April 29, 2014

Friends are precious. I am freshly back from a yearly weekend mountain retreat with friends I have known since high school days. There is something special about keeping in touch for so many years, an ease in the way conversation can traverse over a decade of time in a matter of moments. These weekends are filled with good food (and food that is not so good for you, which is really good), downtown strolls, reading breaks, face-plant mid-afternoon naps, fresh air hikes, many laughs (some tears) and good conversations.

I pray that each one of you reading would enjoy and invest in friends like this. Friends who don't miss a beat in covering for you when the waitress asks if you all have kids (by replying that we either all have kids or husbands who are like kids). Friends you can laugh with, and quote The Princess Bride with. Friends who give you room to be yourself, who show through conversation that they genuinely care, who lift you up and celebrate and take joy with you. Friends who stay up late at night with the baby so you can get a wink of sleep. Friends who willingly share baby cuddles (I could have held her all weekend so I appreciate the sharing!). Friends who help you work through tough life questions, who rise with you in the morning and share hearts over coffee.

Thank you friends, whether in everyday life or connecting through these spaces, you are a charming gardener in my life and I am so grateful for you.

April 12, 2014

Fantastic books to read with (or without) little ones...

You may remember my quandary a while back, as I debated whether or not to replace children's literature in our home. Books are not so easy to move; they are heavy, and do not often fit nicely into a regular box. However, these are the small sacrifices a person who has moved four times in the last three years will make when it is for something she loves. Besides, who says you have to have kids to have kid's books? Not me.

Here are a few of the treasures that have made their way into my new collection. These come highly, highly recommended for kids (and adults) of all ages.

In this uniquely illustrated tale, a little girl (named Annabelle, which reminds me of this dear girl's daughter) knits all kinds of items for others and finds her box of yarn never runs out. She basically yarn-bombs her town, which I so love, but trouble comes when a mean pirate steals her box. 

It is a sweet tale highlighting the value of giving to others and how it can transform a community.

Stories with moose as main characters are few and far between, so when I saw this cover I knew I had to add it to the pile. A presumptuous Wilfred sets claim to a moose and believes it can be his pet... if only it will follow his rules. I chuckled my way through this one, and the oil-painting-esque backgrounds are truly breathtaking. I love the juxtaposition of fairly serious looking art with silly and lighthearted subject matter.

Next up is 'Virginia Wolf' by Canadian author Kyo Maclear, beautifully illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. This book won the Canada Council for the Arts Governor General Literary Award and is a subtle nod to writer and modernist Virginia Woolf and her sister, painter Vanessa Bell. 

Vanessa's sister Virginia is in a terrible, wolf-ish mood and Vanessa sets out to cheer her up. Nothing works until Vanessa finds her art box and begins to create. The way colour is introduced as the story unfolds is simply stunning. It speaks to hope, at any age. Here is a link to a short trailer for the book.

Those who enjoy graphic-rich black and white illustrations will also appreciate books by Nikki McClure, a self-taught paper-cut artist who lives in Olympia, Washington. I picked up 'How to be a Cat' of course. For more beautiful books by Nikki McClure, see this link.

Continuing with the black and white theme, I would also suggest 'Have You Seen My Dragon?' by the amazingly talented Steve Light. It is another gem which highlights counting, seek and find, and intricate sketch work.

If you have a little girl in your life, 'The Paper Dolls' by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb, is a must-add to your bookshelf. It is one of the sweetest stories.

Also highly recommended are 'Mog's Christmas', 'Mog and Bunny', 'Mog and the V.E.T.' and 'Mog and the Granny'. Judith Kerr captures true cat behaviour so well in both her writing and her illustrations. If you love cats, these books are priceless. I spent last night reading them out loud to Neal and we were laughing at something on almost every page. I am so thankful for the little bookstore in Canmore where I first found Mog.

And so my heart and head are full with beautiful stories, pictures and ideas. I can't wait to tuck a few of these books into my teaching bag and spread a bit of art and joy. No matter your age, or the age of those read to, these books will bring a smile to your face and to your heart. Are there any you would add to the list? I would love to hear your suggestions. Have a great week!

image sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

April 2, 2014

On with Spring...

At least here, on the page, as outside is chilly grey and brown with white still hanging around in frozen patches. I start to go a little squirrely at this point in the season, willing the brown grass to turn green and the icy wind to blow warm. Oh, and that pesky head cold to go away. You know, before allergy season starts. Neal randomly announced he wanted to wear shorts yesterday. We are pretty desperate for the season to turn (it has been spring for two whole weeks already.)

So it's time to bring on the spring, especially for those of you with brown and white out your windows too. 

Image sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

For a great chuckle on how early spring affects a farmer, head on over to Little House on the Prairie - you are guaranteed a laugh!

Happy Spring while we wait...