Celebrate Tea Month With…Tea Party Books.

Monday’s post was all about preparing  tea and how to have a fun-filled tea party.  Today I am bringing you some picture and middle grade books whose theme’s are TEA PARTIES.

  1. TEA PARTY RULES by Ame Dyckman, Illustrated by K G Campbell, is a delightful tale of a bear who wants to come to a little girls tea party.  But, he has a hard time following all her rules.
  2. MISS SPIDER’S TEA PARTY by David Kirk.  The title tells it all in this unique “spin” on the tea party genre.
  3. FANCY NANCY TEA PARTIES by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser.  Nancy at her word-licious best presenting the ins and outs of a tea party.
  4. THE BOSTON TEA PARTY by Russell Freedman, illustrated by Peter Malone.

5. A soon-to-be-released book by Marissa Moss (Abrams) is titled AMERICA’S TEA PARTIES. This non-fiction book for middle grades tells of not just the famous Boston Tea Party, but also three others that took place in Philadelphia, Charleston, and New York.         Here’s the link to pre-order a copy: http://www.abramsbooks.com/product/americas-tea-parties_9781419718748/

6. Finally, my own MG historical WHEELS OF CHANGE features a pivotal scene where the heroine Emily hosts her first tea party.  Two of the guests include her nemesis – Beatrice Peabody – and her insufferable, and opinionated mother.  Emily is doing fine serving tea to the guests until Mrs. Peabody voices her opinion regarding Henry – a beloved employee of Emily’s Papa.  This is the moment when Emily discovers an unconventional use for tea.


Wheels of change is available at Amazon or bookstores nationwide.   ISBN: 978-1-939547-13-2





Celebrate Hot Tea Month: Tea Parties Take 1

If you’ve never attended a formal tea ceremony or party, you’re missing a real treat.  I had the pleasure of sampling teas, finger sandwiches, and sweet treats like biscuits (what the British call cookies), and scones with clotted cream several years ago at a high tea ceremony in Vancouver.  But you don’t have to travel anywhere to enjoy a delicious cup of tea. Even kids can enjoy one…there are so many herbal varieties, so we don’t need to worry about caffeine.

January happens to be HOT TEA MONTH.  Here’s a link on how to brew a “Proper cuppa tea”.   http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-proper-cup-of-tea/              100_0382

While you’re enjoying sipping tea,  why not make some OLD FASHIONED TEA CAKES to have with a your tea?  Here is a link to one recipe:


You can also check my  previous blog posts for sugar cookies, and gingerbread.  Both go perfectly with a cup of tea.

Enjoy a tea party of your own in style. Set out cloth napkins, your best china and dress up for the occasion.  Kids love to pretend and it’s a great opportunity to review table manners and wind down from a hectic day.  Everything is meant to stop during tea time.  Just enjoy a relaxing hour of warm drinks, sweet nibbles, and pleasant conversation.  For more ideas on how to set a table, themes, and what to serve:  http://www.tea-party-circle.com/tea-party-decorations.html

Here’s a link for some make-your-own PAPER TEA CUPS AND SAUCERS and some nifty tea party games you can play. http://www.redtedart.com/2014/05/06/paper-teacup-printable-tea-party-games/

Friday I’ll show you some picture books and middle grade stories that feature tea parties.  Stay tuned.

Interview With YA Author Mimi Cross + Book Give-away.

My friend and fellow author MIMI CROSS, just launched her debut book, BEFORE GOODBYE,  a YA contemporary that’s has all the elements of a page turner – teen angst, love lost and found, dealing with loss, friendship and who to trust, and more.  One lucky reader of this blog will have a chance to win a signed copy of the book.  See the end of the post to learn how.  For now, here’s Mimi:

Hey Darlene, thanks for having me on your blog.          mimi photo

You’ve asked me to answer a few questions, including how I came to write children’s books. This is probably the only thing about writing prose that’s crystal clear for me: the inspiration came from my son.

Up until my son was born, for nearly twenty years, I’d been a singer songwriter. I taught music in the schools for fifteen of those years, after receiving my Bachelor of Music from Ithaca College. I wrote stories as a kid and then again during grad school at NYU, but nothing really came of those efforts, probably because I was so focused on creating a career as a musician—although even as I write this I’m thinking: that’s not totally true. Writing is cumulative, and all creative efforts contribute The Work in some mysterious way.

Performing became impossible after my son was born, mostly because I wanted to spend every second with him. Plus, performing has a lot of moving parts. Some people can tote a couple of guitars and diaper bag at the same time, but not me.

Thankfully, the desire to create didn’t disappear, and when my son was a few years old, I wrote a bunch of stories for him. Two of those stories evolved into projects that were a lot of fun for both of us: The Crankamacallit an iPad app published by Polymash, and The Alligator Waiter, which was published by Abe’s Peanut.

But the thing is? WRITING PICTURE BOOK STORIES IS REALLY HARD. Also, picture books have an extremely important audience, the most important audience, so they have to be great. Or—they should be great. Their simplicity and beauty, among other traits, places them (at least in my mind) among the highest forms of—

Whoa. That’s a lot of pressure.   And under that pressure, I did what any writer would do: I read. A lot.

I’d always been a big reader, but at that point I became a voracious reader. A chain reader. An armchair traveler in every way. I read for escape and for—


This inspiration, plus Chris Baty’s brilliant and irreverent book No Plot? No Problem got me going—I started writing novels. A few friends had already suggested I might enjoy NaNoWriMo, the wildly popular 50,000 words-in-thirty days writing marathon that Chris Baty founded, and they were right. I loved it. The words started gushing out like blood from a wound.

Another thing that helped the blood flow? Yoga.

I’ve been doing yoga on and off since I was twelve and in 2001, and after living at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health for a month while taking their rigorous teacher training program, I became a certified Kripalu yoga instructor. Yoga is a transformative practice for the body, mind, and spirit—but don’t take my word for it. There are a ton of books out there, and a million yoga studios. If you do start taking yoga classes, one thing I can guarantee is that you will begin inhabiting your body in a different way. And if you’re a writer, this way will help you inhabit the bodies of your characters.

A couple of years ago I created a workshop called Body of Writing that combines yoga postures, yogic breathing techniques, visualization, and meditation with writing exercises. Our bodies hold our stories, and Body of Writing safely supports the release of those stories onto the page. I’ve taught Body of Writing as a series, in private standalone sessions to boost creativity, and as a four-hour intensive at writing conferences. It’s such a pleasure to share the very things that have helped me be more creative. I love watching the magic happen.

This same magic is what helped me write Before Goodbye, a process that took several years to complete. I wrote Before Goodbye in between working on two other novels, one of which will be coming out in May 2016, called Shining Sea.

A dark fantasy, Shining Sea is a very different novel than Before Goodbye, which is a realistic, contemporary romance. And while both books are character driven, I think of Before Goodbye as a series of vignettes, while Shining Sea is an epic tome. Out of the two, Before Goodbye surprised me the most. It started out as a completely different story!

But that’s the joy of writing.             Cross-Before Goodbye cover

Cate Reese, one of the main characters in Before Goodbye, is a musician, and tries to control her music. But close to the end of the book, Cate concludes, “Singing with a band is trampolining with your breath. A sound you make that makes you too.”

I hesitate to say that Before Goodbye has a message—that’s not how I think when I write. But I can tell you that one of the main themes of the book is this: If you let it, Art will shape you.
Website: http://www.mimicross.com
To pre-order book: http://www.amazon.com/Before-Goodbye-Mimi-Cross/dp/1503951286/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
Twitter: @mimicross
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mimicrosswrites             

Here’s the press release:

A Novel  By Mimi Cross

Can Cate recover after losing her friend and muse?

Mimi Cross, an award-winning and celebrated musician/songwriter, delivers a brave and heart-wrenching YA novel with her debut BEFORE GOODBYE (Skyscape, January 1, 2016). During her musical career, Cross has shared the bill with Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Bonnie Raitt, and Jon Bon Jovi, and Grammy award-winning artist Rosanne Cash has praised her saying, “Mimi fuses delicacy and power, heart and gut. Her writing and singing are inspiring, evocative and refreshing.” As a novelist, Cross channels the same raw passion and intensity to tell the story of Cate, a young guitarist coping with hurt, confusion, and heartbreak.

Music means more than anything to high school student Cate Reese; it’s also what unites her with Cal Woods. Devoted classical guitar players, Cate and Cal are childhood friends newly smitten by love—until a devastating car accident rips Cal out of Cate’s life forever. Blaming herself for the horrific tragedy and struggling to surface from her despair, Cate spirals downhill in a desperate attempt to ease her pain.

Fellow student David Bennet might look like the school’s golden boy, but underneath the surface the popular athlete battles demons of his own. Racked with survivor’s guilt after his brother’s suicide, things get worse when tragedy darkens his world again—but connecting with Cate, his sister’s longtime babysitter, starts bringing the light back in. As Cate and David grow closer, the two shattered teenagers learn to examine the pieces of their lives . . . and, together, find a way to be whole again.

Beautifully written and emotionally resonant, BEFORE GOODBYE is a mesmerizing debut that reminds readers that you can find hope in times of tragedy—and harmony in times of discord.

 BEFORE GOODBYE by Mimi Cross * On-Sale Date: January 1, 2016
Price: $24.95 hardcover, $9.99 paperback, $5.99 eBook * Skyscape

Now, if you’d like to win a signed copy of BEFORE GOODBYE just leave a comment on this post.  Your name will be entered once.  Tweet about it or share the post on FB and your name will be entered again.  Let me know what you are doing so I can give you the correct number of entries.  You have until Wednesday, 1-27, 2016, when the winner will be announced.  Good luck!

Preserve Memories With a Time Capsule.

Pop culture and technology seem to change so quickly.  There is always something new on the horizon.  What we and our children seem to adore now, may be headed for the trash bin next year.  Instead, why not preserve some memories of things you love by creating your own TIME CAPSULE.  It’s easy.

Get a clean jar or coffee can – something with a tight lid.   Now, fill it with things that you want to remember years from now.  Favorite photos, art work, report cards, trinkets or souvenirs from vacations or fun events, postcards, lists of popular songs, toys, movies, TV shows you enjoy.  You can add a list of favorite snacks/foods, or put in empty wrappers from the same. An old cell phone, DVD disk, movie ticket stubs, baby clothes, coins, anything you want. A newspaper or magazine page.  The possibilities are endless.  Be sure to date it.  A sticky label will do the trick.

Once you have the items you want to preserve, seal up the container and “bury” it.  You don’t have to dig a hole in the earth for this.  Tuck it away in a closet or garage and then forget about it.  For more tips on making TIME CAPSULES, visit the RedTed Art link below.


What will you put in YOUR time capsule?

New PB: I Want To Eat Your Books by Karin Lefranc

Why not celebrate a new year with a fun-filled read?  My author friend Karin Lefranc’s debut picture book takes kids on a fun ride with an unusual student whose favorite food is…books.

The new kid in school is a zombie, who eats books instead of brains. When the monster catches a whiff of the library, the students need to find the perfect book to change his ways before all their books become history!    IWANTTOEATYOURBOOKSCOVER (1)

twitter: @karinlefranc
I Want to Eat Your Books: Sky Pony Press, October 2015 (Illustrated by Tyler Parker)

Karin Lefranc grew up all over the world, living in Sweden, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, but she moved to the U.S. to attend college in upstate New York. She now lives in Connecticut with her three girls and one boy, who all love devouring books in all shapes and sizes. This is Karin’s debut picture book.

Home From School:Be Prepared With a Snow Day Survival Kit by Marilyn Ostermiller

Even though it’s been a mild winter so far for most of us, we WILL get snow.  And there WILL be snow days when the kids are off from school.  Before they get bored or antsy from being stuck indoors, have a SNOW SURVIVAL KIT ready.  Here’s Marilyn Ostermiller to tell you what you need.

Snow Day.

Do those two words elicit joyful shouts at your house on a wintery school day? They promise plenty of family fun, especially if you have surprises ready.

The children will want to build a snowman, sled down a hill, build a snow fort, have a snowball fight or even help shovel.

BE PREPARED: Check now to be sure everyone has boots, jackets, mittens and caps that fit.

Mother Nature supplies the raw material, but here are extras to tuck away:
— My Very Own Snowman Kit from Bed Bath & Beyond includes black top hat, “coal” buttons, a red, fringed scarf and a nonperishable carrot.
— Ideal Sno-Brick Maker can speed the building of snow forts. http://www.amazon.com

AFTER SNOW FUN: When the children come in with rosy cheeks and a hearty appetite your pantry can hold all the ingredients for seasonal cookies and hot cocoa.

Melting Snowman Cookies recipe
from Angela Gray at http://www.justapinch.com

12 sugar cookies, 3 or 4 inches in diameter. (Bake your own, use prepared refrigerated sugar cookie dough or buy packaged cookies.)
12 large marshmallows
Small tubes of “Writing Icing” in red, green, blue and black. Yellow optional.
Royal icing (1/4 cup pasteurized egg whites, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3 cups powdered sugar.)                                       IMG_0520

1. Set on cookies on a flat surface.
2. Prepare Royal Icing. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/royal-icing-recipe
3. Spread icing unevenly on each cookie so it looks like melting snow.
4. To heat marshmallows, spray a microwave safe plate with cooking spray, and place marshmallows on it. Set the microwave for 30 seconds, but watch the marshmallows as they cook. Stop the microwave as soon as they start to get puffy. Do not let them double in size.
5. Carefully pull the marshmallows off, by the base, and set them on top of the frosted cookies. It is easier if you spray your fingers with cooking spray or grease them up with shortening. Push in the tops very gently. You may need to use a little icing on the bottom of the marshmallow to get it to stick to the icing.
6. Using the “Writing Icing” draw twigs for arms, facial features, buttons and scarf.


Have the ingredients for making your hot cocoa ready: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/9335/hot-cocoa-mix/   or add hot water to packets of cocoa drink mix. Pour into mugs and top with the extra marshmallows.

These snow day adventure books, http://www.amazon.com, round out the fun:

The Snowy Day, a 1963 Caldecott Medal winner, written by Ezra Jacks Keats. This picture book tells the tale of a boy waking to discover a snow-draped city. He spends the day experimenting with footprints, knocking snow from a tree, creating snow angels, and trying to save a snowball for the next day.

Fancy Nancy: There’s No Day Like a Snow Day by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser. Ooh la la! It’s a blizzard. School is cancelled. And Nancy, JoJo, Bree, and Freddy are “tres” excited to go outside and play. From making snow angels to building snowmen to catching snowflakes . . . everyone has “snow” much fun!

Happy Snow Days!               Marilyn Ostermiller
This post was prepared by Marilyn Ostermiller, a long-time business journalist who has begun writing for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne