Wednesday, December 28, 2016

If You Give a Mouse a Brownie

If You Give a Mouse a Brownie by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond is the newest book by the popular duo.  Written in the same style as the other books, Mouse wants more than what he has and continues to ask for one more thing.  I enjoyed this story more than If You Give a Cat a Cupcake or If You Give a Dog a Donut.  For those of you who liked the other books or have children who do, this is worth picking up at the library or the bookstore. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter, Winter, Cold and Snow

Winter, Winter, Cold and Snow written by Sharon Gibson Palermo and illustrated by Christina Song is a good book to share with children this winter.  Each page depicts a forest animal and what they do in the winter.  It could be shared with preschool or grade school children regarding animal behaviors in a cold and snowy climate.  The repetitive line "Winter, Winter, Cold and Snow," reminded me of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  by Bill Martin Jr, though the vocabulary in this book is more complex than Martin's work.  It appeals to me as an adult because it is not overly simple and it reminds me of the uniqueness of winter in the northern United States and Canada.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Long Way Gone

Long Way Gone is Charles Martin's newest book.  It is the story of Cooper O'Connor, a gifted musician and a prodigal.  Cooper is 18 when he leaves his father behind and goes to Nashville with hopes to make it big.  Nothing turns out as he planned.  The day he meets Daley Cross is the day his life changes, though that too, is temporary.  This is a compelling story told from Cooper's point of view more than twenty years after the day he left home.  The characters are well developed and seem like real people.  The story of how difficult it is for a prodigal to go home was portrayed realistically.  I did not enjoy this book as much as I did Water From My Heart, also by Martin, but it is worthwhile read and would be a good book club choice.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Paper Things

I picked up Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson the other day at the library.  The story is told by eleven year old Ari.  She and her brother Gage lived with Janna as their guardian.  Gage is a nineteen year old who didn't want to live with Janna anymore, so Gage and Ari leave.  But Gage doesn't have a job or a place to live, so they depend on friends.  It seems like a realistic view of the difficulties of being homeless and trying to continue living a normal life.  This book would be good to read and discuss with middle school or high school students.  Though classified as juvenile literature, it is worth reading for anyone who works in a school system or with young people.   

Saturday, November 19, 2016

quilt camp

Last week I went to an organized quilt camp for the first time.  My sister Amanda was the teacher for the weekend.  While many people had their own projects to work on, I decided to try making the pineapple block that she showed.  It was good that I was at a class or I may not have ever really figured it out.  I made six blocks, then realized I am going to need more cream/white fabric prints. 

So I made a few other things, including this placemat that uses Good Neighbors fabric from Connecting Threads.  The back is some cute bunny fabric and scraps from my sister's stash.  When I finished, I decided that I liked the back better than the front. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


Firestorm! by Joan Hiatt Harlow is a novel which takes place in Chicago the week before the well-known fire of 1871.  Poppy and Justin are about as different as can be but become good friends.   Twelve year old Poppy survives by stealing.  Justin is the son of a wealthy jeweler.  Justin's family, especially his father, do not trust Poppy and a mistake made by Justin just makes it worse.  This book is from the juvenile section of the library but I would not recommend it for younger children because of the themes of extreme poverty and mistreatment by adults.  It would bring up some good themes for older students to discuss among themselves or with adults, though.

Monday, October 24, 2016

gift giving

One thing I have done to make gift giving easier is to have a set thing to give to people on certain occasions.  Gift giving for can be simplified by making part of the choice ahead of time.  For baby showers, I almost always give some handmade bibs and a children's board books.  For wedding showers, I make some potholders to give along with some custard cups with lids.  The gifts can be personalized for the recipient, but much of the decision is done long before the need for the gift. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016


I planted two gardens this year, one at my dad's and the other at the community garden plot.  Each year, I have tried to find one or two things that I have never grown before to experiment with.  This year I chose kale because it is healthy and spaghetti squash at the suggestion of a friend.  Both did well, but I now know that I do not need to plant the entire package of kale seeds.  The biggest surprise is that I actually like spaghetti squash.  I had never planted winter squash of any kind as I do not eat it.  Spaghetti squash proved to be different.  This week I ate it for the first time.  The squash was tasty-I ate it with spaghetti sauce.  It is now on my list of things to plant each year. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

M is for Minnesota

M is for Minnesota is a good picture book to share with your children or grandchildren regardless of age.  There is a photograph for each letter and it shows the diversity of things or places that make Minnesota the state that it is. B is for Boundary Waters, F is for farming, H is for hockey, and M is for Minneapolis.  There are many alphabet books about Minnesota, but this one is my favorite because of the photos and the wide range of ages that would enjoy it.   

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Museum Day Live

Museum Day Live is next Saturday, September 24.  Sponsored by the Smithsonian, you can get two free admission tickets to a participating museum.  A few years ago, my Dad and brother took advantage of the promotion to go to the Mille Lacs Indian Museum in Onamia. I had not been there since I was in grade school, so it was worth going again.  This year I am looking at the options of museums to decide where I want to visit.  If you are interested in finding out which museums are participating near you, click here to go to the website.  You can then put in your state or zip code to see what your choices are.   

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

disappearing four patch quilt

My first completed quilt of the year.  Finishing the quilt was one of my summer goals, so I pulled it out last week and got the binding done on Sunday.    The warm colors contrasted with white ended up to be a winning combination.  I haven't been quilting much in the last couple of years, so this one is a keeper to add to my personal collection.  It should get some use this fall and winter.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

School's First Day of School

School's First Day of School written by Adam Rex and illustrated by Christian Robinson is a book just in time for the start of school.  This book tells about the first day of school from a school's perspective.  School has never had students in him before, so when the students arrive, he experiences all sorts of new things including shy students, lunch, and a fire drill.  This is a good story to share with all ages of children who are going back to school, although it does not replace my favorite book for this season, First Day Jitters

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sophie's Squash Go to School

Sophie's Squash Go to School by Pat Zietlow Miller is a book many children would enjoy.  Sophie has two friends, Bonnie and Baxter, who are squash.  She loves taking them everywhere, including to her first day of school.  Since she already has two friends, she is not sure she needs to make any friends with her new classmates.  By the end of the story, Sophie finds that other children can make good friends, too.  This book can be read without reading the first one, Sophie's Squash, but if you can find both at your library, I would check them out together. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

five minute clean up

One way I try to keep my home less cluttered is a five minute clean up.  I set the iPod timer for five minutes and pick up around my place.  It is only five minutes, but sometimes the difference is striking.   I like doing this before I go to sleep each night or if I have five extra minutes before I need to go to work.  It is nice coming home to a cleaned up apartment.  It also works well when a bunch of my nieces and nephews are over.  Usually the the floor is swept, rooms are vacuumed, and things are put away so we are not stepping on everything.  Another benefit of five minutes of cleaning is that when someone calls to say she is going to stop by, my place is more or less presentable.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Herman's Vacation

Herman's Vacation by Tom Percival is the second book about friends Herman and Henry.  Herman and Henry decide it is time to go on vacation.  Since they do not have a lot of money, they end up going camping.  Herman thinks it is great, while Henry finds it challenging.  When Herman realizes this, he figures how to make it better for Henry so they can both enjoy the vacation.  Like Herman's Letter, there are lift the flap notes.  This is a good book to share with children this summer about friendship and camping.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Not-So-Faraway Adventure

The Not-So-Faraway Adventure by Andrew Larsen is one the children's books that I read this week that I really enjoyed.  Theo and her Poppa enjoy spending time together.  Poppa's trunk is full of souvenirs from his travels around the world.  Looking through it gives Theo an idea for a great birthday for Poppa.  Together they go to the beach for a special adventure of their own.  After the trip, they have something to add to Poppa's trunk full of memories.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

overnight oatmeal

Recently I tried a new oatmeal recipe.  My sister had come across the recipe in the paper, and it is now my preferred way to have oatmeal for breakfast.  What you need is a pint jar with lid, half a cup milk, half a cup old fashioned oats, and whatever toppings you would like.  First, put the milk in the jar.  Add the oatmeal and whatever topping you would like, then cover and put in the refrigerator.  In the morning, all you have to do is take it out and eat it.  I have been putting different toppings on, if I choose raisins or bananas, I add them in the morning.  This is great since I can prepare it the night before.  The other great thing is the oatmeal does not get mushy like it could if you overcook it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

enjoying the outdoors

In April I stopped by a state park and found out that this year is the 125th anniversary of Minnesota State Parks.  To commemorate that, the parks have created a program to encourage using the trails.  Individuals can try to bike, boat, or hike 125 miles in state parks or state trails this year.  So far I am at 15 miles, all hiking.  I hope to do some biking and canoeing, too.  So far, I have been to some of the closer parks...Charles Lindbergh, Lake Carlos, and Sibley.  I hope to get to Fort Snelling, Lake Itasca, Lake Maria, and Crow Wing parks soon.  Click here to see more information about the program.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Whose Hands Are These?

Whose Hands Are These? by Miranda Paul is a new book I got from the library this week.  It is a book that I think most preschoolers or early elementary children would enjoy.  There are pictures and descriptions of 11 different jobs.  Children can listen to the words and look at the pictures to try to guess which job is being described.  I plan to remember this book and share it with my kindergarten and first grade students next year.  It reminds me some of Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do, but has a higher level vocabulary. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

artist trading cards

A few years ago, I read an article about artist trading cards.  They are mini works of art.  On the back, you can write your name and the date.  The cards are a way to show and trade your art.  This is an activity I do some with my nieces and nephews.  If you want to make your own cards, or get started on it with your children, all you need is two and a half inch by three and a half inch pieces of cardstock and some markers, crayons or colored pencils.  I cut my own, but you can also buy pre-cut cards at art stores.  This could be an unending summer project for your kids, or a fun activity to sit down and do as a family from time to time.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Water from my Heart

Water from my Heart by Charles Martin is the book I read this week instead of sewing, sleeping, and gardening.  Charlie Finn is living an easy life in Bimini when everything changes.  He is catapulted into a situation where he wants to help his good friend's son, but it isn't easy.  Along the way, Charlie ends up in Nicaragua where things from his past show up in the lives of people he has begun to care for.  This story of love and redemption is worth reading if you can put up with a somewhat lengthy introduction.  There are plenty of themes in this book worth discussing with a friend or a group.  Like many of his other books, it would likely make a good movie as well.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


There are all kinds of things to celebrate about spring in Minnesota.

Buttercups in wet places...

 rhubarb from Dad's house,

tulips blooming,

 the butterflies have returned,

and fresh asparagus from my brother.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Vivofit 2

Several weeks ago I got a Vivofit 2 through a wellness program at school.  Since I walk to and from school most days, I was curious about what kind of numbers I would get on it.  The days I do walk to and from school, I get about 12,000 steps in a day.  Right now I am at over that already, and there is still more walking on the agenda.  Do you have an step tracker?  What is your average?  

Monday, April 25, 2016

There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe by Jane Cabrera is a new take on the old nursery rhyme.  The Old Woman has 10 children and 5 pets.  The story tells about her feeding them, getting them places, mending clothes, fixing furniture, and loving them.  I enjoyed the pictures and the new take of the adept and frugal Old Woman. It is simple enough to keep a preschooler's interest, but interesting enough to share with older children as well.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Plants Feed Me

Plants Feed Me by Lizzy Rockwell is a book to share with preschoolers or young elementary children.  Rockwell writes and shows the different parts of plants that people eat.  Like Lois Ehlert, she labels each plant that is shown in the pictures so the reader can know exactly what it is.  This book is for beginning readers, and it is just right for a unit on vegetables or gardens. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Let's Go, Hugo!

Let's Go, Hugo! by Angela Dominguez is a picture book worth sharing with your children or students.  Hugo is a bird who lives in Paris.  He is afraid of flying, so when he meets a new friend, Lulu, who invites him to fly so he can see the Eiffel Tower, he creates excuses for why they cannot leave immediately.  He procrastinates all day and when Lulu leaves at the end of the day, Hugo wonders what will happen.  Bernard, an owl, teaches and encourages Hugo.  When Lulu returns in the morning, Hugo is ready to go.  I enjoyed the story as well as the pictures.  Dominguez' work will be something I will keep a look out for when I am browsing children's books.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Goal! written by Sean Taylor with photographs by Caio Vilela is a book to share with young soccer fans.  Taylor writes about the game, while  Vilela has taken photographs of children playing soccer in many places around the world.  On each page, there is soccer related trivia from different countries.  My guess is this will be a popular book with my students.

Friday, February 26, 2016

I Love to Read month

This year for I Love to Read month at school, I did something a little bit different.  In the past, I selected four authors and each week read a multitude of books by one author.  Then at the end of the week, students voted on their favorite. 
Instead of looking for four prolific authors this year, I chose 44 of my favorite picture books and read those throughout the month.  My students seemed to enjoy it just as well. What are your favorite picture books for kids?

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Perfect Nest

The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend and illustrated by John Manders is a fun book.  Jack the cat wants an egg so he can make an omelet.  He decides to build a nest to attract a chicken which would result in getting the egg he wants.  What Jack didn't count on was a chicken, a duck, and a goose all wanting the nest.  Each lays an egg in the nest, but before Jack can figure out how to get the mothers off the eggs, they hatch.  Children will probably enjoy this book because of the ironic ending...Jack ends up taking care of those three babies.   

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

I read Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner this week.  In 1938, Audrey and Violet become roommates, then friends, while working in Hollywood.  Both are looking for something more to their lives.  As their friendship grows, they change in ways that neither of them could have guessed.  The setting of the story also includes the filming of the movie Gone With the Wind, so if you are a fan of historical Hollywood or the movie, you would enjoy this story.  I would not rank this as my favorite by Meissner, but it is worth reading and think it would be good for a book club, too. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


It is time to make valentines!  I started yesterday on the ones for my students.  It seems like there is plenty of candy around the holiday, so I give them something not edible-a mini handmade book.  I used a piece of copy paper and a four and a half by six inch piece of cardstock.  The band around the middle is a strip of cardstock folded around the book and then glued together.  It slides on and off, and I can write the to and from part on the back of it.   Once I get done with these, I can move on to valentines for my family and maybe even my coworkers.

Monday, January 25, 2016

more than I expected

Sometimes when I start a project, it is hard to know how much time it is going to take.  Making these hexagons is an enjoyable process even though it takes time.  While in Guatemala I got a good start...but then I ran out of fabric scraps.  One day in the summer or early fall,  my sister gave me some more scraps...and yesterday I was looking through my fabric, but it looks like I am going to need lots more. It is a good project for these long winter evenings.  Maybe I can get the blocks done by the time we are done with a Minnesota winter. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

free days at National Parks

Bryce Canyon National Park
Each year, the National Park Service offers several days where the entrance fee to the park is free for everyone.  In 2016, they have chosen 16 different days where visitors can enter without a fee.  One (January 18) has already passed, but that still leaves 15 days for this year.  If you visit this web page, you can read more about it.  Maybe I will have to head west this August and revisit some of the parks I went to 2014.

Another thing I noted while reading the information is that any fourth grade student in the US can get a free park pass for that school year.  For information on that, see the website here.  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is classified as a novel for children, but I think many adults would enjoy it as well.  Ivy June lives in Thunder Creek, Kentucky, where phone lines don't go to every home and some people do not have indoor bathrooms.  Catherine lives in Lexington with the same amount of bathrooms as people in her home, plus her own cell phone.  Both girls sign up for a two week exchange program.  So Ivy June is off to the city to live with Catherine for two weeks, attending school with her friend.  Later, Catherine goes to spend two weeks with Ivy June in the mountains of Kentucky.  Life seems different in each place, but by the end of the story the two girls realize how much their are alike despite the outward differences.  This would be a good book to read aloud to sixth or seventh grade students.  It could lead to some good discussions.   

Friday, January 8, 2016

Love From the Very Hungry Caterpillar

Love from the Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a new book which could make the perfect gift for Valentine's Day.  It is small (less than 6 inches by 7 inches) and brief.  Each pair of pages has an illustration in classic Carle style along with a handful of words.  It is an illustrated love letter written with metaphors.  This is not going to replace my favorite Valentine's book (which is The Day it Rained Hearts), but I will definitely get this from the library each February to read to my students.