fairy bread

A few months ago, the Australian tradition of fairy bread crossed my radar. White bread, crusts off, slathered with butter and covered with nonpareils. It sounded revolting.  And yet... intriguing.

So, after last week's adventure with Bubble Tea, I determined to continue widening our culinary horizons and subject... I mean... expose... my children to this exotic delicacy.

Of course, what's not to like about bread covered with brightly colored, crunchy, sugary bits? My children took to it immediately with gusto and delight. (Was I surprised? Not in the least.)

My favorite thing about fairy bread (besides the pretty nonpareils) is the origin of the name.  It's said to be called after a poem by Robert Lewis Stevenson.

Fairy Bread
Come up here, O dusty feet!
Here is fairy bread to eat.
Here in my retiring room,
Children, you may dine
On the golden smell of broom
And the shade of pine;
And when you have eaten well,
Fairy stories hear and tell.

My older son preferred a variation of fairy bread which substitutes Nutella for butter, however my little one was happy either way.  If you would like to read a precise (and very funny) recipe for fairy bread, have a look here.  And for an entertaining discussion of this (ahem) scrumptious & nutritious snack click here.

Addendum :: It is implied in the article linked above that, in Australia, fairy bread might be substituted for cake at children's birthday parties, however I have been informed by Australian readers that this would never be the case!  To read further about treats (besides fairy bread) served at children's parties in Australia, you can have a look here and here.


bubble tea

A few years ago, bubble tea shops popped up everywhere around here.  I was dubious.  I was skeptical.  I couldn't wrap my head around the phenomenon.

In order to better understand what all the fuss was about, I did some research and found this recipe here.  Then my little guy and I headed to a local Asian food specialty market where we picked up some tapioca pearls and a packet of fat straws.

Along the way, we admired shelves and shelves of canned bamboo shoots, sliced and diced in every imaginable way.

An aisle devoted to pretty boxes full of tea...

Tapioca pearls for bubble tea.  Got it.

When we got home, we boiled up the bubbles
and made syrup according to these instructions.

A certain someone prefers his 
bubble tea with lots of milk.


tutorial :: mermaid grotto

A week ago Saturday I spent a wonderful morning at the library with a group of parents and children creating pirate and mermaid peg dolls, and that thing happened again. A child whispered to me, "Wouldn't it be fun to make a mermaid grotto?"

I said firmly to myself, "I don't have time to even think about it." But the suggestion was too irresistible...

-- A medium sized box  (such as a large shoe box)

-- Some paper in greens and blues. I had this
    scrapbook paper in my cupboard, but any
    sort of colorful paper will be great.

-- Seashells of assorted shapes & sizes

-- A small cardboard jewelry/gift box.  My box
    measures 2 1/4 in x 3 1/4 in (5 1/2 cm x 8 cm).

-- Scraps of fabric

-- A glue stick and glue gun

-- Scissors

(NOTE: instructions for making mermaids and octopus can be found here in my books.)

STEP 1 ::  Cut the front off your box and cut away 1/2 to 2/3 of the top.  (I also glued the top of my box so that it is tilted up, but this is completely optional.)

STEP 2 :: Cover the inside of your box with ocean-colored paper.  Using glue stick to affix your paper to box will ensure that your paper will lie flat and not buckle.  

STEP 3 :: I added waves, some seaweed, and a fish to decorate the walls of my grotto.  Other things to add might be an octopus, seashells, coral, starfish, etc...   You can find endless ideas and images by searching online for clip-art.  Have fun making up your own sea grotto design!

I didn't cover the outside of my box, however, feel free to paint the outside of your box or cover it with paper.


STEP 1 ::  Cut a strip of fabric to fit around the edges of your box and affix in place with hot glue.

STEP 2 :: Use hot glue to stick seashells around the sides of the box (note: I am not usually a fan of hot glue, however, it is the best type of glue for holding seashells in place).

STEP 3 :: Cut some small pieces of fabric to serve as a mattress and blanket.

STEP 4 :: Tuck your mermaid in and sing her a lullaby. 

It's a nice idea to set the table with your best dishes when you are expecting a friend for tea.

If you ask nicely, an octopus is always happy to help set the table.

Shhh... the baby is sleeping.

If you are looking for a beautiful bedtime story for your own mer-baby, I highly recommend The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell.


teeny tiny sushi

It happens to me on a regular basis.  Someone will casually say to me, "Have you ever thought of making a corn-on-the-cob doll?"  "Halloween bats?"  "Pilgrims?"  "Turkeys?!"  "A doll house and furniture for peg dolls?"  "Wouldn't that be cute?!"  My immediate response is to put my hands over my ears and shout, "NO NO NO! Why did you say that!!? I don't have time for another project right now!!!" Then I say words which are not suitable for reprint here on my blog.

Because, inevitably, the idea gets stuck in my head and I will not rest until the concept is brought to life.

And so it was, that after seeing the cakes, a friend said, "Ooh! How about sushi?"  "NO NO NO!!" I replied, "Don't say things like that to me!" Then I promptly pulled felt scraps from the cupboard because the idea was stuck in my head and I had no choice.

So, here we have peg dolls, sitting around the table, enjoying an international culinary experience. (Do you recognize these visitors from Japan? You might remember their faces from my first book.)

Thank you Caroline, Emily and Sandy, for every clever suggestion and wonderful bit of inspiration you have offered.  I retract every invective.


pirates & mermaids

This morning I was at the library with a group of children and their parents making peg dolls. The theme was pirates & mermaids, and the enthusiasm of the gathered group was fun and exciting. Some families were so immersed that they sat at the craft tables for nearly two hours.  As you can see, the results of everyone's creativity was delightful.

Note: I believe it is very important to properly credit the work of all artists; however, due to privacy issues, I don't show faces or list names of children whose work I sometimes feature on my blog.  Please know that it is not out of lack of respect when I refrain from naming each individual artist, but out of consideration for their privacy.


tutorial :: monarch butterfly peg doll

This past week both of my sons have been at the same summer camp together -- this is my older son's 6th summer and he is now a counselor, while my younger son is participating this week for the first time.  The camp is run by an amazing woman named Robin who has been a science teacher for umpteen years, and each week of camp has a theme: Crazy Chemistry, Phun with Physics, Contraption Camp, Microscopic Monsters, Amazing Animals, California Creatures, etc...  Basically, the curriculum is her own personal mix wacky, weird art, science, education and fun (but man! every time my son came home with an egg immersed in a cup of vinegar for that bouncing rubber egg experiment I'd give her the stink-eye).  She also has an impressive menagerie of animals at home, so every week, no matter the theme, she brings a rotation of sheep, goats and chickens to pet, bunnies and baby chicks to cuddle, ducklings splashing in a wading pool, a turkey or peacock to admire, and occasionally, even a rhea.

Anyhow, last year I gave Robin a copy of one of my books, and since then, we've been casually chatting about doing a peg doll project at the camp.  Finally, we decided that, for the theme of California Creatures, we would do a monarch butterfly peg doll.  So, here we go.

-- A blank peg doll base, any size

-- A black Sharpie-marker (I usually paint my
    dolls however, for the purposes of this camp
    project, we decided that a black marker would
    be easier for the younger children to control.
    Feel free to use marker or paint -- whichever
    you prefer.)

-- Thick white acrylic paint

-- Colored pencils - black and red

-- A tiny amount of black felt

-- A millinery flower stamen
    (colored black with a Sharpie)

-- A clip-art image of monarch butterfly wings

 -- PVA or other white craft glue

-- Scissors

STEP 1 :: Whenever I'm doing a project based on specific animal from nature, the first thing I do (or should do, at any rate) is look at photographs.  Going into this project, I knew that monarch butterflies had black bodies, but it somehow escaped my notice that their bodies had white polka dots, too.  It's a good thing I looked at some photos, right? Right.

STEP 2 ::  Using a Sharpie or other black marker, draw a large oval or circle around the "face" of your peg doll.

STEP 3 :: Use your black Sharpie/marker to fill in all the areas on your doll except the face (note: you can use paint on your doll, but for the purposes of this camp project, we used Sharpies).  

Now might also be a good time to paint the white polka dots on the body of your doll. I forgot to do this and so added them later.

STEP 4 ::  Add a face to your doll.  Pencils are easier to control than paint or even markers, and so children will usually have more success drawing a face on their doll when using pencils. You can see in the photo above that I like using pencils to draw faces sometimes, too.

(Oops.  Still forgot to add those white polka dots.  If you haven't already painted the dots, go ahead. Grab that thick white acrylic paint and add them to your doll. Or wait until later.)

STEP 5 ::  If you haven't yet colored your flower stamen with a black Sharpie, go ahead and do this. Then cut a circle of felt, small enough to fit on the back of the head of your peg doll.

Fold your millinery flower stamen in half and place a dab of glue on the felt circle. Put the bend of the stamen into the glue, and then glue the felt circle & stamen to the back of your peg doll's head.

STEP 6 :: Use glue to attach clip-art monarch butterfly wings to the back of your doll.  There are good clip-art wings here and here, or you can use Google to find many others. There are also some good choices for wings at craft shops; I used these die-cut, cardstock butterfly wings which were stashed in my craft cupboard.  Something like this, this or this might work, too.

Another idea would be to draw your own wings and add color with crayon, pencil, markers or paint.

STEP 7 ::  Look!  I finally remembered to paint white polka dots on the body of my butterfly!

This project would make a wonderful addition to lessons about butterfly life cycles, the amazing migration patterns of monarchs and the importance of preserving the habitats of these gorgeous pollinators. You can find lots of information at this website here, and for additional lesson planning, I think this book is particularly lovely. This video on YouTube is also quite wonderful.

As you can see in the photos above, the children at camp today did a lovely job on their butterflies!


featured :: the mother magazine

I was very excited to be informed by the publisher of my books (Hawthorn Press, UK) that the Peg Doll Necklace & Zipper Pulls project from my new book Making Peg Dolls & More is featured in a beautiful summer edition of The Mother magazine.