries as well - take a listen!

Friday, September 13, 2013

this time of year

 The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone,” they sang. “Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.”
 The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year — the days when summer is changing into fall- the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change. - E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

Monday, September 2, 2013

Make Do and Mend

WWII campaign poster from a UK educational site.

I've been researching how to repair the thigh-worn bare spots in my husband's corduroy pants. I'm determined that we not replace them without at least trying to patch them--I want to prove my very limited sewing skills and justify the presence of the sewing machine taking up space in our house. I also feel a sort of familial obligation: my grandmothers came of age in different times from ours: one was a survivor of the Depression and the other was a civilian worker on the British homefront during WWII. As they grew up, and then, as the mother of four children each, they would have put patches on over and over again. According to my mom, her mother's generation would also reinforce the high-wear areas of new clothes. A greater generation than ours, to be sure.

Some instructions for mending pants can be found here and here.

Here's a humorous "Make Do and Mend' instructional video from the 1940s British Ministry of Supply (warning: contains a pantsless man in a bowler hat).

And other images from the homefront:

Thursday, August 29, 2013


If anyone asks my five-year-old what she wants to be when she grows up (and, frankly, often when they don't) she will take a dramatic breath and say - "I am going to be a human doctor, an animal doctor, president, a mother and an artist! ". 
My little girl, the middle of our crew, has always been so completely confident, friendly and chatty. I have enjoyed her conversation since she started at 18-months-old and I don't think there has been a single day in that time when she did not make me laugh. Oh sure, she can be stubborn and enthusiastically pick fights with her siblings, but she is nearly always happy and creative and just fun.
This week she starts kindergarten and for the first time in five years she won't be with me all day for most days of the week. She is starting something that she can hardly wait for- learning to read! taking the bus! lunch at school!- and I am filled with anticipation for her, but....I will miss her.
I will miss her singing with the radio on our way to run errands. I will miss how she says " At your service, Mummy!" when I ask her to help with something. I will miss her wholehearted, dramatic participation in story hours.
I know she will thrive in school. I know she will bring home so many stories in the days ahead. I know it is time to send her. But, it still makes me a little sad.
I simply have to remember, if there is ever going to be a physician, veterinarian, commander-in-chief  mom who oil paints.....I just put her on the bus.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New and Necessary

Having been a librarian I often get asked for children's book suggestions. It is true I have my old favorites and will never stop singing their praises ( I heart The Snowy Day 4-eva) , but I have a slew of new picturebook picks as well. These are just some of my more recent recommendations.

if you want to see a whale by the team of author Julie Fogliano and illustrator Erin Stead is a humorous and lyrical tale of patience and the beauty of nature. There is something about the poetry of Fogliano's text and that particular mix of woodblock printing and delicate pencil work in Stead's art that makes this book so perfectly, quietly graceful.
Yes, Let's is just fun captured within the confines of two covers and spine. The book details a family camping trip with bright, lively illustrations and a text that details their good time spending the day with each other and out in the fresh air.
Molly Idle has created one of those incredible wordless wonders. Flora and the Flamingo  is a self proclaimed tale of the dance that is friendship. Idle is a master of space, pacing, and the use of interactive flaps. The result is a book that is more choreographed than illustrated and more amazing than you might expect....

Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski has already earned a 2013 Caldecott Honor, so I am hardly alone in my admiration for this collaboration. I just have to note that bedtime stories populate children's literature nearly to the point of overcrowding, but I believe in making room for this wonderful, uniquely designed story of a girl not quite ready for bed in any collection. The  intricate illustrations filled with patterned and textural mixed media make for an unlikely, but perfect companion to the tranquil text.
Talk about a kiddie lit dream team- Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen work together to create The Dark. It is the story of young Laszlo and his fear of the dark. The Dark is not a thing, but a character in this tale and Klassen employs blackness to show, in his stylized fashion, the power and presence of that character. His art only enhances Snicket's text and results in one of the best books published about childhood fears and finding courage.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

flamingo party hats

My now five-year-old requested a flamingo birthday party this August. The hats we made were perhaps my favorite part of the decorating that went into her bash. They were simple to construct and everyone got a kick out of them. If you have a flamingo party in the future.....

- Simple pink or red (can be painted) party hats
- Shades of pink feather boas (I found mine at Michaels)
- Light yellow and black scrapbook papers
- Hot glue gun
- Sharpie marker

Just freehand draw the beaks (I looked at some flamingo silhouettes to get an idea) and make them with extra length on the end to fold over and adhere to the inside of the hat. I slid the beaks through the slot where the hats are put together and glued them in place. I glued the lengths of boa to the base and these hats were party ready!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Puffin Chalk

Tanamachi Studio worked with Puffin Books to create Puffin Chalk, a series of classic children's books with a brand new look. I already know my nieces and nephews will be getting some of these beautiful volumes for upcoming birthdays.
The studio blog posted interesting videos and sketches that capture the creative process and the work that went into these concepts. It is worth a click over to the site to see the amazing work of this design and hand lettering boutique.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

blueberry bumper crop

So. many. blueberries.
I am not complaining, but our CSA is very generous with those berries of blue. I guess the farm had a surplus this year and that means more for all! It also means I have been finding ways to use them in recipes...muffins- check, pie- check, scones- see below and thank you to twocookscooking!

Blueberry Scones
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes around 15

2 c flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp butter, chilled
1 c heavy cream
1 c blueberries

Preheat the oven to 425.  Then combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Slice or break the butter into 1/4″ pieces and combine with the dry ingredients. Use your hands to blend (big chunks of butter are ok).

Add the cream slowly until a more dough-like batter starts to form.  Toss in the blueberries part of the way through adding the cream.  Combine gently.

We don’t have any special implements for scone-making, so we’ve just been scooping out the dough in a 1/4 c measuring cup and then pressing that out on an un-greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes and enjoy.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

reading resource

Yesterday NPR's Backseat Bookclub published their big annual book list- a Top 100- and it is for middle grade readers. I could not be more excited to go through the titles and make note of what I have missed out on before heading to library to get started on some late summer reading. The curated list is just the descriptive inventory readers love to help them select titles.
There is a printable list that means there are no excuses for not always having an answer when your children or student needs a book suggestion! 


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