Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in review

Here are a few things I did this year:
1.  Made 5 can see pictures here, here, here, here, and here
2.  Bought an iPod.  I have had it since July and the verdict is still out.  I use it mostly to listen to music.
3.  Learned how to swim, thanks to my friend Greta
4.  Hosted Camp Clair
5.  Completely read 67 books (this includes novels and adult nonfiction but ...not children's picture books)
The ones I would highly recommend include The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club, Gifted Hands, In the Land of Blue Burqas, How Children Succeed, Unseduced and Unshaken by Rosalie de Rosset, Heidi, and Lit!
6.  Bought a state park sticker and have been exploring Minnesota

What did you do in 2012?  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Children's Book-A-Day Almanac

I picked up Children's Book-A-Day Almanac by Anita Silvey at the library and it is a goldmine of information about children's literature.  For each day of the year, Silvey chose a book to write about.  Some are classics-The Hobbit, Goodnight Moon, and Pippi Longstocking.  Others are more recent-Duck on a Bike, Esperanza Rising, and Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse.  She includes a summary of the book and interesting facts about the author or book.  After looking through it this afternoon, I  made a list of more than a dozen books that I have not heard of and will look for at my library.  I recommend this book for any teacher, librarian, or parent looking for new books to share with children.     

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

give a book

Not done shopping for every one yet?  Don't know what to give this year for Christmas?  No matter who you buy for, a book makes a great gift.  You might think that it wouldn't be a gift for everyone as everyone isn't a reader.  But even reluctant readers (adults and children) find value in books when the topic is relevant.  Here are a few recommendations for a variety of ages and reasons.
Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones is a new picture book with brief rhyming text and wonderful pictures.  This book is short enough for a preschooler but a good story for older children too.  It would make a nice addition to any family's collection of Christmas books.
Animal Tracks of Minnesota and Wisconsin by Ian Sheldon would be a good book for children and teenagers interested in the outdoors.  The book shows what different animals tracks look like and the size.  The illustrations are realistic drawings, but are not in color.   
Critters of Minnesota Pocket Guide is another book about animals.  This small book has information about each animal alond with a color photograph.  This book would is good for anyone from ten and older. 
Paper Made! by Kayte Terry is a book for a crafter.  Anyone who likes making things with paper would like this.  There are ideas in here for making books, decorations, and gifts of all kinds from paper.  I made a wallet out of Tyvek with the directions in this book.

If you need more ideas, click on any of the titles listed below to see what I wrote about these books. 

Nonfiction for Adults
Gifted Hands by Ben Carson
Sunday Morning Quilts by Amanda Nyberg and Cheryl Arkison
The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book by Barbara Ellis

Novels for Adults
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club by Wanda Brunstetter

Novels for Children or Adults
Charlottle's Web by E. B. White
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Picture books
Penny and Her Doll by Kevin Henkes
Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke is a book I read recently.  If you like or don't like to read, this book is written for you.  It isn't long (less than two hundred pages) and is divided into two parts-A Theology of Books and Reading, and Some Practical Advice on Book Reading.  The first part is a compelling argument for reading books.  Of course, if you like to read, that would not be necessary but is still worthwhile.  I never thought about books and theology as linked unless a person was talking specifically about the Bible.  The second part is good for both avid readers and those who find reading a chore.  Topics covered include the benefits of reading fiction, reading together, and raising readers.  If you are not a reader, I suggest reading at least the first part to consider why a person should read books.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Heidi by Johanna Spyri is a book worth reading.  I read an abridged version as a girl.  One year I read it to my fourth grade class.  This past week I read it for enjoyment.  If you read it as a child, it would be worth picking up to read again as an adult.  If you have never read it, pick up a copy at the library to read.  If you are unfamiliar with the story, it begins when Heidi is a five year old and goes to live with her grandfather.  Over the course of several years, Heidi grows up some and experiences many different adventures.  What children's classic novel would you recommend everyone read? 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It's Milking Time

It's Milking Time by Phyllis Alsdurf is a book I found at the library recently.  It is a picture book about a girl helping her dad with milking on the farm.  It talks about the daily milking chores.  The pictures reminded me more of my grandma's farm than my own because it talks about milk contained in cream cans.  If you teach elementary students, this book would make a great addition to a collection of books about farms.  Even if you don't have kids to read to, any former farm kid would appreciate the story and pictures contained in the book. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Almost Amish

Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth is not your average book about living a simple life.  Sleeth takes some principles she feels that the Amish culture adheres to and shows how she has used them to make her life more fulfilling. With chapters on homes, technology, finances, nature, simplicity, service, security, community, families, and faith, this book covers nearly every aspect of life.  There are some recipes at the back of the book, including 5 or 6 for different soups.  In her chapter about nature, she suggested we spend more time outdoors.  The chapter on simplicity talked about not just having less stuff, but freeing up our calendars.  There were a few other things that stuck out to me...she encouraged even extended families to live near one another and be involved in each others lives.  One subtitle in the chapter on faith was "make peace wherever you go".  A quick read, this book would be an excellent source of discussion with a book club or even a family. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

batik pinwheel quilt

This is my first attempt at making a quilt with batik fabric.  It is possible it will be my only attempt to make a quilt with batik fabric.  The loud, bright colors are almost overwhelming.  The pinwheel block might be my favorite, though.  It is easier than it looks and I like the overall effect.  

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Potato: A Tale from the Great Depression by Kate Lied is a good picture book to share with children.  Lied based the story on one she heard from her aunt's experiences of the Great Depression.   Dorothy, the main character, lived in the 1930s.  Her dad lost his job, found another job, then lost that one as well.  The family heard about some temporary work so drove from Iowa to Idaho to work in the potato fields.  It isn't a lengthy story but one that shows how hard work and resourcefulness is beneficial.  This story would work well to help students better understand the Great Depression.  It could also be used as a model for writing a family story as well.

Monday, October 29, 2012

How Children Succeed

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough was a book I read last week.  Tough talks about what it takes for a child to succeed.  Much of the book talks about different schools and programs and how they are trying to help students become successful.  Parents, educators, and psychologists would gain something from reading the book and discussing it with others.  If you have read it, what are your thoughts? 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Quilt Walk

The Quilt Walk by Sandra Dallas is a book I read last week.  This is the first novel Dallas has written for children.  Emmy Blue Hatchett is a ten year old girl who travels from Illinois to Colorado with her parents, aunt and uncle by wagon.  Although it is called The Quilt Walk, plenty happens in the story not related to quilting.  There is some description of what it was like to travel across the prairie, but more so it is a story of Emmy growing up.  When I first began reading it, I wondered if it would make a good read aloud in a classroom.  I quickly decided that it would not because of one of the characters in the story-an abusive husband.  Dallas' intended audience was children but I would recommend it to anyone who likes reading historical fiction about pioneer days.

Monday, October 15, 2012

sewing for a baby shower

This weekend I did some sewing for a baby.  Nothing like a deadline (there was a shower on Sunday) to get something done.  My friend is expecting a girl so I figured sewing some cute girl clothes would provide a personalized gift.  This little dress is made from Simplicity pattern 9602.  Even though it is the fourth or fifth time I used this pattern, it didn't seem much easier than the first time.  
I used the directions and pattern from Lotta Jansdotter's book, Simple Sewing for Baby to make the bloomers.  The title was was simple sewing and the directions were well written.  The only thing I didn't like was there wasn't any approximate length of elastic to use for the elastic around the waist and legs.
In addition to the bloomers, I made these pants as well.  It probably took less than a half hour to make them. If you stumble across this book somewhere, it is definitely taking a look at.  It is a user friendly book for sewing, and I learned some things about clothes construction as well.  Someday soon I hope to try making the dress pattern from this book. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas

I picked up The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas by Tony Wilson at the library this week.  This is a spin on the old tale The Princess and the Pea.  In this story, Prince Henrik decides he doesn't want an overly sensitive princess like his brother has.  Instead he uses a bag of frozen peas and puts them under a camping mattress.  He finds a princess who is a perfect fit for him.  I am not necessarily a fan of princess stories, but I had to get this one as it was about frozen peas.  For a while I ate them every day at much my coworkers noticed and give me a hard time about it.  It would be a good story to share with elementary aged children, perhaps inspiring them to write their own version of a well known tale.   

Monday, October 8, 2012

exploring Minnesota

view from fire tower at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park
Mississippi River at Crow Wing State Park
This August I bought a Minnesota State Park pass.  It is good for a year and allows me to visit any state park throughout the state. At twenty five dollars, it is a bargain. Here are a few pictures from my state park visits so far.  I plan to see a lot more parks in the next ten months.  Some are even close enough to me that I hope to visit them more than once.  It has been a fun thing to do with different people in my day I went canoeing with two of my nephews.  Last Sunday my dad and two brothers walked along the Mississippi at Crow Wing State Park.  Some day when I am in the metro area, I plan to go to Fort Snelling State Park with my sister and her family.
bridge over Pike Creek at Charles Lindbergh State Park

Pike Creek at Charles Lindbergh State Park
Do you think there is a state park in Minnesota that is a must see? 

Saturday, September 29, 2012


If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, it is obvious that I am a fan of books.  Paper is one of my other favorite things.  Sometimes, though, managing the paper I have is not easy.  Here is a picture of five shoeboxes of letters I have.  They are letters mostly from family and one of my friends.  I don't want to get rid of these because they are irreplaceable.  The best thing is I still get some mail (letters, postcards and the occasional package) from my family because we like to write, though e-mail and phone calls have definitely reduced what I do get.   

 Then there is my stack of journals.  I have 39!  That is a ridiculous amount considering I started writing in 1990.  (22 years of journals).  One summer I started reading them in chronological order and quit.  It wasn't riveting reading at all.  And it changed the way I journal and now don't even write every week.  Some days I think about getting rid of them, but am afraid I could want them, and they would be impossible to replace.  Would you keep them?  

Friday, September 21, 2012

small books

My latest craft project is making these little books that look like matchbooks.  It is a quick project you could make with any kind of cardstock.  Of course, my students wanted my samples, but I have to make two dozen more before there is enough for everyone.  They would make really cute party favors or something to tuck into a note.  I suppose you could put one in your purse so you had something to write a quick note on, too. 
The directions came from the book on the right, Making Mini Books by Kathleen McCafferty, though I changed them to fit me...I wasn't completely satisfied with the directions, but if you are a crafter, you would be able to figure it out.  There are a couple more projects in the book I may try some day, but for now I had to return the book to the library so someone else could use it. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

In the Land of Blue Burqas

In the Land of Blue Burqas by Kate McCord is a book worth reading.  McCord (a pseudonym) tells stories of people she met and conversations she had while working as a Christian in predominately Muslim Afghanistan.  This book was easy to read as well as thought provoking.  I took almost two weeks to read it because there was so much to think about.  It would be a good book for a book club to read and discuss.  My thoughts yesterday after finishing the book were 1.) I am so glad I read the book, and 2.) it is a book that gives perspective

Friday, September 7, 2012

blue, purple, and white

This is the quilt I made this summer.  I made it for a friend and coworker who had her second baby.  The babies I know get plenty of stuff when they are born, so thought a gift for the mom would be a good choice.  I am not a fan of purple, but it was a good addition to the quilt.  To make it a bit more interesting, the blocks are four inches by five inches finished (instead of making them square).

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Penny and Her Doll

Penny and Her Doll is Kevin Henkes' newest book for children.  Penny gets a new doll from her grandmother which she absolutely loves.  The problem is that Penny's doll needs a name.  The short text and easy to follow story makes it a good book for preschoolers and beginning readers.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Library Lily

Library Lily by Gillian Shields was sitting on the library shelf last week when I went and I figured any book with the word library is worth at least looking at.  The story is about young Lily who just loves the library and reading.  She reads every chance she gets.  After a bit, she meets a girl who doesn't like reading at all.  The girls become friends and have a positive influence on one another.  This story reminds me a bit of myself when I was a girl, and now one of my nephews.  It is a book I plan to share with my students.   

Monday, August 20, 2012

Just a Minute

Just a Minute by Wess Stafford is a good book for anyone that has children, works with children, or comes into contact with children.  (In other words, everyone.)  Stafford's premise is that an adult can affect a child's life in just a short period of time by what he/she says or does.  As school will be starting soon, the book is a good reminder for me to be intentional in my interactions with the children I see each day.  It has also made me think about (and be thankful for) those adults that made a positive impact on my life.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot

The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara is a fun book I picked up at the library last week.  As you may have guessed by the title, it is a retelling of the three little pigs story set in outer space.  Bork, Gork, and Nklxwczyk are sent off to find their way in the world, but need to watch out for the Big Bad Robot.  I like the use of science vocabulary-space rover, telescope, satellite are a few of the words used in the book.  If you have a reluctant reader, it may appeal to them because of the fresh setting for a well known story.    My nephews ranked this as a 4 star book and a 5 star book (out of 5).

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Gifted Hands

Gifted Hands by Ben Carson is the book I just finished reading.  The story tells about how Ben Carson became a neurosurgeon who has helped countless people.  Read it to know more about this man who encountered many obstacles but is making a big difference in people's lives through the medical field.  It would be a good read for anyone.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Camp Clair 2012

Camp Clair was held at my house for the fifth time this year.  I invite my school age nieces and nephews to come spend the night for three or four days.  I make camp t-shirts.  This year I had six campers, which kept me busy.  Highlights of this year's camp were touring an old house, going to the county fair, ice cream, running through the sprinkler, visits from friends/relatives, girls' and boys' cabins, riding bike, and looking at a bunch of vintage cars at a car show.  No one gets enough sleep but everyone has lots of fun.  I am still wondering how parents with six or more children get anything done besides the basics.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Sugar Camp Quilt

I read The Sugar Camp Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini yesterday.  It is the first book by Chiaverini that I have read, but am pretty certain I will read more in the Elm Creek Quilts series.  This book, set in pre-Civil War days, tells the story of Dorothea Granger becoming an adult.  She lives with her mother, father, and uncle on her uncle's farm.  Dorothea and her parents are abolitionists.  As Dorothea becomes involved in the community she discovers that not everyone in the free state of Pennsylvania is against slavery. Have you read any of Chiaverini's books? 

Monday, June 25, 2012

latest baby quilt

This is the third quilt I finished this year.  I made the top back in February.  It was originally a larger quilt which I planned to give to a friend for her birthday.  I couldn't find a fabric that would make a good border, so I ditched it temporarily and made a different scrap quilt that weekend. (Click here if you want to see that one).   Recently, I cut the quilt about down to a baby size, hand quilted it, and bound it so I could give it away.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club

The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club by Wanda E. Brunstetter is what my book club read for the month of June.   Amish widow Emma Yoder decides to start teaching quilting classes to supplement her income.  Her first students are an eclectic group of people, three men and three women at various stages of their life. This book is being performed as a play late this summer and fall in Shipshewana, Indiana.  You can find more about it at the book's website here.  The story should make a decent play.  Included in the book are directions for a wall hanging and a recipe for Angel Cream Pie.  I made the custard pie for our book club and they all ate their piece.  Another woman in our group made the top part of the quilt from the directions and it turned out great. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Brothers at Bat

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team by Audrey Vernick is a new picture book I picked up at the library this week.  It tells the true story of the twelve Acerra brothers who lived in New Jersey in the 1920s and 30s.  This picture book would be great for baseball fans of all ages.  It could also be used with students to help them better understand what life was like during that time period.  The illustrations by Steven Salerno are great, reminding me some of the illustrating styles of Virginia Burton and H.A. Rey.

Friday, June 1, 2012


My summer officially has begun, despite what the calendar might say.  Today was the last day of school.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

to market, to market

I went to International Quilt Market in Kansas City last weekend with my sister.  Amanda was there to promote her book Sunday Morning Quilts.  She worked hard, I was along for the ride.  There was so much to see.  I met her coauthor, Cheryl.  I also met some of her blogging friends, including Tara.  If you look at Amanda's or Tara's blog you can see a few pictures that may give you a better idea of what it was like.  There were plenty of things to see at market, though, and I got a bag of stuff...brochures, pencils, catalogs, quilt magazines, books, and some fabric.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Curious Garden

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is a great book to read to children.  Liam lives in the city and finds some unattended but growing plants.  He begins to take care of those plants, and with time, the city changes.  Brown's story is enhanced his illustrations.  I like to check this book out each spring to share with my students.   Do you have any favorite books about spring?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Poetry Month

April is Poetry Month.  In my classes we are reading and writing poetry.  We are memorizing poems.  Wednesday is our popcorn and poetry day.  April 26 is Poem in Your Pocket day, so I will be will be handing out poems for my students to carry around in their pockets.  I sent my niece a poem in the mail (she is fond of poetry).  What are you doing for poetry month?  If you go to you can get even more ideas and/or information about poetry month.          

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Echoes of Titanic

Echoes of Titanic is the newest book by Mindy Starns Clark.  She actually wrote this one with her husband, John Campbell Clark.  It tells the story of three people-Kelsey Tate, Adele and Jocelyn.  Adele and Jocelyn are cousins setting sail on the Titanic in 1912.  Kelsey Tate is Adele's great-granddaughter living in New York City 100 years later.  Kelsey works for a company her great-grandmother established.  Amid allegations that Adele wasn't who she said she was, Kelsey wants to save the company that has been in her family for so long.  The story takes place mostly in the present day, but there are short chapters interspersed in the novel about Adele and Jocelyn.  There is plenty of suspense and mystery in this book.  If you liked any of Clark's other books you would probably enjoy this one as well.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

There Are Cats in this Book

There Are Cats in this Book by Viviane Schwarz is a fun book for children.  I read it to a nephew and several groups of children and they all liked it.  There are partial pages and some lift the flaps in the book, which makes it appealing to children.  A group of first grade students wanted me to read it again.  This is definitely one to look for at your library.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ladybugs: Red, Fiery, and Bright

Ladybugs: Red, Fiery, and Bright by Mia Posada is a great book to share with children. It is nonfiction poetry. At the end of the book there are plenty of facts about different types of ladybugs. If you are an elementary teacher, it would be a great addition to a unit on insects. It would also be good for a budding entomologist.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

what book are you reading?

Last evening I started reading The Big Miracle by Tom Rose. It isn't a book I went in search of until my book club chose to read it for next month's meeting. I have also been looking at and reading parts of my sister's book Sunday Morning Quilts.What book (or books) are you reading?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Good Bite Weeknight Meals

Good Bite Weeknight Meals is a book I stumbled across at the library last week. There are 120 recipes from the Good Bite website. Last night I made supper (chickpeas and spinach) in less than ten minutes. It was a decent, simple meal that I will make again. There are at least three more recipes I plan to try in the next week-one for chalupas, another for a hamburger and macaroni casserole, and the third is for cheese tacos. The subtitle, Delicious Made Easy, is appropriate because you don't need to buy a dozen special ingredients for each recipe. Have you tried any new recipes lately?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sunday Morning Quilts

Sunday Morning Quilts is coming soon. It is authored by my sister (Amanda) and Cheryl Arkison. While visiting my sister in February I looked at her copy. Fun quilts in it, and I am looking forward to getting my own copy of the book. It also inspired me to make a somewhat scrappy quilt (see below). You can preorder it on her blog or at

Monday, February 27, 2012

scrap quilt

This is the scrap quilt I made for a friend's birthday. If you ever want to make a scrap quilt, I would suggest getting help from an expert like my sister. She provided most of the scraps, and helped some with pressing, cutting, and piecing. I quilted it on her Juki machine. There was red in the top (before we started sewing) but I took them out because they didn't seem to blend well with the rest of the quilt. It turned out well, though I might consider using brown for the binding to frame it.