Our summer reading list 8/08-9/01

Hello! Has your summer break ended? Are the kids back in school? Today is our third week of First grade! I have enjoyed posting our book lists for the summer and hope that it has given you new titles and authors to explore. I suffered an accident which left me with an injured hand, so apologies for the lack of posts and the minimal words this post, as I am still healing. Here is the glorious list of our final summer reads, with links to Amazon to make up for my lack of description and personal thoughts this time around:

52. Paddington Helps Out Written By Michael Bond


53. Paddington in the Garden Written By Michael Bond Illustrated by R.W. Alley


54. Last Stop on Market Street Words By Matt De La Pena Illustrated By Christian Robinson


55. Hearts A Toon Book By Theresa Rowe A First Comic For Brand New Readers


56. Brownie and Pearl See the Sights Written By Cynthia Rylant Illustrated By Brian Biggs


57. Little White Rabbit By Kevin Henkes


58. Following Papa’s Song Gianna Marino


59. Nana in the City By Lauren Castillo


60. The Day the Crayons Quit By Drew Daywalt


61. I Like Fish by Margaret Wise Brown


62.What’s in the Woods Dear Dragon? By Margaret Hillert


63. Gus Gets Scared By Frank Remkiewicz


Flip a word books Written By Harriet Ziefert Illustrated By Yukio Kido

64.Crab Cab


65. Wet Pet


66. Snow Bow


67. Danny and the Dinosaur


68.-72 My “a”,”e”, “o”, “u”, “c”, “t” Sound Box books Written by Jane Belk Moncure


73. Rookie Read-About Science Book: Solids, Liquids, and Gases By Ginger Garrett


74. Ramona and her Father By Beverly Cleary


75. Ramona and her Mother By Beverly Cleary


76. Pigs Make Me Sneeze By Mo Willems


Wowzers! 76 books on our summer list! We read many more books this summer at the library, before I began logging and keeping track of them. I would estimate at least 100 books read this summer if not more. I feel proud as a parent that I read all of these books to my child and that she in turn read to me. I am going to continue to post books that we read, because I truly enjoyed sharing them so much! I would love to hear what you are reading to your 6 year old. I am always on the hunt for a new tale. Oh! And also for great early readers now that she is reading. Hooray for Books!

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The Cutest Little Gardening Kit!

I decided that this year we would make an outdoor Fairy Garden. We ordered seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange and while buying a gift for another child’s birthday I spotted this cute little kit by a company called Garden in the Koop and it was a done deal. We poured way to many seeds into the soil but that’s ok. All of the seeds sprouted very quickly. It has been so fun to watch them grow. They are much bigger now and just about ready to go outside. I highly recommend the kit for gardening with children. They would make lovely gifts as well. I fell in love with the company after looking them up. They do have a variety of different kits so you can choose the one that suits you best.
Our Fairy kit included:
●Egg carton
●6 individual seed packs which Included:
Sweet Alyssum, Pink Baby’s Breath, Fairy Lettuce, Creeping Thyme, Viola and German Chamomile
● GardenCoir discs to use for soil
●12 wooden name tags
●And clear information on each plant and their growing needs.


We bought tomatos, peppers and cucumbers from the market already started and those are in the ground.

Our seedlings from Seed Savers Exchange are just about ready to transition outside as well. It always makes me nervous to put these babies out in the elements. I do hope they all thrive. Fingers crossed. We have a lot of work in the garden these next few days.



How is your garden growing? I hope it’s growing well and bringing you joy. Happy planting!

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Chive Blossoms


Beautiful Chive Blossoms! These beauties are in full bloom in our garden. There are many things you can do with Chive Blossoms. For a delicate onion flavor, pull the flower heads apart and add them to soups and salads. Infuse Olive oil and Vinegar with them. Use them as a lovely edible garnish. Mix with dips and soft cheeses such as Goat Cheese or cream cheese! So many possibilities!


Here I made a Vegetable and Rice stir fry, with Turmeric, Smoked Sea Salt and Chive Blossoms. Aren’t they just lovely?

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Our Urban Garden and The Prettiest Little Bird House I Ever Did See.

We are in full blown gardening mode here in Chicago, despite the fact that the high today is 50 degrees and I am in my winter coat again lol!

We have an Urban Garden and plant all sorts of veggies, herbs and flowers in our city yard; and since I was a child we always have. My father has such a green thumb! My siblings and I grew up in the ghetto. Our lawn was always impeccable, free of weeds, beautiful and soft, like a plush carpet. The hedges were beautifully trimmed, the yard was prim and proper with uniform rows of carefully designed flower beds and so many herbs and vegetables. We grew Rhubarb there and the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie that was made each year, compared to no other I have ever had. It was our little oasis in the midst of all of the drugs and violence that surrounded us outside of our gates. It amazes me now, how my parents could have raised us there, because we all made it out of the ghetto, went to college and travelled the world. Teaching your children to work at something and see the fruits of their labor is a gift and what better way to do that, than planting and tending to seeds! Anyone can garden! Anywhere! You just need seeds, sun, water and dirt. Oh and enthusiasm, because honestly folks, everything is so much better with enthusiasm.

In the next couple of posts, I am going to share a few little things we bought recently and a few things we made to help make our garden both indoors and outside special. I hope you will enjoy them.

First of all is the prettiest little birdhouse I ever did see. I have felted in the past and love all things handmade. Throw in fair trade and a gift card and you’ve got me sold lol.


This birdhouse is made in Nepal by skilled artisans working in fair trade. It is wet and dry felted with applique and embroidery. Sigh…it is so pretty. Made with sustainably sourced materials, sheep’s wool which is naturally water resistant and antimicrobial, a braided hemp hanging cord and a bambo perch. The opening is 1.25 inches and can be enlarged to 1.5 inches to accommodate larger birds. The company is dZi.inc. which I know nothing about, they are a member of the Fair Trade Federation. You can find them on Amazon here along with many other selections of styles or in specialty boutiques and toy stores. They range from $20-$30.

I needed a hook for hanging and found one for a dollar at the dollar store. I was going to repaint it to be all bright and magical looking but Penelope was anxious to get it up, so I had to do like Elsa and “Let it go” with the redesign plans. Ha! I crack myself up.


Lastly the birdhouse was stuffed with recycled paper AKA foreign newspaper. Which is so amazing and a wonderful teaching tool for Penelope about foreign script, language, culture, and life in Nepal. We will most certainly make a craft with it.


Here is the view outside our craft room window. Our birdhouse hangs beautifully, just in front of our lovely lilacs. So pretty and magical.


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A Tasty Quinoa Dish Lemon, Quinoa, and Avocado Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette


Do you quinoa? If your answer is no then you should! And you should begin with this recipe, that is just sooo good that I just want to scream HOORAY when I think of it. I made it for our teacher potluck lunch today. I found the original here . I have it down below with my variations.

The tools for the trade:

2/3 cup cooked quinoa

1 bunch kale, chopped finely

1/2 avocado – peeled, pitted, and diced

1/2 cup chopped cucumber

1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese


1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

The How To:

Prep 25 m

Cook 15 m

Ready In 40 m

Cook quinoa according to instructions. I have used both red and white quinoa for this recipe. I also use a 1:1.5 ratio- 1 cup quinoa to 1 1/2 cups of water. Add quinoa and water to saucepan bring to a boil in saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, and the water has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Unlike the recipe, I do not steam my Kale, instead I saute it in a pan with a dash of olive oil until it just begins to wilt and is still a vibrant green. Do not over cook your Kale! Transfer to a large plate to cool.

The original recipe begins with the Kale but instead I start with the quinoa.

Take your cooled quinoa and place 2/3 of it in a bowl, save the rest for later! Begin adding your vegetables one at a time: Avocado, Cucumber, Bell Pepper, Red Onion, then slowly add your Kale I like to mix it all until it looks about even when I am happy, I add the feta cheese.

The dressing:

Whisk Olive oil, Lemon juice, Dijon Mustard, Sea salt, and Black pepper together in a bowl until the oil emulsifies into the dressing; pour as much as you wish over the salad. I pour to taste and usually save the rest for later.

HOORAY!!!! Now you get to eat it. Lucky you 😉

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When Someone Special Dies, a Mother’s experience

Friday was the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. My mother was diagnosed with Cancer on January 21st of last year and died April 24th, just three months later. I wanted to share how I communicated Cancer and death to my daughter, who had just turned 5 years old and things we used to help process our grief, once my mother passed.

Below is an edited portion of what I read at my mother’s funeral mass:

My mother passed away Thursday morning, just before my daughter arrived home from school. I walked into her bedroom as usual, and spoke aloud to her about the beautiful sun that was peeking in and out of the clouds that day, and the rain that was to come, and I told her how beautiful she was. I measured out her morphine, and spoke softly into her ear, with my hand on her abdomen as I always had, and then paused, because I did not feel her heart beating into my hand as it always did when I spoke to her. She was gone. Words cannot describe everything that she was. Even in her dying she was mothering. While caring for her, she was teaching me to be brave, she was teaching me to be a leader, she was teaching me to have faith and gratitude for every day, but most of all she taught me to believe in myself, and find a strength within me that I did not even know existed. And while caring for her she was grandmothering my daughter still, and was modeling gratitude, joy, humor and determination. My daughter watched as we cared for her, cleaned her, fed her. We sang her songs, told her we loved her, gave her gentle massages and always cheered for her. My daughter would give her kisses, talk to her about her days at school, sing to her and surround her with stuffed animals. It was an honor to serve her alongside my brother and my father. Together, we made a beautiful team. The house feels so empty without her and so does my heart.

As a voracious reader, I began where I always do, with books. I ordered 2 books off Amazon purely based on reviews, just before my mother became bedridden.

1. When Someone You Love Has Cancer, A Guide to Help Kids Cope, By Alaric Lewis, OSB

2. When Your Grandparent Dies, A Child’s Guide to Good Grief, By Victoria Ryan

Both of the books helped begin the dialogs I would soon have with my daughter numerous times a day. I did change some of the language as I read aloud, to taylor the books to our personal needs.

One thing that I found so fascinating, was that death is such a natural part of life, yet we don’t often talk about it. I was always very positive about death and Cancer around my daughter and I never hid my tears. If she would see me dabbing my eyes, I would say “Sweetie, like the waves of the Ocean, feelings come and feelings go. It is important to welcome our feelings when they come and know that they will pass and not stay forever.” So I would cry, we would honor that feeling and I would then dry my tears, get up and move on to something silly and fun. I had to model this. Because in her life, she will crumble and fall many times, and I needed her to know, that you could crumble and then get back up, dust yourself off and move forward.

My mother died just minutes before my daughter arrived from preschool. I had to stay calm and think quickly before the doorbell rang. She would always run into my mother’s room, fling her backpack onto the ground and start chatting about her day, singing songs, jumping on the guest bed etc. The doorbell rang, “What’s happening Mommy?” She asked, as our nurses had arrived and things seemed noticeably different. “Do you remember we discussed that grandma’s body was going to stop working soon?” I asked her. “Yes” she responded. “Well it stopped working just a few minutes ago” I said. “Why?” She asked. “Because that was all the time on earth her body had left.” “You can still go in and see her and I can hold your hand.” We sat with my mother and my daughter began to cry, somehow I did not, I just comforted. I was her rock and held her in my arms for as long as she needed me to. When she stopped crying, she opened her backpack and gave my mother a painting she had made for her at school “Goodbye grandma, I love you” she said and blew her a kiss. We got up together, dusted ourselves off and went to the Living Room to play, while our nurses prepared my mother’s body.

The following is a list of books we read after my mother died and a DVD by Sesame Street for children.

1. When Someone Very Special Dies, By Marge Heegaard

2. Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley

3. The Invisible String By Patrice Karst

4. The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, By Leo Buscaglia

5. http://www.sesameworkshop.org/what-we-do/our-initiatives/when-families-grieve/ When Families Grieve, a Guide for Parents and Caregivers Presented by New York Life with a Sesame Street DVD

6. http://www.newyorklife.com/nyl/v/index.jsp?contentId=17798&vgnextoid=1ec16f21189d2210a2b3019d221024301cacRCRD After a Loved One Dies Booklet- How Children Grieve And how parents and other adults can support them. By The New York Life foundation. The website has this as a free download along with much more wonderful information.

Books for me:

1. Motherless Daughters, By Hope Edelman

2. Motherless Mothers, How Mother Loss Shapes The Parents We Become, By Hope Edelman

Aside from reading and discussion, we created a journal for my mother, written by my daughter. Some examples of the pages were:

1. Our relationship was very special… Here I’ll describe things we did together…

2. Our funniest times together…

3. My feelings…..I feel….

4. I feel loved when…..

5. Questions I have for Mom……

6. Words that describe Grandma…..

7. Things Grandma liked…

This year we will be creating a scrapbook together of photographs of my mother’s life.

Other links:
1. “New York Life is committed to helping children who have experienced the death of a loved one. Their website, http://achildingrief.com supports the parents, family, and teachers of bereaved kids and includes a comprehensive, state by state list of local support services for grieving children; book lists; articles; and materials to order, as well as links to other helpful organizations.”

2. National Alliance for Grieving Children “provides a network for nationwide communication among hundreds of children’s bereavement centers who want to share ideas, information and resources with each other to better support the families they serve in their own communities.”

3. Nonprofit, Gilda’s Club chapters offer support for people with Cancer and their familiy. They offer a variety of lectures, workshops, fun social events for adults and children and a variety of classes. They also offer support in Spanish here in Chicago. The club was named in tribute to comic actress Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer. This link is for the downtown Chicago location, you can Google your particular city.

Another thing I’d like to mention is that our play became very therapeutic. My daughter began using death and cancer as subjects in her play with her dolls and in role playing with family and friends. We used our toy doctor kit often. This is incredibly healthy for children, as a way for them to process their grief. It passed, as all things do. But it did go on for several months.

I hope my story can bring you hope and help and comfort in your grief. I am not an expert, (although I know quite a few who were so helpful during this experience). I am however, a mother, doing the best I can with the resources I have available to me and I am happy to pass on what I know, in hopes that it may help someone else. I wish you Peace in your own grieving.

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Ribbon and Paper Clouds

Hello everyone! I hope you all found lovely ways to celebrate Earth Day yesterday. Today I am doing part two of our little wall series. This craft was originally from this mom blogger: http://www.meetthedubiens.com/2013/03/a-happy-cloud-and-rainbow-craft.html

I came across her website while searching for bento box ideas and found some lovely crafts to boot! I made a few minor changes to make it fit my personal style.

This craft is also very sentimental to me, as tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. I was preparing this craft while she was in her final weeks. A music therapist from our hospice came to play music and sing at her bedside. As my daughter and I put this cloud together in the other room, we could hear “Somewhere over the rainbow” in the most beautiful, soothing voice. That song was a favorite of my mother’s, we would sing it together, she would sing it to me while I was sick, or having trouble sleeping. These little clouds on our wall are a memory of that day and of all the days she loved me so. I hope you enjoy it.

Let’s get started

Tools for the trade:

1. White paper- We used cardstock. If you do not have cardstock, you can use printer paper, old mail, the blank side of a letter, felt, cardboard painted white etc.

2. Circle punch- You can trace circles onto paper with a can and cut out with scissors.

3. Bits of colored paper- Little scraps to make the face.

4. Scissors

5. Glue stick and white glue

6. Colored Ribbon- If you do not have ribbon use thin strips of paper, left over party streamers, strips of thin fabric scraps etc.


The how to:

1. Begin by punching out your circles, we used a 2.5 inch punch and made 9 circles.


2. Use your glue stick to adhere the pieces together, arranging them to look like a fluffy cloud.

3. Cut out 2 little eyes and a mouth using your paper scraps and glue them onto your cloud with your glue stick.


4. Turn the cloud over and get all of your ribbon laid out.This is where we used our white glue, slather a generous amount onto the back of your cloud and adhere your ribbon, trim ends.

5. Let dry completely

6. We made 2 versions of these. This craft is so fun to wave around in the air, that I added a colored popsicle stick for holding. During a play date with 3 girls it was so neat to see all of these flying in the winds of spring as they ran outside. They also double as masks this way.

Just glue on a popsicle stick for holding!

7. The original we have hanging up on our wall.


I hope you enjoyed this craft. Be sure to check out the Meet the Dubiens blog for the original post linked above and her many other wonderful crafts.

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Simple Paper Garlands


Hello world! What a wonderful day to craft. This is a wall my daughter and I put together 2 years ago when she was 4 years old. I will be making 3 posts. One on the garland, one for the ribbon cloud and one for our fish. Today I will begin with the hanging garland.

Let’s get this party started!

As always, I am all about using what you have around the house. Growing up money was tight. My mother was the Macgyver of crafting, we used every scrap of fabric, string, cardboard, paper to make the loveliest things at home.

Tools for the trade:
1. Paper- I used colorful text paper from The Paper Source. You can use newspaper, magazine pages, construction paper, cardstock etc.

2. Paper punches- I used a circle punch and a mini heart punch. You can simply cut shapes out with scissors if you do not have punches. Use a soup can, yogurt lid etc. to trace a circle onto paper and cut out with scissors.

3. Glue stick– to glue the tiny hearts to to the circles.

4. String- We used yarn because that’s  what we had. You can use twine, string, cord, dental floss, thread. Anything to string up those cute circles.

5. Tape- We used simple Scotch tape to tape the string onto the backs. You can use any tape or punch holes for stringing.

The how to:


1. Begin by punching out or cutting your shapes.

2. Once everything is cut out, organize the circles in a straight line and add your hearts creating the pattern of your choice. It took us a while to come up with one we liked. I love just playing with the order. Isn’t color so inspiring?


3. Take your glue stick and glue your little hearts onto the center of your circles. You can use any shape in place of a heart. Stars, triangles, diamonds. The possibilities are endless!

4. Once all of the hearts are glued on, turn all of the circles over and place your string on top of them all lengthwise. Then tape each circle down as in the photo above. We used Scotch tape and our garlands have been up for two whole years with no issue. You can get fancy and do it another way.

So there you go! A rainbow of love for your walls. So cute.

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What’s playing in the craft room: Sylvan Esso, Elizabeth Mitchell, The Beatles

Sylvan Esso has been on heavy rotation in my craft room. They are an indie duo, with a self titled album that released last year. The female vocalist Amelia Meath has such an enchanting voice, partnered with Nicholas Sanborn’s mixes, they are a musical match made in heaven. I have an enourmous love for music. All genres, cultures, so on occasion, I will post what is playing in the craft room. As you read, we had the Beatles on with our sun craft, and Elisabeth Mitchell’s voice joined us at dinner.  I hope you will enjoy these tunes as well.

Here is Sylvan Esso’s live set on KCRW if you would like to hear an interview and listen to them live.


Elisabeth Mitchell is a folk artist that makes albums for children. This is a link to her latest album for a listen we do not have this latest one but enjoy Sunny Day:


And the Beatles well they need no link because um, they are the Beatles.

Easy paper sun craft


Little darling
It’s been a long, cold lonely winter
Little darling
It feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun,
and I say, It’s all right

The Beatles – “Here Comes The Sun” Lyrics inspired this little sun craft. Spring has arrived in the Midwest! This is my all time favorite song to welcome spring. I grew up in the Midwest, so you would think I can handle the weather, but living in Los Angeles just ruins one’s ability to handle any weather outside of wonderfully perfect. Ha.

Onward to crafting!

Tools for the trade:

1. Scissors
2. Glue- we used a glue stick
3. Paper- Construction paper or Card stock and also a decorative paper such as scrapbook paper/ gift wrap/specialty paper, just to add dimension and some pop.

We used yellow and orange cardstock and a lovely printed handmade paper from “The Paper Source” that my brother gave us.

4. A lid or some sort of template for your round sun base. We used a toy cookie jar lid.

5. Ruler or any straight edge to trace out triangles for your sun rays.


1. Use your lid to trace the circles on to your paper.

2. Cut them out with scissors

3. Use your straight edge to draw triangles. Cut those out as well

4. Because my decorative paper was very thin, I used the glue stick to glue the backs onto card stock to make them thicker and give them support. You may want to do the same if you are using gift wrap for example, or a thinner paper such as we did.

5. Glue the wide edge of your triangle sun rays to the back edge of the sun circle bases and let dry. If you have curling, simply place under a heavy book.

You can punch a hole and string for hanging if you wish. We simply taped ours up with some crafted paper clouds and butterflies and made a little wall scene. I will post the ribbon cloud craft in a day or two.

Enjoy the sun!

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