Dec 13

The 25 Books of Christmas

This year, our family is attempting the Book-A-Day Advent Calendar, as seen around Pinterest. Over the last few months, I was able to screen more than FIFTY winter/holiday/Christmas-related books, thanks to our local metro-library network.

I was overall seeking secular books that were still morally relevant to the season, and maybe even with a poignant story, but also not totally discounting the entertaining seasonally-themed books for pure enjoyment. I ended up choosing 14 new selections to add to what we already have (weeding out quite a few from the original stash).

The books will be wrapped, and placed “around” (near?) our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, until we get the full-sized tree up.

Here is our complete 24-book plan for this month, in no particular order:

'Jolly Old Santa Claus' by 'Sparkie' & George Hinke 'The Golden Christmas Tree' by Jan Wahl & Leonard Weisgard 'Night Tree' by Eve Bunting & Ted Rand Hilary Knight's 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'

'Little Rabbit's Christmas' by Harry Horse 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas!' by Dr. Seuss 'Merry Christmas Mom and Dad' by Mercer Mayer 'Over and Under the Snow' by Kate Messner & Christopher Silas Neal

'The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice' by Wendy Pfeffer & Jesse Reisch 'Curious George: Snowy Day' by H. A. Rey 'Snow' by Cynthia Rylant & Lauren Stringer 'Duck & Goose, It's Time for Christmas!' by Tad Hills

'The Night Before the Night Before Christmas' by Natasha Wing & Mike Lester 'Owl Moon' by Jane Yolen & John Schoenherr 'The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher' by Robert Kraus & Vip 'Just Right for Christmas' by Birdie Black & Rosalind Beardshaw

'Russell's Christmas Magic' by Rob Scotton 'Snowden' by Nancy Carlson 'The Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree' by David Rubel & Jim LaMarche 'Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?' by Jan Brett

'The Mole Family's Christmas' by Russell & Lillian Hoban 'Peter Claus and the Naughty List' by Lawrence David & Delphine Durand 'My Wonderful Christmas Tree' by Dahlov Ipcar 'blank

Reserved especially for Christmas Eve is my lovely “vintage” (1988) Hallmark pop-up The Night Before Christmas [+|+] — my favorite childhood Christmas book :)

I also purchased Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory, after reading a library copy. The story is so touching. I really want my 8-year-old son to experience this bittersweet tale of more humble times; about misfits and poverty, family-ties and the spirit of giving.

'A Christmas Memory' by Truman Capote

It’s definitely not age-appropriate for my 3-year-old, so I think I’ll bundle it with the Duck & Goose board book, and on that night they will each have their own book to read.

I am so looking forward to all this cozy holiday reading!

Oct 13

Children’s Book List 2013

My 3-1/2-year-old and I have been furiously checking out children’s books at the library, and reading about three each night; burning through them pretty quickly to see which ones would be worth investing in to add to Nola’s bookshelf. 25 great books for kids ages 3-5

Here is a rundown of 25 of the BEST children’s books for ages 3-5 years that we have found in 2013:

'If You Want to See a Whale' by Julie Fogliano & Erin Stead

If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano & Erin Stead, is probably my personal favorite of this year. An instant classic, reminiscent of P.D. Eastman; a simple, whimsical adventure, with illustrations that are somehow simultaneously contemporary and nostalgic. I could read this book a thousand times over.

'I Like Old Clothes' by Mary Ann Hoberman & Patrice Barton 'Stuck' by Oliver Jeffers 'Owl Moon' by Jane Yolen & John Schoenherr 'Counting in the Garden' by Emily & Patrick Hruby

* * * * *

'Not a Box' by Antoinette Portis

NOT A BOX by Antoinette Portis: Nola absolutely loves this book! We maxed out our 2-months of renewals and eventually had to return it to the library. She was so upset, and continued to talk about it and ask for it, so I bought her a copy a couple weeks later and it remains one of her favorites.

'No Fits, Nilson!' by Zachariah OHora 'For Just One Day' by Laura Leuck & Marc Boutavant 'I Want My Hat Back' by Jon Klassen 'Night Cat' by Margaret Beames & Sue Hitchcock

* * * * *

'The Umbrella' by Ingrid & Dieter Schubert

The Umbrella by Ingrid & Dieter Schubert: an absolutely lovely wordless book. The illustrations are adorable, and the best part is: Nola reads this book to me! There’s nothing more fun than having a small child tell you their own version of the story.

'Virginia Wolf' by Kyo Maclear & Isabelle Arsenault 'The Dark' by Lemony Snicket & Jon Klassen 'Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You' by Nancy Tillman 'Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great' by Bob Shea

* * * * *

'Extra Yarn' by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen, is another new favorite of mine. Nola enjoyed it, too, but I think she’ll enjoy it more in another year or two. I love Klassen’s illustration style (the infamous bear makes a cameo in this book) and it works perfectly with Barnett’s endearing story of generosity — and knitting!

'Giraffes Can't Dance' by Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees 'Monsters Love Colors' by Mike Austin 'Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Book' by Rod Campbell 'Sparkle and Spin: A Book About Words' by Ann & Paul Rand

* * * * *

'I Can Do It Myself!' by Stephen Krensky & Sara Gillingham

I Can Do It Myself!, one book from the “Empowerment Series” by Stephen Krensky & Sara Gillingham, is another one of Nola’s new favorites! She wants to take it with her to bed almost every night. The “series” is only three books right now, but I hope they will add more in the coming years. I am loving these illustrators who blend vintage and modern styles to make books that are appealing to children and still interesting for adults!

'All Kinds of Families!' by Mary Ann Hoberman & Marc Boutavant 'I Took the Moon for a Walk' by Carolyn Curtis & Alison Jay 'Forever Friends' by Carin Berger 'A Long Way Away' by Frank Viva

* * * * *

I have ongoing Pinterest boards of kids books recommendations for two different ages groups, 2-6 years and 7-12 years, filled with great books read and “approved” by my kids! Along with boards specifically to save books that I would like the kids to read someday: here and here.

I’ve also been screening holiday/winter-themed books for a book-a-day Advent Calendar this coming Christmas. I will post the final results with a full 24-book list on December 1st!

If you have book suggestions for the kids (or for me!) feel free to post in the comments section!

Dec 12

Handmade Christmas 2012

I made blankets for the kids this year for Christmas, and gave them on Christmas Eve. They both look exhausted in this photo because it was 9:30 at night and we had just gotten back from a long night of dinner and festivities with family.


Gunner made the cutest paper penguin ornament for the tree. He even stamped the date and signed his name on the back (you can kind of see through it in the picture).


Nola’s favorite movie currently is Coraline, and as a result, she asked Santa for a “little Nola” for Christmas (because Coraline has a Coraline doll in the movie). It took some scouring on Etsy to find a doll that was within our price range, looked (somewhat) like Nola, and was appropriate for a toddler. Finally found an absolutely adorable “little Nola” from TashiBear — all the way from Australia!


I could have done without the kids’ waking up at 6:30am after I had stayed up until 3am wrapping presents (the sun wasn’t even up yet), but other than that, it was a wonderful couple of days. We all ended up taking naps on Christmas day, anyway. Can’t go wrong with holiday naps; with bellies full of cookies and pie and good food, and brains full of excitement and fun and love! Magnificently exhausting!

Oct 12

Halloween 2012: Finn saves Frog Princess with Lady Rainicorn!

We had a great Halloween! Nola as Frog Princess, Gunner as Finn the Human, and me as (at least half of) Lady Rainicorn!

Nola kept the glitter-tulle dress on for all of 10 minutes; long enough to get her pictures taken. Then it was jacket and trick-or-treating time! The grandparents’ house got a good dusting of glitter — you’re welcome, mom & dad!

Nola was a total trooper, and made it around about 10 blocks (up and down the massive hills of my hometown) before asking to be carried the last block back to Grandma’s house. It was such a beautiful fall evening! The fresh air and the fun walk with the kids, everybody all dressed up, it was wonderful.

We decided to skip the local costume contest this year; Gunner said he didn’t really want to go, and I wasn’t going to argue. Halloween on a Wednesday is exhausting!

I found a tutorial online for making the backpack, so I didn’t even have to sweat over the pattern or sizing or anything, and it has a functional zipper! We (I) totally nerded-out, and filled it with episode-accurate items from the Prisoners of Love episode, where Finn just happens to list off all the stuff in his backpack as he’s digging through it; yellow sweater (came in handy), flashlight, water bottle, flute, trail mix, binoculars, and I even got him a “Ninja manual” (a-la the Chamber of Frozen Blades episode). He also found our copy of the Enchiridion (Epictetus’ version, that is) on the bookshelf and stuffed that in there. Maybe he’ll actually READ IT!

I made Nola’s sparkly “gown”; my mom found the long-sleeved, long-leg unitard at Goodwill in a total stroke of luck; and we already had the crown from the dollar section of Jo-Ann’s. The mask and hands are from Etsy shop Mahalo, and they are SO CUTE! The set included some adorable little frog-feet shoe covers that you can’t really see, but it was so wonderful to find a frog mask that wasn’t terrifying and it came as a whole set! Thanks Mahalo!

Here you can see how my knees bend backwards. Don’t worry, it’s just a connective-tissue disorder. But handy for freaking people out.

Now its time to deconstruct my costume back to a plain-old pink hoodie. Not sure what to do with the ginormous rainbow scarf, but it is super-warm! Maybe save it for next year, and Nola can be a rainbow!

Oct 12

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Happy birthday to me! I am now 30-years old, and my birthday was on a weekend this year! (I usually get weekday birthdays) So what do I do to celebrate my 30th birthday? Watch The Nightmare Before Christmas with my kids, of course!

We only have it on VHS (whoa! time-warp!), but we also happen to have a VCR hooked up to our TV in the living room. Pretty interesting watching a nearly 20-year-old VHS tape on a 52″ high-definition television… but it did afford the opportunity to explain the mechanics of a VCR to my 7-year-old,  who couldn’t understand why it was getting all “glitchy” and said Tracking at the bottom of the screen, LOL

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a 1993 stop-motion musical fantasy film, originated in a poem written by Tim Burton in 1982. It tells the story of Jack Skellington, a being from “Halloween Town” who opens a portal to “Christmas Town” and decides to celebrate the holiday.

This post is part of my October Horror Movie Marathon 2012 series.
To see all my OHMM movies in reverse-chronological order, click here.

Sep 12

Printable Animal Masks

Today, Nola asked me if she could be a tiger. I told her she could not draw on herself with that black Sharpie she had in her hands from who-knows-where. Thankfully, she asked first! Needless to say, I had dashed her little two-year-old dreams to bits, and the dejected look on her face damn near broke my heart. So I asked if she would like a tiger mask instead, and she was so excited about it she was literally jumping up and down in anticipation. “Yeah, yeah, yeah!!”

I Googled “printable Tiger Mask“, and from the results found a really cool-looking one, which led me to a page on FULL of printable animal masks! We printed out ten different animals, and they are beautiful! The kids are having a blast, and no Sharpie on the toddler.

I couldn’t wait to Pin it — but, lo-and-behold, “no pinnable images”.  What the spark?! So, I decided post a blog entry, complete with pinnable thumbnail preview, and direct readers to this great resource.

Printable Animal Masks from

Source: Printable Masks

Aug 12

Summer’s End

Cramming in some last-minute summer fun, before Gunner’s return to school on Monday for second grade! The summer break went by way too fast, as usual. Gunner has all his school supplies, complete with an “Annoying Orange” backpack, and today he got a slick haircut at JCPenney’s for FREE (always nice). Then we went to lunch with Grandpa, and he had a super-cool surprise!



He had found it this morning on an outside window of the building where he works, got a plastic container and scooped it up for us! SO COOL! We brought it home to the country and released it back in the brush. It can eat all the Japanese Beetles and crickets and grasshoppers it wants. I took way too many pictures! Here’s some of the better ones!


Had some difficulties finding it with the viewscreen on my camera; it blended in really well with all the tall grass and weeds. Much safer than the concrete and glass of the city!


It looks like some kind of crazy alien.


To wrap up the summer, I’m taking Gunner to see Paranorman on Saturday, and blow the money we saved on the haircut for some spankin’-new back-to-school shoes! I would have liked to get to the pool one more time (or three) before school started, but the weather has been very comfortable in the 70s/low-80s the last couple weeks. Not exactly outdoor-swimming weather, especially with a two-year-old in-tow. Oh well, there’s always next year!

Jul 12

Latex Glove Chicken

Latex Glove Rooster

My husband turned our last latex glove into a rooster, and the kids went bonkers! Good job, Dad!

May 12

KCWC Spring 2012 Results

So, yeah, I’m a bit late in posting this. HA-HA! Go figure!

I applied myself to the Elsie Marley Kids Clothing Week Challenge Spring 2012 with blazing ferocity, and the result is a cute little Southerny apron-style sundress! Even I was not expecting it to turn out so “country”, but that’s where the fabric led me. Seems appropriate, since we live in the country, after all.



This is the first actual article of clothing that I’ve ever made! I started with vintage handmade curtains, acquired from a friend whose grandmother had moved into a retirement home, and who graciously allowed me to ransack her attic and basement for fabrics and other lovelies. I was thinking about actually using the curtains; they were so pretty, but totally not my style. She already had the lace trimmed and the tie-backs ruffled, so I decided to hack them up and sew them back together in a new configuration, like the Frankenstein that I am.


I used one tie-back and half of one curtain panel, and lined it with muslin for modesty’s sake. I didn’t use a pattern, as they terrify me and my mother has yet to instruct me on the ins-and-outs of such exotic things. I took some measurements, made some plans and adjustments and poorly-drawn diagrams, and used a cereal bowl to cut out the curvatures of the armpits — because that’s how we do things around here.


I love it, it’s adorable and precious — but Nola is less than thrilled. The whole week while I was working on it, she would ask, “Mommy workin’ on my dress?” Yet every time I try to put it on her, she says “No! No! I don’t want to wear it!” Freakin’ 2-year-olds, I swear. We’ll see how much actual wear it will get before she grows out of it. Glad I didn’t spend the extra time installing those pockets I was contemplating.

Maybe I’ll bust out another panel and make her something a little less “contemporary” and a little more “active”, so she can do all those things that her impulsive two-year-old brain compels her to do — i.e. chasing the dogs, rolling in the grass, jumping in mud puddles, throwing rocks at *whatever*, kicking her brother, etc.

Oh, but definitely with pockets this time.

Mar 12

Kids Clothes Week Challenge

I will be participating with the Elsie Marley Kids Clothes Week Challenge for Spring 2012 (April 23-30). This sounds wonderful! (and cathartic) — February and March have been so hectic and stressful, I’ve barely had time for any “leisure” sewing (or much leisure any-crafts or anything else). I’ve got pants to convert to shorts and summer dresses to make! This challenge will be a great impetus. Can’t wait to see what everyone does!

Elsie Marley Kids Clothes Week Challenge Spring 2012 (April 23-30)