Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 2.47.54 PMHere are my recent posts from the past month on mothering.com.

Please check them out, if you like what you see social media shares are appreciated. Just click on the image to go directly to the post. Thanks for reading!

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*Note - these "Homeschool Inspiration" posts are also great for classroom use, after-schooling or with other time you have to share with a young child in your life.

::garden notes -mid-July

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My north-woods garden is making progress!  

  • We are starting to get raspberries!  I am looking forward to a bountiful crop this year.  Hopefully we get some in the freezer.
  • I am continuing to harvest herbs, which I have been using and also drying.  
  • We are seeing blossoms on our peas and beans as well as in our corner flower garden.
  • I noticed a couple of apples on one of the trees we planted last fall.
  • I am up to my ears in kale!  I planted enough to feed a small army. I have been using a lot, but the surplus I have started to blanch and freeze into kale ice cubes to use in smoothies.  I also have been dehydrating some kale and sharing some with our bunny.
  • We have also been very busy with our backwoods harvest of wild blueberries.  We have been going out almost everyday.  The kids are becoming good pickers.  We are working on our fourth dozen in the freezer - in hopes for more to enjoy over the winter.

School Days::July


The July issue of Minnesota Parent Magazine is available throughout Minnesota and online now. My School Days Column in this month is "Building A Better Bucket List" You can find the article through THIS LINK. If you like what you see, social media 'shares' are appreciated.

Be sure to check out all of the other great content in the full issue as well - and as always - thanks for reading!

::Snapshots from Voyageur's National Park

Our family just returned from a great - three night - camping trip in Voyageur's National Park.  This is a special place for my husband and I, because it is where we met, working at a resort on Crane Lake.

We now have the opportunity, the knowledge of the lakes and the gear to share experiences camping and adventuring in this beautiful place with our children.

Here are some snapshots of our recent adventures:


Heading up the chain of lakes - Crane Lake, Sandpoint Lake to our campsite on Namakan Lake.


Camp!  Our home for three nights.








One of our day trip adventures was to Mica Island where we explored the remnants of an old mica mine and took some time to pick blueberries to add to our oatmeal for our Sunday morning breakfast.






We also took a trip to Kettle Falls Dam- and visited the Kettle Falls Hotel.




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Checking out the overlook to Rainy Lake from the Kettle Falls Dam.  When you are standing at the Kettle Falls overlook and looking toward the falls and dam, you are actually looking south into Canada from the U.S.










The rest of our trip we spent swimming, fishing, relaxing and spending time together as a family.  We hope take more adventures like this!


Interview with Valerie Tripp - (plus an American Girl WellieWishers doll giveaway!)

I am happy to share in the excitement of the debut of the new American Girl Wellie Wishers! It is my pleasure and privilege to share a recent conversation that I had with the inspiring Valerie Trip, the individual who's imagination brought these characters to life through her stories.

Meet Valerie Trip!

ValerieTripp_Pic6Valerie Tripp is the author of more than 30 American Girl books, featuring the characters Felicity, Samantha, Josefina, Kit, Molly, Maryellen and many more.  She also writes for the Superkids Reading Program and the Boys Camp book series.  

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself - where you live, your family, and your interests?

I live in Silver Spring, MD with my wonderful husband, Michael, who teaches American History at a nearby college, and with our dog, Mr. Bingley. Our daughter, Katherine, is a graduate student in Seattle studying child development. Both my husband and I come from big families; my husband is one of 6 children and I am one of 5, and our noisy extended families often get together for parties, reunions, and weddings. Michael and I like to travel, especially to see our daughter, and we frequently to go to the National Parks. At home, my favorite pastime is reading – I LOVE to read – and I also enjoy walking-and-talking with my friends. I take lots of classes. Most recently, I’ve been studying poetry because I admire it so much. Here’s what Emily Dickinson wrote: “The possible’s slow fuse is lit by the imagination.” Isn’t that LOVELY? I visit lots of schools, libraries, scout troops, and book clubs and it is a great pleasure to meet the children who read my books. Truly, I’m interested and curious about EVERYTHING, and I do absolutely love to use my imagination – lighting that “slow fuse” of the possible – while I write.

Please tell us how your writing career developed and has grown with American Girl.

A year after I graduated from college, after I’d worked as a saleslady and a copy editor in Boston, I was hired by Pleasant Rowland to write songs, stories, plays, nonfiction essays, and skills book pages for a reading program called “The Superkids.” While Pleasant and I worked on the reading program together, we talked about the books we had loved as girls. Then Pleasant married and moved to Wisconsin and I married and moved to South Carolina. One day the phone rang and it was Pleasant. “I’ve had a great idea!” she said. Her great idea was American Girl: books about girls who lived in different periods of history written for readers of the same age as the characters. It has been my life’s privilege and delight that Pleasant trusted me to be the first “voice” of American Girl. In 1983, I wrote the first outlines of the stories for Kirsten, Molly, and Samantha. As the years went on and American Girl grew, I wrote about Felicity, Josefina, and Kit as well as the characters’ best friends: Emily, Nellie, Elizabeth, and Ruthie – and now Maryellen! So I began writing my American Girl books before American Girl existed, in a way, and it was all due to my friendship with Pleasant Rowland, the creator of American Girl. 

I learned while writing the American Girl books of historical fiction that if my reader became friends with my character, then my reader cared about what was happening to her friend whose family, for example, faces losing their house during the Depression, as with my character Kit, or Molly, whose father is off fighting in World War 2. I’ve applied that lesson of friendship to the WellieWisher stories. That is, I’m hoping that my WellieWisher reader will see how her friends in the garden solve disagreements, listen to one another, name emotions, use humor to apologize, have a conspiracy of kindness for a friend who’s in over her head.  My reader will feel welcome, will dive right into Welliewishers’ messy, adventurous, imaginative, giggly, goofy, creative play, where the rules of gravity in all senses of that word do not apply. They’ll share their great love of animals and the out of doors.

Though I’ve always loved research and thinking up stories, writing is still hard work for me. I’m persnickety and slow. I think I came to writing as a job because my favorite thing in the world is reading. (Don't you love books and stories and just immersing yourself in the world of a book?) Writing allows me to use my imagination, and I am grateful to have a job that requires me to create something new all the time. It’s a great challenge. 

Your ideas have come to life in the form of books, illustrations, playthings, movies and animation. How involved are you in these processes?  

I always feel that the illustrations teach me things about my characters that I did not know; the illustrations add 100% more to the story. In the case of the WellieWishers, I wrote long art specs because for a reader of this young age, the pictures and words are equally vital to comprehension. I love that the dolls invite my reader to lift the stories right up off the page and “play out” the story adventures – and make up adventures of their own devising -- for the characters. I often suggest how the dolls should look, and I suggest products, too. For example, I knew that Kit wanted to be a reporter, so I suggested that she have a typewriter. (It is very cute!) I always say to children, “The typewriter symbolizes Kit’s desire to write, and the fact that her dad repaired it for her symbolizes his encouragement. Think of all the ways that YOUR parents encourage YOU.”

How does it feel to have your stories and characters come to life in these ways?

It’s fun to see the characters grow and change by being presented in different media. I cannot WAIT to see the WellieWishers animated! The artist has brought them to lively life!

6a01053643b439970b01b8d1fcd412970c-800wiTell us about your new series about the WellieWishers.  

The WellieWishers are enthusiastic, eager, earnest, and energetic six-year-old friends who play together in a garden. They are curious, messy, imaginative, adventurous, and joyful. Though they are often giggly and goofy, they can be thoughtful, too, and gentle. They are distinct individuals with unique talents, passions, and quirks, but they are all creative, generous, good-hearted, and kind. Oh, and they all love animals and being out of doors! 

How did you develop these characters and stories?  

It was tremendous fun! 

I wanted the characters to be five distinct individuals, and I wanted to show that that the quiet girl can be noisy sometimes, and the exuberant girl can be insightful and thoughtful. I’ve never done this before, but for the WellieWisher characters I wrote long essays that I called “Personality, Products, and Purpose” – or P,P&P, for short – to define the character and I also made a chart. Here it is: Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 2.21.26 PMDid you have any particular inspiration? 

As with every book I write, my reader was my inspiration. I thought about her life, joys, challenges, hopes, and dreams. I know and love this age group. In my undergraduate work at Yale and graduate work at Harvard, I studied them and I’ve been creating materials for children ages 4 to 7 on-and-off since 1974, working with Pleasant Rowland on The Superkids Reading Program, so I am familiar with this developmental stage in terms of ability, interest, Piagetian level of moral comprehension, and Ericsonian stage of self-awareness. Also, I spend an enormous amount of time with school-age children and their families because of school, store, book club, and scout troops visits. I’m on my way to speak to a group of girls and mothers in one hour from now!!

This age is where we see the first glimmers of radical empathy. And oh, dear, in those school visits I have ached to see how teachers are so overburdened with academic goals for even their youngest students – talk about overburdened, the students are, too, so much so that there is no time any more for the sort of slow, organic, experiential learning for social-emotional skills like waiting, listening, or compassion, or how to be a good friend. I’m hoping that the WellieWishers’ stories will be like their garden: an island of good friends who treat one another – and the natural world – with respect and kindness. I really can’t think of anything more important to teach -- ever so gently –than kindness.

Another of my inspirations and hopes and goals for the WellieWisher stories is to show girls that they don’t need magic wands or powers. Not that the garden isn’t beguiling and enchanting and transformative. But magic – miraculous transformations -- happen through creativity, patience, imagination, and hard work. That kindness is magic, maybe all the magic any of us needs. 

And another inspiration is very personal. During all those library talks, school visits, Daisy and Brownie troop visits, and signings at American Girl stores, I’ve met hundred of young mothers who greet me as an old friend, who say to me, “Oh, I read your stories when I was a little girl. I grew up with your stories and now I have a daughter of my own to share them with!” I throw my arms around them! I tell them that they are my alums. 

I want to say to my alums: the Welliewisher stories are a gift for you now that you are a parent. And here’s my promise to you: the stories will be age-appropriate, with humor and joy, and hit the spot where your curious, merry, goofy, intense girls are in their lives. The stories will respect the reader enough to present multiple viable views. They’ll encourage girls to challenge the given wisdom and challenge dusty assumptions without being snarky. They’ll show that there’s a difference between a cheerful skepticism and cynicism: one is smart and healthy and the other is a dead end. They’ll show that we can love people with whom we disagree and disagree with people whom we love. They’ll celebrate the values of tolerance and compassion as well as the values of drive, hope, creativity, individuality, change, and work.

I want to say to parents: I know that you want your child to thrive and shine, and to learn about herself as she learns about the world. In fact, I believe that in our world where we’re inundated by factual information, EQ is more important that IQ, a resilient attitude is more important than aptitude, and perseverance, responsibility, empathy and compassion are the most important abilities we can teach our children for the future. 

The stories are a way for me to say thank you for entering the world of the stories that I have had the great honor and pleasure of writing of writing for American Girl, and holding those stories in your hearts and memories. With the Welliewisher stories, I want to say, Thank you for your friendship. I want to invite them into the garden. 

What’s next for you?

Oh, I’m always scribbling away at something. I’ve got lots of great ideas for more stories about the WellieWishers perking along in my head.

Anything else?

Well, now that I think of it, I have LOTS of hopes for the WellieWisher books. For example: Just as the American Girl books of historical fiction encourage girls to go deep and linger and not rush to be older, I’m hoping the Welliewisher stories will encourage girls to love being just the way they are right now. I hope the books will encourage girls to go outside!! Run around! Play! Use imagination! Get messy! Notice light and color and the seasons and animals and birdsong and the different joys of all kinds of weather! I hope the stories model how to solve problems both practical and interpersonal, how to be a good friend and daughter, and the rewards of being an observant, participatory, active appreciator of the earth. 

In celebration of the release of the new WellieWishers line of dolls, American Girl is generously offering one lucky Kids and Eggs reader one WellieWishers doll of their choice !

WellieWishersPick from:

CamilleEmersonWillaKendall, or Ashlyn.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below.  Comments will close by 9am CST on Tuesday, July 12, 2016.  The winner will be chosen by Random Number Generator and announced on this post shortly after.

This giveaway is open to residents of U.S. & Canada.

Good Luck!

....and the winner is:

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Julie said...

My daughter's are girl scouts & love American Girl Dolls. They are excited for the wellie wishers and would love one!

 Julie - you have 24 hours to claim your prize - congratulations! 




::an experiment with natural dyes - lupines


A couple of days ago I tidied up our art cabinet.   I sorted through craft supplies, yarn, needles and thread and was reunited with some roving and hand spun yarn I had not touched in a while.  I decided to do something with the yarn.  I checked out the lovely book Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess from the library which clearly outlined the processes for dying wool with items from nature.   Inspired by the material in the book and the abundance of lupines near by, I decided to do some experimentation.   In Harvesting Color lupines are not featured, but there were very clear instructions for the mordant, a general master dye bath, and an afterbath.

Here's What I did:

Lupine2First I collected lupine petals.  The lupines are blooming in abundance in my neck of the woods.  Many are starting to go to seed.  It was easy to pull off the petals in one quick swipe down the stem and it took my kiddos and I just about 20 minutes to fill up this large basket and 2 gallon bucket with petals.

IMG_3490For the mordant I presoaked my fiber in an alum and water mixture.  I then hung the fiber to dry.



I created the dye bath by boiling the lupine petals.  I packed in as much as I could without the dye bath boiling over.  I let it boil for over an hour then let the petals soak in the dye bath overnight.  The lupine petals in the water for over 24 hours to create the dye bath, which was a deep purple color.



After I strained the plant matter out of the dye bath.  I put the fiber in the pot.  I let it sit overnight before I took the yarn and roving out to dry.


I was anticipating a purple color, but what I got was a beautiful shade of green!




I am so very pleased with the results!


I am excited to get this yarn on some needles!  (I am planning on spinning up the remainder of the wool.)   During the process I also dried some lupine petals in our dehydrator. I have hopes to share this process with my kindergarten students during the school year.  I also am planning to use some of the petals in my soaps.



This was a fun and successful experiment with natural dyes!

herbs, ketchup, peppers and pizza










I had a productive afternoon in the garden, kitchen and pantry.   I harvested some herbs to use and to dry.   When I was tidying up and taking inventory in our pantry I found some hiding pickles, salsa and canned tomatoes from last season.   I decided to use up our canned tomatoes to make some ketchup - a family favorite, especially in the summer when we do a little more grilling.   I also ground up the peppers I dried last fall so they are a little easier to use.

 The season of harvesting, preserving - and enjoying the garden's bounty has officially began!



I spent a good part of a rainy day yesterday in the kitchen and pantry drying herbs, making ketchup from the last of our canned tomatoesI gathered my big first harvest of herbs.  I collected some basil, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano and chives.  After those were washed and drying I decided to go through the pantry, where found our last jars of pickles and four jars of home canned salsa that were overlooked in all


::June blues


I just had a feeling, given the heat and humidity the last couple of days, that I just may find some ripe blues in my backwoods, ridge-top, early ripening berry picking spot.  

And I did!  This afternoon I was able to harvest my first handful of wild blueberries of the season.  It looks to be a good year!  With just a few more hot, sunny days I will be harvesting these berries to make into blueberry muffins, pancakes cakes and jam -and- to save in the freezer to enjoy over the winter in smoothies and on oatmeal.


Wellie Wishers

WellieWishers World Doll Set-HR

Kindergarten-age characters wearing funky mud boots helping kids learn positive social skills through literature and play - this is right up my alley - and I get to share some fun with Kids and Eggs readers!

American Girl just launched a new fun line of dolls & books for girls age 5 to 7. The WellieWishers‬ friends--Willa, Kendall, Ashlyn, Emerson, and Camille--imagine and play in an enchanted neighborhood garden supervised by Aunt Miranda. Through their heartwarming and humorous adventures, the WellieWishers help a girl to learn how to "stand in another person's wellies" to discover the skills of empathy, kindness, and compassion that will help her be a good friend.

Stay tuned for an interview with author Valerie Tripp, a product review & GIVEAWAY!!!!  Wellie Wishers