give-away winner

Thank you to everyone who left a comment for the give-away.  I loved reading about your favorite costumes, and it was especially fun to hear from readers in France, Hungary and the Netherlands. Thank goodness for Google Translate; my command of Dutch and Hungarian is not good, to say the least!

Meanwhile, a tiny Halloween messenger has swooped in to deliver a message: he's selected #16 as winner of the give-away.  

Wishing everyone a beautiful October and a spooky Halloween...


halloween peg doll give-away

This past spring I cleaned out the garage, which doesn't make for a very interesting blog post.  However, in the process of clearing out, I was determined that all the peg dolls from both my books would go into one medium-sized box.  Inside this medium-sized box, the dolls are organized into smaller boxes, sorted by season, and it became clear that not everyone was going to fit.  It also became clear that I had an overabundance of certain types of dolls.  Hence, over the summer I gave away a passel of mermaids, and today I have an owl and black Halloween cat to give away.  All to say, a give-away makes for a more interesting blog post than one about clearing out the garage.

If you would like a chance to have this little pair for your very own, please leave a comment below, and just for fun, you can mention your favorite costume as a child (I liked dressing as a black cat or Red Ridinghood).  I will choose a winner via random number generator on October 19th.

Comments for this give-away are now closed and a winner has been chosen.  Thanks for your interest!


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.



One night, while at university, I neatly won a game of Scrabble against my housemates by landing the word 'quince' on a triple-word-score.  When I lay the word on the board they smirked, insisting that 'quince' was not a word.  I informed them that I had not only cooked but consumed a quince earlier that day while they sat around the kitchen table eating tortilla chips; in response, they shook their fists in fury and swore eternal vengeance.

So this past Sunday, when I spotted a pile of quince at my local farmer's market, I skipped over with glee, not only due to my fond memory of the aforementioned Scrabble game, but because quince are rare, their season short, and I've been saving up recipes all year (plus I'm intrigued by ancient texts which indicate that Eve's forbidden fruit may perhaps have been quince).  Why did I only buy three?  My bags were already overloaded with kale, Brussels sprouts & jars of honey, but I'm planning to buy more quince next Sunday (reassuring myself that quince season runs through October & November, so they should hopefully continue to appear at the market for the next two months).

I'm not sure which recipe to try first: this one at Orangette, this one over at Food 52, this recipe at Chowhound, this recipe at kitchn, this one at Bon Apetit or this other one at Bon Apetit (I'm thinking maybe the Chowhound one with honey and cognac... or the one at Bon Apetit for fig & quince preserves... oh,my).

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.”


the troll cookbook

About a month ago I was craving apples -- good, local apples harvested in season.  And then, like a bit of wish fulfillment, walking through the farmers market, my eyes landed on a pile of freshly picked Gravensteins.

These first apples of the season put me in mind of a watercolor illustration by Karima Cammell from The Troll Cookbook, which she co-authored with Clint Marsh.

I've been intending to tell you about this book since its publication last February, but now that apple-season is here, it seems the perfect time.

The Troll Cookbook acts as an instruction manual for how to prepare food as trolls do: relying on seasonal produce, guided by appetite, and enjoyment of all five senses.  The recipes are organized by season, interspersed with insight into troll-wisdom, sensibilities and folk-tales.  For example, this information appears under the heading Goblin Fruit: Visiting the Troll Market

All vegetables taste best when they are fresh and grown in soil, ideally with a bit of dirt still clinging to them when they are displayed in the market. What sort of dark magic, thinks the troll, is responsible for hydroponic tomatoes grown in the dead of winter? 

... Moving beyond the produce section, the troll is equally frustrated with much of the rest of the supermarket, with its aisles of packages plastered with photographs of the food inside, or worse, of happy people.  Trolls appreciate truth in advertising.  Not once has a troll torn open a box of cereal and found actual people to eat inside.  It's disappointing.

This quote points, alas, to the one deficit in this book.  Trolls are known for tossing hapless humans into their cookpots, and yet I could not find one recipe for how to cook a human among the collected recipes. This is probably for the best. Personally, I'd much rather have a book filled with instructions for preparing apples, breads & cakes, pickled vegetables, preserved lemons, rose-hip jam and warming winter soups.  How about you? 


summer nostalgia

I wasn't sure what to title this post.  Is it possible to be nostalgic for something which only ended last week?  Is it possible to be nostalgic for a time of year I don't really like? (Nostalgic about fall & winter? Yes. Summer? No.)  Still, when I ran across these photos from the very first day of summer vacation, despite my usual aversion to anything involving hot weather & sunscreen, I felt nostalgic.  How can a person not feel nostalgic about a jingling, jangling carousel circled by a rainbow of horses?  My little son rode three times that day and it was a good way to start summer, indeed.

But last week we said, "Good bye summer.  Hello fall." (Unless you live in the southern hemisphere, in which case you said "Hello spring.")  I've been busy at the farmer's market buying as many apples & quince as I can possibly carry, and I'll be back soon to tell you about it. xo


'tis the season

...for acorns!

Note: The leaves and acorn above are from a variety of oak called California Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia); as you may have noticed, the leaves are not deeply lobed in the way that would identify most varieties of oak leaves.


good morning starshine...

Did you ever wonder what mornings are like in the Bloom household?  Today I'm going to give you a glimpse.


Our school days start with me barging into the bedrooms of my boys -- first the small one, then the larger one -- and flinging open the curtains.  My barging is usually accompanied by a song which has been popular around here for many years:
Good morning dear earth,
Good morning dear sun.
Good morning dear stones,
and the flowers, every one.
Good morning dear beasts,
and the birds in the trees.
Good morning to you,
and good morning to me.

...and if the cat is following me from room to room (which he usually is) I also sing "good morning to kitty's fleas."

For occasional variation I sing THIS SONG, THIS SONG, or my favorite from summers at sleep-away camp:

Good morning to you! Good morning to you!
You look kind of drowsy, in fact you look lousy.
Good morning to you! Good morning to you!
You look kind of sleepy, in fact you look creepy.

However, Tuesday was the first day of school for my boys, and I came up with a whole new way to torment my family.

I'm not sure why, of all possible mornings, I was suddenly inspired to sing this song... but there you go. And why do I seem to know most of the words by heart?  That's another mystery altogether.  ("Gliddy glub gloopy/Nibby nabby noopy/La la la lo lo/Sabba sibby sabba/Nooby abba nabba/Le le lo lo..." Good lord.)

Next week I might sing this song (my favorite part starts at around 2 minutes, 20 seconds). My younger son and the cat like the newly added song in my morning repertoire.  My husband and older son are investing in stock with companies which manufacture earplugs.

And lest you think it's otherwise all bluebirds and sunshine in my house every morning, allow me to disabuse you of that notion.  After the singing, it's all downhill.  Everyone jostles in our our small kitchen (including the cat who is inevitably underfoot, and complains when he's shifted out of the way) to throw together hasty breakfasts and pack lunches.  I get distracted reading the comics section of the newspaper until my husband points out that I should probably get moving, which sends me dashing upstairs to change out of pajamas with reminders flung over my shoulder to please hurry with shoes & socks, and then we're all barreling out the door.

Do you have any favorite morning routines?  Any special or unique ways you like to torment your family? Do tell!



Last week my family and I were in Los Angeles for my mother-in-law's funeral.  Depending on which legal document you consult, she was 97 or 98 or 99 years old when she died, and the mystery of her precise age (and birth date) was finally explained to us by her younger sister.  It turns out that their mother was very superstitious; in Poland, where the family originated, it was thought that acknowledging happy events such as the birth of a child was a way of attracting the evil eye, so exact birth-dates were not accurately recorded and celebrations were eschewed.

No matter her birth-date or exact age, she lived a good, long life, and was lucid and feisty as ever until the end.  A few weeks ago she decided she was ready to go and, within 2 weeks of that decision, she died peacefully.  May her memory be a blessing.

During the week we were in Los Angeles, I took a day to clear out boxes of my belongings from my parents' garage.  There were a lot of books (surprise, surprise), heaps of letters written by friends from my high school years through university, and finally, a box of treasures from my childhood.

This is Rebecca -- the sweetest 8 inch tall companion a child could ask for.  My best friend Pamela also had a little doll made by Madame Alexander named Amy and we were a happy foursome for years.

Rebecca has a collection of pretty outfits...

And a pretty china tea set, of course.

I was so happy to find Rebecca among my old belongings.  She's a reminder to me of why I do what I do, and in her honor (and for your reading pleasure) I've listed my favorite & most beloved books about dolls below:

The Paper Princess by Elisa Kleven

Goldie the Dollmaker by M. B.  Goffstein

Hittie, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field

Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Baily

Patty Reed's Doll by Rachel K. Laurgaard

The Little Girl and the Tiny Doll by Edward & Aingelda Ardizzone

The Fairy Doll & Other Tales from The Doll's House by Rumer Goden


tutorial :: a scrappy snake

Last week my little one and I were under the weather; I wasn't feeling ambitious but wanted an easy, relaxing project with which to occupy ourselves.  Scanning through possible supplies, I thought of various paper crafts and clay, and then my felt scrap-bag crossed my mind.  For the past six years, when I've done projects, I've saved any scrap of felt larger than 1"; when working on tiny peg doll projects, even the smallest scraps are useful.  I had seen a few scrappy ornaments like this one, but wanted to do something different... and so our Scrappy Snake was born.

-- Scraps or sheets of felt
-- A tiny amount of stuffing  
-- Scissors, needle and strong thread
-- 2 small buttons or bead for eyes
-- 1 wooden bead

STEP 1 :: Cut your scraps (or sheets) of felt into triangular shaped pieces, approx. 3/4 in. - 1in. long (1 1/2 -2 cm long).  You could make circles or squares instead of triangles, but triangles are faster to cut.  I would suggest cutting far more pieces than you think you could possibly need.

STEP 2 :: Thread your needle with strong thread or embroidery floss, knot a wooden bead on the end and hand it to a nimble-fingered child who is longing for a fun activity...

...and watch as he pushes the needle through the center of each little triangle until the pile grows smaller and smaller and smaller yet...

...until the pile of little felt triangles is reduced to nothing much at all and the Scrappy Snake has grown quite long.

STEP 3 :: While your child is busily occupied stitching triangles, hunt down a couple of small beads or buttons for eyes and cut 2 diamond shapes (with rounded edges) from felt.  The head of our snake is approx. 2 1/4 in. (6 cm) long, but you could make yours any size or shape to suit your preferences.  You might also want to cut out a tongue.  NOTE: an older child could cut and sew the head of the snake him or herself.

STEP 4 :: Sew around the edges of the head, stitching the tongue into place as you go.  Before you complete your way around, add a tiny amount of stuffing inside.  Finish the head by sewing an eye to either side (see photo above).

STEP 5 :: Stitch the head to the felt triangle at the end of the thread and... you're done!





Last week we were in Vancouver.  Over the past 7 years we've taken local weekend trips but haven't had a proper vacation since 2009.  It seemed like the right time to do something more ambitious than visiting grandparents in LA; my parents were actually with us on this vacation, but Vancouver was a welcome change of scene.

There was so much to delight in Vancouver. I couldn't get enough of the First Nations art & totem poles, and although everything inside the aquarium was gorgeous, my children were mesmerized by the Keys To The Streets piano sitting in the plaza out front. The best part of our trip, however, was the food.  We ate not once, but twice at Touhenboku Ramen, and I sincerely wish we could have eaten at least three times at Ritual. I highly recommend pizza with focaccia-like crust from the Pzazz stall in the market on Granville Island, the brown sugar cookies from The Salty Cookie Co. are not to be missed, and I will forever wax rhapsodic over the marshmallows from Goodmallows (we brought home several bags flavored with Earl Grey tea -- those were my personal favorites -- but all the flavors were rather amazing). 

Have you had any good travels this summer?  But more importantly, what did you eat when you were there?


doki doki

I recently heard about this book: The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, illustrated by Julia Kuo.  I haven't actually read it (yet) but there is a visual and auditory collage created by the author and illustrator which starts with the words, "Doki doki is the sound your heart makes when you see someone or something you love."  It's a beautiful glimpse into the spirit of the book and you can find it HERE.



How much do I love this? A whole lot.  
You can read more about the work of Theo Jansen HERE.


old-fashioned summer

photo credit: rachel wolf :: clean

Dear lovely friends,

I've been intending to share this with you since the start of summer, but posting lately has been difficult for me.  Still, there are a few more weeks of summer vacation, and the last few weeks before school starts always feel bittersweet.  It's a time to sneak in those last summer-vacation activities... another visit to the beach... a few more art projects... and making popsicles.

The inspiring list below was composed and featured in a blog post by Rachel Wolf.  Rachel is the owner of LuSa Organics (we swear by her essential oil Sleeping Potion blend).  To see Rachel's original post, you can click HERE.


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.

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!")

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.)

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

For more thoughts about summer, this blog post HERE and this blog post HERE are really great. Both posts were featured over at Scary Mommy.


finding peace

Elisa Kleven :: Angels Watching Over Me

Elisa Kleven :: Angels Watching Over Me

Elisa Kleven :: Angels Watching Over Me

I'm glad I posted last night about finding hope and deeply appreciate the warm, supportive responses I've received via email, facebook and here on my blog. After I wrote the post, I continued thinking about finding hope during frightening times, and reached for the most hopeful, peaceful images I could find.  Elisa Kleven's artwork never fails to remind me of the wonder and gentleness of our world, if only we know how and where to look.  I love every book she's illustrated, but the book I reached for this morning is Angels Watching Over Me with words by Julia Durango. (For more information about Elisa's work you can visit her website HERE.)

Further thoughts on finding hope and peace revolved around the idea that we cannot control or change the actions of another person, but we can control how we respond, more aptly expressed by Nelson Mandela: People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that's how they'll react.  But if you say, 'We want peace, we want stability,' we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society. (Words to keep in mind whether one is dealing with a toddler, a teenager or a politician?) Reflections on taking responsibility for our responses brought me back to this quote, attributed to John Wesley (and spoken by Hilary Clinton at the DNC): Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.
People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that's how they'll react. But if you say, 'We want peace, we want stability,' we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/nelsonmand621326.html?src=t_react
People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that's how they'll react. But if you say, 'We want peace, we want stability,' we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/react.html
People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that's how they'll react. But if you say, 'We want peace, we want stability,' we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/react.html

Thank you for joining me on this journey.