Super Simple Squash Soup

One proven way to get your children to eat more veggies is to have them grow, shop for and help prepare vegetables for meals.  This easy recipe will give them a chance to try some squash in a delicious and easy to eat way: soup.  This recipe calls for one 3lb butternut squash to be peeled, seeded and cut into chunks.  A visit to most grocery stores will eliminate this step. Cubed squash is available in the produce section ready to use.

Use either leeks or an onion that you dice.  Soften the onion in a pot with a T of olive oil.  Add the prepared squash, 3 C milk, 3 C water, and salt and pepper to taste. 

squash soup 2Bring to a boil and let simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the squash is soft enough to mash with a fork.

Using a blender or food processor, puree the soup in batches until it is smooth.  It may be thick.  You can thin it with milk or water to your liking.  Add salt and pepper if needed and sprinkle with nutmeg.  To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with diced apple and a few chopped walnuts if desired.  It is also fine just the way it is.  This soup tastes best hot and can be stored in the fridge for a few days.  It also freezes well.  Make a big batch and save some for another day.                                                                        squash soup 1

David and Goliath?

Here’s a great post on how to support indie bookstores.

Writing and Illustrating

lena shiffman

I thought this snowy January Night illustration sent in by Lena Shiffman was a good fit with this post. Put on those boots and take your bag and buy a book at an indiebound bookstore. Lena was featured on Illustrator Saturday on January 22, 2011.

Leslie Zampetti who has been a guest blogger on Writing and Illustrating wrote me last week and asked if I would reblog her post on Rear in Gear ( She said, “I’m really on board with supporting indie bookstores, and I don’t think people are aware of how much they can do – even over the web.” I think we all are sad when an independent book store has to close it’s doors, so I am reblogging her post to give us all food for thought.

I buy tons of books for my Kindle, because it is fast, cheap, and convenient. If I am…

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I Have a Dream…of Service to Others.

To celebrate and honor the memory of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, take a day sometime next week and be of service to someone.  You don’t have to spend money, just your time.  What you give will pale in comparison to what you and your children will receive.  Here are a weeks worth of suggestions for how to serve.

1. Read stories to children at local hospitals. You can also play simple games with them.

2. Help a senior learn the computer.  Or help her do chores around the house.

3. Gather up your old toys and donate them to a local shelter, preschool or after school program.

4. Clean up your favorite park by bagging up trash and recyclables for proper disposal.

5. Visit your local animal shelter and adopt an animal for the day (or longer…sometimes they’re so hard to resist).

6. Sing songs, play instruments or perform simple skits at a local senior housing facility.  Many seniors are lonely and really enjoy having young people around.  You could also play cards or board games with them.

7. Make cookies and give them away to someone who might be in need of company.  Bring along some hot chocolate and have an impromptu party.

Children learn to be gracious and of service when we practice generosity. No money required.  Give your time to others…the gift that keeps on giving.

Got Books? Part 2

A while back I posted some ideas on what to do with books that were no longer wanted.  Here are two more things we can do to keep books out of landfills and get them to people who really appreciate the written word in book form.

The first one involves a bit of carpentry –  or not.  You can either make a wooden box mounted on a post or buy one tailored for the following purpose: A Little Free Library. This movement began in Wisconsin when Todd Bol mounted a wooden box filled with books outside his home.  Today there are more than 10,000 “little free libraries” around the world.  This is a great Scout or Youth Group project as well.  People can take a book or put one in. You can share your favorite books and borrow others.  For more info on how to build or where too buy one of these boxes, visit:

Family to Family is an organization that helps families who have experienced disasters such as the tornado in Oklahoma.  The organization is collecting books for these families and can help tell you how you can be a part of the effort.  Go to:   for more information.

The Rule of Threes in Picture Books

Congratulations to my writer friend and featured Author of this blog: Tara Lazar, for the sale of her newest PB titled 7 Ate 9.

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)


Allow me to be Andy Rooney for a moment.

Imagine me as a white-haired, bulbous, salty old man with a whiny accent.


I know, it’s hard. But just IMAGINE. (By the way, isn’t “bulbous” a marvelous word? I think we, as writers, should seek its descriptive assistance more often. But sorry, I digress. Back to being Andy…)

“Ya ever wonder why so many children’s books feature THREES? Goldilocks and the THREE Bears? The THREE Little Pigs? Snow White and the SEVEN Dwarfs? No wait…I miscounted…I mean The THREE Billy Goat’s Gruff?”

Yes, there’s something downright appealing about the number THREE. (P.S., I’ve returned to being Tara. Thank goodness ’cause those eyebrows are itchy.)

It’s like two is too little. And four is too many. As Goldi would say, three is “just right”. Three is as satisfying as a warm, comfy little bed. (Until the three bears arrive home, that…

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Interview With Children’s Author Sudipta Bardhan Quallen

I am re-posting this earlier interview with PB Author Sudipta Bardhan Quallen because today is the release of her newest picture book titled: DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE.  Her books are always so much fun to read.  So check it out!

DDM cover

This month it is my pleasure to share an interview with Children’s Book Author Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen.  I first met Sudipta at the NJSCBWI Conference in 2011.  She conducted an amazing workshop session on how to write Picture Books (PB) that sell.  She shared her format and tips for successful PB writing. If anyone has a magic formula it is she.  Her career has included such fiction titles as HAMPIRE, CHICKS RUN WILD, PIRATE PRINCESS, and HALF-PINT PETE THE PIRATE.  She’s also written a series of non-fiction Science books with titles such as: LAST MINUTE SCIENCE FAIR PROJECTS, NATURE SCIENCE and KITCHEN SCIENCE, among others

Thanks for joining me Sudipta.

  1. You’ve carved out a successful career as a Children’s Book author and workshop presenter.  How did this come about?

Years of hard work and perseverance? J I’m not sure how to answer this question…nor am I sure how successful I am. I do know that I write books that I am proud of, that I try to tell an interesting story in each of my books and tell a relevant story in each of my workshops. I’m lucky, really – I have had the good fortune to find an audience for both my books and my talks!

  1. What was your first book?  Did you sell it through an agent?

My first picture book was TIGHTROPE POPPY, THE HIGH-WIRE PIG, and I did not sell it through an agent. I did, however, sell POPPY to an editor that I was already working with.  She had published some of my science books so it was easy to send her one more manuscript, even though it was so different from what we had been doing. Luckily, it was also the right fit for her.  That is how I broke into the picture book market.

  1. Your  PB’s are fun, playful  and adventurous tales with lots of kid appeal.  Where do you get your ideas and how long does it typically take to complete the first draft of a story?

Ideas come from everywhere but they are usually married to something autobiographical.  It is unusual for my main character to not be a proxy for myself or my children.  The premise, however, could be taken from anywhere, either personal experience or something that I have heard or read about. 

In terms of completing a first draft, it’s difficult to give a discrete window.  Some books take a matter of days and some take months to complete a first draft.  However, if you ask how long it takes for a manuscript to be publication-ready, that’s easier for me to answer – that’s typically 12-18 months.

  1. What’s a typical day like for you?

I am the single mother of three. There is no such thing as a “typical” day! Every day is a mix of being a parent, trying to write, managing the business side of what I do, and attempting to have a personal life. Balance is precarious but is always the goal!

  1. Whose PB writing/books do you most admire?  Which of your books is your favorite?

I guess as the person I most admire I can’t choose myself, huh? J Both of these are such difficult questions to answer.  It’s like asking me to name my favorite child! So many of my favorite authors are good friends of mine, so if I were to pick only one as my favorite the others would never speak to me again and throw pies at me in public.

Similarly, which of my creations could I select as my favorite?  Wouldn’t that suggest that mommy doesn’t like all of the other ones? J

I’ll be a good sport though and give you the names of a few picture book authors I truly admire (in no particular order):  Amy Dyckman, Audrey Vernick, Kat Yeh, Leeza Hernandez, Joyce Wan, and Tara Lazar.

  1. Many authors work at other jobs to pay the bills.  You don’t.  Tell us how and what you do between projects to keep funds coming in.

The more successful I get the less time I have to actually write to support my writing career.  I end up doing a lot of appearances or events like school visits, book festivals or professional development for educators.  It’s been a very interesting journey because when I first became an author I thought that would be a very solitary life.  Now I spend about half of my time speaking in front of large groups of people.  The other half I spend in my jammy jams.

  1. Tell us a bit about your background and what you did before you became a writer.

I didn’t start writing until pretty late in life (becoming a writer was just pretty much the last thing I ever expected to be doing). I was a PhD candidate in developmental neurobiology at Caltech when I had one baby, my daughter Isabella. Fourteen months after that, I had another baby. Then I learned that babies have this way of changing your life and turning everything you had planned on its ear. All of a sudden, I didn’t want to be a scientist so much as I wanted to be a mother.

About six months after Brooklyn (my second) was born, I decided that just being home being a mom wasn’t what I wanted – I definitely cherished my time with my kids, but I wanted to have something more, something that was mine. I thought I could write with two babies in the house – which was utterly silly because you can’t do anything with two babies in the house!

  1. Complete this sentence: I can’t live without________________________.

If we skip the obvious answers of my children, my work, etc, here are three ways I would finish this sentence (in no particular order)

a)      Mounds bars                                                     SAMSUNG CSC

b)      My Galaxy phone

c)      Air conditioning

  1. What are your current projects?

I am still working on a new chapter book series called, “The Spectacles of Destiny”.  That takes a big chunk of my time.  But that doesn’t mean that I have abandoned picture books.  I have a few ideas that I am tossing around but they’re still too embryonic to share.

  1. Tell us some amazing/rewarding feedback you’ve gotten from readers of your books.

I met a boy in California once who came for a book signing before I went to his school.  He was very shy both times that I saw him.  But afterwards, his teacher told me that for the next show and tell, this boy brought in one of my books, QUACKENSTEIN HATCHES A FAMILY, and proceeded to show his class his favorite page.  He started on the first page and said that was his favorite page.  Then he turned the page and said that that was his favorite page.  Then he showed the third page and that was his favorite…he eventually showed the entire book. 

I was recently in Knoxville, TN for a children’s book festival and many parents came up to me and said that they had received my books through the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.  Many said these books are family favorites.  I had never been to Tennessee before.  It gave me an appreciation for how many people have been touched by my work.

  1. What is something that readers may not know about you?

That I don’t like real animals anywhere near as much as I like the imaginary ones I write about.

  1. If you could relive one day of your life over again, which would you choose and why?

I don’t look back. Sure, I’ve made a lot of mistakes and faced a lot of disappointments, but every one of those mistakes and heartaches led me to the place I’m in now – and it’s a truly good place.

  1. Any final thoughts or words of wisdom for new authors regarding marketing or promotion of books?

I think the best advice I can give is that you should remember what you are promoting – and realize that it isn’t your newest book. Authors are best served by learning to promote themselves first and their newest book second – after all, do you want your fans to buy just one book of yours, or your entire catalogue because they can’t get enough of your words?

 Thanks Sudipta.  I’ve really enjoyed this opportunity to get to know you better. 

You can learn more about Sudipta and her books at:

 FB author page:

Twitter: @SudiptaBQ




Believe it or not, January 8th is NATIONAL BUBBLE BATH DAY.  Why not celebrate the event with a relaxing bubble bath…just like when you were a kid.  You and your children can enjoy playing in the bubbles using your imagination to make puppy ears, beards, unicorn horns…all from bubbles.  But don’t stop there. You can also bring in memories of summer by making your own bubble solution and having a BUBBLE BLOWING PARTY.  What better way to ward off the cold winter and being stuck indoors.  There is something about blowing bubbles that is relaxing, fun and making your own bubble solution is easy.

Combine 5 cups of water with 1/2 cup of dishwashing soap and 1-2 tablespoons of glycerine (available at any pharmacy).  You can bend wire coat hangers or use a plastic berry basket as bubble wands.  Why wait until summer?  Celebrate the joy of Bubbles all year round.