2013 in review: Thanks to all who visited and made this blog possible! Happy New Year!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,600 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 60 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

My MG Historical: Wheels of Change Cover Reveal

After waiting two years since signing the contract for my first MG novel, the day has come when I finally got to see the cover for WHEELS OF CHANGE (www.crestonbooks.com).   As many of you who’ve had books published know, it is exciting to see it for the first time.  For those who are waiting for that day, I hope you will still celebrate with me.

Now…without further ado…I would like to present…

 

 

WoCCover01Pretty amazing, huh?  Designed by the Editor/Publisher at Creston Books who also happens to be the Author/Illustrator, Marissa Moss. I couldn’t be happier.

 

 

Calling All Young Writers

If your child loves to create stories, there are two websites that will encourage this skill by publishing the effort.

1. At  http://www.Boomwriter.com   young writers pick a story start and then make Chapter Two their own.  Other children vote on which second chapter they like best, and so on until the story is completed.  Then the finished books are available to purchase.

2. Writers and Artists are invited to submit to the print magazine STONE SOUP.  This magazine publishes the work of children aged 8-13.  To learn more and read some of the stories visit:  http://www.Stonesoup.com

3. Older children might want to check out THE SLAM feature of CICADA Magazine. Writers submit their poems to the online forum and have them critiqued by other readers.  The best ones make it into the magazine each month.  http://www.cicadamag.com/theslam

Mint Bark Candy – Revisited

Since this was one of my most popular posts last holiday season, I am posting it again this year for those who missed it.

It is easy to make some candy treats to give away for the holidays.  To make some MINT BARK all you need is the following:  peppermint or spearmint hard candies, white, milk or dark chocolate morsels.

1. Unwrap the mints and place them in a Ziploc bag. seal and crush with a rolling pin or hammer until small chunks remain.  DON”T pulverize them unless you want peppermint dust!

2.  Melt the morsels in a microwave safe bowl for 1-2 minutes or until the chocolate is spreadable.

3.  Spread waxed paper on a cookie sheet.  Pour the chocolate onto the waxed paper.  Sprinkle the melted chocolate with the crushed peppermint.  Let it harden in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

4.  As you peel off the waxed paper, break the bark into small chunks.  Place in bags or containers to give as gifts.

You can also substitute chopped nuts, raisins, or dried cranberries and cherries for the mint pieces.  Happy Holidays!

A Writer’s Letter to Santa

Robin…I couldn’t have said it better. This letter speaks to the heart of all of us writers. Happy Holidays!

cherub2

Dear Santa,

I’ve been a good girl this year.  All right, “girl” may be a bit of a stretch, and “good” may not be 100% true, but I don’t recall “good” being a previously defined term.  Seems to me there might be some flexibility in there.  Don’t you think?

Perhaps I should rephrase?  I’ve been semi-good.  Partially good?  Theoretically?  Spiritually?  Well intended?  Is goodness really the end-all?  Seems a little overrated, like vampires and zombies, if you ask me.  One of those “been there, done that” kind of concepts.  Aren’t you tired of reading the same old material?  How about something original?

I sense this pitch isn’t going well.  Let me start over.

Dear Santa,

You look marvelous!  Is that a new suit?  Red is really your color.  And that glorious beard!  Not a cookie crumb in there!  How do you do it?

So, I’ve been a good writer this…

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Guest Post by Jen Bardsley: Book Review: Overcoming Dyslexia

Jennifer Bardsley, who visited last week with a great post on how to encourage kids to read new books, is back with a book review on an interesting and often misunderstood subject: Dyslexia.

A beautiful book about overcoming dyslexia.

When I was a brand new teacher, I once had a third grade student tell me to “hold the book steady Teacher, because the letters are moving.”  This was a major red flag!  Ever since, I have been on the hunt for resources to help me better understand dyslexia, which was what my student struggled with.  That’s why I was so excited to read The Wild Book by Margarita Engle.  This is a book for middle grade readers that tells the story of Fefa, who grows up in turn-of-the-century Cuba. Fefa struggles with “word blindness”, aka dyslexia.

The Wild Book is written as a collection of poems that together tell a complex and engaging story.  It has an extremely low word-count, which makes it approachable for struggling readers.    Most importantly, The Wild Book looks and feels like a regular novel.  The cover art by Yuyi Morales is absolutely beautiful.  No student would feel ashamed for having this book in her arms, even though it is a book about a tween’s struggle with dyslexia.

I have never read anything by Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle before, but she is now on my list of authors to check out!    

Jennifer Bardsley writes the parenting column I Brake for Moms for The Everett Daily Herald. Her dream is to spark a national conversation about how massive parental involvement is the key to high quality education. When she’s not reading books with her kids or tripping over their toys, she blogs about early education at Teaching My Baby to Read.

Adopt a Family For Christmas – Two Ways to Help

1. The SALVATION ARMY has a program that matches up struggling families with individuals or group sponsors who provide them with holiday food and gifts. You can fill a family’s “wish list” which typically includes clothing and toys. Since this is a national organization, you can request to help local families if you wish.  Visit http://www.SalvationArmyUSA.org  for more information on how to help.

2. Mail a Care Package to a member of the military serving overseas.  You can look up specific requests for reading material, DVD’s, games, and relief supplies from service members in all branches of the military.   Pack the items with a letter and ship them off.  Visit:  http://www.booksforsoldiers.com 

You don’t have to wait until this time of year to help those in need.  These, and other organizations service people in need all year round.  What better way to keep the holiday spirit all year round than by giving a bit of ourselves to others.  May your holidays  – and every day – be blessed.

Laura Sassi, Spinning Tales in Prose and Rhyme

This is such a wonderful post, I thought I’d give it another “shout out” by reblogging.

LauraSassi

Today I am thrilled to interview poet, author, and blogger extraordinaire, Laura Sassi.

Laura’s poems, stories, articles and crafts have appeared in many publications, including Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr., FamilyFun, and Pack-O-Fun.  She has a passion for playing with words and rhyming, and her first picture book, Goodnight, Ark, a rhymer, is coming out in 2014 (Zonderkidz, a HarperCollins Co.).  You can follow Laura at her wonderful blog, “Laura Sassi Tales: Celebrating Writing, Reading and Life.”  

Laura is represented by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Laura writes from her century-old home in New Jersey where she lives with her awesome husband, two adorable kids, and a black Cockapoo, named Sophie.

Laura, thanks so much for doing this interview.

Let’s start at the beginning.  When did you start writing? …

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Crescent Butter Cookies

Crescent Butter Cookies

2 sticks butter at room temperature,  ¾ C sour cream or greek plain yogurt, yolk from one large egg, 2 ½ C all-purpose flour.

         Beat butter, sour cream, and egg yolk in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.

         With mixer on low speed, gradually beat in flour until blended into a soft dough.

         Divide dough into fourths and wrap separately in waxed paper.  Chill one hour or over night, until firm enough to roll.

Filling: ¾ C sugar, ¾ C finely chopped walnuts, 1 tsp. cinnamon.

         Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Have ungreased cookie sheets ready.

         On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of dough at a time into a circle about 11 inches in diameter.  Sprinkle with ¼ of the filling.  (See photo A)                       photo A

    Using a pizza wheel or small knife, cut circle into 16 wedges.  (photo B)   

photo B

photo B

        Using a small metal spatula or knife, slide out one wedge and roll  up from wide edge to point to form a crescent.  Repeat with remaining wedges.

         Curve into crescent shapes on cookie sheet.  (photo C)

        photo c

         Bake 25 minutes or until just golden.  Cool and store in airtight container or tins for up to 2 weeks.

You can bake these fancy, simple treats to give as gifts, or for a holiday party.  They add a festive and pretty touch to any holiday table. Besides that, they’re yummy!                photo D

          

          

Fast and Easy Wreath Ornaments

Here is a quick and simple craft your kids can make in only a few minutes.

Holiday Wreath:  To make these wreaths, you will need the following:

Fabric scraps of various colors,  metal or wooden rings,   (you can get these at any craft store)    wreath ringsscissors,  yarn for hanging.

1. Cut the fabric into strip about 5-6 inches long.         rag strips

2. Begin to tie the strips onto the ring.  You can use use all one color, alternate various colors or patterns, depending on what effect you want.  Don’t be afraid to experiment.   If you make a mistake, just untie it and start again.  When you’re finished, tie a piece of yarn onto the ring to hang the ornament.  These can also be used to hold cloth napkins at the table, or a pillar candle. 

rag wreath 1   You can also glue on beads or small pom poms to decorate.   Use your imagination to come up with all kinds of variations.  They make great teacher or last minute gifts.   Your children will be happy to give a gift they made themselves.                                        rag wreath 2