2017 Read Harder Challenge Results

My 2017 Read Harder Challenge Results: 20/24

1. Read a book about sports. 0
2. Read a debut novel. “The Strangler Vine” by M.J. Carter
3. Read a book about books. “The Bookseller (first Hugo Marston Novel)” by Mark Pryor 
4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author. 0
5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. (1) “Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri; (2) “The Sun is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon
6. Read an all-ages comic. “Cleopatra in Space #3: Secret of the Time Tablets”
7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950. (1) “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley; (2) “The Great Gatsby” F. Scott Fitzgerald
8. Read a travel memoir. “The Olive Grove” by Katherine Kizilos
9. Read a book you’ve read before. (1) “The Name of This Book Is Secret” by Pseudonymous Bosch; (2) “The Great Gatsby” F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. “Walking After Midnight” by Kate Abbott
11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. “The Strangler Vine” by M.J. Carter
12. Read a fantasy novel. (1) “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler; (2) “The Magicians” by Lev; (3) Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising #1) by Susan Cooper
13. Read a nonfiction book about technology. “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil DeGrass Tyson
14. Read a book about war. “City of Theives” by David Benioff
15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. 0
16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country. “Native Son” by Richard Wright
17. Read a classic by an author of color. “Native Son” by Richard Wright
18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead. (1) “Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 (Wires and Nerves, #1)” by Marissa Meyer; (2) “Cleopatra in Space #3: Secret of the Time Tablets”
19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey. “By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept” Paolo Coelho
20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel. “What’s in a Name” by Pat Henshaw
21. Read a book published by a micropress. 0
22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. “Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri
23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. “Rose” by Li-Young Lee
24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler

Love Is …

First time in months #painting #oils #art #learning

  • Ian buying me new windshield wipers and installing them, and fixing my rear brake light because he noticed it was out.
  • Lucas making rock candy at home because he learned how in chemistry class!
  • My Daddy.
  • Friends who trust and follow you into the fire, then lead you safely out again.
  • Meal planning and thinking about all the good food to put into all the good people I love.
  • When my guys give me gratitudes to write in our gratitude journal, even though they’d rather not.
  • Heavy whipping cream in my coffee.
  • Friends who make a special point to walk together on their rare day off.
  • Painting for the first time in 9 months. I love it so! Why the hell don’t I paint more often?!
  • Forgiving myself for not painting more often.
  • Buying all-new concert dress clothes/shoes for my boy for Thursday’s fall concert, and hoping-hoping-hoping they will still fit for the spring concert—or if not then, at least for next month’s winter concert.
  • VoVo’s consistent and helpful babysitting.
  • November, ablaze with fall color, and roses blooming too!
  • My sunny boy with Shaun Cassidy hair.
  • Reading about adventuring hedgehogs with my sunny boy.
  • Parent-teacher conferences.
  • A fluffy dog who is always ready to clean your paws for you.
  • 5k Fun Run for my moody son, who benefited from it even if he didn’t think it was all that fun.
  • My grandmother and my grandaunt, who have passed away. I miss them very much right now.
  • Ian reading The Golden Compass aloud to us, after reading more than 5,000 pages of Harry Potter to us this year.
  • Lyra Belacqua herself. Because boys need girl heroes too.
  • Pulling out beloved, ancient comic books for Lucas to read.
  • Friends who cook delicious meals as a way to celebrate their birthday with guests.
  • Trusting and watching a new chapter unfold.

Elf Quest #comics #12yearold #seventhgrade #son

Best Valentine’s Day Books for Young Children


Are you looking for a good Valentine’s Day story to share with your family? Good luck! I’ve found that by and large the pickings are pretty slim. I started writing this post of my favorite Valentine’s Day picture books more than a year ago, and it’s pretty much too late to be much use this year. But what the heck, right? I’ve done a lot of research to develop this list and I can assure you that many, many titles didn’t make my list. (Write me and I’ll give you my opinions about what to avoid.) As usual, I recommend steering clear of any holiday book from a movie or TV franchise.

Snowy Valentine, by David Peterson, 2011

I think this is my favorite of all the books in this list. Peterson is the author/illustrator of Mouse Guard comic book series, for those of you in the know. This is his first picture book. In it, Jasper bunny searches the forest for a Valentine’s Day gift for his wife Lilly. He looks to his neighbors for ideas, and considers knitting a gift, chocolate-covered flies, and wilted flowers. He narrowly escapes the fox’s soup pot! (This part could be unsettling for the youngest readers.) Over the course of his day, Jasper creates the best possible valentine for Lilly. The story and illustrations are compelling.

Henry in Love, by Peter McCarty, 2009

A simple, tender story about a first crush. Henry brings a blueberry muffin in his lunch. Henry likes Chloe very much; he really likes the way she does cartwheels. Chloe and Henry get to sit together at lunchtime, and he gives her his blueberry muffin. Good for the Kindergarten or first- or second-grade child.


Woof A Love Story, by Sarah Weeks, illustrated by Holly Berry, 2009

“A dog is a dog and a cat is a cat, and most of the time it’s as simple as that.” Dogs and cats are different, but it doesn’t stop the dog from falling in love with the cat. Dog tries and tries to say “I love you!” but unfortunately, they don’t speak the same language. Cat can’t understand him, until he finds the universal language of love that she can understand. The illustrations in this book are bold and vibrant.

Plant a Kiss, by Amy Krouse, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, 2011

A perfect choice for a toddler or preschooler. Its adorable illustrations and rhyming text are cute, and it’s pages are embossed, so there is a tactile element to the reading experience. The meaning is simple: Love grows!

Mouse and Mole Secret Valentine, by Wong Herbert Yee, 2013

Secret Valentine is a 40-page “chapter book” for early readers. If you like Frog and Toad books, you’ll probably like Yee’s Mouse and Mole books too. Together Mouse and Mole make valentines for all of their forest friends, and the text gently teaches simple valentine-making skills such as cutting hearts and applying glue and glitter and then tapping off excess glitter. Then Mouse and Mole deliver their valentines together and have lunch at a restaurant. Each wants to give a secret valentine to the other, and they visit the sweet shop and the flower shop for gifts. Then they attend a Valentine’s Day dance. This book shows an innocent romance for little readers or listeners.

One Zillion Valentines, by Frank Modell, 1981

This is a sweet story about two friends, Marvin and Milton. They learn that “Valentines aren’t just for girls. Valentines are for everybody,” and “If you don’t send any, you don’t get any,” and finally that you can make your own. They make valentines for everyone in the neighborhood, and they sell some, too. With the money they earn they buy some chocolate and end up giving it to each other. This is the only Valentine’s Day book I found that includes same-sex valentines.

The Valentine Bears, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Jan Brett, 1983


Mr. and Mrs. Bear hibernate in the winter, but Mrs. Bear sets her alarm clock for February 14 to wake up and celebrate Valentine’s Day, even though it’s not spring yet. Mr. Bear sleeps on. She makes lots of preparations such as getting honey, beetles, and bugs. They celebrate together, and then go back to sleep till spring. The black, white, and red pictures in this book are charming, but not as lavish as many of Brett’s other works.

Pleasant Fieldmouse’s Valentine Trick, by Jan Wahl, illustrated by Erik Blegvad, 1977


Find this one at your library, maybe. The animals of the forest want to know if spring is coming (but Groundhog doesn’t do his job). They are grumpy with each other and tired of winter. Terrible Owl and Tired Fox steal food. Pleasant Field Mouse figures out a way to make his neighbors happy again. The pictures are black and white ink drawings as you see above. This is a good read-aloud story for 4–8s.


The Day It Rained Hearts, by Felicia Bond, 2006, was previously published as Four Valentines in a Rainstorm (1983). Cornelia Augusta catches hearts that fall from the sky and turns them into valentines. Because each one is different, she’s able to make unique valentines for her friends. This book is an endearing choice for a young child.

Bee My Valentine, by Miriam Cohen, illustrated by Ronald Himler, 2009.

This book explores the social life of the first grade. The teacher directs her class to make a valentine for all the children in the class. But they don’t all follow her instruction; some kids send extra valentines to their best friends or even to themselves! George gets fewer valentines than anyone. This makes him feel sad and left out, and he hides in the coat room. The class then cheers George up by playing music for him. The art in the book is quite beautiful, but the valentines are all store-bought and the whole scenario makes me wonder where the kids’ parents are. I would never allow my child to fail to bring a valentine for everyone.

Love Splat, by Rob Scotton, 2008

Splat has a crush on Kitten, and he made her a special valentine. But Spike also likes Kitten and this discourages Splat. Eventually, Splat learns that Kitten likes him back. Very simple. Cute. Not at the top of my list, though.

Will You Be My Valentine, by Steven Kroll, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, 1993

This older story is OK. The story explores the feelings a young child might have when wanting to play with a child of the opposite gender, and not being sure if that person likes him. It covers his insecurity and jealousy when another boy gives his female friend a valentine. The mother in the story does a good job of facilitating their friendship. Some might think it’s a sweet story, as Thomas and Gretchen become friends and each other’s special valentines at the end, but I feel it’s too gender stereotypical and kind of mature for the age of the kids in the story, who appear to be Kindergarteners or first graders. Also, the way the teacher organizes Valentine’s Day for her class is crazy: She has each child choose one name out of a hat. Recipe for disaster.

Cranberry Valentine, Wende and Harry Devlin

I have lukewarm feelings about this one, I admit. But since I didn’t hate it, I figured I’d include it here. Mr. Whiskers has never had a valentine before, but this year he gets one from an anonymous giver—in fact, he gets several. At first this is very upsetting to him, but then he thinks, well,why not me? “I’m the best clam digger in the bog country. I have wonderful whiskers. I sing like a blinking bird.” Turns out, the local sewing circle has been sending him valentines. I don’t really see what about this book would appeal to children, apart for the recipe for cranberry upside down cake in the back of the book, which is cake from a mix plus cranberries. This book is part of a five-book series about the town of Cranberryport. Maybe this book is better taken in the context of the other titles in this series.

Passing on Books


I am a huge fan of books, and children’s books in particular. We have hundreds of books and, well, I’m not sorry. But there comes a time when the right thing to do is to say good-bye.

Last week we got to attend a birthday party for a very special girl, Julia. She turned 3 years old, and the boys and I decided to give her some of our beloved-but-outgrown board books (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, I Love You Little One, and others). To her, each new book was an undiscovered treasure. To us, each one was an old friend moving on, shipping off for new adventures. It was a happy parting of ways, and we know that those books will continue to be loved and used, read and reread over the next several or many years.

Today I sent away a big stack of story books to grandma’s house. My mother has been saying that Asher (6) tends to choose the same baby books at her house, whereas here at home he craves chapter books that we can really get into and enjoy night after night. It’s time for those too-familiar baby books to go, and for new books to be on offer at grandma’s house. Variety is good! I sent over some fairy tale collections and story anthologies, like Seuss and others, which can be read in one bedtime reading session. (And it’s a win for me, too, because I think I cannot read another Seuss story in my life. Seriously. I will die.)

A few months ago we gave cousin Baby Jack a bunch of baby books. Books that my sons loved reading daily (Dig, Dig, Digging!, The Big Red Barn) are staying in the family and that makes us very happy. I’m hoping sometime I’ll get to see Lucas or Asher reading those books to Jack.

I am by no means a Simplicity Hero. We still have plenty of sentimental books in our collection (the photo above shows books we aren’t yet ready to part with). But it does feel good to purge a little because it makes room for new and exciting adventures: Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Norse myths, Septimus Heap, Holes, and so many classics (Robin Hood, Zorro, Wizard of Oz, Robinson Crusoe, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Call of the Wild, The Trumpet of the Swan, Ender’s Game. The possibilities are endless, stretching before us in a river of glorious stories.

What’s on your summer reading list? Any kids’ books?

St. Patrick’s Day Books for Children

I love St. Patrick’s Day. I love the rainbows and shamrocks, green foods, and stories of leprechauns and magic. Over the years, my kids and I have explored lots of St. Patrick’s Day books and this is a list of our favorites. Some are old, some, new. As usual, my fundamental recommendation is that you steer clear of licensed products. Believe me, although this list is long, lots of books didn’t make it onto this list.


Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman and illustrated by Kelly Murphy is a fairly new treasure, published in 2009. This book is full of terrific art and a very clever lass who outwits the greedy King of the Leprechauns, who has stolen all the luck from the land and made the people suffer. Most leprechaun stories involve men or boys, and it’s great to have a heroine in the genre. The moral here is that you must depend on your wits, and not on your luck to be successful.

Clever Tom and the Leprechaun was published in 1988 by Linda Shute, who illustrated the book and adapted a traditional leprechaun story originally published in Legends and Traditions of South Ireland in 1825. Shute’s illustrations are watercolor and pencil and are quite lovely. Clever Tom, unfortunately for him, is not quite clever enough to get the sack of gold from the leprechaun shoemaker he captures one day.

From To Sing a Song as Big as Ireland

To Sing a Song as Big as Ireland is by Nathan Zimelman and is illustrated by Jospeh Low. This is quite an old book, published in 1967, that we found at our library. The story is long and wonderful. A little boy named Terrence O’Flaherty O’Flynn wants more than anything to sing a song as big as Ireland, but he’s really quite small. He tries and tries to grow bigger so that he’ll have a strong voice, but none of his plans work out, not even standing on the dewy ground and beneath the warming sun, or carrying a goat on his shoulders like the strongest man in the county carries his horse. Finally the boy goes to ask his mother, who advises that he catch a leprechaun and get him to grant the boy his wish. The leprechaun gets it wrong several times before the boy can finally sing his song, and when he does “his song told of all of Ireland—its lakes and its hills and its green land, of every bird that rose on its air and every animal that grazed in its meadows and passed through its forests … it told of all of  Ireland’s people, and so it was as big as Ireland itself.”

Too Many Leprechauns was published in 2007. Stephen Krensky wrote it and Dan Andreasen is the artist. I love the opening: “Finn O’Finnegan looked like a rogue and walked like a rascal, so it was widely thought that he was at least one or the other. And his shadow, which followed him closely and knew all of his secrets, might have said he was both.” The leprechauns have overrun the town of Dingle and they’re keeping everyone from sleeping with their endless tap-tap-tapping on their fairy shoes. Well, rascally Finn O’Finnegan will fix them. He finds flaws in the little shoemakers’ work, and they’re so insulted they show him their pile of gold coins earned from their shoe-making. Finn manages to hide their gold from them!

Leprechauns Never Lie, by Lorna and Lecia Balian, is a fun book about two women who are too lazy and old to do their daily work. The young woman, Ninny Nanny, sets out to find a leprechaun to change their fortune. She’s lucky enough to find one, and almost gets a great deal, but in the end, her laziness causes her to miss out on the biggest prize of all. Still, in the process, she and ailing Gram do get their chores done, and that’s a good thing after all. This book was originally published in two colors in 1980; in 2004 it came out again with beautiful full color illustrations by Lecia Balian.

From Tim O'Toole and the Wee Folk by Gerald McDermott

Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk: An Irish Tale Told and Illustrated by Gerald McDermott is worthy of a read. Tim and his wife Kathleen are very poor, and she suggests that maybe he should go and find a job; alas there are no jobs to be found. Although Tim gets lucky enough to stumble upon a group of reveling leprechauns, he gets tricked out of his worthy prizes by neighbors. It’s all because he didn’t do exactly what the wee folk told him to do, and that’s what you get by cutting corners. The wicked, swindling neighbors get their comeuppance in the end, though, and Tim and his bonny Kate do make their fortune through the beneficence of the leprechauns. In these bright illustrations the leprechauns are all cute and charming, wearing green and scarlet.

A Fine St. Patrick’s Day by Susan Wojciechowski with art by Tom Curry might be an outlyer on this list. The story is about two rival towns, Tralee and Tralah, that compete each year to see which one decorates best for St. Patrick’s Day. Six-year-old Fiona Riley comes up with the plan for Tralee to finally win the contest. A leprechaun arrives and asks for help at all the doors, for his cows are stuck in the mud. Citizens of Tralee go to the cows’ rescue, despite their need to finish decorating for the contest, and their generous spirit is rewarded.

St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning, by Eve Bunting features no leprechauns or magic, but it’s magical nonetheless. Little Jamie wakes very early on the morning of St. Patrick’s Day and feels sad that he is considered by his family too small to march in the village parade. But what do they know? He tiptoes out of the house and has a parade all his own with his sweet dog Nell and the slowly waking village. Jan Brett illustrated this sweet book using only three colors, and her pictures of the Irish countryside are charming and evocative. Bunting was born in Ireland and lived there for 30 years. She published this book in 1980.

A Pot o’ Gold is a wonderful anthology of Irish legends, poetry, songs, and even some recipes. It features a legend about St. Patrick, stories with the wee folk, mermaids, fairies, leprechauns, Finn McCool, and more. Works of authors such as Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Katharine Tynan, Arthur O’Shaughnessy, William Butler Yeats, and Jonathan Swift grace this anthology. If you were to buy only one book of Irish stories for children, this might be the one.

The Irish Cinderlad was written by Shirley Climo and illustrated by Loretta Krupinski, and was published in 1996. This is a male, Irish version of the Cinderella story based on two old Irish tales: “The Bracket Bull” from 1898 and “Billy Beg and His Butt” from 1905. The lad, Becan, is banished to the cow pasture when his stepmother and stepsisters come to live with him and his father. This fairy story features a magical bull, a giant, and an opportunity to rescue a princess from a terrible sea-dragon (à la Andromeda). Becan has his faithful friend, his own courage, and his giant feet to thank for his change of fortune, for no one else can fit into his lost boot.

From O'Sullivan Stew

O’Sullivan Stew by Hudson Talbott is a great book. The heroine is Kate O’Sullivan and she is a clever one! When the townspeople anger the witch by refusing to help when her beautiful stallion is taken as payment for taxes by the king, the town suffers terribly: cows won’t give milk, fishing nets come up empty, gardens fail, and everyone goes hungry. Kate convinces her da and brothers, Fergus and Kelly, that they should steal back the horse to appease the witch. But they’re not good horse thieves. It’s up to Kate’s storytelling to save them from the hangman’s rope. There are four great stories within the witch-horse-theft story. Leprechauns appear in one of them. But the best part is the unexpected twist at the end.

The Leprechaun’s Gold is a sweet Irish legend about friendship and generosity. The king of Ireland calls for all the harpists in the land to come and play in a contest. Young Tom is a braggart who thinks he is sure to win, but still stoops to sabotage. Old Pat is a kind gentleman who shares his music and meager possessions freely. On their way to the harping contest, they encounter a leprechaun in a bind. Tom refuses to help, knowing leprechauns are meddlesome troublemakers. Pat comes to the leprechaun’s aid and is rewarded for his kindness. “He played the merriest music ever heard, so wonderful that the wind itself stopped to listen. A wild tune it was, which filled the people’s hearts with joy and their lips with laughter.”

S is for Shamrock: And Ireland Alphabet by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Matt Faulkner provides lots of great lore and information about Ireland, including the Blarney Stone, the Claddagh, The Book of Kells, leprechauns, viking raids, and more. This book includes more factual information about Ireland than the storybooks on this list.

From The House of Gobbaleen by Lloyd Alexander

The House Gobbaleen is by Lloyd Alexander, published in 1995. Tooley believes he has bad luck, and although his cat Gladsake knows Tooley’s luck is no better or worse than anyone’s, he thinks that a little help from the Friendly Folk is just what he needs. When a curious little man arrives on his doorstep, Tooley invites him in. It’s not long before the wicked little man has taken over Tooley’s favorite armchair, his bed, and is eating him out of house and home. Only Gladsake can save his master from his own foolishness and outsmart the little man.

Patrick Patron Saint of Ireland is by Tomie dePaola, a much beloved creator of children’s books. I’m actually not crazy about his books, but this book offers a comprehensive history of Patrick’s life and covers the miracles he is said to have performed. If you are looking for a kids’ book that covers the religious angle of this holiday, this might be the one for you.


Our Hobbit Tutorial at the Family Book Festival



Please join me and my family at today’s post on Jump Into A Book. We were delighted to be asked to contribute to this year’s Family Book Festival, which features book reviews and activities by other bloggers, artists, and writers. These wonderful posts are designed to get you and your family reading together and enjoying literature and family time.

We created a project based on The Hobbit: There and Back Again, by J.R.R. Tolkien because we all love the book so much. Just arriving at the decision of what to make was a long journey in itself! We’ve shared our process and a tutorial for making a diorama of a scene from the book. There’s modeling material, paint, gold foil, and dragons! What could be better?

Be sure to browse at Jump Into A Book and read all about the project other families did, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway—you or your school could win 31 Dr. Seuss books! Giveaway closes at the end of March 1st 2012 at 11:59 pm. The winner will be announced on Dr. Seuss’s birthday, March 2nd.

Many thanks to Valarie for inviting us to play in the Family Book Festival!


Recovery and Thanks


Hello, I’ve been absent from this space due to a nasty virus, which is lingering and has entirely overstayed its welcome. I came down with it on Valentine’s Day, which is a special kind of meanness, in my opinion. It has caused me to need extra rest this past week, and since I’m still working because of deadlines despite being sick, it’s my fun blogging time that gets cut, unfortunately. But, I’m on the mend.

I just want to officially thank everyone for voting for Love in the Suburbs during the Circle of Moms Top 25 Creative Moms blog contest. Thanks to your support and diligence, I was voted into the Top 25! In fact, I landed at position 10, which is just staggering to me. Thank you again for taking time to vote for me—and for reading here in the first place!

Signs: Chinese Fringe Flower

I have a few posts brewing, so I hope to share them with you soon. In the meantime, I want to share simply that Eileen, of Little Acorn Learning, and I are hard at work on our next e-book about Spring Festivals. We’re hoping to release it in about a week.

Blessings and good health to you!



Sixth Birthday Gift: Lord of the Rings Peg Dolls


My little guy turns 6 in a few days. I’ve been making gifts and planning his party. Here’s a sneak-peek of one gift I’ve made. Shhh! Don’t tell him.




Do you recognize the characters? I’ve painted a set of nine peg dolls to look like the Fellowship of the Ring characters. Gandalf’s hat is made out of sculpey clay. He just didn’t look like Gandalf to me without a hat. I’m pretty happy with these. I need to do a bit of touch up work and then varnish them. Think I should make Gollum, too? I think I might, if I have time.

Another day this week, I’ll share the another gift I’ve been working on.



I let this space lie fallow for about ten days over Christmas. My blog and my family all needed a little rest, but during that break our lives were full of heartwarming moments, resting, friendship, and joy.


Christmas morning began very early—long before dawn. And while I am far, far from a morning person, I leaped out of bed to make sure the boys didn’t start without us!


We opened gifts from Santa and stockings by the fireplace, while eagerly awaiting the first cup of coffee. Santa gave Lucas a slingshot! He gave Asher some yarn and a kaleidoscope! And both boys got some groovy knights on chargers. The big gift for Lucas was a 4-in-1 woodworking tool that functions as a lathe, jigsaw—and two other things that I forget. Asher got some high density foam dragons that he and Daddy could build.


We had a beautiful Christmas morning, just the four of us and Solstice dog, gathered around our Christmas tree. We watched the world outside our windows lighten and we opened book after wondrous book.





Christmas treasures


Ian got some new workout gear and a kettle bell (and books). My sweet boys gave me slippers and a cute hat, which Lucas described in detail to Ian before they went looking for it. Ian gave me a gorgeous pair of gray leather boots.


Asher brushed my hair for me.


These are gifts from Asher and Lucas to me and Ian. Asher made a sweet gnome for Daddy and a beautiful silk scarf that he painted for me. Lucas carved this amazing candle stick in woodworking class at school. It is simply wonderful!


We ate yummy sticky buns for breakfast and had time to play and read a little before we went visiting.


The star of the show this year was sweet baby Jack, our new nephew/cousin. It was Jack’s first Christmas and that was so very special for all of us.


Cousins Proud daddy Matt

Seeing Lucas holding Jack was delightful. He’s just peachy.

Dad and Asher Zoe and Lucas

After visiting Ian’s family we went to my Mom and Dad’s and visited with them and my brother and his dog Zoe. There were many wonderful presents. My mama knitted me and Ian hats and scarves. The boys got Legos. What more could we ask for? My grand score: six more oil painting classes.

We wrapped up our Christmas by hosting 50 people at a party at our home that evening. Friends from near and far joined us here to celebrate and catch up. Our home was full of love and laughter and charming, smart people. The goth kids arrived at 11 p.m., right on schedule. I think we fell into bed at 2 a.m. on the 26th!

Review: Naturally Fun Parties for Kids

Review: Naturally Fun Parties for Kids

I was tickled to be asked to review Anni Daulter and Heather Fontenot’s new book, Naturally Fun Parties for Kids. Alas, I should have done so in a more timely fashion, as the book released earlier this year. But hopefully late is better than never. I’ve paged through this book dozens of times and I think it’s marvelous. Every time I pick it up I light upon a brilliant idea that hadn’t ever occurred to me before.

Daulter’s and Fontenot’s book is all about throwing parties with kid-friendly themes. As a huge fan of parties in general and, really, ANY excuse to dress up, I can totally relate. We all need celebrations and we all need to exercise our creativity muscles. This book is just the ticket to show what’s possible, with a little ingenuity, patience, and planning. A party for children doesn’t have to glorify a licensed media character! The book is organized into seasons and the authors provides three awesome party ideas per season. My favorites are the Summer Solstice Beach party, the Winter Solstice Party, the Forest Fairy Dress-up Party (Oh, to have girls!), and the Knights and Dragon Quest party.

The book offers “tips and tricks for making the parties green, natural, simple, and organic in style and content.” I like the emphasis on taking inspiration from nature and keeping it simple. The authors suggest thrifting, upcycling, borrowing, and making items from scratch to make the parties doable and special.

Review: Naturally Fun Parties for Kids

The book’s photography, by Tnah and Mario Di Donato, is simply gorgeous. Do NOT take my silly snapshots as an indication of the book’s beauty. I just wanted to give a little teaser. Their photos are vivid and inspiring.

Review: Naturally Fun Parties for Kids

What is kind of fun is how much the authors’ esthetic matches my own. Several of the projects in this book are ones we have done in the past, or ones that I’ve always wanted to do with my kids. I’m particularly intrigued by the beeswax ornaments (Winter Solstice Party), the upcycled sweater aprons (Community Cooking Party), and the grapefruit sugar scrub (Natural Spa Party). But there is much more.

Review: Naturally Fun Parties for Kids

Each party comes with a project and materials list, and a timeline for getting things put together in advance of the big party day. That’s just the sort of thing people like me need! I’m often full of ideas at the too-late last minute and don’t have time to execute them. These handy lists fix that deficiency.

Review: Naturally Fun Parties for Kids

Activities are provided for each party, too: games and crafts, and even a play! And the party themes are well chosen to appeal to kids, such as pajama parties, berry picking, art, egg-dying in spring.

Review: Naturally Fun Parties for Kids

The authors also provide plenty of delicious-looking recipes and, frankly, you don’t need to throw the party to make them. Herbal tea spice cake and mushroom and onion mini crustless quiches both sound like they’ll be visiting my kitchen soon. Furthermore, the recipes are geared toward kid palates. Nothing too fussy and plenty of fun: Italian ices; black bean, corn, and cheese quesadillas; grilled flatbread pizzas; Dutch oven apple-berry cobbler, etc. Now, where the heck does one find a donut pan for baking donuts? (The Internet, I suppose.)

Those who like to do paper crafts will love all the invitation making in this book. That’s mostly not my thing, to be honest. So I’d probably skip some of that stuff. Anyone with a flare for scrapbooking and stamps and stuff will dig it.

So, if you’re looking for inspiration for celebrating with children, check out Naturally Fun Parties for Kids by Anni Daulter with Heather Fontenot.  I wonder if I could con my boys into a Forest Fairy Party? Well, maybe not that one, but definitely the Pancake P.J. Party. They’ll go for that!

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I’m Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

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