Hello 2013

from our house to yours...

may the new year be filled with hope and healing...


Magical Books for Gloomy Days

It's been dark, cold and gloomy here (yes, even in California.)  What's the best thing to do on such days (and weeks)?  Read, of course.

What have we been reading? One of our favorite authors as of late has been Katherine Langrish who wrote a series starting with the book Troll Fell.  The books, set in Viking era Scandinavia, are full of magical creatures such as trolls and a Nisse (in other mythologies known as a Tomten.)  The characters in these books are fun and interesting, but the favorite in my house, is the Nisse.  I was so inspired by the moody, muttering, porridge-loving character that I created a Nisse for our own house (though surely ours won't hide in the rafters surreptitiously tossing dried beans at our heads during supper.)

Our other favorite book series, as of late, has been the one starting with The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas.  I was so entranced by these books that, after reading a chapter (or two) with my Little Mr. at bedtime, I would take the book downstairs with me and continue reading (never mind that I had to retrace my reading the next night so Little Mr. would be caught up.)

What have you been reading during these short days and long nights of winter?


Teeny Tiny Nativity

A year ago, I was knee-deep in projects for my book, and it happened to coincide that, in December, I was creating a peg doll Nativity. My mind was full of peg doll versions of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, & the Three Wise Men on an evening when I happened to walk past the window of a local antique shop and spotted the tiniest Nativity set I had ever seen (Joseph stands at 2 cm high.) I'd never considered owning a Nativity set, so the idea of buying one was novel for me. I bought this one on the spot.

Happy Holiday wishes to all who are celebrating, 
and to all, best wishes for a bright new year.


A Special Treat for You

Do you remember in October when I mentioned that Mr. Bloom and I were back behind the camera?  The mystery is now revealed -- we were creating this video.

Our wee Bloom has given it rave reviews -- each time he has seen this video he squeaks, "Happy!"   Every time I see it I grin to myself thinking of Mr. Bloom, at the start of every photo session, telling all the tiny dolls to "smile."

Do you see how all the dolls are smiling? I do, and it makes me happy, too...


Making Peg Dolls: The First Launch Party

I was very excited to receive this photo of Steffi Stern with dolls she created using patterns from my book.  This photo heralded the first launch parties on December 14th and 15th for Making Peg Dolls.  Because the publisher Hawthorn Press is located in Gloucestershire, it was natural that the first launch celebrations should occur there (never mind that I was 5,268 miles away and pouting a bit because I could not attend the party...)  As consolation, I was promised photos, and this morning several arrived via email!

These first launch parties to celebrate Making Peg Dolls were hosted by Steffi Stern of the shop Mother Goose in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire.  At Mother Goose you can find:
  • Seasonal craft materials, simple and natural products for a range of craft projects.
  • Crafting project kits for needle felting, knitting, sewing etc.
  • A wide range of yarns, all with a high natural fibre content.  Especially wool and alpaca.
  • Beautiful wooden knitting needles – available to any length and personalised with your name or a message.
  • Handspun and hand dyed wool for knitting, crochet and felting, yarn from unusual sources (vegan & eco-friendly yearns), haberdashery etc.
  • Steiner Waldorf school supplies.
  • Beautiful, practical, handmade items, all unique made by local craftspeople from natural materials. 
Mother Goose also hosts knitting, crochet, needle felting, weaving and sewing workshops, plus twice weekly knitting circles.  Don't you wish you could visit Steffi's shop, too?

My favorite photos were ones taken of marvelous folks from Hawthorn Press.  What were they doing in these photos?  Painting peg dolls, of course!  In the photo I share with you above, you can see Mary, Joseph, the Three Wise Men and the Shepherd all created by workshop participants from patterns in my book. I love seeing dolls created from my designs;  even when following the patterns precisely each person manages to make their own dolls unique (I find the uniqueness of each doll to it's maker utterly delightful...)

Thank you to everyone who gave this book such a happy launch!


Show me a Story :: Book Review

Dear Friends, today you are in for a treat because I am going to tell you about the most delightful book:  Show me a Story by Emily Neuburger.  I loved this book from the very beginning when Emily invites us in her gentle voice, full of whimsy:

Trust your imagination.  Walk openly into the unknown land of a story.

Does anyone else remember, as a child, getting lost in imagination?  Isn't it beautiful, as an adult, to watch young children at play, exploring their own imaginations and stories...  

From Show Me a Story © by Emily Neuburger, photograph © by John Polak
The ideas in Show me a Story are perfect for parents, teachers & therapists, and most of the activities can be created using craft materials found at home or easily obtained at a local store.  The projects themselves are unfussy and uncomplicated, but they invite depth and exploration within the world of story.

From Show Me a Story © by Emily Neuburger, photograph © by Buff Strickland
The day the book arrived at our house, my older son & I looked at it together; then I asked him to choose a project. He was immediately drawn to the story-dice, plus he wanted a bag designed to hold the dice (isn't there something special about having a bag to hold magical items... magic beans, magic stones... or dice?)

Emily made her dice using colored pencils to create sweet drawings on small wooden blocks, but I decided to take a slightly different tactic.  Wooden blocks in hand, I went in search of clip-art. (And, just in case you are wondering where my older son was during this story-dice making project... well... he was sitting right next to me, engrossed in this book.  I did not interrupt him.  After all, who am to get between a boy and his Middle Earth adventures.)

I used watercolors to paint my wood blocks, glued on the images and then gave the dice a coat of Mod Podge to seal everything up.

This was such a quick, easy project that I made two sets (one to keep and one to give.)  Each set has five dice: the first has people/characters, another has various animals, one has random small items (an acorn, a key, etc...), one has modes of transportation and the last one has images of weather conditions plus a few possible ideas for locations (a castle, a forest, etc...)

The first time we rolled the dice, I told my son a story about Skipper the Space Dog who soared to the moon on his magical flying schooner where he met a dragon who tried to eat him.  Skipper the Space Dog convinced the dragon to try some of the moon-cheese and together they discovered that the moon tastes like the finest Gruyere.  This caused the Dragon to reminisce about his glory days of fame and fortune in Paris 200 years ago when the king gave him a golden "key to the city."  However, the dragon had been banished to the moon for the past 200 year because he had eaten all the cheese in Paris, and was shocked to learn that, 200 years later, there was no longer a king of France.  Skipper the Space Dog convinced the Dragon that all would be forgiven if he returned to Paris, and that he might even be welcomed personally by the Prime Minister.  So, they flew back to France together in Skipper the Space Dog's magical flying schooner and feasted on some fine Camembert.  Very silly... non?

To see more beautiful and fun projects from this book, you can visit this blog here, this one here and this one here!



Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel

I had a little dreidel,
I made it out of clay,
And when it's dry and ready,
Oh, dreidel, I shall play!

In our house, tops are are some of the most-played-with toys...

This top makes chugging noises as the tiny train goes round & round the track (and even the tiny gate goes up and down...) It's one of the prizes in our collection!

Here are some tiny tops we made ourselves.

When Hanukkah rolls around, our collection of dreidels comes out of storage to join our usual collection of tops.  And, we don't limit ourselves to traditional dreidels -- the ones with flashing lights are favorites around here!

This is one of our most outrageous...  As it spins around, lights flash and it emits space-blaster noises... No wonder the little sticker on the "launcher" declares this to be a "Techno Draydel!"

While the flashing, singing dreidels are fun, you cannot play a proper game of dreidel with them.  To play the game, we use these beautiful, olive-wood dreidels from Israel.  The rules for playing the game of dreidel can be found here.

May your holiday season be filled with light, love and laughter...


Hardware Store Hanukkiah

Tonight is the second night of Hanukkah, so just for fun, I thought I'd direct you to a simple project I shared via Rhythm of the Home last Winter.  You can find my tutorial for making a Hardware Store Hanukkiah here.

And if you're interested in a few other ideas for making a Hanukkiah, here is one created from plain wooden blocks and another made from a tree branch.

Wishing you and your family a joyous holiday (whichever one you celebrate...)  May it be filled with light, love and laughter.


Happy Hanukkah: a re-post

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah and so I thought I would share with you part of a post I did last year about how a few books brought magic to our Hanukkah celebrations...

...Bombarded by over-commercialized glitz, omnipresent through the month of December, my older son used to really want to celebrate Christmas (and yes!  the bombardment of over-commercialized glitz can be a problem even for families celebrating Christmas!)  It did not matter how many candles we lit or how many lovely gifts he received, our little Mr. still wanted Christmas (or a commercialized idea of Christmas) until we got some really great Hanukkah books.  It was the magic of these books which brought magic to our own family celebrations.

Our first and foremost favorite Hanukkah book is Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel.  What's not to love?  A spooky, abandoned house, a passel of creepy goblins and a very clever fellow who outwits the goblins and lights the glowing candles of Hanukkah...

Our next favorite is ZigaZak, also by Eric Kimmel (more naughty goblins!)

And then there's this delightful story -- the Chanukkah Guest (thanks again, Eric Kimmel!)

For a bit of good natured humor there's The Best Hanukkah Ever by Barbara Diamond Goldin...

And also this clever book -- Malke's Secret Recipe by David A. Adler.

The newest addition to our Hanukkah book collection, The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket, is seriously irreverent...

And finally, a story which is not necessarily for Hanukkah, but so beautiful that I had to share it -- The Treasure By Uri Shulevitz.

Wishing you and your family a joyous holiday (whichever one you celebrate...)  May it be filled with light, love, laughter and... good stories!


The Man in the Moon

Over the Thanksgiving holiday we took little Mr. to see the film Rise of the Guardians.  Although some of the sequences were a little frenetic (to say the least), on the whole, we liked the movie very much.  I was happy to discover that the movie was based on a new series of books by William Joyce and immediately requested them from our local library.  When we opened The Man in the Moon (the first book of the series), little Mr. and I found ourselves transported by the beautiful illustrations and old-fashioned story which has the feel of a classic tale.

This book is a new favorite in our house -- we love it so much that I had to share it with you!