Last week we were in Vancouver.  Over the past 7 years we've taken local weekend trips but haven't had a proper vacation since 2009.  It seemed like the right time to do something more ambitious than visiting grandparents in LA; my parents were actually with us on this vacation, but Vancouver was a welcome change of scene.

There was so much to delight in Vancouver. I couldn't get enough of the First Nations art & totem poles, and although everything inside the aquarium was gorgeous, my children were mesmerized by the Keys To The Streets piano sitting in the plaza out front. The best part of our trip, however, was the food.  We ate not once, but twice at Touhenboku Ramen, and I sincerely wish we could have eaten at least three times at Ritual. I highly recommend pizza with focaccia-like crust from the Pzazz stall in the market on Granville Island, the brown sugar cookies from The Salty Cookie Co. are not to be missed, and I will forever wax rhapsodic over the marshmallows from Goodmallows (we brought home several bags flavored with Earl Grey tea -- those were my personal favorites -- but all the flavors were rather amazing). 

Have you had any good travels this summer?  But more importantly, what did you eat when you were there?


doki doki

I recently heard about this book: The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, illustrated by Julia Kuo.  I haven't actually read it (yet) but there is a visual and auditory collage created by the author and illustrator which starts with the words, "Doki doki is the sound your heart makes when you see someone or something you love."  It's a beautiful glimpse into the spirit of the book and you can find it HERE.



How much do I love this? A whole lot.  
You can read more about the work of Theo Jansen HERE.


old-fashioned summer

photo credit: rachel wolf :: clean

Dear lovely friends,

I've been intending to share this with you since the start of summer, but posting lately has been difficult for me.  Still, there are a few more weeks of summer vacation, and the last few weeks before school starts always feel bittersweet.  It's a time to sneak in those last summer-vacation activities... another visit to the beach... a few more art projects... and making popsicles.

The inspiring list below was composed and featured in a blog post by Rachel Wolf.  Rachel is the owner of LuSa Organics (we swear by her essential oil Sleeping Potion blend).  To see Rachel's original post, you can click HERE.


1. Slow down.
There's no hurry to get anywhere, so let's savor where we are. You only have one chance at this day, this season, this relationship, this childhood.

2. Under-schedule.
Less on your calender means more space for the people you love. If your kids are accustom to a pretty full plate it might take them a bit to adjust. But when they do a whole world of possibilities will open up before them.

3. Make space for simple play.
I can't say enough about the magic that this brings.

4. Invite friends over for a picnic.
And don't clean first. Spread an old blanket on the grass and dig in. Memorable, real, and unplugged in the best way.

5. Have a campfire.
If only because it's high time you teach your kids what "I hate white rabbits" means. (Or as my kids say it (between coughs), "I don't like white bunnies!")

6. Build a quick and easy backyard fort.
It'll take you ten minutes and keep your kids entertained for the summer. No Pinterest perfection required. Just a bedsheet and some rope. Boom.

7. Make a habit of saying "yes".
Can we go swimming? Can we have dessert? Will you read me a book? Embrace the yes and see where it takes you.

8. Stay up late chasing fireflies.
Because what could be better?
And besides. Bedtime is over-rated. (Just ask your kids.)

9. Blow some epic bubbles.
I mean honestly. How could you not? These bubbles will captivate everyone, young and old.

10. Go swimming in a lake.
Or the ocean. Or a creek. But get your feet wet in nature. And if the water is cold I double dare you to dunk!

11. Sleep out in your backyard.
With or without a tent. Under the moon and stars, just you and your family. Summer was made for this.
If you want to take the sleep out even further, plan a road trip to a National Park. Because the Parks somehow feel like everyone's backyard.

12. Explore without agenda.
Your block, a city, the forest, your home state. Make an adventure of it. On bike, on foot, by car, or by train, get out there and find new places to love.

13. Listen to your children's stories.
As Catherine Wallace brilliantly put it, “Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”
Don't wait. Start today.

14. Have less rules.
The world is safer now than it has ever been. Safer than when I zipped down the driveway with no helmet and was told to "be home before dark". Children learn best through freedom, and we adults thrive with less "should" and more "want to" in each day.

15. Churn some ice cream.
Tonight, tomorrow, everyday. Always churn ice cream. It's one of summer's simple pleasures.

16. Go outside and play.
Games without rules, just you and your kids. Sword-fight with pool noodles or toss the softball, grab your rollerblades or find that dusty bucket of sidewalk chalk.
Play feeds our souls. Especially when we do it together.
And remember, we deeply need nature. Let yourself go into the calm bliss of biofilia. It will heal you in so many ways.

So often "joy" takes the backseat. Work? Yes. Commitment? Always. Responsibility? Bring it!
But joy? Oh. We forgot about joy.
Joy fills us in ways that nothing else can. Put it first this summer.

18. Dance in the rain.
Barefoot. With your kids or alone. It can't help but transform you. Note: dancing in the rain will cause epic laughter as well (which spins it's own healing magic).

19. Make some play dough.
Because you might not want to dance in every rain storm this summer. Play dough will fill the leftover rainy days quite nicely.

20. Do something you've never done before.
Dye your hair pink, head out without a plan or a map, or cook some Thai food. Surprise yourself and find joy in the unexpected.

21. Get gloriously, unapologetically dirty.
When was the last time you made mud pies or jumped in puddles? Feel this summer in every possible way. In the garden, the woods, or the river, be in it. Without hesitation.
As an added bonus, getting dirty builds healthy immunity. Who knew?

22. Fear not the unscheduled days.
For they are the most delicious days of all.

23. Unplug.
For an hour, a day, or a whole juicy week. Unplug.
Make eye contact with your loved ones. Play board games. Bake cupcakes. Tell stories.
And do it all without the distraction of technology. You'll leave your media fast feeling open, free, and deeply grounded.
No, technology isn't bad, but a break now and then can be a wonderful thing.

24. Fall in love with simple pleasures.
Because an old-fashioned summer is really about a return to simple. Simple priorities, simply joys, simple pleasures.
A meal on the porch, a bowl of hand-churned ice cream, a walk at sunset.
Make these your priorities this season.

25. And be nowhere else but here.
Because - honestly - where could be better than this?
This life of yours is more than enough.

For more thoughts about summer, this blog post HERE and this blog post HERE are really great. Both posts were featured over at Scary Mommy.


finding peace

Elisa Kleven :: Angels Watching Over Me

Elisa Kleven :: Angels Watching Over Me

Elisa Kleven :: Angels Watching Over Me

I'm glad I posted last night about finding hope and deeply appreciate the warm, supportive responses I've received via email, facebook and here on my blog. After I wrote the post, I continued thinking about finding hope during frightening times, and reached for the most hopeful, peaceful images I could find.  Elisa Kleven's artwork never fails to remind me of the wonder and gentleness of our world, if only we know how and where to look.  I love every book she's illustrated, but the book I reached for this morning is Angels Watching Over Me with words by Julia Durango. (For more information about Elisa's work you can visit her website HERE.)

Further thoughts on finding hope and peace revolved around the idea that we cannot control or change the actions of another person, but we can control how we respond, more aptly expressed by Nelson Mandela: People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that's how they'll react.  But if you say, 'We want peace, we want stability,' we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society. (Words to keep in mind whether one is dealing with a toddler, a teenager or a politician?) Reflections on taking responsibility for our responses brought me back to this quote, attributed to John Wesley (and spoken at the DNC): Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.
People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that's how they'll react. But if you say, 'We want peace, we want stability,' we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/nelsonmand621326.html?src=t_react
People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that's how they'll react. But if you say, 'We want peace, we want stability,' we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/react.html
People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that's how they'll react. But if you say, 'We want peace, we want stability,' we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/react.html

Thank you for joining me on this journey.


finding hope

I try to avoid current events and politics on my blog in an attempt to keep this space a gentle haven, but privately I am fiercely opinionated about politics and world events.  I avoid the onslaught of current events via the internet and instead read the newspaper every day; and the avalanche of events over the past few months has left me especially anxious, frightened and very, very sad.  I am overwhelmed by loss of so many innocent lives -- the unarmed young black men, shot point-blank by police, the retaliation against the police, the attacks in Belgium, Germany, France and the US, not to mention ongoing events in Asia, the Middle East & Africa. And don't get me started on the upcoming US presidential election.

The reason I am writing about this tonight is I have felt strange posting here about crafts and other lovely things while avoiding these other issues which concern me deeply.  I'm not posting with any ideas or solutions beyond the hope that good people of this world will continue to communicate with understanding, to reach out with love instead of fear, and to gently teach their children that all people of this world deserve kindness and respect.

Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers) is often quoted in times like these: When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' His words give me a shred of hope, as does the beautiful drawing above created by artist Diana Toledano.  This image was created by Diana a few weeks ago to promote peace, equality and understanding; you can read about her inspiration and see more of her lovely work HERE.

Where are you finding hope?  Do you have any thoughts about ways to heal our world?


sleep-away camp


Today we dropped off my older son at sleep-away camp beneath the redwood trees in La Honda.  After dropping him off, we visited Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero.  For dinner: goat cheese on French bread.


reading (and give-away winners)

Have you ever unloaded a pile of library books from your bag and felt that life was so utterly rich?  I felt that way the other morning after a particularly good library haul. Awake at 5:30 in the morning, knowing I had at least an hour before waylaid by requests for pancakes, I opened a satchel of library books we dragged home the day before, pulled out Markets of Paris and emerged 90 minutes later feeling as though I had been on a great adventure exploring treasures of the antique markets, flea markets and farmer's markets of Paris.

At 7:00, things were still quiet in my house, so I made another cup of tea, gave the cat another scratch and finished the last few pages of The Invention of Hugo Cabret (which had actually been pulled off my shelf and not from the library bag).  Still no interruptions so I started reading this book (which was hiding in another stack when I took the photo above, along with this book and this book).  Oh, we've been rich with such good books lately...

Meanwhile, I've also been enjoying comments which came rolling along in response to this blog post!  I've love hearing from readers because sometimes it's so quiet around here, I wonder whether I've been talking to myself.  Also, it was a thrill for me to read your hopes for the contents of my third book; while no one actually hit the nail on the head, at least four or five of you circled near some of the concepts appearing in the new book and touched on aspects of them.  This made me very happy because I sense I'm on the right track to deliver a book which will be of interest...

Now for the give-away winners: lucky #9 and #28 (chosen via RANDOM.ORG).  Thank you to everyone for joining in the fun.  Please stay tuned for more peg doll give-aways (most likely sometime this coming fall). xo


speaking of mermaids

Speaking of mermaids, you've seen our animated book trailer with the dancing pirates and diving mermaid, haven't you?  If not, you can do a little jig along with my merry swashbucklers by clicking below...

And, in case you're interested, I'm giving away a few mermaid peg dolls which I created for my first book. You can find details about the give-away HERE.


mermaid give-away!

I've been cleaning out my garage and it's obvious that I have far too many peg dolls.  Hard to believe, right? It's not much fun keeping them in boxes, so I thought I'd share some of them with you.


While I was working on my first book Making Peg Dolls, I couldn't decide on the exact mermaid variation I liked best, so I ended up creating four sets of mermaid dolls (totaling 20 mermaids in all, by the time I was done). Thus, I have mermaids in excess.

If you would like one of my mermaids (or two... or maybe even three) to swim into your mailbox, please leave a comment below; and just for fun, you can mention what sorts of peg dolls you think I should include in my next book.  The contents of the new book are already decided, so no promises re: including your ideas, but I'm always curious to know where your interests lie!

I will choose two names via random drawing and announce the winners at the end of next week.  Good luck!

Comments are now closed -- thank you to everyone for joining in the fun! Winners have been chosen; congratulations to lucky #9 and #28.


mermaid grotto :: tutorial re-post

Last August I posted this tutorial for creating a mermaid grotto, and it was so well-loved that I thought re-posting it today might be a nice way to welcome summer... and please come back later in the week for a special mermaid surprise.

-- 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.

Note: instructions for creating mermaid peg dolls can be found in both of my books, and the pattern/instructions for making the octopus can be found in my second book Making Peg Dolls & More.


bar mitzvah celebration


Hello! Hello!  My older son's bar mitzvah was last weekend and so things have been very, very busy here.  We had countless family members visiting from out of town to share in our celebration, which meant lots of events and parties.  I wasn't able to take photos Friday night, Saturday morning or Saturday night, but did manage to snag a few shots on Sunday at a picnic we hosted under the redwood trees.  You might notice that I didn't catch any photos of my older son -- he was off splashing in the creek with his friends, as was right and proper after a year of rigorous preparation and study, plus a full weekend at the synagogue! 

I will be back soon, making up for lost time and lack of blog posts...


making peg dolls :: the trilogy

One morning a few weeks ago, I woke up and ambled downstairs (as usual).  I made tea (as usual).  I sat down to quickly scan email before everyone else rolled into the kitchen (as usual).  But lo and behold -- something unusual and rather happy-making had arrived overnight via email.  A contract! For peg doll book #3!

The contract was not entirely unexpected; I submitted a proposal to the elves at Hawthorn Press last year, and have already spent time emailing to and fro with the head-elf-in-chief and head-elf-craft-book-editor, discussing possible titles.  But in our house we often say, "It ain't a book contract until the fat lady signs on the dotted line" (our own personal version of this colloquialism).

When I was working on my second book, I couldn't say much about it until shortly before the release, and the situation is the same again.  However, I can tell you this: my third book will be entirely different again from the first two.  As for the title?  Some suggestions for the second book were Valley of the (Peg Dolls), Night of the Living Peg Dolls, Peg Dolls vs. Godzilla, and Return of the Peg Dolls.  Contending titles for the third book?  Peg Dolls with a Vengeance! The Peg Doll Ultimatum!

It will be a while before the book is released (right now, it's looking like late 2017 or early 2018) but I thought you'd enjoy knowing that, even when things are quiet here on my blog, the elves and I are humming away behind the scenes...


catastrophic happiness & fear of flying

On Sunday morning, I opened up the SF Chronicle Books section (yes, we still read a "paper" paper in my house) and was awfully pleased to see a photo of Catherine Newman along with this review of her recently published collection of essays. ("Good morning, Catherine. Would you like some coffee?")

Catherine's work is regularly published in Real Simple Magazine, Oprah, Brain Child, the NYT parenting blog Motherlode, and you can read a recent essay over at Motherwell Magazine.  Her essays are fierce, wise, poignant & funny all at once; this quote, included by Malena Watrous in the SF Chronicle review, is vivid and evocative in a way that seems particular and specific to Catherine's writing.

“Cut me open and I’m a tree trunk, rings of nostalgia radiating inward. All the years are nested inside me like I’m my own personal one-woman matryoshka doll. I guess that’s true for everybody, but then I drive everybody crazy with my nostalgia and happiness. I am bittersweet personified.”

Warning :: I loved this book so very much, and also mailed a copy of it to my mother for her birthday (which is tomorrow). However, if you have a Fear of Flying (and I'm not referring to the Erica Jong novel), do not read this book while cruising at 35,000 feet with a warm, soft child curled up on either side of you.  This book makes one so very aware of the preciousness and fragility of those very children; and hurtling through the heavens while reading Catherine's book, with nothing but clouds between my babies and the earth was nearly too much to bear.