Double Take by Patrick Dougherty at the Palo Alto Art Center

Over the weekend we visited these magical fairy houses. Well... okay... they are actually an art installation by Patrick Dougherty at the Palo Alto Art Center.

My boys took one look at these huts of woven willow branches and took off running, weaving through tunnels and arches, in and out of doorways...  Laughing and hiding, jumping out to surprise each other, and running in and out of the doorways some more...

They were moving so quickly, I could hardly catch their photos!

The art piece is called Double Take and here is a YouTube video about its installation.

While we were at the art center, we were also lucky enough to get a glimpse of an exhibit called Cultural Kaleidoscope. This exhibit featured art created by local school children and was inspired by world cultures.  All the artwork by the children was lovely, but I, of course, was especially charmed by this colorful display of... clothes peg dolls!!


If you happen to be in the SF Bay Area Peninsula area, the Palo Alto Art Center is worth a visit. Patrick Dougherty's sculptures have been there for over two years, and the museum says the sculpture will remain until the willow branches begin to naturally decay...



A Candle for Quiet

I can light a candle,
God can light a star
Both are bright and wondrous
Shining where they are.


In our house we have started a mealtime tradition which we fondly call "lighting the candle of peace and quiet supper."

It's common in Waldorf tradition to light a candle at mealtime and to accompany the lighting with a small blessing of gratitude.  When I first read about this tradition, it sounded lovely and quaint, but not something which fit the style of our regular family dinner table.  For us, it was enough to sit down to a warm meal together with a minimum of fuss and bother (if you also have children, it's likely you know what I'm talking about here.) It's also a fact that the kitchen table, around which we sit for every meal, is the only table in the house. This table also serves as a desk for my older son's school work, an art table for my younger son, my work desk and my hand-work studio. Serving so many functions meant that there were always at least two stacks of books (and other assorted things) on the table at any given time: library books, cookbooks, craft books, picture books, newspaper clippings, art supplies, and sometimes even my laptop computer (eek.)  But something had to change.  The perpetual stacks of books on the table were an eyesore, and with my two children squawking noisily, competing for attention, mealtime was hardly a relaxing affair.

Imagining a candle on our table at suppertime... such a beautiful thing seemed out of place among the noise and clutter.

Then one morning a few weeks ago, my eyes landed on a large beeswax pillar candle a friend had given me for my birthday, and I thought to myself, "Let's give this a try."  I spent a few minutes finding other homes in our bookshelves for everything and cleared the table top.  At dinner time, before I put food on the table, I explained that we were going to light a candle for peace and quiet. Everyone was intrigued.  My older son helped me light the candle and the little one demanded to blow it out.  We explained that the candle would be blown out after supper, but then there was still a bit of a quibble because, of course, my older son wanted to blow out the candle, too. Hence we have added a second candle to our table.

After we burned our way through the large pillar from my birthday, I bought a gift for our table -- this beautiful angel candle holder from Nova Naturals.

I'd be lying if I left you with the impression that our dinner table is now always peaceful and uncluttered.  There are nights when my husband & I look downcast, informing the children that the candle must leave the table for a few minutes because there is too much noise (this works -- they do usually calm down a bit!)  And I'm afraid I haven't held my commitment to keeping the table clear of books.  There is, at this very moment, a stack of three books staring me in the face (a cookbook, a book about Calder's Circus and a beloved copy of The Hobbit), but truly, I'm doing better!

Do you have any dinnertime rituals which bring peace to your table?  Also, I'm searching for a poem or song which we might recite or sing when we light our candle.  I found one which you can see at the top of this post, however, I'm wondering whether you might know any others?  Thanks!


Tales of the Night

In 2001, as part of the San Francisco film festival, I saw the film Princes and Princesses by Michel Ocelot.  It was utterly enchanting and I had been wishing to see it again.

Then I noticed that Mr. Ocelot has a new film, Tales of the Night; I couldn't resist ordering DVD's for both Princes & Princesses and this new film. We've really been enjoying them and they were well worth the investment (though some of the stories are intense and I'd recommend previewing them prior to viewing with children under 8.)


Granola Obsession

My little one calls this 'nola, and I think I could eat it for every meal.  I have a friend who has made her own granola for years, and I always thought, given that granola is easily purchased at the store, this was a waste of time.  However, after making my own (sparkling, golden with bright gems of dried fruit) I cannot go back to eating stale-tasting, store-bought, maple-flavored sawdust.  Homemade granola is addictive.

My little one enjoyed making this latest batch of 'nola with me, too.  His favorite part was exploring the brown sugar with his increasingly sticky fingers. My favorite part was washing his hands and then distracting him with the task of pouring pre-measured oats and almonds into the mixing bowl.

I searched online and cross-referenced several recipes to get the basics:  oven temperature, baking time, and ratios for oat, nuts, oil, and sweeteners. Below you will find the result of my search.  A basic, infinitely mutable recipe.


3 cups rolled oats (not instant which are ground up and not steel cut which require more cooking)
1 cup roasted, unsalted almonds
1/2 cup unsalted pepitas (optional)
3/4 cup roasted, unsalted cashews
1/2 cup brown sugar (or slightly less, to taste)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
2-3 pinches of salt
1 cup raisins or dry cranberries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (do not use aluminum foil -- the granola will stick to it -- I learned this the hard way.) 

Combine oil, sugar, pinches of salt and honey in a small pan and warm until combined and liquid but not boiling.

Combine oats & nuts in a bowl then pour the oil, sugar, salt & honey mixture over the oat/nut mixture and combine quickly using two spoons. 

Still working quickly, before your sugar/oil/honey mixture cools and hardens, spread the contents of your mixing bowl evenly across the parchment-lined pan and place in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, mix the granola with the spatula, spread evenly again and put back into the oven for another 15 minutes. Then remove from the oven, mix again and cook for a final 10 minutes.  The granola should be evenly light golden.

Remove from the oven, distribute raisins or cranberries on top, mix once more, then allow to cool.  After the pan of granola cools, break it up into chunks/pieces and store in a jar or plastic bag for up to 2 weeks.

List of Possible Add-Ins:

Different nuts or seeds: sunflowers seeds, macadamias or walnuts (though be careful -- macadamias or walnuts might burn -- to avoid this, you can always add them to the pan half-way through the cooking time or even at the end.)

You can replace some of the honey with maple syrup or a small amount of molasses (I have been making my granola with a tablespoon of dark molasses)

1 cup sweetened coconut flakes (add at the end with the dried fruit -- coconut will burn easily)

Spices such as ginger or cinnamon.

Flavorings such as vanilla.

You can also omit nuts, cranberries or raisins according to preference.


Featured: My Poppet

photos by Cintia:: My Poppet

This is turning out to be a busy week for peg dolls -- today Making Peg Dolls is featured on the blog My Poppet.  I love these sweet photos of Cintia's daughter Emma looking through the book -- her expression is so focused and she is just adorable in her orange print apron!

photos by Cintia:: My Poppet

I especially enjoyed spotting Emma's paint set in these photos because it is exactly the same paint set I use on my peg dolls (it's made by Lyra.)  You can see from her paints that Emma and I have the same style of painting... mix the green with the red... mix the yellow with a bit of green... and add some green to the blue for good measure!

photos by Cintia:: My Poppet

To read the story of Emma's little Halloween family (daddy is a witch, mummy is a cat and Emma is a wee pink ghost) have a look here at My Poppet!


Featured: Moomah Magazine

Guess what! My peg dolls have been featured in Moomah the Magazine!  Have you ever had a look at this beautiful online magazine?  It's full of craft projects, recipes, book reviews (for both mama & child), fun articles and features covering the work of inspirational non-profits (the non-profit currently highlighted is Milk & Bookies, which promotes literacy by providing books to children who do not have books of their own.)

dolls & photo by Amanda Pedro: By Hook & Thread

And how lovely to find that, among the collage samples of peg dolls are also images of dolls by the talented Amanda Pedro (her blog is By Hook & Thread)

dolls & photo by Clare (ACT, Australia)

And more dolls by my darling friend Clare who hails from Australia.

Thank you Moomah, for the lovely feature, and to everyone else... Happy reading! You can find the Moomah article here.



Saturday night Mr. Bloom and I went to the ballet.  Not just any ballet... a new production of Cinderella co-produced by SF Ballet and The Dutch National Ballet.   It took a bit of arranging, but I managed to have a dear friend babysit my boys, and Oh! It was magnificent, I'm so glad we could go...

Maybe you also like ballet, or maybe you don't... but this ballet... There are not enough over the top adjectives to describe it. Stunning. Gorgeous.  It was perfect.  Classical ballet but also very modern, hilariously funny moments, serious and romantic in all the right places.  The story line melded Grimm's version of Cinderella with the Perrault version, and while there was no fairy godmother, there was a magic tree, sprung from the tears Cinderella shed over the grave of her mother.  Yes, perfect.

This review from Huffington Post was very nice and above you can see a trailer from the Dutch National Ballet.

Here is the choreographer speaking about the ballet. If you are fretting because the rest of the performances are sold out, fret no more.  SF Ballet will be performing it again next year (tickets are already available to subscribers.)

 Just for fun... one last video about the costumes.  Yes, perfect.



A Fairy Garden: 2013

Once again Donni of Magic Onions is hosting her yearly Fairy Garden Contest.  To learn more about Donni's Fairy Garden Contest, you can have a look here.

And for a little tour of our current fairy garden at we bloom here, read on...

This year we've added a new & improved house built of twigs (with pine cone roof) to shelter our local sprites...

And for a festive flair, we've added an enchanting string of golden acorns.

Stones have been added here...

And there...

We recently spotted a tiny, winged visitor...

And in another pot nearby, we discovered a snoozing gnome... Who knows what we might find tomorrow in our little fairy garden?