Thursday, October 31, 2013


THE TUMBLEWEED CAME BACK is rolling into town. 

Please bring the little ones this Saturday to The Tattered Cover , Highlands Ranch CO for a rollicking good time. 

The best part of all? Kevin Rechin, the fabulous illustrator of THE TUMBLEWEED CAME BACK will be in town to demonstrate how he makes his awesome characters. 

Tumbleweed treats, contests, interactive readings and more!  

See you there... yes?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Morning at the Picture Books: On a Beam of Light

Albert Einstein had me at hello. And so will On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky.

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein is a clever, witty, and informative tribute to a historic icon (with a twist of comic strip thrown in for good measure). The story clocks in at a "just right" length for the picture book crowd. It's never clumsy or slow. I found it captivating.

Of course, a conscience was at the core of Einstein's deeply wondrous wonderings. It's not new that his discoveries left a mark on the world. So did his philosophies and poetic offerings. Yet, in the end, Ms Berne circles us back around to a very personal meaning. Nice.

Readers will love the tonal illustrative technique used by Vladimir Radunsky, done here in goache, pen, and ink. Beautiful. The art is fresh and superbly alive.

On a Beam of Light is exquisite. I mean... just look at that!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Grandma LaVigna's Marinara...

"It's only as good as the tomatoes..." 

That's my own quote. Repeat now with a NY accent. (Which I don't have, but do it anyway, just for the effect.) I always say that quote whenever someone compliments me on a dish, specifically Marinara. The recipe itself is nothing special. Wait. I didn't just say that. Did I? Because actually it IS special. Granted, it's lean on ingredients, but it is special nevertheless. It's special because the recipe comes from a spoken tradition of sharing recipes. Clove of this, pinch of that, handful of the other... sloshed aprons and messy counters!

Truth is, recipes that are passed down orally from generation to generation contain more than just directions on a yellowed slip of paper. Smoosh, smack, and throw are three unlikely action verbs you won't find in any cookbook. Those instructions are reserved for the days when the cook takes you into her/his kitchen (and heart) to show and tell a recipe.

So stop looking! You won't find which Italian aria to sing over the pot of spaghetti sauce in a cookbook. You won't find which old wooden sauce spoon to use either. And you won't find any footnotes about all the wrist slapping that occurs when an adult child slips into the kitchen to sample a hot spoonful of sauce...
"But Ma! It's the best eva!"

My Sicilian grandmother, Carmela Celi LaVigna, demonstrated most of her recipes. Okay, from time to time she would reluctantly write down a recipe, even though we would need a translator to read her handwriting - yeesh, at least we got it in writing. A-hum, my grandmother wrote how she spoke, in broken Italian.

That said my dears, be warned, for my version of Marinara is slightly different from the one my grandma melodiously made Sunday after Sunday. (It's true. I adapted it. Eeek!)

Over the years I have added a few subtle tricks learned from my Aunt Jinnie, my non-Italian mother (can she legally cook Italian that well?), my cousin Gary, plus my own tribulations.

If YOU were standing here, right now, in my kitchen, I would hug you all, and show and tell this recipe.  But you're not, so here's the next best thing... in broken English.

Turn up O mio babbino caro, don a stained apron, and get out that cranky old wooden spoon.

Let's DO this!

Marinara (5-ish servings)

8-10 medium very ripe amazing organic cluster tomatoes (or others)
Marinara (shown here with meatballs)
10 medium very ripe amazing organic Roma tomatoes
1 6 ounce jar tomato paste
Garlic clove
Olive oil
Sea salt (Himalayan)

Begin by removing the peels from all the tomatoes - par boil for 1 minute in a big pot of boiling water.
While the tomatoes cool, place several glugs of olive oil into a medium large saucepan. (Be generous, you'll be glad you did!) Add one to two cloves of garlic, each cut in half.  Ever so gradually heat the oil. You do not want olive oil to smoke. If it does... you must start over. (Turns to trans fat.)

Next, peel the cool tomatoes and discard skins. Squeeze each tomato over the sink to remove many of the seeds and some watery innards. This will make you feel very Italian.

Now blend the peeled and smooshed tomatoes in a blender until smooth. Add this to the warm garlic oil. Crank up the temp to medium. Stir in one jar of organic tomato paste. (Not Muir Glen.)  Fill the jar with water, and add to sauce. Stir (with that old wooden spoon.) Toss in some dried or very finely chopped fresh basil. And a heavy pinch of sea salt.  (Be generous, this isn't the time to cut back on sodium. Plus Himalayan sea salt is healthier.)  Stir often. Do not cover your marinara for three hours!

I usually allow mine to simmer for four hours, total. Then it's time to ladle your Marinara over freshly boiled and drained pasta.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saturday Morning at the Picture Books: Fly By Night

                                                 "Is it time, yet?"
No dear. It's not time yet.

Is it time yet? Now?

No dear. Not yet.

Fly By Night by June Crebbin, and illustrated by Stephen Lambert, is a thesis on the practical workings of patience. 

A young owl named Blink, has primal ambitions to fly.  Don't we all, especially during those moments when we feel succinct with the universe.

But when will it be our time to fly?

Certainly it's time to fly now. Isn't it?


But no, our wingspan isn't quite big enough yet. Dang.

Fly By Night is a coming-of-age story for the owl inside us all; children, parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles. It's a meditative piece readying us for flight—preparing us for the follies of real life. 

"The sun slipped behind the fields. 
  The moon rose pale and clear. 
  A night breezed stirred, 'Time to fly.'"

And it happens. The time does come. Eventually. What a lovely affirmation for children (er... me)! Soaring above farm, field, and metropolis. 

This theme never grows old. Learning Patience 101 is a course we all must take at some point in our lives. Like it or not. It comes inside everyones LIFE package.
Blink (and the young listener) discover there is a perfect time for everything. Cool.

Look for a copy on Ebay. Sadly, it appears Fly By Night is now OP. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Morning at the Picture Books, Grandfather Twilight

In just over 100 words, author/illustrator, Barbara Berger, ushers in a bedtime story about the slow emergence of day into night. Grandfather Twilight is a zen-like treasure with the potential to put even the busiest body to (blissful) sleep.

Grandfather, himself, is forever swashed in the colors of dusk. Powdery blues, cloud whites, pinks, lavender.  His gentle pace, not too quick(!), is gloriously calming. For you see, Grandfather IS twilight.

"When day is done, he closes his book, combs his beard, and puts on his jacket."

Then Grandfather moves from house through forest to the edge of the sea. I won't spoil his mission. But the reader will be enchanted by Ms Berger's wordless spreads as Grandfather moves iridescently closer to his goal.

If you live on planet earth, and have ever marveled at a quiet twilight, you will most likely love this epic tale. Grandfather Twilight.

(This book was originally published by Philomel in 1984, under the tutelage of legend, Patty Gauch, no doubt.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Morning at the Picture Books: Tooth-Gnasher Superflash

Need a good laugh? Need a book that moves like a family sit-com? Need a reason to go buy a new car?

Then you need, Tooth-Gnasher Superflash. by Daniel Pinkwater! My children loved this book so much that we named our own super-duper new car after this morph-able auto: "Superflash!" Granted, ours couldn't do everything that the Tooth-Gnasher could, but it WAS a pretty shade of blue.

Daniel Pinkwater lays down bold primaries, to add even more zip to his already zippy tale. (By the way, you must visit Mr Pinkwater's list of literary accomplishments on his Wiki page. He is champion of children's lit!)

Who can resist:
"...So Mr. Popsnorkle and Mrs. Popsnorkle and the five little Popsnorkle's all got into the worn-out green Thunderclap-Eight and went looking for a nice new car..."

And off we zoom into the story with the family of Popsnorkles and a car salesman named Mr. Sandy. I won't spoil the rest of the fun in this short little book. But it may have you eyeing that new car with greater verve.

And I must warn you, car dealers ARE open on Saturday's.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday Morning at the Picture Books— Aunt Isabel Tells a Good One

Kate Duke is a dazzling storyteller and illustrator.

In Aunt Isabel Tells A Good One, she expertly sloshes a palette of forest colors together
with drama, romance, suspense, and good humor.
The result is a rip-roaring mouse adventure.

It begins at the beginning, with petite Penelope requesting a story.

"What kind of story?
A good story!
A good story is the hardest kind to tell,
though. We must put it together carefully,
with just the right ingredients."

And off we go. Aunt Isabel casts Penelope as the heroine, and dubs her writing accomplice. Together they craft a tall-tale that teachers will love. From beginning, to middle, to end, readers are keenly shown exactly what it takes to write... a good one!

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Saturday Morning at the Picture Books; Lost and Found

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers, will steal your heart away. It sure stole mine. A young boy meets a penguin. He is quite certain the penguin must be lost. Together they embark on a journey through choppy sea and ice to discover the workings of friendship. Children will learn the value of spoken and unspoken communication between friends.

This cold sea-themed book is written and perfectly illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. (Notice the author's childhood photo on the jacket flap resembles the book's main character right on down to the striped beanie.)

Lost and Found, was brilliantly adapted into an BAFTA winning short film, directed by Phillip Hunt for Studio A.K.A. The film's gentle rhythm will sweep you up in a wave of love, as will this timeless book.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Saturday Morning at the Picture Books!

Ok... first of all. I'm not mixed up on my days of the week. I know it's Tuesday, er I mean Wednesday, not Saturday. I'm just excited about my new feature:

Saturday Morning at the Picture Books! 

Each Saturday, I will post on my blog an irresistible picture book. One that you really, really must read. And I will cross reference it to my author Facebook Fan page.

Two weeks ago, I featured Interrupting Chicken. It's a delightful roller coaster of a ride for storytime. Maybe a little too exciting for bedtime, but the Zzzzzz's at the end surely will help settle the fray. Fun. Fun. Fun. You will fall in love with this caring little chicken and her Papa.

Last Saturday, I shared my newest crush,  I Want My Hat Back. It's a terrific tale of truth-telling... and the consequences we face when presented with untruths. Did Bear really snack on Rabbit? Hmmmm... children will carefully wonder.

Saturday will be here soon. Three days, to be exact.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Young Prince/Princess Drinking Chocolate aka Cocoa!*

2 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
6 teaspoons raw sugar
1 Tablespoon milk (of choice)
pinch of salt
several drops of vanilla
2 cups whole milk (of choice)

*Makes two cups

Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl to make a batter. Warm 2 cups milk. Add one rounded Tablespoon batter per cup of milk. Heat a bit more, and whisk until frothy. Do not boil. Batter can be kept in fridge for a few days. This cocoa is not too sweet or dense, but yummy all the same.

This recipe is more child-friendly than my other Puttering Princess/Prince Drinking Chocolate recipe.  Unless you don't mind your toddlers walking the ceiling or swinging from door to door. :)

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Making mini daisy crowns...

Winter was handing out its usual cold packs of frost and snow—a good day, by any writer's standards, to get some work done. A no-excuses-day. A day to write until eyes stung from looking at the screen too long and fingers were darn near plunked out.  (Double socks, old jeans, oversized cardigan... who needed a comb? Oh, hi husband.) 

I was indeed lyrically productive; started a new story, worked on an agent pitch for a beloved mss, wrote a catalog bio for my latest book, tweaked through two PB manuscripts. Busily-busily-busily, life was but a dream. Until...I noticed, next to my desk, two dot-sized piggy eyes staring at me. "Make me a daisy crown," the unblinking eyes squeaked. Yeah, they did. And um, if you're like me, you would never disobey a pink piggy. So, I made my way to the craft closet.
And voila! I fashioned these little swirls of daisyness. ↑
Then I made even more. Because, well, because it was snowing. Hard. And I was puttering. Hard. And the crowns were so mini-a-ture and cute. Besides,  pink piggy wanted lots! Yeah, she did. (Each measures: an inch and half across. ) 

Now, I attach the miniature crowns to Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? bookmarkers as give-aways. Smart pink piggy. 

Never underestimate a puttering writer with pipe cleaners, silk daisies and a glue gun.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

All my ducks in a row...

Easy to make Goldducks, that taste quite similar to... Goldfish. Only without all the additives with names I can't pronounce.

Why ducks, you ask? I didn't have a fishy cookie cutter, that's why. Given just the right cutter, you and your children can make all their favorite creatures: goldfrogs, goldsharks, goldmonkeys....

With soup or as a healthy snack...


6 ounces (1 1/2 cup grated) extra sharp cheddar or other sharp hard cheese (I used leftover Parrano)
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup whole spelt flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (or less)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (less if think that is too much for your little ones.)

Preheat 350°F. Toss all the measured ingredients together in a food processor. Run until the dough becomes a big ball. Will take about a minute or 2. And you will begin to wonder if it will ever form a ball. Chill ball in parchment or plastic wrap for a short 30 minutes. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut shapes with cookie cutters & place on parchment lined or ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes until just barely browned around the edges.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for a minute before gently transferring. (Revised from smitten kitchen.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Things YOU can do to help your young child's self image. forestall young girls (and boys) exposure to unhealthy media-soaked images.

JK Rowling's recent quote regarding concern for her daughters, has stirred a cauldron of response from parents everywhere:

“I've got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don't want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I'd rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before 'thin'. And frankly, I'd rather they didn't give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be Stupid Girls.”

Indeed, it will be a task for JK Rowling to shield her daughters from the "skinny-obsessed world," by her mere proximity to limelight. But it's not an impossible task. She will need a determined commitment. World views aren't going to change overnight.

It is our children's birthright to love this world, feel its pulse with soft fingertips, and fearlessly move across its peaks, valleys and floors. Perfect parents, we are not, but that doesn't mean we cannot give our kids a sparring chance for a healthy start.

Oh-the-things-you-can-do list: 

●  Play outside everyday!  Even in the snow, rain and mudpuddles.

 DO NOT keep or bring fashion magazines or tabloids in the house.  

●  Bring your own children's books from home to waiting rooms.

●  Expose them to images of the world you want them to see.  Follow up with discussion. Get them to talk about it... or not!  Let them be the guides on this one.   

●  Avoid grocers with media soaked check-out stands. (Media-free check-out: Costco, Whole Foods, Natural Grocers.)

  GO prepared to distract you children when you find yourselves standing in front of fashion magazines, tabloids, etc.

●  As possible, keep the dialog at home non-judgemental. You are your children's first mirror.

●  Eliminate or limit television viewing for young children. If you must, consider DVDs instead, or children's shows on PBS.

●  This is a tough one, but very important. Limit YOUR usage of hand-held smart devices and computers in their presence. A-hum, the mirror? It may be oh-so-cute to see a baby pretending to use a cell phone, but quite the opposite when a six-year-old demands to have one of her own.

●  Seek out magazines with healthy self esteem: New Moon Girls: 8-10 year girls,  Lotta: 5-10 years,  Cricket, Lady Bug, Highlights,  Support sites like: Toward the Stars, A Mighty Girl .

●  Recite a poem, prayer or quote before meals embracing all the children in the world.

●  Consider NOT opening up the dialog about self image too early.  No need to bring attention to image issues, negative OR positive, when your child is too young.

  Tell tall tale stories about them... as mighty characters. Children love being amongst daring-do.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Magic at my doorstep

Being a terrific fan of writing thank you notes, (as over-evidenced in my children's book, Thank You, Aunt Tallulah!,) I recently wrote (gushed) to our dear friends, thanking them for the box of citrus they sent from their small private orchard near San Diego. (Yes, those are limes.)
Dear Worland Orchard,

Today I opened a priority package from you, and out tumbled and wafted the most lively prana. Organic tangerines, and limes, cleverly disguised as lemons. Luscious. 
Thank you-thank you-thank you-thank you! I tore into a tangerine (yes, in every visual sense of the word,) and could not believe how alive it tasted. What water do you use? Do you sing to the trees? Bathe them each night and tell them how pretty they are? How do you keep from eating a bushel a day?  
YUM YUM YUM. I sang the rest of my day. Mike and I are making a quiche and salad tonight and we will douse the greens with a spritz of home grown lime from Worland Orchards. Then we will dessert on tangerines.  

You, dear friends, were so sweet to send us your crop. I am jealous, here in Colorado's fruitless winter, for one of the first times ever. Very.   

Hugs to all. So very nice.