paper gingerbread house

I promised my younger son that we would make a gingerbread house.  In anticipation, we got started on a less ambitious project -- a gingerbread house accordion book.

I've been wanting to try THIS tutorial on Susan Gaylord's book-craft blog for a long time; you can find it HERE.

NOTE: The link on Susan's blog to her printable candy-design sheet is broken, so I searched around and discovered coloring sheets with gingerbread house pieces on Jan Brett's blog. You can find them HERE.

We decided to add paper circle faces so our gingerbread folk look less like cookies and more like children who are dressed up as cookies... 

Then we doodled with a black sharpie to add more details, but I kept wishing we had one of THESE white, oil-based paint pens to add details which look like white sugar icing.

For more gingerbread fun, I highly recommend Elisa Kleven's Horribly Hungry Gingerbread Boy plus Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends.  Are you planning to make a gingerbread house this winter?  Maybe you will make a paper one, too?!


holiday gift ideas 2017

I'm a little late posting a list of holiday gift ideas. Okay... very late. Hanukkah has already started and Christmas is only 10 days away, but if you're stuck in a fit of last-minute-desperation, maybe my ideas will be helpful (she announced optimistically).

As with last year's holiday gift list post, I have to do some disclaimer-ing; most of us will agree that the whole holiday gift-giving thing is overblown.  The omnipresent marketing and merchandising in our culture is dispiriting; additionally, many people (myself included) are focused on minimizing unnecessary possessions.  Still, it's fun to make or find the perfect gift for someone we love. And in my mind, giving or receiving books is never a bad thing; books are in a separate category i.e. you can never have too many of them, nor can they ever be considered clutter (the same goes for flowers, fun card games and craft projects).

So, here goes.


1) Instant DIY :: Are you looking for an instant DIY gift (and an especially perfect teacher gift)?  Grab some canning jars and some pebbles, then head to your local garden supply shop to buy narcissus, jonquil or hyacinth bulbs.  Put the pebbles in the jar, add a little bit of water, add a bulb to each jar and tie some festive cord or ribbon around the top. Done. (Just make sure to tell the recipient to put the jar on a windowsill and add some water when the level drops.)

2) Donations to Non-Profits :: As with last year, one of the most meaningful and important gifts you can give these days is a donation to a non-profit in the name of your favorite person.  My favorite non-profits are the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Environmental Defense Fund, and the Violence Policy Center.

3) Tickets to a Performance or Membership to a Museum :: This year my older son wanted to continue our family tradition of seeing the San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker.  It's gorgeous (and if you cannot make it to San Francisco to see a performance, you can watch it on DVD). Maybe there's a concert, play or ballet performance you've been wanting to see?  A museum you've been wanting to visit? An ice-skating or hiking adventure? You get the idea...

4) For Teens and Grown-ups :: Paste Quarterly Magazine (in print!), Secret Marvels of the World (from Lonely Planet), A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms and The Hedge Knight (graphic novel), The Hound of Rowan: book one of the Tapestry Series (this is a recommendation courtesy of my older son -- he ADORES this series), The Encyclopedia of Early Earth (my favorite graphic novel ever), and Relish (another of my favorite graphic novels), Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout, Red Rising (What?! You haven't read it yet?), Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (I read it this past summer while visiting friends on Martha's Vineyard), and The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater.  Also, if you happen to know anyone who likes to crochet, the book Lalylala's Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies is just a bit scrumptious.

Non-book items? Music by Carolina Chocolate Drops (they were awarded by the MacArthur Foundation this year!), Cards Against Humanity (Viewer Discretion is Advised), any coffee mug or teacup from Anthropologie (they're all gorgeous), and if you're looking for a nice gift for your favorite (but very particular) teenager -- my husband bought a really good set of headphones for our older son.  Also, I am rather jealous of anyone who might be receiving one of these kits from Purl -- especially this one and this one.

5) For Younger Children :: The toddler on my list is receiving a copy of Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant/illustrated by Christian Robinson (for goodness sake, what's not to love?), and another delightful (if peculiar) toddler option is Kuma-Kuma Chan. We also adore Du Iz Tak.  

Non-book items? This Spirograph set, or this one, this Lego set, Kiwi Crate (my son is obsessed), Root & Star magazine, my son loves this craft-kit, these Pattern Play Blocks, the Crazy Faces card game, another card game called Set, Sleeping Queens, and anything by SmartGames.  Thanks to this book my son has become a master at origami, he is also a pro at cats-cradle, and he prefers this yo-yo for perfecting around-the-world (and every other yo-yo trick). 

6) When you are completely baffled and out of ideas :: Slippers.

For more ideas, I like Catherine Newman's suggestions on her blog Ben & Birdy, and Rachel Wolf's list on her blog Clean.



tutorial :: acorn necklace

A few weeks ago at a school craft fair, I saw people walking past wearing the sweetest necklaces -- acorns with golden caps.  I was trailing after my little son during the fair and so wasn't able to visit the table where students were proudly selling their work, but I was determined to create a few of these baubles at home with my son.

-- Acorns and caps
-- Gold paint & a paint brush
-- An electric drill and vise
-- Small screw-eyes
-- PVS glue
-- Yarn or string

 STEP 1 :: Remove caps from acorns, apply gold paint and allow to dry.

STEP 2 :: Glue the painted caps back onto the acorns and allow to dry.

STEP 3 :: Secure your acorns in a vise (please, please, please be careful of your fingers and secure your project in a vise when drilling) and use a very small bit to drill a hole down through the cap and into the acorn.

Note: I use vise jaw liner pads similar to these to protect the items I am securing -- otherwise, a tight vise will damage fragile items.  I have been told that, if you don't own vise jaw liner pads, you can use a washcloth to protect your work when using a vise.

STEP 4 :: Screw the screw-eyes into the drilled holes, cut lengths of cord, ribbon or yarn, and knot to desired length.

Longer pieces of yarn or ribbon will be good for wearing as necklaces, but tied on shorter pieces of cord, these acorns would look pretty on a Christmas tree.  And if you are as fond as I am of shiny gilded objects from nature, you might enjoy clicking HERE to have a look at my tutorial for golden walnut garlands.


happy hanukkah 2017

Happy first night of Hanukkah!  In honor of the holiday, I thought I'd re-post a craft I facilitated in my younger son's kindergarten/1st grade class last year...

For more Hanukkah related crafts on my blog, you can find an acorn-dreidel tutorial HERE and a candle-making tutorial HERE.


--  Large paper (12 in. x 18 in. was available in
     the classroom)

-- Colorful scrapbook or origami paper

-- Orange & yellow paper

-- A paper cutter (essential if prepping this craft for
    a classroom of 22 small children -- not essential
    if doing this craft at home).

-- Scissor

-- Glue stick

STEP 1 :: Cut strips of paper as follows: 2 in. x 14 in. for each hannukiah base, 2 in. x 2 in. for the shammash candle holder, 1 in. x 5 in. for candles (you will need 9 candles for each child's project).

STEP 2 :: Cut 1 inch strips of yellow & orange paper.  Then use a scissors to snip the strips into diamond & triangle shapes for the candle flames.

STEP 3 :: Set out the large sheets of paper, strips of colorful paper, and glue stick then stand back and watch as gorgeous collages are created.

NOTE: I was facilitating this project in a classroom of 5-7 year olds and we allotted approx. 20 minutes for the craft.  If we had had more time for the project, giving the children scissors to cut out their own candles would have been an option.  And certainly, if doing this project with older children, there is no need at all to pre-cut the paper into strips and they can cut the paper into strips themselves.


booktrailer :: this is my dollhouse

If you've been visiting my blog over the past few years, you know how I feel about book trailers (didn't I just share a fantastic one with you last week? Why, yes I did!).  And this book trailer I'm sharing with you today is extra scrumptious because it's about doll houses (there are even instructions for making your own doll house inside the book jacket)!

If you're a new visitor to my blog, you may have missed a doll house tutorial I posted back in July 2015 (plus tutorials for furniture here and here).  And a mermaid dollhouse here!

This is my dollhouse. If you make one, too, I hope you will share it with me...


book trailer :: her right foot by dave eggers

I ran across a trailer for this book a few weeks ago and... wow.  I immediately checked out a copy from the library and found the book even more beautiful and powerful than revealed by the trailer.  As the grandchild of immigrants, the topic, for me, is poignant, and in light of the current political situation in the US, this book offers inspiration and hope.

In addition to the trailer, author Dave Eggers posted a letter to his readers on Amazon.  You can find the letter here (just scroll down a bit and you'll find it). 



Hello -- I'm back!  Have you given up on me? I hope not...

Because of family commitments things have been difficult and busy around here, but I have a number of things I'm looking forward to sharing with you.  Meanwhile... apples!

Apples seem to be late this year.  Every week for the past two months, I've stopped by the local farmer's markets and haven't found what I was looking for.  In early September there were Gravensteins, and then... Ho hum. Not much. Finally, last Saturday I bought those gorgeous Winesaps (in the photo at the top of this post) and Pink Ladies (above).  Pink Ladies are favorites of my little son because he thinks the name is funny, but as far as I'm concerned, the Winesaps and Pink Ladies are both fantastic and worth the wait.

Baking has ensued.  In September I made this apple cake (twice).  Note: I think substituting brown sugar for at least half the sugar called for in the recipe improves the flavor of cake, and instead of baking in a large tube-pan, you might consider (as I did) splitting the batter into two 8-inch square or 9-inch round cake pans.  Next on the list is apple crisp; I cannot find my usual recipe, but this one is similar.  And applesauce. I use Judy Rodgers recipe for roasted applesauce, substituting honey for the sugar.  It's divine.

Can you believe tomorrow is Halloween?  For some reason (I have yet to uncover) my little one insists he doesn't want to go trick-or-treating, but I'm hoping he will change his mind...


a gift

My mother's hair was straight.  Her eyes were brown. Her skin was olive.

My hair is curly.  My eyes are light green.  My skin is pale.

Because of this (and my leggy build), I always thought I favored my father's side of the family.  However, I've spent the past weeks looking through old photos, and suddenly saw what everyone else has been insisting all along;  I am nearly a mirror image of my mother.  I see her in the curve of my cheek, in the line of my chin and the bump on my nose.  I see her in the shape of my eyes and the arc of my lips.

And this is a final gift.  Every time I look in the mirror, I see my mother.

my mother


In 2011 my mother was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.  We were blessed to have her with us for 6 more years.  Now, for the past three weeks, we have been steadily caring for her and did our best to bring her to peace.

Kel Maleh Rachamim
God, full of mercy, Who dwells above, give rest on the wings of your Divine Presence, amongst the holy who shine like the sky, to the soul of my mother... O Merciful One, please shelter her forever under the wings of Thy presence.  Amen.


book review :: journal sparks

FTC Compliant Disclosure:  I was sent a copy of this book by Storey Publishing Co. to facilitate a review, however, all opinions expressed below are entirely my own.

Nearly 5 years ago Emily Neuburger came out with her first book, Show me a Story.  This book was utterly delightful, so you can imagine how excited I was to hear that Emily had written a new book: Journal Sparks.


These small images I was able to download from Storey Publishing in no way do this book justice.  It's jam-packed full of colorful, whimsical inspiration for "No-Rules Journaling." There are ideas for word-play, color-play, mixed media collage and fanciful imaginings.

In addition to the rainbow-buffet of ideas Emily lays on the table, this volume also contains instructions for building your own journal (instead of buying pre-fabricated notebooks), plus there are contributions from other authors/artists who bring yet more ideas and inspiration.

As I paged through this book, I thought to myself how perfect Journal Sparks would be for any teenage or adult journaling-enthusiast...


And for younger children, too... The moment my 6-year old lay eyes on the book, he claimed it as his own.

We started off constructing tiny journals out of printer-paper, which my little one immediately filled with washi-tape, rubber-stamps and pencil-doodles.  So we quickly upgraded to THESE lovely spiral-bound, watercolor paper journals.

"Hope" is the thing with feathers... (Emily Dickinson)

And here's where I admit to you that I am not a journaling-enthusiast.  I haven't kept any sort of journal since my years at university, but Emily's Journal Sparks brought back to me the memory of my favorite sort of journal: the florilegium.  Florilegia is a Medieval Latin term describing books in which are written small extracts from other works; in my own little florilegium, I scribbled favorite quotes and short passages.

I am blinded by the glare of all the silver linings. (Elizabeth Cohen)

I'm having so much fun adding watercolor and collage illustrations to my favorite quotes, and am grateful to Emily for inspiring my return to this journaling tradition.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough for anyone who loves to journal, for anyone who loves to create mixed media art, for anyone who loves to doodle and for anyone who thinks they cannot do any of these things but might like to give it go!