Woolly Times

Woolly Thyme Looms September 04 2017

Here's a riddle for you:

What would you call a loom made in Lunenburg?  

A loom-in-burg!

I am delighted, thrilled, over the loomin' moon about House of Woolly Thyme's newest product in the Woolly Thyme Weaving collection. This gorgeous loom, crafted just a few minutes from Lunenburg in the seaside community of Blue Rocks, was a collaborative design between House of Woolly Thyme and Ocean View Woodworking. Made from locally harvested and sustainable maple with walnut plug inlays, our frame loom is thoughtfully designed for function and a beautiful piece of art in itself.  

 

I met Allan from Ocean View Woodworking at the Lunenburg Farmers' Market this summer after following his work on Instagram. He crafts beautiful and functional heirloom quality pieces from local and sustainably harvested woods. His charcuterie boards and chopping blocks, signs and trays are uniquely designed with quality finishes and personalized touches, and I quickly planted the seed that he should work with me to construct a frame loom after seeing his work in person.  

This loom was created over the course of a couple of months through emails, market chats, workshop visits, prototyping, and design tweaks, some of which you can see on Ocean View's Instagram feed. And, I must admit, I am very proud of the end result. I am teaching several weaving workshops this fall and will be happy to give my weavers access to locally crafted looms. I am so proud and excited to use it myself that I wasn't home from Blue Rocks 10 minutes before I warped my new loom and whipped up some rya knots and tabby weaving.

My own craft philosophy is rooted in the selection of high quality materials and supporting local and small businesses whenever possible. I believe that creating something beautiful is as much about the story behind the raw materials as it is about the process or end result. When you start a project with beautiful yarns or a quality crafted loom, you will create with care and thought and love. Those key factors coupled with quality yarns will foster the creation of a beautiful and unique weaving.  

That is what I wish to share with others - a love for handmade and the knowledge and tools to create special art pieces; tools designed and made by locals, who in turn source their materials from local shops and producers. When you purchase a Woolly Thyme Loom, you are supporting a local weaver, who in turn supports a local woodworker, who in turn supports a local lumber mill, who in turn supports local woodlot owners. Now, isn't that a wonderful chain of local sustainability?!

Head on over to our shop to purchase one of these gorgeous looms or find me at the Etsy Made in Canada Maritime Makers Show on Septeber 23 at Pier 23 (Cunard Centre) in Halifax.

 

 

 


Why We Weave June 30 2017 2 Comments

I beweave I have a problem.

If you follow us on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been weaving up a wavy storm here in Lunenburg.

Would you like to know why and how I started weaving?

I’ve been knitting for over a dozen years. What does that have to do with the price of tea in China or weaving for that matter? Be patient, there is a point here. I first picked up my knitting needles when I was working at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia shop and a co-worker was knitting scarves. I had grown up watching my own mother knit and when I became pregnant with our first daughter, Sophie, my love for knitting grew and grew as my belly grew and grew. And if you saw how big my belly grew during that pregnancy, you will understand that if my love for knitting grew at the same rate, I was addicted to knitting by the time that generous baby came out!

What is one of the biggest side effects of a knitting addiction? Yarn Stashing!!!! Knitting is essentially the gateway drug to weaving. Hence, the knitting slash weaving connection in this story.

When I started following Australian based tapestry weaver, Mary Anne Moodie, several years ago, I discovered that weaving would be a great way to use up those woolly leftovers from knitting projects. But, I was intimidated by the thought of a new craft.  Weaving was foreign to me. But not my mom. In addition to selling her own handknits, felted hats and mittens, she had also picked up weaving. I asked her to weave a tapestry for me, however she did what any good craft pusher would do – she bought me an Ashford weaving frame and told me to do it myself! Parenting at its finest. She has taught me a lot, in her nurturing do-it-yourself educational approach to parenting self-sufficient children.

I made my first tapestry about 3 years ago. I used some of my finest yarn bits and dove into it with guns (or, darning needles) blazing. It was shaped like an hourglass and Travis told me that it looked like a dress! I was not pleased with myself ... or him, and like any control freak would do, I said, “I can’t do it so I won’t!”

 

A couple of years later, I dusted off the frame loom.  I signed up for online tutorials and workshops to figure the heck out of this weaving tension business and wove like my life depended on it. And here we are.

Weaving has become intertwined in my own wellness practice. Others like to meditate or practice yoga for peace and clarity.  I weave. I also throw a yoga pose in there once in a while, however, I find the satisfaction that I get when I create a handmade piece to be wonderfully fulfilling. Weaving helps to ground me when parenting three willful girls has me spinning in circles over a pot of spaghetti. The over and under flow of the weaving motion, the warmth of the textiles, the earth infused wool and natural fibres helps to ease anxiety and tension at the end of a challenging day. The freedom to escape structure and rule, the whimsy, the disconnection from machine and technology (except for the Instagram feed full of weavings, of course) that comes from using one’s hands to create something unique, natural and one of a kind is such a beautiful practice.  And one that I intend to keep up.

That is the why and how I started weaving. You can find my handwoven wall hangings at Here Nor There Shop in Mahone Bay and Jenny Jib in Lunenburg, as well as on this site and our etsy shop. Or, if you are interested in learning how to weave, contact us for workshop information.

Beweave in yourself.


Building the House of Woolly Thyme June 26 2017

Hello Blog followers!  It’s been a while. Quite a while. But, hey. Let’s be friends again. Or not. Let’s be acquaintances that run into each other once in a blue moon. Deal?  I could never be committed to blogging because sitting at my computer for more than 5 minutes at a time is difficult for me.  However, Instagram is where I like to hang out, where punctuation and full sentences are optional.  So, be sure to follow us there.

There have been a few changes on this site since my last post, which was an inexcusably long time ago. While Woolly Thyme Press is still a big part of our site and business, we have opened this space up to showcase some of the other aspects of our creative life. Yes, we wrote, illustrated and published a children’s book, but we have always loved to dabble (which translates to become completely obsessed and stay up all night doing) in other crafts and artistic areas.

Travis and I are makers. He builds, designs, and renovates homes each and every day. But, in addition to creating unique and beautiful living spaces, he also makes toys for our children and teaches them how to draw and tie knots and build forts. My background is scientific and technical, but I’ve always loved creative writing, knitting, sewing, handwork and making a fierce effort to DIY cute, fun and sometimes completely needless items for my kids.  We felt that this love of general makery that we share with one another and our children should also be shared in this space.

So, House of Woolly Thyme was born.

 

HOWT encompasses all of our current creative loves and obsessions (our Instagram feed is saturated with the handwoven wall hangings at the moment!) and we hope that you enjoy following our journey to live a fulfilling and creative life with our three daughters in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Check out the Woolly Thyme Shop for new handmade items for your family and home as well as our children’s book, or contact us for information on weaving workshops, weaving and knitting commissions, and author readings.

See you soon.  Maybe?! 


Turning Books into Buntings June 29 2016

Those who know me, know that I love a good banner (or bunting as we call them these days).  I've made buntings for every occasion that comes up - birthday buntings, Christmas buntings, Easter buntings, cactus themed baby shower buntings, book club buntings - you name it ... I've stuck a bunting on it.  

Fabric, felt and paper buntings have been a big "thing" for quite a few years and I have certainly leapt onto the bunting bandwagon.  I imagine that someday our children will reminisce about our bunting filled homes in much the same way that we cringe over memories of Christmas trees covered in silver tinsel in the 80's.  But, I don't mind future eye rolls.  I can roll with it!

Buntings can make any sorry state of a room look happy, playful and ready for a celebration.  I have been known to distract a visitor's eyes from the dust bunnies under the beds and the cobwebs stretching in the ceiling's corners by tacking a bunting to a wall, window, fence, or cupcake (because what else distracts a visitor's eyes from the dust bunnies better than baked sweets!).  Who cares how messy the house is, this lady can whip up a bunting or a blueberry loaf in the blink of an eye.  Just do not open a closet. 

So, you may have guessed that I'm not the best housekeeper in town, but one thing that this fallen perfectionist still cannot handle is a book in disrepair.  I love books.  I love them so much that I like to read them without splitting a spine ... while wearing white gloves.  Wet wrinkly pages, dog eared corners and torn covers are soul crushing.  Do not even get me started on dust jackets.  Just try to imagine how difficult the past decade has been for me with a husband and three children who sleep with books, eat books, take books in the bath and to the beach.  It hurts.  However, I have found a happy alternative to the abused book's recycling bin fate, while jumping on that other bandwagon of the decade - upcycling!  When life gave me torn books, I turned them into book buntings.  

These little buntings are the perfect decorative addition to a child's room, a play space, a book nook, or even a baby shower.  I will be adding some to the shop over the next week if you are interested in purchasing a book bunting.  Or, you can make your own!  

Find some old children's books.  Once you stop crying over the death of the book, cut the pages into a flag shape of your choice.  Sew the flag pieces into a binding using a sewing machine.  Or, if sewing isn't your jam, use a hole punch to place holes in your flag pieces and string your banner with twine.  Hang and enjoy!

 


Life in a Little House - The Write Space is My Right Place April 07 2016

Over six years ago, Travis and I moved into a little house with our two little girls.  It was a sweet home with good bones and a warm vibe in a gorgeous Unesco heritage town where two harbours anchor a hilly grid of colourful blocks like a box of fresh crayolas.  Lunenburg is dotted all over with charming homes and inns, galleries, museums, unique boutiques, coffee shops and hourly postcard worthy vignettes. Lunenburgers (new arrivals and settler’s descendants alike) all seem to possess a craft or creative talent, whether it provides them with a means of living or simply a productive passing of time. If you can’t find your creative mojo here in Lunenburg, you should consider calling off the search because living here is beyond inspirational.

Bit by bit, we have been changing this little home. With creativity and resourcefulness (some may call that a tiny budget!), we have been tearing down and building up and changing, adding and subtracting and colouring. I say “bit by bit” because we have been doing this as our little girls grew and we added two more square feet (another baby girl) to the dusting of dolls and drywall plaster.  Our convenient average family of four became a logistically trickier family of five and along with that came more beds, more bicycles, more snowsuits, bigger shoes and greater needs in a still little house.  We have shifted the home to suit our needs, or rather, our childrens’ needs.  Walls have come down and closets have been built up, play spaces created and workshops converted and each one of these little additions or take aways becomes my new favourite space, even if it isn’t technically my space.

My newest favourite space in our home is this cozy cubby, nestled perfectly between customized his and hers closets in our master bedroom. It is a place just for me, a peaceful space to sit, think, write, plan, color, read, or simply drink coffee completely untethered. Sometimes I use it as my own timeout space, which is fitting since its creation started with a tantrum.  


It was one those days.  My girls couldn’t stop bickering, the laundry was mounting, the dishes were piled, cooking supper was a nightmare, and I had not even gone to the bathroom once without interruption.  I felt like Miss Hannigan from one of my favourite movies Annie.  I was dripping in little girls. Out of nowhere I threw a mommy tantrum. It was a minor meltdown, but obviously a successful one.

I cried, "I just want a little space, somewhere that's mine, only mine.  I want a place where nobody can throw their Lego or their dirty laundry. I want somewhere to write." 

And that night after bedtime, Travis cobbled a beautiful, perfectly pointed writing table from bits and bobs in his workshop.  The next day he picked up a quart of paint for the wall, and the day after that I made some curtains. I gathered some of my favourite little things laying around the house and BOOM!  My Write Space was born.

I love this little nook.  It is a retreat and it is filled with things made by our own hands, given to us by family and friends, or treasures scooped up from local yard sales.

Admittedly, my literary masterpiece has not come pouring out yet, but it will.  And for now, this little space is free from clutter, free from Lego, free from tutus and tapshoes, free from laundry and any other remnants of my mom life.  It's my space, my write space, my creative workshop.  It's all mine.


At some point, we will move on from our little lovely house. My space will become another’s space, and that person will make it just right too.  I envision it as a meditation space, or a reading nook with a big comfy chair and a side table filled with Giller prize winning novels, or perhaps it will return to its original glory with an armless rocker for breastfeeding a newborn just like it did when we first moved here.  If these walls could talk, they'd tell many stories. Maybe I will create them myself, right here.


Books We Heart - Cheer-rup! Cheer-rup! Spring is Here! March 23 2016

It is, right? Yes? Please? Apparently, it is. The calendar and the arrival of the Easter Bunny this Sunday both agree. Though you never want to get your hopes up too much too early here in Atlantic Canada. Don’t. You. Even. Think about changing those winter tires or packing away the winter boots and snowsuits, because as soon as you do we will all be eating storm chips on a snow day without any power. Remember, this was exactly one year ago today. Here is a reminder of what was a year ago and what is today:

So, be patient my friends. Spring does seem to be making brief appearances. A few crocuses are blooming and some robins are bobbing about. It is coming. And so is Easter, which could go either way. We could be hunting for Easter eggs in the grass or the snow, and we have done both and the children enjoyed them equally.

Penelope and I crawled out of our lazy rainy day cave for a brief hop about town today in an attempt to bring on some Spring spirit.  

And by brief, I define brief.  We made it around the corner before she kicked the last bit of snow from the curb and declared "time to go home, Mom!", and I, being an obedient mom, obliged.  

We came home and gathered up some spring books and bunnies to brighten our day.  Here are a few suggestions from our home library to get you and your little ones in the mood for Spring.

Anything by Beatrix Potter – Who doesn’t love the sweet tales of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Benjamin Bunny and Peter Rabbit? Beautiful illustrations, timeless stories ... simply classic. I need not say any more.

Spring by Gerda Muller is a wordless storybook that we came upon at our local Waldorf Kindergarten. Images of nesting birds, rainbows, newborn farm animals, and children painting eggs and planting seeds capture the true essence of Spring. Using the striking visuals before them, children tend to lead the story themselves using imagination and creativity, or parents just wing it!

Dr. Duck and the New Babies by H.M. Ehrlich is a fun little story about Dr. Duck’s feeble attempts to tend to his garden as all of the nearby farm animals are birthing their spring babies and in need of his assistance.

Fun Times by Susan Atkinson-Keen is one book in a series of nature stories about Broughton Bear and Toby Travis. Susan is going to be a guest at our Bozzy Book Club next week and plans to share this story with our children. We have been reading Broughton Bear stories in our home for many years and this is one of our favorites. When a spring canoe trip turns into an adventure amongst the cattails and a dragon appears in the swamp, what will Toby and Broughton do?

The Easter Egg by Jan Brett. A book that starts with “Cheer-rup! Cheer-rup! Spring is here!” is sure to be a sweet tale and like many of Brett’s other wonderful books, this one tells a parallel story in the illustrations. Jan Brett is one of the greatest children’s storytellers (in my humble opinion) and she hits the mark with each one of her seasonal stories. This is a great Easter pick!

We hope that you enjoy these seasonal stories as much as we have over the years whether you are sitting under a tree in the Spring sun or sitting by the woodfire in your woolens because Winter just won't go away. 

 

 


Book Club is Back in the Burg October 15 2015

Two weeks ago, a couple of dozen Bozzy Book Clubbers and their fabulous parents met at the Fisheries Museum for a whole lot of fun with fish.  

We gathered in Gallery 3, a newly renovated beautiful, warm, rustic room planked with pine and reclaimed wood from floor to ceiling.  Families in Lunenburg love the Fisheries Museum and it is a must see for visitors.  It's a remarkable structure that is depicted in paintings and on postcards with its distinctive red shingled facade perfectly situated on the waterfront, backdropped by the rolling hills of the golf course on the harbour's opposite side.  This is the stuff that makes grown ups love it, but the kids love the aquarium, the tidal touch tank, the boats, and the exhibits and demonstrations that cater to them, not to mention the gift shop's salt water taffy!

As the children awaited the kickstart of book club for the year, they crafted their our own sailboats from mussel shells (scanvenged from the beaches of nearby Oak Island).

Judy wrangled the kids into a cozy reading circle to listen to The Snail and The Whale, by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler - one of today's greatest children's book power duo.  A Donaldson/Scheffler book is a guaranteed hit for pretty much every kid I know.

We followed this up with another fishy story, Down By Jim Long's Stage by Al Pittman.  This book is one of my favourite children's books, remember!  It was also a hit in Judy's house and her son took the spotlight for the reading.  Great Job Zachary and the rest of the gang who helped him out with this Newfoundland classic.

We were also joined by one of the Bozzy dads (aka The Winter Beard's Mon Mari) for an exciting rendition of Three Little Fishies with our very own Kate Lum-Potvin.  Look out Bryan, your lovely wife is quite the rock star!

Devyn Kaizer from the fisheries museum not only helped organize this event but also read A Whale of a Tale to the kids.  She captivated the kid's attention effortlessly.  Thank you Devyn!  The kids loved you.

And to top it off, the museum opened the tidal touch tank area to the children.  I was a smidge worried about someone ending up in the tank, but Ryan from the museum was ever so patient, relaxed and engaging with the kids.

Thank you to Devyn, Ryan, and all of the staff at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic for creating a memorable afternoon for the Bozzy Book Club.

Book Club will be meeting again next Wednesday, October 21 for a ghoulish fall session at the Lunenburg Heritage Bandstand, unless we are spooked out by the weather, in which case we will cross the street and meet at the Boscawen Inn which is really spooky!

 

 

 


The Return of the Bozzy Book Club September 23 2015

The book lovin’ Bozzies are Baaa-ack. 

On September 30th, Bozzy Book Club Season 2 will be premiering for another year of literary excitement.  To kick start this new season, the wonderful folks at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic are opening Gallery 3 in the newly renovated space to our group for an afternoon of children’s books, music, crafts and lots of fun to celebrate all things fishy.  

If you haven’t heard of the BBC of Lunenburg or would like a little reminder, the Bozzy Book Club is a children’s reading club based at the Boscawen Inn that meets each early dismissal Wednesday from 1:30 to 2:30 to share themed books, music, and crafts with local kids.  We have been joined by musicians, illustrators, authors and community members who have shown their amazing talents to these lucky kids. 

Read more about the Bozzy Book Club, not to be confused with the Boozy Book Club, here and here and here and here and here.  If you are interested in joining our group, you can contact us (reservations@boscawen.ca) to see if space is available.  And if you are a children’s artist, writer, or musician and would like to donate your time to share with the children or workshop new material with an enthusiastic group, get in touch with us. 

Since you haven’t heard from the book club in a while, I thought that I would quickly recap our final meeting last spring. 

It was a glorious, sunny afternoon in late May.  The scene was set at the cabin on the hill. 

The BBC families went off road at this pastoral spot overlooking the back harbour and the kids were excited.  It was starting to feel like summer was on its way after a very long winter that overtook the spring.  The perfect reason to pitch a tent, am I right?

They were slathered in sunscreen and squinting under sun hats for a reading of the hugely popular book, The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak.  One of our bozzies had requested to read this hilarious book to her pals, which really reflects the love of reading shared among these kids. 

Most children are quite familiar with this book already, having forced many parents and teachers to read it aloud in silly voices, reciting nonsensical phrases while the kids guiltily giggled.  Its quite an entertaining read.  BJ Novak is simply brilliant, but any fan of The Office or The Mindy Project would already know that.

 

There was also a great music collaboration from the wonderfully talented and gracious Bryan Potvin and the guitar clubbers. 

Bryan has joined us previously and loves to share music with children, along with his wife and BBC cohost Kate Lum-Potvin, who loves to share her own stories and fun madlibs.  Seriously, that is a match made in creative heaven, don’t you think. 

The kids were delighted to strum along with Bryan.  But not to be forgotten was our resident funk master, Judy who brought the kids on a musical journey with beat boxed nursery rhymes.  Her enthusiasm kills me.

And then there was popcorn and popsicles and ice cream. 

 

And frog catching in the boggy woods, quickly followed by tick checks. 

It was not a typical book club session, but then again, we are not your typical book clubbers.   Stay tuned for updates on this season's Bozzy Book Club.

 


A story for a sibling and a poem for pregnancy September 12 2015

I should preface this post by stating that I am not pregnant and the content that follows is not the cryptic lead up to a birth announcement.   But, if you are reading this post, it means that you are a friend of mine or my mother.  So, as a friend or my mother, you would be well aware that I have three spirited little girls.  My girls are beautiful, adventurous, creative, and a bundle of laughs and occasional tears wrapped up in tutus and seaweed and worms.  They look like sisters but they are very different beings.

 

Each of my pregnancies with these girls was also wildly different.  Each time I thought that I was having a boy; each time I wore pregnancy differently; and each labour felt like I was dying a slow death in a different way. But even with all of these experiences and being pregnant or nursing for most of the past decade, I will never be an expert in pregnancy, birthing, breastfeeding or child rearing.  Child rearing, by the way, is one of my least favorite parenting terms ever.  That and vaginal birth after cesarean. 

When friends are pregnant or encountering parenting dilemmas, I try not to tell them that I think one thing or another is the right thing to do.  I will tell them what I tried (which was often different for each of my children) and whether it worked for me or not.  But, as you know, there are a trillion pregnancy and parenting books and blogs to read that will tell you the “right” thing to do, the “best” thing to do, the ideal weights, the ideal foods, the ideal bedtimes, the ideal schools, and I will refrain from being one of “those”.  Truthfully, I am still just winging it.  All of this, and the fact that I seem to be surrounded by pregnant women and small children all.of.the.time, motivated me to write some new stories. 

My first story is for the child that is about to welcome a sibling into their home and world.  And, yes, there are also a trillion books about bringing a new baby home and we have read many books above baby bumps. 

Most bringing new baby home books tend to be practical stories that illustrate the shifts in routine that a new child will bring.  I, on the other hand, love to think of the wonderfully wild things that children imagine in their big little minds, especially when they stand beneath their mothers' growing bellies while everyone asks over and over again the most common question asked to an expecting mother: “What are you having?”  Kids are such literal creatures and their minds go to the most fascinating places.  This is what I came up with when I put myself in that big little mind:

 

What’s in that big belly?

A new baby story for children

By Mary Anne Donovan

 

Do you know what’s inside mommy’s big belly?

Is it a pumpkin? A big ball of jelly?

I wonder when we meet somebody new

And they ask “What is it?  You must know.  Don’t you?”

 

I thought that there was a baby inside

Jumping on board, hitching a ride.

Or swimming and hopping like a big frog

That started its life as a small pollywog.

 

I look to my mom and then to her belly.

What’s in there?  Could it be something smelly?

Could it be a skunk, could it be a pig?

Could it be a cow?  No way, that’s too big.

 

Could it be an alien from outer space?

Or maybe a monster with warts on its face?

Could it be a dog, will he fetch a stick?

Will it be a magician performing a trick?

 

A baby gorilla, a big toad, a snake?

Or did my mom eat too much of that cake?

I think its a robot that could wash the floors.

Mom would be glad if it did all the chores.

 

Is it a watermelon? Is it a beach ball?

No, it cannot be.  It can’t be at all.

Those things cannot grow inside a mother.

It must be a sister or perhaps a brother.

 

Or maybe its both.  It could be a pair.

A pair of twins for us to share.

Some mommies have three, and even four.

A litter of babies could be many more.

 

Do they really not know what's in her tummy?

Over and over, they ask my mummy.

“Do you know what you’re having?  When are you due?”

Do they really not know?  Don't they have a clue?

 

Its not an it, but a baby!  It must be.

A boy or a girl, we will just wait and see.

And you must wait too, don’t go crazy.

My mummy is pregnant, she isn’t lazy.

 

It could be a girl, she might have curls.

She may come out singing and dancing in twirls.

Or a boy with curls or no hair at all.

He could come out kicking a soccer ball.

 

Will it be cute?  Will it be scary?

Will it be smooth?  Will it be hairy?

Will it be quiet?  Will it be loud?

Will it stand out in a big crowd?

 

Mama, what if this baby is loved more than me?

My darling, that cannot possibly be

For whoever this is, whoever comes out,

They will love you as much as we love you, no doubt.

 

Aw.  Isn't that sweet?  And then there is the companion story.  A poem from a mother’s perspective, not intended to be read to children at all.  The story that many pregnant mothers want to read, the things that they would really like to say.  I loved being pregnant and am thankful to have had three mostly uncomplicated pregnancies.  But it wasn’t pretty.  I thought that I would look like this:

 

(Image link)

Instead, on the day before my first daughter was born, this is what I looked like. 

 

I dropped jaws.  People stared and whispered.  My thighs were one big trunk with a giant burl of a belly sticking out.  Everyday I answered the same questions over and over again to sweet unassuming people who barely knew me but surely knew lots about being pregnant and having babies in the twenty first century, even if their own babies were born in the roaring twenties.  I answered: What are you having?  When are you due?  Are you sure that there is only one in there?  Are you going to breastfeed?  You are not having your baby at home, are you?  Day in and day out.  And I answered politely.  And this may or may not have been what I really would have liked to say.  

(For the sake of my god fearing and swear loathing father, I have chosen to eliminate the offensive f-bombs to save us all from an earth shattering quake of tut tut tuts.)

What Are You Having?

A new baby story for expecting moms

By Mary Anne Donovan

 

Yes, I am pregnant.  Its hard not to tell

I’ve got a round belly, thick ankles as well.

And now, once again a stranger will come

She’ll open her mouth up and ask something dumb.

 

“What are you having, my dear?” she will ask.

If I weren’t so pregnant, I would grab a flask.

A drink I will need if she touches my bump.

Is this the pitfall of having a hump?

 

So, I smile politely and answer her rightly.

As she rubs my belly I grit my teeth tightly,

Imagining all of the things that I’ll say

To her, if she does not get out of my way:

 

Is it a he? Or a she?  Or an it?

Is it a puppy dog taking a ... shhh, it

Is sleeping inside of my tummy,

You annoying old lady, don’t be a ... duh, Me?

I’m a human, so this is one too.

And no, I am certainly not carrying two.

When am I due?  You say, any day now?

No, I’ve three months to go, you annoying cow.

Yes, this is coffee, espresso in fact

Come on, its just caffeine.  I’m not smoking crack.

And later I will eat some soft cheese and sushi

Take your judgement elsewhere and kiss my fat tushy.

And I might just have this baby at home.

I’ll name it Quinoa or Seafoam.

Maybe I’ll breastfeed this kid till he’s five.

Or I won’t at all and he’ll still survive.

And it doesn’t matter what you think.

If its a boy, I’ll dress him in pink!

And I’ll give him a doll and he’ll be in ballet.

And I’ll teach him to knit and then to crochet.

If its a girl, I’ll dress her in blue

She’ll like frogs and spiders and talk about pooh.

And she’ll have a boy name like James or Finn

I’m sure that you'll think that is just a sin.

Nope, no wedding ring – isn’t it shocking?

We may not get hitched, but the boots will keep knocking!

We’ll have baby upon baby illegitimately

As you shake your head hypocritically.

If you don’t like that, then go you know where

With your old lady purse and your purple grey hair.

Enough with your thoughts and opinions, jeez

You’ve had your babies, leave mine alone please.

 

So when you see me and this belly that’s growing

Smile and say something like, "You are just glowing".

Or better still, tell me that I’m barely showing

Then nosy old lady, get the trucking hell going.

 

THE END

 

 


Books We Heart - Dog Days May 20 2015 2 Comments

For this month's edition of Books We Heart, I thought that I would call upon one of the most dedicated dog owners I know.  Madeleine Kendall is a talented photographer, sewist, and mom to two beautiful little girls and one handsome (four legged) boy.  Rarely will you see her without her greyhound, Dave, and he is usually sporting some seriously stylish doggie couture designed and crafted by Madeleine herself.   I have been adding dog books to our home library lately upon request from my own littlest doglover, Penelope, and thought that if there was a person to call upon for recommending books about dogs (or books for dogs), Madeleine would certainly be that person.  

Dog Days - Books about and for dogs
By Madeleine Kendall 

 

I credit my paternal grandmother, Diana, with both my love of animals and books.  My grandmother was a brilliant woman who had a thirst for knowledge. While undertaking my degree, I frequently joked that I had no use for a University library card because she owned every book ever published. 

1930’s Diana with her dog Belinda

My grandmother’s love of books and animals connected.  Her maine coon cat, who I shared my childhood with, was named Tom – after none other than Beatrix Potter’s famous Tom Kitten.

I have been asked to contribute a blog post about dog books.  For those of you who don’t know me, this request was made because I am totally and utterly in love with my greyhound.  Kiowa Kay Dave is a retired greyhound.  He spent the first few years of his life racing in Florida.

Screen Shot of Dave winning a race!

Dave has taken to retirement very well and we love to spoil and indulge him – he is, quite possibly, the best dressed dog in town.

My girls suggested that Dave help us out with the photos for this post. He happily obliged.

 

Madeline’s Rescue – Ludwig Bemelmans

The Madeline books are like old friends to me.  The opening paragraphs of these stories are imprinted in my mind. ..

In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.

 

Madeline is a lovable and cheeky protagonist; her lively spirit and sense of fun have always appealed to me.  I have read the books to our daughters since they were tiny and they also love Madeline.

Madeline’s Rescue is the story of the day that Madeline “slipped and fell” from a bridge in Paris.

A dog jumps into the water and saves Madeline.  The 12 little girls take the dog “so brave” home with them.

They never wanted her to leave
And they called her Genevieve
The dog loves biscuits, bones and meal.
They sat around and watched her eat.

 

The musical rhyme and stunning illustrations make the Madeline books a pleasure to read and to listen to.

Only One Woof – James Herriot

Having spent my childhood in England, it is only right that James Herriot books loom large in our collection.  Only One Woof follows the story of an unusual border collie, Gyp, who is a silent herder.  Gyp and his litter mate, Sweep, have a special connection.  They are separated when Sweep goes to live at a neighbouring farm.  The two are reunited and Gyp’s response always delights my girls – the silent dog finally woofs.  That one big loud woof of delight is the only one in this delightful character’s life. 

 

Dog Loves Books and Dog Loves Drawing are recent additions to our collection. 

Dog Loves Books – he loves books so much that he opens a bookstore.  When things don’t go quite as planned in the first few days of opening his store, Dog escapes to the wonderful and varied worlds that exist within his books.  In Dog Loves Drawing, Dog is sent a blank book and he starts drawing.  Dog draws a door into his book – he passes through the door and draws a companion who comes to life; then they draw their way through an adventure.  This charming story encourages readers to suspend disbelief and enjoy imagination. My girls ran to their art tables and started drawing as soon as we finished the last page.  What adventure would you draw?

Hernando Fandango The Great Dancing Dog – Rachel Swirles

The story begins

He’s clever, adventurous, courageous, and mighty,
(and ever so handy for storing a nightie),
Hernando Fandango, pajama-case dog,
Is the very best friend of Miss Adelaide Mogg.

 

Adelaide Mogg is the daughter of ballroom dancers.  She and Hernando Fandango dance together every day.  When the Moggs enter a televised dance competition, a disastrous crash between couples occurs – Adelaide and Hernando step in and save the day.  They foxtrot, waltz and rumba their way to become stars of the show.

Harry the Dirty Dog – Gene Zion

We own many Harry books, but Harry the Dirty Dog is our favourite.  Despite the fact that Harry was first published in 1956, these stories did not feature in my childhood - I did not encounter them until 2011.  The illustrations are timeless and complement the story beautifully. When our first daughter started speaking, she asked us to read Harry to her every day.  Harry was the book she knew by heart.  She would finish our sentences when we paused and listened intently every time we read to her.

Harry was a white dog with black spots who liked everything, except… taking a bath.

One day Harry runs away from home to avoid being given a bath.  Harry visits places that any dog about town might enjoy but returns home when his stomach begins to rumble. He gets so dirty on his adventure that his family don’t recognize him when he returns. He jumps through hoops to entertain the family and finally encourages them to bathe him.  The family are delighted when they realize that the black dog with white spots is, in fact, their white dog with black spots.

 

Doggie in the Window – Elaine Arsenault

This book is not in our collection but was lent to us by Mary Anne.  It is a thoroughly enjoyable book about a little dog with big dreams and a talent for sewing. Doggie, who lives at a pet shop, desperately wants to be Mademoiselle Madeleine’s companion.  Madeleine is a costume maker - she hurries past the pet shop every morning en route to work.  Doggie uses his imagination to capture the eye and heart of Mademoiselle Madeleine.   

 

 


The Book Club Beard May 07 2015

Last week, the Bozzy kids got themselves into some deep ... books.  What did you think that I was going to say?  It is a book club.

We were surrounded by books – wall to wall, floor to ceiling ... books, books, books, and more books. 

We usurped the South Shore Public Library here in Lunenburg and got lost in the labyrinth of books in the space. Our bozzies can get pretty comfortable at the library.  Most of them participated in the Storytime program as babies and some still attend the programs offered by the library for school children throughout the year.  We filled the space snugly and got right at home.  Dare I admit this – we are a big, loud, energetic bunch of booklovers. We could get "at home" anywhere!

Being a big, loud, energetic bunch of booklovers in the library, we thought it would be a smart idea to give the kids some mandalas to color as they arrived.  Mandala simply means circle in Sanskrit.  They are symbols with simple geometric designs or very complicated artistic patterns that combine the benefits of meditation and art therapy.  Did my plan work?  Meh.  But the colors were pretty, and it was far more acceptable than a hefty dose of Benadryl.

We then gathered for a special story from one of our Bozzy mamas, the sweet and soft-spoken Beth Ann Knowles.  Beth Ann, you may recall from my last post, has an alter ego, The Winter Beard, who is a wonderful writer of many genres.  The Winter Beard knows how to swear and roll out rhymes for testicle like nobody's business.  She has created an online presence with weekly artistic projects that run the gamut from diy reupholstering, to poetry, songs, short stories and videos, and she has a notebook (albeit electronic) filled with children’s stories just waiting for massive publication.  I am waiting for The Winter Beard indie-alt-rap-experimental album, personally.  Believe me, she could pull it off.  Her writing is fun and witty and hilariously self-deprecating, but also deep and beautiful.  If you have not paid a visit to The Winter Beard, I would strongly advise that you do, but only after you finish reading this post.

Beth Ann read The Monster Under My Couch to the children, a story about a little girl who has a bone to pick with the monster living under the couch that keeps stealing all of her family's belongings.  She devises a plan to trick that monster and in doing so, overcomes her own monster fears.  After her story, Beth Ann talked with the kids about fears and other scary imaginings concocted by our minds.

Even this monster on the armchair.

The children were eager to share their own fears and learn some techniques to ease those terrible thoughts. One coping mechanism was a deep breathing exercise and another was creating a happy board.  Beth Ann showed the kids how to make a happy board - a collage of things that make you feel good from magazine cutouts and paper.

The kids flipped through their magazines and started working, cutting and gluing as they crafted a smorgasbord of happy images.  

My daughter Norah proudly shared her board - a plethora of typical happy things such as babies, tropical vacation resorts, happy children, flowers, money-loving monkeys and (see front and center) a toilet.  Yes.  A toilet. With a puppy sitting on it.  That's my girl.  Who is not happy on a toilet, right?

After the kids wrapped up their calm collaging, we shared two more books about fears and getting past them - Scaredy Squirrel At The Beach by Melanie Watt and Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully.

The bozzy buddies had another fun week together.  Hopefully, they have taken some of their newfound meditation skills home with them for the monsters living under their beds, in their closets, or in that salad that they are just too terrified to eat.  Hopefully, the moms and dads poured themselves a happy glass or simply gave themselves a calming stamp on the hand, like this wee bozzy.

The Bozzy Book Club thanks the Lunenburg library for sharing their space with us and especially Barbara, Barbara, and Janet for tolerating our enthusiasm.  Thank you to Beth Ann for sharing one of her stories with the kids.  We can't wait for the next one.  And now that you have finished reading this post, head on over to see how she copes with her fear of renovating - by setting her poetic pen to paper (or tips to keys) in this week's post,  I Think, I Fuel, I Fume, I Write.

 


Books We Heart - Favorites from The Winter Beard April 27 2015

This month's selection of Books We Heart comes from Beth Ann Knowles, a local mom to two sweet and muddy little boys, who kicked off 2015 with a creative assignment for herself.  Known to the blog world as The Winter Beard,  Beth Ann has tasked herself to complete and post a new creative endeavour each week to woo a giant children's book publisher and become the next J.K. Rowling.  Be sure to head to The Winter Beard's FAQ page to read some funny and juicy details about Beth Ann. In the meantime, check out what is on the Knowles' overdue library account reminder when they aren't creating their own tales from the heart. 

Reading with The Winter Beard

by Beth Ann Knowles

Do you ever find yourself at the library and your kids are everywhere and the books they’ve pulled off of the shelves are everywhere and the puzzles and blocks they’ve unearthed are all dumped and mixed and scattered? In moments like these we don’t always have the time or patience or wherewithal to choose good books to bring home. We grab the five most colourful books we can see; their vibrant covers popping off the shelf and into our hands. And then we settle down with our brightly coloured books to find they are just the worst children’s books we have ever read. The story is so terrible we think there must be pages missing. Or perhaps the story is moving along great and we’ve fallen in love with the little girl and her dear Granny and then we realize dear Granny is about to die. 

I’m all for books that help children deal with difficult situations, such as the death of a loved one, but I like to know in advance. It isn’t fun when, after a long day of kids sliding down banisters and jumping off top bunks, when we have finally settled them into a cozy pile of pajamas and we open up the new library book only to read dear Granny gets Alzheimers and dies of cancer. That is not fun at all. Try to get your wonderfully sensitive five your old to sleep after that. 

Has any of that ever happened to you? It has happened in our house; except the kids being wild part. My kids are never not ever wild. Ahem. Sometimes, it is the colourless books that are the best; the smallest and the plainest books that make their way into our homes and hearts and library late fee log.

I can’t help you with the wild kid in the library situation. If you figure that out, please let me know. But, if you do have a few moments to select books, or, better still, if you can reserve library books from the comfort of your home whilst sipping wine and watching Netflix, I have a few recommended reads for you.

In our house everyone loves Julia Donaldson. Our most recent favourites are Zog and The Paper Dolls.

 

Like her most famous book The Gruffalo, Zog was illustrated by Axel Scheffler so you can bet the pictures are amazing. The rhymes you come to expect from Julia Donaldson won’t disappoint and the message is fantastic. While our boys love it, I especially recommend Zog to anyone with princess-obsessed daughters; if you are trying to wean them off of that infatuation.

Julia Donaldson’s, The Paper Dolls was illustrated by Rebecca Cobb. The story is very lyrical and whimsical and does a beautiful job of embodying the adventure of growing-up and the fun and importance of preserving our inner child and the memories from our childhood.

We’ve only recently gotten into Oliver Jeffers’ amazing children’s books. My favourite is The Hueys in the New Jumper. I love when books have powerful messages but deliver them in subtle and hilarious ways. A great book to entice conversations about how great it is to be ourselves, to be different and unique.

 

Nicholas Oldland attended Mount Allison University in New Brunswick where he earned a degree in Fine Arts. Not only does he write and illustrate hilarious children’s books, he also designs clothes for his family’s company Hatley. Big Bear Hug was the first of his books we discovered. It is a great read, especially if you love nature as much as we do, and it is filled with charming illustrations and a positive message for all of us preservers of the earth.

 

My sister lives in England and her love of books has helped us discover some great ones from across the pond. A couple of years ago she sent the children Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack by Lynley Dodd. It is an adorable story of friendship and the wonderful silliness comes in contagious rhymes which you’ll have in your head for days.

 

When I asked the boys which is their favourite book there was no hesitation. They have been obsessed with Crosby’s Golden Goal by Mike Leonetti ever since we first found it at the library. My four year old, who cannot read, can find it within minutes of arriving at the library. The story is about a boy who quits hockey but then joins again after witnessing Team Canada’s win at the Vancouver Olympics. While it is not my favourite book to read over and over and over again, the story is a good one and can stimulate conversation about the importance of balance when it comes to extracurricular activities. 

 

I remember Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina from when I was a child. The book is a fun one and is great for early readers. In our house the peddler always sounds like JFK. I’d be interested to know how he sounds in yours. 

Another book my sister sent us is Bob the Man on the Moon by Simon Bartram. Most kids are interested in space travel so this book is an easy one to love. The idea of a man who travels to work each day to his job on the moon is incredibly captivating for little ones. And while you’re enjoying the story there are lots of opportunities to spot the aliens who are hiding on every page.

 

We score a lot of fantastic reads at secondhand stores. The Wild Girl, by Christopher Wormell, is one such book. Our kids love stories about children who do not-so-childish things, such as grow up alone in the wilderness with only a dog as a companion. The illustrations are simple and beautiful and when the plot twists and a bear shows up, any child will be completely roped in.

 

Our favourite self-help children’s book is Do You Have a Secret by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos. This book is fantastic for stimulating conversations about good secrets and bad secrets and what to do if someone does something bad to you. It is so difficult to talk to kids about stranger danger and predators; especially without scaring them. This book makes things a lot easier. It is a great one to have on hand and read on a weekly basis as it helps open up those lines of communication. Most recently the ‘secret’ in our house was that “someone said the ‘b’ word at school”. Interestingly, the ‘b’ word was “boobs”. Someday a secret that is not so innocent may emerge from our Do You Have a Secret talks. This book will help with those awkward or sometimes scary conversations we all need to have with our children.

 

I probably don’t need to mention this book because most people love it, but I will because it rocks. I think Love you Forever is one of the best children’s books of all time. My kids like this book but not as much as I do. Perhaps they don’t like all the pauses; when I am choking back tears and searching my pockets for tissue. This book gets me every time. To be fair, so does Crosby’s Golden Goal. I get choked up each time Crosby scores the winner against the US in the gold medal game.

About seven years ago I taught English for a year in South Korea. I read Love You Forever to my junior high students who did not understand much English. Even they loved it! No matter the age, race, gender or culture, Love You Forever will affect you. 

Lastly, I highly recommend making your own book. I made books for the boys a couple of years ago and they are starting to be able to read them on their own now. Kids love books about themselves so it is a great way to get them reading on their own. I simply did an ’S’ is for… type of book with all of the letters of their name. Add pictures of your kids or things in their life and you have a hit. I used Photolab for this but I’d also recommend Blurb

So those are some of our family’s favourite reads. I hope you too will have the opportunity to enjoy a few of them with the young readers in your life; there are some true gems among them. And I can’t recommend enough, going online to your library’s website and putting some great books on hold for you to pick up the next time you’re in. If you don’t, you might end up with some winners but you may come home with something like the 1964 early reader, Barbie Goes to a Party by Jean Bethell. A great book for you to read aloud to fellow adults, for a good laugh, but not a good book to read to your children, unless you are rearing a Kim Kardashian type.

Beth Ann lives in Riverport, Nova Scotia with her husband, children and dog.  She will be sharing her stories with the Bozzy Book Club this week at the Lunenburg Public Library.  To read more of her work, visit The Winter Beard.


The BBC Goes Classical April 23 2015

Spring has finally sprung in Lunenburg.  Brown grass has appeared and the crocuses and daffodils are desperately trying to peak through Fall’s moldly leftovers and the stubborn patches of snow that refuse defeat.  

No more metal shovel meets pavement morning alarms - it is nothing but hungry chit chatter for the early birds from now on ... or for now. It has been a long wait for this thing called spring and for me, the season truly flipped last Wednesday.  The sun was blazing and it was an unusually hot day.  Snow banks still formed the old town's backdrop but that didn't stop us Lunenburgers from bravely stuffing our swollen winter feet into flats without socks.  A little too excited to see the sun, perhaps?

Last Wednesday was also Bozzy Book Club Day, giving us even more reason to smile because we were meeting for a fun, musical themed book week.  

 

We did not bombard the Boscawen Inn as we usually do.  Instead, we trudged up to the tip of Lunenburg where the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance (LAMP) was set to host the bozzy kids and parents in the Old Lunenburg Academy.

 

The old academy is Lunenburg’s beauty queen – tall, gorgeous, haunting and intimidating at once.  She also boasts an amazing campus with a playground, community garden plots, and (what we all found out on the eve of our BBC meeting) the soon to be relocated Lunenburg Public Library.  How exciting is that for a brood of bookish kids! 

The kids climbed the old steps to LAMP’s third floor auditorium and assumed their spots as Judy read the first musical book, The Man With the Violin by Kathy Stinson - an award winning book that is beautifully illustrated by Dusan Petricic and based on the experience of world renowned violinist Joshua Bell in a Washington subway.  

Bell and his violin went to a subway station to perform magnificent pieces while people rushed past with little notice. They were oblivious to this musical genius performing free of charge.  In this fictional retelling, a young boy in the subway station is moved by the music that he hears while his mother, too busy to stop and listen, hurries him away. Dylan eventually opens his mother's eyes and ears to the magic of Bell's music, reminding us all to slow down and open our souls to the beauty that surrounds us.  

Hmm, I think that this is a familiar theme to me ... reminds me of a little book that I once wrote.  Who doesn't love when the wisdom of an innocent child reveals worldly truths?!  

During the reading, LAMP’s artistic director Burt Wathen took his own bow to viola and added some inspiring mood music to bring the story to life. Judy was practically brought to tears!

Then came this lovely quartet of vocal talent, expression, and enthusiasm - Pasquale Arcamone, Brendan Daly, Rachele Tremblay, and Suzanne Rigden, accompanied by LAMP's resident pianist Walter Delahunt. 

The voices of LAMP's vocal residents filled the auditorium, mesmerizing the kids and leaving the parents awe struck.  I must admit, I was a little nervous about letting 30 kids loose in a classical music performance space, but they ate it up.   Some could barely contain their love of the music and just had to swoop in with their own interpretive dances.

Kate then read Tabby McTat the Musical Cat from my favorite children’s book super duo - Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler. 

Fittingly, LAMP's soprano and mezzo soprano performed a theatrical feline rendition of Gioacchino Rossini’s Cat Duet.  How paws-itively purrr-fect it was!  

We capped off our book club session at the academy playground.  Snow did not stop these kids from stripping off their overcoats for some unencumbered climbing, swinging, hanging and sliding into spring.  

Thank you to Susan Corkum-Greek and Burt Wathen from LAMP for teaming up with the Bozzies for the afternoon and the outstanding performers for their wonderful musical stories.  Parents are still boasting about the amazing afternoon we had at book club last week and I am sure that you will see many of these faces back in those seats.

Next week, we will be invading the library, still in its current location on Pelham Street. Beth Ann Knowles, Bozzy mama and aspiring children’s writer (aka The Winter Beard), will be joining us to share stories and crafts with the kids.  

 


K is for Kone April 01 2015

A blizzard did not keep the bozzies at bay last week, which meant lots of kids were in attendance for Kone Week at the Bozzy Book Club! 

What's Kone Week, you ask?  Kone Week was a celebration of the greatness of Mr. Kone - a friendly, happy go lucky fellow who adores the letter K.  His love for K runs deep; he lives in a K shaped house with his cat named Keith, sleeps in a K shaped bed, and happily sings the praises of all things that begin with the letter K.  One day, Mr. Kone decides that all words should begin with the letter K, but he is met with obstacles and frustration as he tries to communicate in his new K-rich vocabulary.  Mr. Kone’s story, called K Is For Kone, is one of the newest comical creations of Kate (with a K) Lum-Potvin. 

The kids were a little kooky when they arrived at the Bozzy and we worried that we were in for a wild ride, but as soon as Kate began to read K Is For Kone, they were engrossed in its hilarity. 

Following Kate’s reading, the kids were left to their own devices to create an illustrated version of the story, which has yet to be set to pictures.  The children busily depicted Mr. Kone’s tale, with covers and their own storytelling drawings. 

 

 

Then Kate and the Bozzy Book Club saw Mr. Kone come to life at the hands of Anne-Marie Sheppard, children’s book enthusiast and co-owner of Lexicon Books in Lunenburg.  Anne-Marie shared her talents with illustrations that complemented this funny tale perfectly.  She and Kate then read the story and displayed her visual interpretation with a kid friendly discussion about how she conceived the sketches from her reading of the story (only three days earlier!).  The illustrations unbelievably captured the essence of Kone with witty cartoons, fantastic streetscapes and expressive caricatures.

The kids really responded to these illustrations and then shared their own with the group.  It was particularly interesting to see the diversity of interpretations which relayed a great message about the infinite possibilities when imagination meets visual art.  Once the kids finished illustrating their Kone books, we bound the pages so they could share their books with friends and family.

Thank you to Kate and Anne-Marie for bringing a story to life before our eyes.  It was quite special for the children to experience the illustration process - a first for our book club.

The BBC meets again on April 15th, when we will venture out of the Bozzy and head to the tip of Lunenburg.  It will be a musically themed book club session and we are delighted to be hosted at the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance (known to us as LAMP), where the world's finest classical musicians come to learn and perform.  


Books We Heart - A Nice Cup of Tea and a Bedtime Story March 28 2015 1 Comment

This month's edition of Books We Heart has been compiled by Mahone Bay mum, book lover and nature enthusiast Kara Turner.  Kara has three children who have already inherited their parent's passion for reading. Her impeccable taste in many things, books being just one, made her an ideal guest poster here on our book lovin' blog. Read along to see what stories are shared at bedtime in her home after a nice cup of tea and then head to your locally owned book shop to buy one of Kara's recommendations.  

A Nice Cup of Tea and a Bedtime Story
By Kara Turner

We’ve read to our three children (aged 5, 7 and 10) since they were tiny babies. The oldest still enjoys being read to, but she is deeply immersed in Harry Potter so it is happening with rapidly decreasing frequency. Our middle child is into some classic chapter books of her age group, but has recently also embraced wizardry at Hogwarts. At the moment, it’s my husband who usually reads to our youngest each night. He’s just turned five and still loves picture books (who doesn’t?). It will be a sad, sad time when we grow out of the picture book stage.

 I spent most of my professional life working on children’s books: buying rights to them, editing them, planning the printing of them, and publishing them. All of this before I had children of my own, so by the time I was on bedtime-story duty I had strong ideas about the kinds of books I liked. My husband and I both grew up in the UK and our taste in children’s books is distinctly British. But it is influenced of course by our children: voracious listeners all three. Here is a selection of enduring family favourites aimed primarily at the 3 to 7 year range. There’s a lot to be said for books that can keep a parent entertained for years on end — these books all have what it takes:

Ladybird fairytale classics 

 

These small hardback books were all mine as a child (the imprint had its heyday in the late 1960s and early 70s) but incredibly they have not dated in more than 40 years. Everyone needs a favourite collection of fairy tales and this is mine. I love each and every tattered one, and so do my kids.

Peepo (Janet & Allan Ahlberg)

We used to chant this classic rhyme from memory with two-year-old Lily buckled into the backpack on long hikes in the Rockies. I recommend the board-book edition for durability. It is perfect for younger children, and the illustrations are pure oh-so-British nostalgia.

Green Sheep (Mem Fox & Judy Horacek)

Another winning but quirky rhyme, with clean, simple illustrations. I’m not a fan of all of Mem Fox’s work but this one brings a smile to my face every time I read it. (For the book’s backstory and insights into the writing process, head here)

 The Tiger Who Came To Tea (Judith Kerr)   

One of the best children’s books ever written in my opinion. I love stories like this: imaginative yet not forcibly so, and short and to the point. In spite of a talking tiger at the table, children can relate to the story because so much of it is recognizable and familiar (bath time, grocery shopping, the excitement of going out for dinner after dark). This is one I always pack when we travel because we have a paperback edition that slips nicely into a suitcase and it’s guaranteed to hold the kids’ attention.

Tiddler: The story-telling fish (Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler)

This is probably my favourite picture book of all time. I adore the story line and the illustrations. I feel the same thrill of anticipation when I pick up Snail and a Whale, but my kids are not so keen. Our other perennial favourites are Stick Man and Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book. But, with the possible exception of Superworm, you can not go wrong with a Donaldson/Scheffler book or two before bed.

Alfie (Shirley Hughes) 

Hughes is a genius at writing stories that appeal to young children with just the right mix of everyday observation and gentle drama. Alfie is aged around four in the books and is a sweet, patient, slightly anxious little boy that every parent will fall in love with. By the same author Dogger is also excellent and we love Rhymes for Annie Rose, too.

 Milo’s Hat Trick (Jon Agee)

We have enjoyed everything this writer/illustrator has ever published. He’s one of the few non-Brit authors on this list and is someone we discovered through the library. His sense of humour is evident on every page and his original and imaginative stories are spot on. In this one, a lackluster magician learns a new trick from a bear. We also love Terrific, Dmitri the Astronaut, and The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy (Oliver Jeffers) 

How could any children’s picture book list not include Oliver Jeffers! Just brilliant in every way — he fits into the same modern superstar category as Jon Agee and Jon Klassen. This title and Stuck are our favourites. I would love to spend a day hanging out in Oliver Jeffers’s wonderfully wacky brain!

 Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain (Edward Ardizzone)  

Published in 1936, this is a classic adventure story in the traditional sense. It is not for the faint of heart —young Tim runs away from home and stows away on a ship. While not a part of my childhood, it was a part of my husband’s, and is now a regular part of our children’s.

You Choose (Nick Sharratt & Pippa Goodhart)

This isn’t a bedtime story, but it has played a key role in our bedtime routine over the years. Sometimes kids just want to make up their own stories and this is a fun way of prompting them. Every double-page spread presents a variety of options to choose from: houses, clothes, food, pets, hobbies, etc. Our kids often huddle together to go through the book themselves — a bonus if we are tired or distracted. This book is always packed for trips away from home.

Danny the Champion of the World (Roald Dahl)

You can’t go wrong with Dahl’s brilliant storytelling, and this one with its heightened sense of danger and nighttime shenanigans is our favourite. While it’s nice to be able to finish The Enormous Crocodile or The Magic Finger in one bedtime reading, nothing beats the anticipation of awaiting the next chapter of a longer story.

Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome) 

Every child who lives by the ocean or is interested in sailing should be reading this book! There are 13 tomes in the series and Lily has made it to number 7. Swallows and Amazons is the first book in the series and a must-read, but We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea is our favourite. It requires a keen parent, and is not recommended for the under 7s as the jargon can get a little impenetrable in places (the book was first published in 1930), but it’s well worth persevering.

Kara Turner spent 16 years working for publishing companies in the UK, Norway and Canada as an editor and associate publisher. Since having her third child — and moving to Nova Scotia — she has worked part-time as a freelance editor. She and her husband run a small geoscience publishing company called Agile Libre.

 BOOK GIVEAWAY!!!!

If you haven't already, like Woolly Thyme Press on facebook or (if you have) leave a comment to enter and win a copy of one of Kara's book recommendations - The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers. The winner will be randomly selected on Friday, April 3rd, so share and like - books and Woolly Thyme Press.


Awaiting Winter's End .... In Spring March 23 2015 1 Comment

Spring has arrived ... but Winter forgot to leave.  King Winter was late for the party this year.  But, what he lacked in punctuality, he made up for in enthusiasm.  Like the really drunk guest who just won't leave the party.  This is not a diatribe against Winter, there are more than enough Winter Hatists on Facebook to fill everyone's hate bucket.  It is quite apparent from my most recent posts that I don't love winter, but as someone once said, without pain one cannot feel joy.  So, here comes some joy.

With winter, there comes snow.  We have been barraged with snowstorms over the past eight weeks and shovelling has become the official Nova Scotian sport, not by choice.  Salty floors and snowsuits would probably sum up my mothering experience these days.  But, when we squeeze our winter spread bottoms into those snowsuits and force ourselves outside, we certainly have been having a lot of fun in this little town.  Instead of hobbling around, complaining about the snow in our best Eeyore voices, this is what we do as we wait for winter's end.

  

 

And then there is Lunenburg itself.  The most beautiful postcard perfect town in the summer - bustling with wonderful music, great food and a glistening harbour busy with boats.  But, even when it is covered in white, it is still full of color.  And this town is darn good at ploughing sidewalks.  Perfectly chiseled pathways form within hours of a storm, making Lunenburgers the envy of many big city folks.

 

And while we await winter's end, Canadian wildlife is doing the same.  I am happy to share a beautiful children's book that has just been released by Mascot Books, fittingly called Awaiting Winter's End.

This book gives a warm and rich depiction of what animals do as they wait for winter's end.  Written by Cindy Missen-Ross, it is gentle and smart and a wonderful way to introduce science, nature, and art to young children. The illustrations by Steph Ross are stunning, cheeky, and each one is a true work of art in itself. This mother daughter duo have crafted a wonderful educational tool that parents and children will find interesting, informative, and a joy to read. Each two page spread features beautiful rhyming verses about a particular Canadian wild animal and describes what each does in the winter.  The verses give clues and the illustrations complement the hints with a partial glimpse of each animal.  

This has the elements of a great interactive guessing game that my own children loved.  If you love nature, Canadiana, smart children's writing and art, you should read this book.  If you are sick of waiting for winter to end, you should read this book. Basically, you should just read this book and follow Awaiting Winter's End.

 

 


Having Munsch with the Mayor March 18 2015 1 Comment

Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day.  I grew up in Newfoundland, my mother's (maiden) name is Molly O’Brien and I was an Irish tap dancer when I was a kid.  St. Patrick's Day is a big deal.  I usually dance a jig on Paddy’s Day and play Great Big Sea songs as loud as is allowable in a heritage neighborhood, but I didn’t yesterday.  It was not a green leprechaun dancing on your dining room table kind of day.  The only green in this house came from the sniffly noses of 60% of our family. Yesterday was not green, it was white, and it was even whiter today.

Lunenburg was quite beautiful today, eerily apocalyptic but pretty.  

The only traffic that you would find in town was the gridlock of snowploughs and sleds.  It was the perfect day for an annual family portrait. 

This photo was taken this morning in our neighbor’s yard and one of us couldn't make the long trek across the property line through the deep snow.  She is there, deep in the background, and has been suddenly and shockingly struck with middle child syndrome.  I hope she will get through it, the snow and the syndrome.

A mountain of snow fell overnight and turned March Break into March Break Your Back (at least it is that for my husband who has been shovelling non stop for 7 weeks). 

If it wasn’t March Break, it would be another snow day and you know how I feel about snow days.  I will get to the intended point of this post now.

Last Wednesday was not a snow day.  There was snow on the ground, though it was neither falling nor blowing around.  And it was not messing with my mom mojo.  Therefore, the Bozzy Book Club kids hurried out of school ready to gather at the Boscawen Inn for another fun afternoon of crafting and storytelling.  However, this week they did not scurry down the steps like cat chased mice as they typically do.  They were brought into the inn’s elegant turquoise parlours, formally referred to as the Drawing Room and the Music Room (and quite fitting for this day).

Sky high ceilings and ornate chandeliers canopied rooms filled with antiques and haunting portraits of really old people whose eyes might follow your every move.  I felt like I was in the mystery game Clue and if I leaned heavily on the mantle, it would turn and I would find myself in a secret room with Colonel Mustard carrying a candlestick while Professor Plum laid dead on the floor.  However, there were no dead professors on this day and the rooms were filled with laughter and silliness.  The kids looked slightly confused about the prospect of having book club in the pretty rooms too, like they were being let loose in a white room with a chocolate ice cream cone.  But they were let loose in the turquoise palace because it was Prince and Princess Week at the BBC.  We lined the rug in kraft paper, threw down some craft supplies, hung up a banner and we were all set to entertain a bunch of busy bozzies. 

 

 

 

The kids immediately began handcrafting crowns for themselves and made one extra for our BBC special guest, Lunenburg’s Mayor Rachel Bailey.  Mayor Bailey was coronated and donned her monogrammed crown as she read Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess

 

Obviously, she has read this book with her own family many, many times, for she barely had to look at the pages to read to the kids.  We all enjoyed her warm reading and will gladly roll out the red carpet for her anytime (the Inn has the most fabulous new red carpet on the stairs, so it won’t be too difficult to make it happen).

The princess vibe kept on rolling with Kate’s reading of her hilarious tale, Princesses Are Not Just Pretty.

 

This book is one in a series of Princesses are Not ... books that Kate has written and features Princesses Libby, Allie and Mellie at their silliest bests.  In this story, the sisters bicker over which one of them is the prettiest and on their quest to win the pretty contest, they end up showing their true beauty by helping others.  Kate showed the kids that princesses are not just pretty, but drippy, yucky, muddy and ultimately, kind.  The bozzy princes and princesses rolled over with laughter at this royal adventure.

A new addition to the book club last week was a presentation by two of our oldest Bozzy Book Club kids, who sweetly collaborated on a reading of a princess fairy tale for the younger bozzies.

And to balance out the princess vibe, Judy, in her true crazy, kid-friendly fashion, read The King, The Mice and The Cheese by Nancy and Eric Gurney.

Prince and Princess week at the BBC was a huge hit.  The bozzies didn’t always sit on their royal behinds, curtsy, bow, speak in perfect British accents or refer to me as Her Majesty, but they certainly had a lot of fun.

We would like to thank Rachel Bailey for joining us this week, as well as Kate, Judy, and our Bozzy kids for their tremendous story telling.  

Our next book club meeting will be held on March 25th and we will be joined by Anne-Marie Sheppard, children’s book illustrator and one of the fabulous women opening the eagerly anticipated Lexicon Books here in Lunenburg!  She will be sharing some tips and tricks for illustrating books with the children and we can't wait to welcome her as our very first illustrator at the BBC.


Snickerdoodles, Slippers and a Snow Day at the BBC March 02 2015

On Wednesday, I awoke to this:

 Again ... for the sixth time in four weeks.   They should change this announcement to the following:

Hi Parent/Guardian,
Knit yourself a noose because it’s another snow day.

Storm induced school closures are a necessary evil.  When you choose to live in Atlantic Canada, it is inevitable that, like them or not, you will deal with the odd snow day and the smell of fish and chips.  I agree entirely with closing schools when the roads are treacherous, but I do have a love/hate relationship with this type of day. 

I am not a neat freak or the most organized mom on the planet, but I do like to be prepared.   As a mother of three, I love a good weekly meal plan and will coordinate my day planner with our fridge calendar every few days. These tiny chores fulfill my unrealistic desire to know what is happening and when, because in reality I know that anything can and does happen and usually at the worst possible time.  I do not like surprises, bad or good.  Even the thought of a well intended surprise party makes me cringe.  I hope that my husband heeds this warning:  Never (ever) have a surprise party for me without me knowing, baking the cake, and putting up the banners first.  Got it?

I shudder when the school cancellation message arrives at 6 am.  But, my kids have no idea.  I announce that they have a snow day when they trickle down the stairs, with a forced inspiring “YAY” for their benefit entirely.  Having said this, I don’t completely hate the snow day, and this is where the love part of my love/hate relationship comes into play.  I do love throwing parental caution to the wind; not having to comb hair, brush teeth, or enforce a dress code is wonderful.  Letting my kids wear their jammies under their snowsuits conjures the image of a mom who just lets everything roll, right!  But I know that once the novelty of said day wears off, after we have completed every last-minute craft that I can think of, baked a batch of storm cookies, and I have killed the pot of coffee, we will all hate each other’s matted hair and morning to afternoon breath. 

So, after waking to find that school and therefore early dismissal were cancelled on a Bozzy Book Club day, my inbox quickly filled with emails between Judy, Kate and I wondering what to do about our BBC meeting.   We chose to go ahead with our planned book club, knowing that some of us would be able to brave the storm with little distance to walk, fuelled by a desperate need to get out of the house.  My commute to book club was wonderful with a willing chauffeur steering our easy to park vehicle.

 

The vibe at the Bozzy was perfectly suited to a schizophrenic kind of day – when the weather transforms each time you blink, from grey clouds to falling paper-like snowflakes to torrential rain that is broken by a glorious sunset.  The lighting was moody but brightened by the string lighting and strung banners.  It was cozy, the kids wore their slippers while they munched on freshly baked snickerdoodles and the brewed coffee warmed the adults cold hands.   

 

Then Kate Inglis, our Bozzy author of the week, arrived and everyone turned into monsters.  It was, ummm, lovely.  

I have been following Kate's blog for a few years now and her writing is deep and alluring.  It is both gritty and beautiful at once and complemented with stunning, soul revealing photographs.  Kate Inglis is one tough cookie.  If you follow her on Instragram, you can see her stacking wood and sanding walls, but you can also see her sitting on a velvet Victorian chair in vintage crinoline.  This tough cookie did not mind driving to Lunenburg on a snow day and she snorted, snarled and growled her way through a reading of monster poetry in her fuzzy wool socks.  The kids had a blast.

Before she turned into a monster, however, she shared a little bit of her own story with the Bozzies.  Growing up as an aspiring roller girl didn’t quite work out for Kate, but she seems to have succeeded in fulfilling her back up plan - becoming an “auther”.  She showed the kids what it is really like to be a writer or an illustrator.  She showed them how the rejections and critiques can bring out fear, sadness and insecurity in even the most successful writers.

She also shared the rewards of her hard work and persistence, which are her two children’s novels, The Dread Crew and The Flight of the Griffons

Typically, at a Bozzy Book Club meeting, Judy, Kate and I facilitate the afternoon and lead the kids from one activity to the next.  On Wednesday we sat back, sipped specialty coffee and watched Kate Inglis take the floor with verses from her upcoming Nimbus release If I Were A Zombie

She, and the children, transformed themselves into ninjas, zombies, giants, robots, pirates, ghosts and even ugly fairies as Kate read her newest work.  These poems were inspired by her son’s desire to have a book written for him.  Her natural maternal response was to write a book of poetry that is all of the stuff that kids love and grown-ups tell them not to.  It was hilarious, in a pick your nose and eat it manner.  Kate has a way with words and with kids that makes storytelling her clear calling in life.

After her reading, Kate encouraged the kids to create their own monster tales.  Several of them proudly shared their work with the group and all were supportive and attentive to one another. 

 

 

My own children have continued to work on their stories and pictures each night since, which is the most satisfying aspect of the Bozzy Book Club for me as I get to witness the next generation of storytellers and bookmakers perfect their craft.

We extend a huge thank you to Kate Inglis for coming out to the Bozzy Book Club on such a snowy day and look forward to reading If I Were A Zombie in all of its gory glory this fall. 

Next on the BBC agenda is a Prince and Princess themed day with Lunenburg’s Mayor, Rachel Bailey.   We look forward to her visit and hope that she doesn’t need to hitch a ride on a snowplough to get to the Bozzy.


Books We Heart, The Second Part February 23 2015

Today's post is the second in our series of Books We Heart.  As mentioned in Part I, I wanted to make this space a collaborative one for sharing the much beloved children's books read by other authors, parents and community members. For Part II, I have enlisted the wisdom and cheeky bad girl aspirations of Kate Lum-Potvin - friend, children's book author, Bozzy Book Club co-conspirator, and mom to two grown children.  Kate enlightens us with her take on the role of the "bad child" in children's books and why we are so drawn to their tendencies.  

Children Behaving Badly….Stories of misbehaviour, and why we love them.

By Kate Lum-Potvin

I was a good little girl.

(Kate's doll, not the real Kate)

At least, I supposed I was. Yes, I fought with my sister—her fault, of course—and no, I didn’t always clean my room. But basically, as little girls went, I was good. Our household, tense from my parents’ divorce, was a place where behaviour was closely scrutinized. I dreaded the critiques that came my way, easily crushed by any failures.

My classmates, however, were unimpressed. “How come you never do anything wrong?” snarled a tangle-haired girl named Sherry.

I peered warily at her chapped lips, as she smacked away at her Bazooka gum. I had no answer. There was clearly something weird about me. Why was I cursed with goodness?

Being good brought praise from adults, of course; I soaked up their words like a needy little fern. But it might have surprised these adults—and all the Sherries—had they seen my favourite book.

My first choice, from about the age of seven, was Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls by William Cole, its pictures, by Tomi Ungerer, depicting gleefully psychotic kids:

 

In the family drinking well
Willie pushed his sister Nell.
She's there yet, because it kilt her -
Now we have to buy a filter.

And,

Young Sammy Watkins jumped out of bed;
He ran to his sister and cut off her head.
This gave his dear mother a great deal of pain;
She hopes that he never will do it again.

 

Why did I re-read this book till its pages crumbled? For the same reason, perhaps, that I loved playing “the bad girl” in pretending games with my sisters. She was generally named Amelia (apologies to any Amelias out there.) She yanked tablecloths out from under food, dropped tiny babies, stole money and mouthed off. The Amelia in me became Pippi Longstocking for fifth grade Halloween, and refused to settle down in class—Pippi would never have sat!

Alas, my rebellion melted away at my teacher’s obvious shock. My “good girl” designation stuck. But we all have some mischief in us. If we can’t express it one way, we find another. Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls was pure escape from my increasingly uncomfortable self-image.

(Illustration by Kate Lum-Potvin, not Tomi Ungerer)

Also much loved by me, and later by my own kids, was the wonderful Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald, with fun drawings by Hilary Knight. Mrs. PW first appeared in 1947; her series is still underway, the latest installment in 2007.

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is an imaginative little woman, an oddity among adults but a delight to children. When the parents of the worst-behaved kids in town despair, she suggests ingenious methods of reform that re-define the phrase “natural consequences.”

There’s young Dick, for example, who refuses to share anything. So his mother, at Mrs. PW’s behest, writes “Dick’s ____, Don’t touch!” on everything he owns: his sandwich, his bicycle, his baseball bat, etc. Wilted by the laughter of all his friends, he promises improvement, if his mother will please remove the signs.

My favourite PW chapter to read aloud is about a pair of quarrelsome twins. Their parents, on Mrs. PW’s instruction, write down every word of the girls’ arguments. All the next day, they re-enact them, so horribly the girls beg them to stop. Having tasted their own medicine, of course, the twins vow never to quarrel again.

Aside from the question of whether or not Mrs. PW’s methods would actually work, these stories are interesting in that they bend a key “rule” of writing for children: namely, that a child should be the hero of every children’s story, the source of the solution to own their problems. This is why, in children’s classics, parents are so often dead or missing (and in more recent books, divorced or distant.) A child with attentive parents, it’s feared, might not be the heroine of her own story. Too much help will cushion her path. No tough problem? No plot.

Yet children delight in the world of Mrs. PW, and in her terrible little neighbours. No matter how “naughty” a child has been, most haven’t strayed as far as these! The humour is wonderfully absurd, as well, almost along the lines of Beastly Boys—like the case of Patsy, who refuses to bathe and ends up with radishes growing on her skin.

Perhaps these stories work because, as a reader, the child can “be” both the miscreant and the wise Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. The “naughty” kid is gratified, the “good” one vindicated. Any inner tension between them is comically resolved. After all, the neighbourhood children love Mrs. PW, and she clearly loves them, keeping her house full of toys and games for them, and building its interior—naturally—upside down.

The third book I’ll mention is a departure from the others. The Friend With a Secret by Angela Bull was a favourite of mine from about age eleven. Its heroine, Lucy Quentin, is a good girl, constricted by Victorian life. She yearns for some sort of excitement, but can’t seem to supply it herself.

And here we find another popular device which works very well in children’s literature: the exciting, mysterious, slightly dangerous new friend, who shakes up the life of the well-behaved child. Olivia Lang is gifted and theatrical, lost in imaginings to escape her own troubles. She draws Lucy into a world of half-truths, threatening characters, and Victorian-style drug dealing. Lucy is torn between her friendship for Olivia and her loyalty to the gentle life she’s always known.

And this is how the “good girl” grows up: from gleeful childish recitations, to more nuanced explorations of what rebellion means. The link between honest self-expression and misbehaviour can now be explored in a richer vein. As Lucy fights her fears to save Olivia, she realizes that, in spite of her own, quieter essence, she has what it takes to find adventure in the world. She also realizes that in some ways, her stability has been a gift, one she can share with the neglected Olivia.

In the book’s afterword, we learn about the two friends’ adulthoods. While Lucy has a family and runs a children’s magazine, Olivia departs for a wilder life in London, marries an actor, and continues being Olivia. I do recall my affinity shifting from Lucy to Olivia at the story’s end. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that I’m currently working on a novel about an eleven year old girl in Victorian London who plans to be a music hall star?

Our great task in growing up is, of course, the weaving together of the many aspects of our selves. Like chefs, we season and re-season, seeking the perfect balance between ingredients that stabilize, and those which add spice. This is where literature can help. For a younger child, uncertain or constrained in some part of her being, stories depicting—or exaggerating—her latent qualities provide catharsis. Older kids, ready for more complex tales, experience their emerging selves through multiple characters.

But there’s no doubt we love our mischief-makers and rebels, whether we consciously classify ourselves amongst them, or not. So thanks, Sammy Watkins, you little horror. Thank you, grubby Patsy and Olivia Lang. Thanks for the laughter, the much-needed release, and the wild possibilities for tomorrow.

(the real Kate channels Olivia, age 22 ... she never actually smoked)

© Kate Lum-Potvin, 2015

Kate Lum-Potvin is the author of many children’s books including What! Cried Granny, Princesses Are Not Quitters and, most recently, Princesses Are Not Just Pretty. Her awards include the Red House Book Award (UK) The Japan Picture Book Award, and the Nick at Night Best Book Award (USA). She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. Kate lives in Nova Scotia with her husband, a musician, and still loves Olivia Lang.


Ho Ho Hoppity Lo February 12 2015

On February 4th, the Bozzy Book Club was summoned once again to a snow smothered Boscawen Inn. The kids toddled in wearing full snowsuits with faces barely visible apart from their rosy cheeks and noses pushing through hats and hoods.  Coffee was brewing for the grown up Bozzies, buntings were hung in an intentionally unintentional manner, a guitar was waiting in the corner for a player, and the kids cozied into their now familiar spots at book club.

On the heels of a snow day, the kids were excited to gather for stories, songs, and a flurry of birthdays that were just waiting for a celebration.  Their parents seemed equally happy to escape the endless cycle of shovelling and binge TV watching.  The snow banks were high and the icicles decorating the windows were longer than them, but the BBC kids were warm inside and ready to rock.  And by rock, I don’t mean Judy’s attempt at a punked out version of You are My Sunshine.  We actually had a rock star in the house.  One of the Bozzy neighbors (and the husband of our own Kate the Great Madlibist) is Bryan Potvin (www.bryanpotvin.com) from the well known Canadian rock band The Northern Pikes.  Bryan is a wonderful musician and songwriter whose musical career has taken him all over the world.  But on this cold, wintry day he came to play for a discerning audience of Bozzies and they loved it!  It was not quite the paparazzi worthy image of a party crashing rock star in a hotel.  He brought his acoustic guitar to a Victorian inn and kept it intact.

When the kids settled into their circle, Kate (www.katelum.com) warmed them up with a jazzy narrative and dance to stretch out their limbs and open their imaginations for story time.  

She then pulled out a new story, A House for Mr. Ping, which has been heard by few audiences ... so far.  It is a sweet tale about a man named Mr. Ping who arrives in a new town with the idea that if he finds the perfect house, he will make many friends.  His ideal home is a spectacular house with sparkly paint and a fancy roof.  His search doesn’t end with a glittery abode, but he does find happiness in an unexpected home.  The story is filled with friendship, grilled cheese sandwiches, a ukulele and an upbeat rendition of the story’s feature song, Ho Hoppity Lo which was written and arranged by Kate and Bryan.  This sing-a-long definitely upped the cool factor for the BBC with a hip Sesame Street cameo vibe.  It also upped the moods of the seasonally affected parents who joined in. 

The home theme was carried into our Bozzy craft.  The kids had a blast with a self directed art adventure in home design that involved cardboard boxes, toilet paper rolls, whatever supplies were on hand and very little parental persuasion.  

    

They proudly placed their “perfect” homes on the neighborhood mat.  It was a motley but happy community and the children could see that a perfect home is made up of love, creativity, and a lot of glue!

From this we went back to circle time for another home related book, The Mitten by Jan Brett.  In this Ukrainian folktale, a pile of woodland creatures make a home in Nicki’s handknit snow-white mitten.  The animals all squeeze in, creating an odd coexistence until a bear’s sneeze projects them all, leaving only a stretched out mitten for the boy.  It is a beautifully illustrated book, and Judy read it in her usual kid centric style.

The afternoon ended as all afternoons should – with cake. These three Bozzy kids share three birthdays in three days and did not seem to mind sharing a couple of cakes, a load of candles, and a lot of birthday joy with one another.  What a wonderful afternoon at the BBC it was.

  

The next Bozzy Book Club date is February 25th.  We are very happy to welcome Kate Inglis (www.kateinglis.com) to our club.  Kate is a children’s author and photographer who has also made her home on the South Shore.  She will be reading from her highly anticipated monster poetry book, If I Were A Zombie (set for release by Nimbus Publishing in the fall).  I am looking forward to this as well as an evening of sipping wine in front of Pinterest in search of the perfect monster craft for our BBC kids.


Books We Heart, Part 1 January 30 2015 2 Comments

I have been working on a couple of children’s stories lately and have reached a frustrating point, a state of gridlock that any crafter or artist or maker of any kind encounters ... or so I assume and hope.  At this point I ask myself: Why do I think that I know what I’m doing?  Who wants to hear what I have to say anyway?   

While I have never claimed to really know what I am doing in the realm of children’s book publishing, I do feel that we have tales to create and share partly because we (like many other parents) have read thousands of children’s books over our short journey as parents.  Mind you, some of those thousands have been read hundreds of times each ad nauseam; some of them are just frivolous, mind boggling, make sense or not books that I could recite on demand like an annoyingly overplayed song, or books whose words we replace with toilet vocabulary just for the sake of making it new and silly again.  Sometimes our children adore books that Travis and I prefer to skip over, but we let them choose their books.  Some of these stories are well loved all over the world, while other books we feel a deep connection to but some families may just not get. 

Over the past 8 years, I would estimate that I have read Bill Martin and Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear 291 times; Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon 820 times; Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo a mere 465 times (this figure would be higher, but someone ate the book); and the complete Curious George Collection 130 times. Sometimes it feels like I’m in the middle of my own Groundhog Day nightmare.  But, we keep on reading.  No matter how tired, no matter how many times we have read the book, no matter how dog-eared and toddler nibbled the book may be ... we keep on reading.

With each of our daughters we have observed wildly different responses to books and reading.  Sophie, being the first born and an only child for two and a half years, had the pleasure of having both Travis and I put her to bed each night – a beautifully unsustainable routine that included waltzing to jazz music, measuring her height every single night on a growth chart, laying on the rug beside her crib while pretending to be asleep, and a whole lot of reading.  Having the two of us to her lone self meant that she could hijack us one at a time to read a baker’s dozen books before tucking her into bed.  Each time we would close a book, she would look up at us with her big try to say no to me eyes, stick her pointer finger up next to her right eye (I bet you thought that I was going to say stick her pointer finger up her nose, didn’t you?) and announce that we were going to read just “one mower”.  She did not ask, she told us.  And of course, each time we’d oblige.  Sophie would sleep with her books and to this day, at 8 years old, you can find a library in the crowded nest that she calls a bed with her miner’s lamp strapped to her forehead as she reads.

Norah’s growing love of books has been a wonder to watch.  She has always been at her happiest in someone’s lap reading a story.  Not a day goes by that she doesn’t run up the stairs upon returning from school to read to herself in her room; her way to decompress at the day's end.  She carefully turns each page and plays the narrator along with every character as though she knows what each and every word is.  Oftentimes she retells the story in the way that she wants or inserts some of her day’s occurrences into the plot.  At 5, she is beginning to read well, sparkling with pride and joy as she reads each sentence out loud, always out loud, to herself or whoever will listen.

Penelope is almost two and is at a point where she cannot sit still.  A pile of stacked books in front of her is a ladder.  Not in the symbolic ladder to knowledge sense, but a literal ladder.  It’s a climbable structure that will allow her to reach greater heights ... before she leaps into the air without fear of pain or consequence.   Reading books with Penelope can be a struggle at times as she flips pages and even switches books before we’ve finished reading them.  When we ask her what book she would like to read, it is always one of our Curious George books, or shall I say the most informative how-to guide for creating a mischievous life.  Some day she will sit.

With a house full of books for children, it would seem fitting that we would share some of our family’s favourite children’s titles on this blog.  These books make us strive to create our own stories; they inspire us in their own beauty, but also inspire us as we watch our children’s response to them.  This post will focus on some of our favorite Canadian titles.  It is just a short list of the many that we love and we love them for many reasons – a beautiful rhyme, a calm rhythm, sweet illustrations, a meaningful message. 

The first children’s title is one that makes my heart skip a beat each time we read it and was given to us by a dear friend when Sophie was born.  Newfoundland poet Al Pittman’s Down by Jim Long’s Stage (http://www.breakwaterbooks.com/books/down-by-jim-longs-stage/) is a beautiful collection of rhymes about fish, for children and young fish (as read on the cover).  Each fish has a name and embodies characteristics that will come to mind whenever you see a fish for the rest of your life, anywhere – in an aquarium, at a museum, in a grocery store, washed up on a beach, or even on a plate.  Too much?!  There are sing song rhymes such as:

Ella Eel so long and slinky met a squid whose name was Inky.
“Oh my!” said Ella slinking by when Inky inked her in the eye.

This book is a Newfoundland classic and was re-released in 2001 with the addition of whimsical illustrations by Pam Hall that beautifully complement Pittman’s poetry.  Down By Jim Long’s Stage feels like home to me, with phrases and references known well to Newfoundlanders.  I can hear my accent breaking through as I read it and can only imagine the beauty of a raspy recitation by someone like Gordon Pinsent. 

Something from Nothing is the retelling of the Jewish folktale “Joseph’s overcoat” by Phoebe Gilman (http://www.amazon.ca/Something-Nothing-Phoebe-Gilman/dp/1443119466).  Gilman’s other books, especially her Jillian Jiggs tales, are always a hit at our house.  But this retelling is wonderfully illustrated with another story parallel to the main story, similar to many of Jan Brett’s books.  In Something from Nothing, we see as Joseph’s blanket made by his grandfather gets worn, torn and reborn into first a jacket, then a vest, a tie, a handkerchief, and a button, while the mice living beneath the floorboards (in the other story) make a home from the scraps.  The kids love the repetition as the grandfather mends the tattered wears, “ ... his scissors went snip, snip, snip and his needle flew in and out and in and out ...”   We love the message it sends to kids about turning nothing into something and giving old objects a new life, a concept that is often forgotten when everything in our world is so disposable.  Our kids live in a house where many of their toys and clothes are handmade by friends and family. When something gets worn, torn and broken you will often hear them say “Daddy can fix it!” or “Mommy can fix it!”, much like Joseph himself.  That is, as long as it doesn’t have batteries! 

A review of favorite Canadian children’s titles wouldn’t be possible without a Munsch book, now would it.  The Paper Bag Princess (http://www.amazon.ca/The-Paper-Princess-Robert-Munsch/dp/0920236162) is a hilarious book with an unlikely superhero and a twisted fairytale ending.  One of Norah’s first sentences as a toddler was “you are a bum” after reading this book several dozen times.  She couldn’t wait until she heard the words “you look like a prince” before she would quickly pipe in with her favorite line.  The heroine, Princess Elizabeth, saves petty Prince Ronald in a crafty duel with a dragon only to be snubbed by him for her dowdy appearance.  This book has a great message for all children, but the dragon’s fire burns a little hotter for us with three daughters who we want to be confident, strong, and capable of outsmarting any dragon (or Ronald) that they meet.   In the end, Elizabeth trots happily into the sunset without her handsome, ungrateful and superficial prince. 

This post could go on and on and on (wait, it already has) and I am leaving a great many books out.  I thought, what about Bradley McGogg The Very Fine Frog, any number of Sheree Fitch’s books, or the Jack series by Andy Jones.  So I have decided to make this post the first in a monthly series called Books We Heart.  If you have books that you love and would like to share or your kids have quirky reading habits, leave a comment.  In the meantime, keep reading and reading and reading and ...


Dead Men Tell No Tales January 18 2015

A word of caution - this post contains excessive use of pirate lingo.  Pirate glossary follows. 

If dead men tell no tales, then the Bozzy Book Club pirates spared us because I am thrilled to share our fun and wacky adventures at this week's book club with you. We walked the plank and narrowly escaped a trip to Davy Jones' locker for it was, after all, PIRATE'S TREASURE WEEK at the BBC.

Snow crystals glistened in the crisp winter sun as I walked into the Boscawen for another BBC meeting. It was contemplative, warm and inspiring at the Bozzy headquarters.  So much so that my littlest scallywag decided it was a suitable setting for perfecting the art of crayon ear balancing. Would you look at that concentration and skill?


And then the quiet dissipated as the rapscallions trickled in two by two. They each found their perch at the craft tables and created treasure maps while they waited for the club to convene.

  

 

Once we had all hands on deck and this gentle pirate climbed on board, we set sail. If pirates looked like this five centuries ago, their tales would be a sweet and gentle marriage between Jane Austen and Johnny Depp.


Judy, the Pied Piper of the Bozzy Team, caroused the kids with a raucous, though oddly endearing, rendition of A Pirate Went to Sea, Sea, Sea. And well, sink me! The transformation of Judy into Fluffbucket Patch Beard (her pirate name) before our very eyes was incredible. Sweet, loveable, beautiful Judy with a smile that goes on for days became a scoundrel with the quick flip of a switch.  The kids were smitten, and with absolute reckless abandon Judy forgot that anyone else was present, or that cameras were in the room, to give them a good time. Shiver me timbers, I was a bit scared.


As the more subdued landlubber of the team I had a hard act to follow, but I did give the kids something they all wanted - their very own pirate names.  

 

We had Squidlips Eddie Three Gates, Mad Patch Bart, Dead Man Creeper Sparrow, Bucko John O'Malley, Freebooter John Beard, and Captain Patch Kidd among us, to name just a few.  It took no time at all for them to shed their sweet spirits and embody their pirate personas. 

Kate, or Scallywag Patch Barnacle, made a gangway and created a pirate themed Mad Lib with the kids once again that is undoubtedly becoming the highlight of our book club. The children love to watch their story unfold and are empowered by their contributions to the silly tales that they make with Kate. These stories are funny, wildly nonsensical, and absolutely perfect for kids. They deserve to be heard and we hope to share them in a compilation of Tales of the Bozzy Book Club.

We then moved into our book of the week reading. I pulled out my well worn copy of Oak Island - A Tale of Two Treasures written by (ahem) myself and illustrated by my husband Travis Hiltz. The kids were attentive and observant, except that little crayon ear balancing matey Stinky Head Bart creeping mischievously behind me as I read.  They recognized the treasure chests depicted all over the Oak Island images and grasped the meaning of the tale - that the island itself is the treasure. 

Judy then brought the buccaneers in for another shanty - Going on a Treasure Hunt. This woman was made for entertaining children and the familiarity of the song made a great interactive activity. It also proved to be the perfect segue into the book club finale - A Lunenburg Treasure Hunt. The kids were given clues that led to Lunenburg landmarks and ended at the Boscawen where we had hidden a sweet treasure treat.


The kids had a rip roaring time and Judy, Kate, and I were pleased to have satisfied them once again. When I got home I was filled with pirate angst and Arghhhs.  I just had to splice the main brace with a clap o' thunder to bring me down!

If you would like to check out this week's Bozzy Book Club book, you can find Oak Island - A Tale of Two Treasures right here.  Just hit the Catalog tab above and keep on clicking.  

Our next Bozzy Book Club gathering will be held on February 4th at the Boscawen Inn. Kate Lum-Potvin, the Queen of the Bozzy Mad Lib, will be sharing another engaging story with the kids about Mr. Ping and his search for the perfect home in his new town. Kate will be joined by her husband, musician Bryan Potvin, for a lively duet of Mr. Ping's favourite song Ho Hoppity Lo.  I am really excited for this one!

Thank you to all of the pirates and parents of pirates that joined us this week at the BBC.  
Thank you to the wonderful pirate wranglers that derailed Stinky Head Bart's attempts to sink the ship.  
And thank you to Jessika (www.ohmyhandmade.com) for capturing some of the afternoon's shenanigans on her phone when my camera was out of reach.


Pirate glossary (www.pirateglossary.com):

Dead Men Tell No Tales - the reason why pirates leave no survivors.

Davy Jones' Locker - to die at sea, referring to Davy Jones who was said to sink every ship that he took over.

Scallywag - a villainous or mischievous person.

Rapscallion - a mischievous person.

Sink me! - an expression of surprise.

Shiver me timbers! - an expression of surprise or strong emotion.

Landlubber - a person unfamiliar with the sea. 

Gangway - an interjection used to clear a passage through a crowded area.

Buccaneers - heavy drinking, cruel pirates.

Splice the Main Brace - to have a drink or perhaps several drinks.

Clap o' Thunder - a strong alcoholic drink.


The BBC (of Lunenburg) December 15 2014

It was a cold and drizzly December day in Lunenburg.   The doors of the majestic Victorian mansion burst open as a flood of wiggly fish drowned the reception room.  They were hypnotized, if only for a short period, by the enchanting song of the BBC mermaid!

Well, the fish were really kids.  And it wasn’t quite THE BBC; it was the Bozzy Book Club launch.  And the enchanting mermaid was actually celebrated children’s author Kate Lum.

Almost two weeks ago, a fun collaboration between Woolly Thyme Press, the Boscawen Inn (www.boscawen.ca), and Kate Lum (www.katelum.com) was born in our community.  The Bozzy Book Club is a series of book readings for children aged 3 to 9 that fosters storytelling and story making.  Judy (owner of the Boscawen Inn), Kate and I saw the need for parents in the area to engage their kids on the early dismissal days which spring upon South Shore parents every second Wednesday.  This is a recent change in the school schedule and has left many of us with that sinking question – what can we do with our kids that is fun, affordable, and does not involve a long drive?  To answer that question, we are opening the Inn’s doors to local children and parents as a platform to share the stories created by the people of Lunenburg County.  This is a wonderful opportunity for children to learn the art of storytelling from the many creative minds on the South Shore in a fun atmosphere.

 

Why Bozzy?  According to the online Urban Dictionary, a Bozzy is defined as a person who has mastered reading a book while scootering, or any other pointlessly difficult multi tasked activity.  That sounds fitting to me.  And Bozzy because these lucky children get to club it up at the Boscawen Inn.  The ever gracious and generous owners of the Inn, Judy and John Rawdon, host the most elegant affairs, from romantic destination weddings to corporate functions and artist retreats.  They also invite the merry band of misfits in our community to less formal gatherings such as community clothing swaps, Christmas cookie exchanges and house concerts.  Now, twice a month, it will be inundated with a couple of dozen children for the BBC of Lunenburg.

Our first club meeting went off with a bang.  I don’t recall if there was actual thunder, but it was a great day for ducks and puddle jumpers.  When the doors opened, 21 energetic kids and 1 sleepy newborn poured inside. 

 

Kate warmed up the kids with some stretching to get the silly wigglies out of their systems before she read her charming and hilarious “almost bedtime story” - What! Cried Granny

What!  is about an energetic little boy who sleeps at his granny’s house, though granny’s efforts prove to be futile as Patrick resists sleep with some pretty crazy antics.  The Bozzy kids joined Kate and uproariously read while parents nodded knowingly to her story in a café setting.  She followed this with a comical madlib excercise that the kids thoroughly enjoyed creating.  Kate was poised and engaging and grabbed this group’s attention with what seemed to be little effort and no sweat.  Following Kate’s circle time, the children drew portraits of a granny - their granny or any granny.  The resulting illustrations were imaginative and inspiring.  The kids had a hoot creating bee-hived grannies, monster grannies, even robotic grannies.  Just check out these works of art.

  

 

If you missed our club meeting, I would recommend that you check out Kate’s book.  You can find it at: http://www.amazon.ca/What-Cried-Granny-Almost-Bedtime/dp/0613496477/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418608520&sr=8-1&keywords=what%21+cried+granny

If you want your kid to become a Bozzy, we cannot promise that he or she will be successfully reading a book while scootering because that is just not safe.  But, we will aim to have fun. 

You can contact us at reservations@boscawen.ca to reserve one of the few remaining spaces.  Our next meeting will be in the new year on January 14th.  I will be reading Oak Island – A Tale of Two Treasures and we are planning some swashbuckling crafts for the Bozzy pirates. 

 

The Bozzy Book Club Lowdown:
What: Author readings, musical guest appearances, crafts and games, all revolving around the book of the day’s theme.
Where:  Boscawen Inn (150 Cumberland St. Lunenburg)
When:  January 14, February 4 and 25, March 11 and 25, April 15 and 29, May 13 and 27
Time: 1:30 to 2:30
Membership Cost: $10/child for all 10 sessions
 

 

 

 


The Joy of Reading (and Christmas too) December 03 2014

This past weekend was very busy for families and businesses in Lunenburg.  The town was buzzing with Christmas events that included tree and schooner lightings, craft fairs, carolling, local shop sales and celebrations, the annual Santa Claus parade and a pervasive yuletide feeling throughout the streets.  There was so much happening that it was a challenge to fit it all in – a great feeling for a small community. 

We were honoured to play a small part in this weekend when we were asked by the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic (http://fisheriesmuseum.novascotia.ca) to give a reading and signing of our Oak Island children’s book.  The fisheries museum plays an integral role in our family’s calendar of fun.  We visit dozens of times a year and often find ourselves in the museum’s aquarium or at the Tidal Touch Tank on what-do-we-do-today? days.   If you are in Lunenburg, the Fisheries Museum is a must see for the young and old.

    

Our evening began with friends and sweet children snuggled around us as we read in the museum’s kids corner.  It was a treat to read to this adorable and attentive group of children and interesting to observe them as they arrived and scooped up books to read to themselves. 

   

From there we stepped outside of the museum with our hot cider to join in a countdown to the lighting of the fishing vessels.  We then danced to live music on the wharf and even tried roasted chestnuts, provided by the Grand Banker Bar and Grill (www.grandbanker.com), for the very first time.  It was a fantastic way to begin the season.

Thank you to the fisheries museum, to those who joined us at the museum on this very chilly night and to our good friend and talented local photographer Madeleine Kendall for photographing the event (www.madeleinekendall.com).