All things books!! Books we’ve read, authors we love, illustrators we wish we could be, or crafts related to reading.

Children’s Spaces // A Favorite Book

Children’s Spaces // A Favorite Book

Before Pinterest, I used to collect books. Throughout my childhood, high school and college, my dad would buy me one big art book every Christmas. It started with Norman Rockwell, Paul Klee and Toulouse-Lautrec. As I got older, my tastes changed but my love for beautiful books did not. After marriage and children, I started buying my own big books and that’s when I started my decorating collection. I still covet beautiful books and have a growing wish list, but I must admit that Pinterest fits better with my budget!

This book, Children’s Spaces from Zero to Ten, is one of my favorites. I’ve looked through it countless times and always end up on the same pages, daydreaming of being a child again and living in these cozy, magical rooms.

I love this shared space for a brother and sister. It’s not matchy (a pet-peeve) and it’s got splashes of red (my personal obsession). The big window in between the beds creates a lovely divide, and the little lamps on stools are small and perfect. It has a graphic quality with Babar and the striped rug, but it’s cozy, too, with it’s vintage bed sheets and pillows.

The bed with the red velvet curtains is to die for, isn’t it? Who would think that red velvet could create such a light and airy feeling. But since the red is faded, and the bed is a more grown-up white with just a few splashes of pastels, it creates a warm + serene space that is timeless.

I think that my bunting fetish must have begun with this baby’s room. I love the simplicity, and the colors. It takes discipline to create a room that is so tranquil + calm, and that can grow with baby and her developing taste and style.

This is my favorite bedroom for a boy. The checked bedding with patchwork quilt is charming + homey and makes the antique bed feel quirky instead of old. I love the simple Swiss cross and blowfish clock. I can see a string of art appearing over time. It’s such a sweet and cozy little space.

Add this book to your Mother’s Day wish list!

xo, Bar


Repurpose / Reuse / Retrash

Repurpose / Reuse / Retrash

What do all of the above have in common? They are all things that have been brilliantly repurposed! Or upcycled…reused…retrashed. Call it what you will, it is an idea as old as time. Although nowadays, the movement has a fresh face thanks to Pinterest!

As you know, I have a fondness for making things from what we have lying around the house. Many of my art projects on this blog are made from materials that everyone has at hand (click here to see them all). Part of it is that I dislike errands very much. Driving around to get this and that, it literally puts me in a bad mood. The other part is that it makes me feel bad to spend money on supplies when I have so much here. And thirdly, it just makes sense! Using what I have forces me to be creative, and it leaves me with a good feeling that I didn’t add to my garbage pile.

I hadn’t heard of the word “retrash” until recently, when I came across this Kickstarter campaign from Aussie Nathan Devine. He is funding his labor of love, a beautiful coffee table book named RETRASH. The idea spawned from his website. This book will feature artists from around the world who are inspiring change by working to reduce landfill waste and getting creative with what others view as trash. Check out his Kickstarter page and make a pledge if it moves you. I personally can’t wait to get my copy and share it with my kids (our most promising generation of recyclers)!

Above credits: globe pendants / hanger to TP holder / necktie zipper pouch / mouse beds from Altoid tins / yardstick boxes / tin cans for art supplies / egg carton sewing kit / bike sink / work shirt to little dress / tennis racquet mirrors / suitcase speakers / landfill-harmonic (you must click this link and see for yourself)

Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

xo, Bar


Best Easter Bunny Story

Best Easter Bunny Story

We love this book, it is one of our favorites of all time in this house. Have you heard of this great tale? It’s called The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes and it is a gem in every way.

It is about a busy mother of 21 babies who has always dreamed, since she was a little girl, of being chosen by Old Grandfather Bunny to be one of the five official Easter Bunnies.

The boy bunnies always teased her, saying she was just a girl and girls weren’t fast enough to become Easter Bunnies. When she became a mom, they laughed at her still and told her to leave the Easter eggs to great big men bunnies like them. So mama Cottontail took care of her babies. Once they grew up a little, she gave them each a job and taught them how to be self-sufficient.

One day, she heard that a spot had opened up to become an Easter Bunny. She took her children to watch the big race to see who would be picked. As she was standing there with her lovely children all in a row, she caught the eye of the Old Grandfather Bunny. Through a series of observations, mama Cottontail gets picked to be an Easter Bunny because she was not only swift (from running after her children), but also wise and kind.

On Easter eve, she gets injured while delivering the most special egg to a very sick boy. But in the end, through her perseverance and courage (and a pair of golden shoes) she succeeds! When the sun finally rises on Easter morning, she has made it home just in time to bring eggs to her own children. She finds the house in order and all of her children asleep in their beds (this is our favorite page).

As a reviewer once wrote so poignantly…”It is difficult to believe that this very modern feminist tale was originally written in 1939. A gem of a fantasy in which kindness and cleverness win out over size and brawn.”

Happy Easter! xo


Holiday Gift Guide 2012

Holiday Gift Guide 2012

As you all may know by now, I’m not as much into “stuff” as I am into “make”. But I thought I would share my own holiday wish list for my kids. Santa always brings books, that is a given. Clothes are necessary for growing kids – why not make them cute? Art supplies are a must (after food, shelter, clothing & books). And games are a healthy addition to the playroom and good for the brain.

So here we go. Let’s start with books! (To read a short review on each book, visit my Pinterest board.)


Stuck – Oliver Jeffers / The Frank Show – David Mackintosh / My Travelin’ Eye – Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw / I’ve Lost My Hippopotamus – Jack Prelutsky / Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School – David Mackintosh / Same, Same but Different – Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw / The Night I Followed the Dog – Nina Laden / For Just One Day – Marc Boutavant / I Know Here – Laurel Croza / The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School – Laurie Halse Anderson

{A little side note on picture books: My kids are 6, 10 and 12 (soon to be a teen!)…but I still read picture books aloud to them all. It makes them better writers!}

Some of these toys & games may be on the expensive side. I believe in buying one good toy that will last through all of the childhood years, rather than 5 or 6 toys that will break or lose their interest.

Play + Wear:

1. Colorful Magnet Game  $32 good for the brain  2. Wooden Doll Pram $110 made in Denmark  3. Cursive Magna Tab $19 sensory reinforced practice  4. Oeuf NYC Polka Dot Hat $48 for kid or teen  5. Organic Anorak Hoodie $62 for boy or girl  6. Little French Suitcase $38 pretty storage  7. Cotton/Lambswool Turtle $84 stripes for boy or girl  8. Artists Blocks $25 create 6 different paintings  9. Boiled Wool Slippers $44 warm + cute and last forever  10. Polka Dot PJ’s $52 little or big girl  11. Boy’s Red T $39 will be his fave  12. Tegu Magnetic Blocks $70 innovative  13. Faces Memory Game $14 everyone is different  14. Sled & Helmut $39 outdoor winter fun  15. Orange Jump Rope $32 from nautical rope  16. Alphabet Blocks $20 beautiful

My favorite way to inspire creativity is to simply put out a medium (paint, pencils, collage…) and some plain paper and let the kids explore. But sometimes it’s nice to have a pre-packaged craft, especially during the holidays.


1. Learn to Knit Kit $62 merino wool + patterns  2. Japanese Washi Tape $18 so many possibilities  3. Neon Twine $12 bracelets galore  4. Sketchbook $12 everyone needs one  5. Marled Yarn $8 pom-poms are calling  6. Le Pen $2 each doodling + writing thank you notes  7. Liquid Water Colors $30 vibrant + gorgeous  8. Chalkboard Laptop $52 iLove this  9. Table Top Paper Holder $34 for big drawing  10. Multi Ink Pad $17 stamp the day away  11. Alphabet Stamp Kit $35 words as art  12. Button Factory $19 rainy day activity  13. Watercolor Pencils $37 make cards  14. Kraft Paper Roll $26 d.i.y. wrap

Phew! That was fun.

Happy Shopping ♡



Parenting // Discipline Less + Understand More

Parenting // Discipline Less + Understand More

Every once in a while, I come across something that I really feel like I need to share. This chart was created by Carol Tuttle, author of the book The Child Whisperer, which I have never read. I wish I had had this book when my girls were little to add to my parenting-book library. I’m now starting to buy the how-to-deal-with-teenagers variety. But I still have a six-year old and this chart has worked brilliantly twice already! I won’t bore you with my child’s almost-tantrums and how I avoided them, but suffice it to say that within 30 seconds of reading this chart I realized I had a sensitive little boy who wasn’t being heard by his busy mama.

I say we all print this out and hang it in the bathroom (the place I hide when I can’t take one more child crying…or the place where husbands might read it!).

Good luck mamas! And happy monday from your friend Bar ♡


Drawing Books for Kids

Drawing Books for Kids

I came across this Fingerprint book by Marion Deuchars and it sparked something in me. I loved making fingerprint animals when I was a growing up! I can’t believe I haven’t tried this with my kids. I am definitely adding this book to my Amazon cart for Christmas, I’m so excited.

I decided to do a little research to find the best drawing books that ignite creativity in the little ones. As you can imagine, there are many books on drawing out there. I wanted to keep the list short and pick just the ones that I thought would instantly excite the kids, with very few directions and good graphics.

I could not make a list of drawing books without including award winner Ed Emberly. I would spend hours as a kid learning how to draw from his books. I still have one of them on my shelf! Granted, it’s not the open-ended art experience that I promote in our house. But the kids do LOVE it, and it keeps them busy. Also, there comes a time in their young lives when they realize that they can’t draw something perfectly. This usually happens around the age of 7 or 8. I found that my girls would start to draw lots of hearts, peace signs and rainbows. I can’t tell you how much this drives me crazy. So taking out Ed Emberly can actually free them up and remind them that drawing is fun and that they should try new things. This book is also great for the reluctant artist. (Ages 4 and up.)

Fotoplay by Mj Bronstein is an art activity book that blends realism and fantasy. It’s rare to find a book like this that uses photos as prompts to spark the imagination. It’s smart and funny and gets kids to think outside of the lines. Great for road trips or vacation days. (Ages 5 and up.)

642 Things To Draw is the perfect inspirational sketchbook. With its collection of offbeat and clever drawing prompts, this book is perfect for that child or teen who loves to draw. Inside this simple book are blank pages with just a prompt at the top: A rolling pin, a robot, a pickle, a water tower, a hammock, a wasp, a safety pin, a kiss. I am getting this for all three of my kids (and will secretly fill some pages myself!). (Ages 4 and up)

I will keep searching for more great art books and share them with you again!

Ed Emberly Photos via Trula Kids.


Wall of Sight Words

Wall of Sight Words

My son is six and learning to read. To learn his sight words, we use little cards and put about 10-15 in a baggie next to his bed. Once he knows them cold, we tape them to his wall. Now that we have so many up there, we can make full sentences!

Me: The old fly can look this way and that.

Him: People who find number two like each other. (Fits of laughter.)

Me: Many old people walk into each other. (Uncontrollable laughter.)

Him: You can just walk there to do number two. (Wetting his pants with laughter.) 

As you can tell, every sentence for him involves ‘number two’ which I innocently taped next to each other. But I will take potty humor as long as there is laughter and learning!

Tip: Only put the words they know cold up on the wall, this way it makes playing the sentence game fun and not work. They are proud of their growing knowledge!


A September 11 Story

A September 11 Story

A friend gave me Fireboat over the summer. I was prepared to fall in love with it right away since it was written and illustrated by Maira Kalman!!! I idolize her. Her art is so colorful and full of life. Not realizing it was a September 11 story, I dove right in and read it to my three while we were eating dinner. When I turned to the page showing bright blue sky and two planes flying toward the towers, my voice faltered. Like many people who live close to the city, I remember that cloudless, perfect blue sky like it was yesterday.

Fireboat is a heartfelt 9/11 story told through another story, the one about the retired boat John J. Harvey and her call back into action on that fateful day. Originally launched in 1931, the Harvey was the most powerful fireboat of her time. But toward the end of the century as the piers started to close, she was forced into retirement, soon to become scrap. After the attacks that day left the hydrants downtown ineffective, the NYFD called on the mighty Harvey for help! The story goes on to portray all of the incredible people in the community that got together to help that proud and plucky little boat.

If you have never sat down to talk with your kids about the events of that day, reading this heartfelt story is a wonderful way to start that conversation. I love Fireboat because it is a book about many things: It sets forth an adventure, helps commemorate an anniversary, offers an interesting bit of history, celebrates the underdog, and honors the fire-fighting profession.

Before we read this book again tonight, on the anniversary of September 11, we will first light the candles on my daughter’s birthday cake. She turns 10 today!


Favorite Back-to-school Books

Favorite Back-to-school Books

Tomorrow, my son will be starting first grade in a new school. He says he’s nervous. I told him, so am I. He was surprised I said this and asked me why? I said that I always feel butterflies on the first day back to school. But that it was more of a nervous excitement. Sometimes, I told him, excitement feels close to being nervous. He didn’t say much else after that, thinking about what I said. I’m hoping I changed his perception of the first day jitters…if even just a smidge.

At home, we pulled out our favorite (and well worn) back-to-school book, a Charlie and Lola classic, I am Too Absolutely Small for School. I like to read it with a British accent which gets the little guy giggling. There’s something about this book’s humor and wit that quells the nerves. Author Lauren Child is brilliant! Charlie has to convince Lola to give school a chance. Lola makes her points, like by saying “I don’t need to learn up to one hundred. I already know up to ten, and that is plenty”. Ever-patient Charlie works his magic, and persuades Lola that school is worthwhile. This book is lighthearted and I love that it doesn’t pander to a child’s anxiety, but instead changes their way of thinking. It’s re-affirming without being too sentimental. And with it’s ingenious ending, it literally made my son want to wake up the next the morning and go straight to school!

Here is a list of our other favorites for this year:

How I Spent my Summer Vacation / Mark Teague: A boy takes his teacher and fellow students on a Wild West adventure when he gives his school report on how he spent his summer vacation. We love that it rhymes!

Chrysanthemum / Kevin Henkes: With her hard-to-pronounce name, Chrysanthemum gets teased at school. Until she meets the new music teacher, who is named Delphinium. We love the way this expressive book, with its charming illustrations, shines a light on the affects of a loving teachers. Teachers rock!

Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World / Susan Hughes:  In this book, readers will travel to dozens of countries to visit some incredible schools. Through personal interviews, we get to meet the students who attend them. Their stories aren’t just inspiring — they’ll also get kids to think about school and the world in a whole new way. All three of my kids are fascinated by this book. It’s a great way for us to talk about our differences, and of how grateful we are for what we have!

Kindergarten Kids / Stephanie Calmenson: This book of rhymes and riddles is so fun and celebratory, my son wanted me to read it to him twice! It really makes them feel that Kindergarten (and first grade, too!) is a special place. Reading this book will but a smile on your face and theirs, and it’s a great way to introduce them to poetry!

Wish me luck as I wave to my baby getting on the bus for the first time. We’ll both be brave.


The Importance of Play

The Importance of Play

I have just finished reading Nurture Shock, by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman, for the second time. Forgetting that I’d already read it, I picked it up again and was just as fascinated. It’s nothing like a parenting manual. In fact, this insightful book transcends basic child rearing. I highly recommend this book.

The authors propose (through research that they have parsed through and reviewed thoroughly) that parents and educators make small corrections in their thinking, the key being to ignore common assumptions or “maternal wisdom” about children in favor of scientific reason, much of it counterintuitive.

There are 10 very organized chapters, ranging from “The Inverse Power of Praise” to “Why Kids Lie” (this chapter is especially interesting to anyone who has a teen or pre-teen).

One of the most compelling chapters is called “Can Self-Control Be Taught?”. It sites a very interesting pre-school and kindergarten program that was developed in the 1990′s by two scholars in the Denver area. It was a technique, really, that they developed as part of a curriculum that required some training, but did not cost a penny more than a traditional curriculum. They called it “Tools of the Mind“. Initially developed for children “at risk”, the results were so staggering that researchers could not finish their study because teachers in the control groups (the ones who were not using Tools) felt that in good conscience, they must provide all children with the Tools curriculum.

What Tools of the Mind focuses on is how to help children avoid distractions. And how do Tools teachers succeed in teaching 4 and 5 year olds to focus and concentrate on an activity for an extended period of time? Through play!

For example, in one famous Russian study from the 1950′s, children were told to stand as long as possible – they lasted two minutes. But then a second group was told to pretend they were soldiers on guard who had to stand still at their posts – they lasted eleven minutes!

Another example: When small children are asked to copy something from the board, they may not think they can do it. But hand the same kid a notepad and ask them to pretend to be a waiter at a pizza parlor, they don’t think about if they can write or not – they just know they have to do something to remember those pizza orders.

Here is an excerpt that I have read over and over:

“It’s well recognized that kids today get to play less. As pressure for academic achievement has mounted, schools around the country cut back on recess to devote more time to the classroom. This created a backlash…experts arguments were straightforward: the brain needs a break, kids need to blow off energy, cutting recess increases obesity, and it’s during recess that children learn social skills. Tools suggests a different benefit entirely – that during playtime, children learn basic developmental building blocks necessary for later academic success, and in fact they develop these building blocks better while playing than in a traditional classroom.”

Through play, children learn abstract thinking, symbolic thought, high-order thinking like self-reflection, they develop an internal voice (“I can do this!”), the ability to self-analyze and to set goals. But it’s not all about managing information, either. Through the process of play, children learn to squelch frustration and anger, and to stifle inappropriate or impulsive responses.

In addition, when children get to choose their own activity (not one their parents signed them up for), they become highly motivated. And when children are motivated, they learn more.

I have always believed in the power of play. I try very hard to not let peer pressure (yes, moms feel peer pressure, too) sway me into signing my kids up for too many after-school activities. We live in a great neighborhood where they can safely walk outside on any given day and find a friend, play a game. Or they can play with their siblings. Yes, there is squabbling (there is even a chapter in the book called “The Sibling Effect”). But eventually, if I give them no other choice, they will work it out, compromise, and create roles for one another.

My best advice to any parent with school-age children: Let them play!