Saturday, January 30, 2010

Feed Me Books Friday (Favorite Children's Books)

Feed Me Books Friday is a new weekly link-up over at The Adventure of Motherhood.

Feed Me Books Friday

Each week, participants will blog about three children's books, often fitting a particular theme.  To get the project started, this week's theme is just "favorite children's books."  I am obviously a day late, but I wanted to get a post up so that I can get the word out about this fun idea.

I find it very difficult to pick favorites.  The three below are the three books that really stand out in my mind from my own childhood; they are not the Infant Bibliophile's favorites by any means.  He is only two years old, and since I remember these books so well, I probably liked them when I was a bit older than that.  Oh shoot, just as I was typing this, a fourth popped into my head (we are asked to list only three).  I am no good at playing favorites.

Harold and the Purple Crayon 50th Anniversary Edition (Purple Crayon Books)Harold and the Purple Crayon.  I remember loving the idea that I could create something with my imagination.  The older I got, the more I liked it.  My son hasn't warmed to it yet.

The Monster at the End of this Book (Big Little Golden Book)The Monster at the End of This Book.  I'm not sure which I thought was more clever -- the book or me for understanding it.  I still love this book, and all of Jon Stone's others in this series.  My son likes it, but it isn't a favorite (yet).

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb (Bright & Early Books) "Dum Ditty Dum Ditty Dum Dum Dum."  Monkeys with sideburns... love this book!  I bought a copy for myself my son last year, and I think I might have cried if he didn't like it.  He loved it too.

If you'd like to read about other favorite children's books, you can browse them at this week's link-up post here.  I'm a stickler for rules, so I wouldn't dream of violating the "list no more than three books" rule.  I'll just say that the fourth favorite book from my childhood that came to mind rhymes with Fanny and the Finosaur.  Oh, and Furious Feorge.  I better stop now.

How about you?  What are your favorite children's books?  Or do you find it as difficult to answer as I do?

Note: If you purchase anything after clicking through the links in this post, we may earn a small commission based on our affiliate relationship with

Monday, January 25, 2010

Heart to Heart: Back to Back Valentine's Day Crafts and Some Companion Books

What a fun crafty day!  I managed to 1) convince my son that collages are fun, and 2) complete a selvage sewing project.  I'll share them both together here, because one inspired the other, and of course, both are inspired by the upcoming holiday. 

Collage Heart

I am considering hosting an all ages craft get-together next month, and I wanted to test out an idea today.

I raided our craft supplies and my sewing room to put together a basket full of pink and red items -- stickers, scraps of paper and fabric, markers, glitter glue, ribbon, buttons, etc.

I cut out a cardboard heart and glued a bit of ribbon on to one corner to get it started (Ok, and to cover up some stray pen marks).  My son wasn't very interested in doing the project until late in the day, and he started tentatively.  He was most interested in gluing down the buttons.  But once he got going, he loved the project!  I think my enthusiasm spilled over a bit (I have always loved collage projects).  I kept telling him how much I liked what he was doing, and by the end, he kept standing back and saying, "Yay!  I LIKE it!"

When he finished, I added a clothespin and a pipe cleaner and hung it up.

I hope he keeps interested in this kind of thing, and I can fill a basket each week with a different color or theme.  Have I mentioned that I love collages?

Selvage Heart Pillow

Quilts from the Selvage EdgeAs he was collaging his heart out (ha! sorry), I started thinking...  Quite awhile ago, I discovered and subscribed to Karen Griska's blog.  Karen is the author of Quilts from the Selvage Edge, and her blog is really fun and inspirational.  Ever since I first glanced at it, I have been meaning to do a selvage project of some kind.  After trying it today, I will definitely be making more.  I am hooked!

First, I hunted through my fabric stash for pink and red selvages.  My son was quite helpful with this task.  Although it is generally not recommended because it can distort the fabric, I just snipped the edge and ripped my selvages right off.  I must admit: I love the sound of tearing fabric.

Next, I took a piece of thin white fabric and drew a heart on it.  I cut the heart out.  Here is a photo of the heart, along with my pile of selvages. 

I played with the selvedges, laying them over the piece of fabric in an arrangement I liked.

Then I stacked them so I would remember the order, brought them to my sewing machine, and sewed them on using the method described at  I LOVE this method.  It was so incredibly easy and fun.  I finished the entire pillow in about an hour.  Once I had sewed all of the selvages together, I flipped it over and trimmed the edges to get it back into a heart shape.  It looked like this.

Next, I cut out a backing, and sewed the two pieces right sides together, leaving a small opening for turning the finished shape inside out.  Then I filled it with polyester stuffing and hand sewed my opening shut.

I think next time (I can't wait to make more of these!), I'll do circle or square shapes, because I found it a bit finicky to get the heart shape just right, and I could do removable (washable) covers with pillow forms if I use more standard shapes.  Still, I totally heart my new pillow!  I am very glad that I started working on small sewing projects over the last few months.  They are much more manageable with a two year-old at my ankles, and I love the thrill of a finished project, no matter how small.


I haven't gotten any Valentine's Day books yet this year, but here are a few love-focused ones we have enjoyed in months past.
I Love You Through And ThroughI Love You Through And Through

Mommy Loves MeMommy Loves Me

Daddy Loves MeDaddy Loves Me
Never Too Little to LoveNever Too Little to Love

Do you have any Valentine's Day or love-centric children's books that you would like to recommend?  Would you like to share links to favorite Valentine's Day crafts that you have been up to or are planning in the coming weeks?  Have you made a selvage project?  (If not, what's stopping you?!)

Product Review: Sterling Silver Flower Bud Earrings from

I don't write product reviews all that often here (other than books!), but when contacted me about reviewing a piece of jewelry, I thought it would be a fun change of pace.  I had a great time perusing their catalog.  The store specializes in "cultured freshwater and saltwater pearls, precious and semi-precious gemstones, and precious metals."  The current catalog includes CZ promise rings (in gold and white gold), earrings, and pendants

I love this heart-shaped promise ring

My engagement ring is heart-shaped, and I still get complements on it, 8+ years after receiving it (thank you, honey!). 

I also love the simplicity of this love ring.

I'm a sucker for red jewelry (especially around this time of year), and I keep picturing this garnet mystique pendant with a white button down shirt and jeans.

In the end, though, I decided that I would get the most use out of a pair of Sterling Silver Flower Bud Earrings.

Here is the product description:
White Gold Rhodium Bonded .925 Sterling Silver Flower Shaped Earring Studs Featuring Marquise Cut Flower Pedals in Silvertone

As delicate as a flower bud, the Sterling Silver Flower Bud Earrings have successfully meshed CZ with .925 sterling silver to personify a gorgeous flower. This pair will make your ears gleefully glow. White Gold Rhodium Bond is achieved using an electroplating process that coats the item with heavy layers of rhodium, a close cousin of platinum that costs three times as much, which gives our jewelry a platinum luster.

The earrings arrived last week, and I was just thrilled with them.  While the company is located in Tasmania, Australia, their jewelry ships directly from a factory in California, so my order arrived quickly.  The earrings came packaged nicely in a snap-shut blue and cream colored textured cardboard earring box, with velvet lining.  One nice feature of is that for every piece of jewelry, the product listing includes length, width, height, and weight of the piece, as well as an image that shows the size of the item against a ruler.   So there are no surprises about the size of the item you will receive.  These flower earrings are fairly small, which I love (no sore ears by the end of the day, and they can be worn with absolutely anything).  They sparkled beautifully, and feel very comfortable on (as if I am not wearing any earrings at all).  In fact, I think I will go put them on now.

If you are looking for a place to point your significant other to for Valentine's Day shopping, or if you would like to splurge on yourself, go have a peek.  According to the website, the store's range will undergo a revamp over the coming weeks to include even more styles.

Disclosure: I received a pair of Sterling Silver Flower Bud Earrings in order to write this review.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hello From Us (And a Request for Book Suggestions)

We just got back from vacation yesterday (in Arizona), and I admit to feeling some lack of motivation to jump back into blogging.  I have many books here that I haven't posted about, but I have been going through one of those "why do I blog?" phases that seem to infect everyone at one time or another.  Luckily, hubbie/Daddy was very busy while we were away, and may be able to offer a fun post sometime soon.  In the meantime, here are a few random ramblings from our world -- most complete with a request for book suggestions for our library visit this week. 

    Hugg-a-Planet Hugg-A-Planet
  • The Infant Bibliophile LOVES geography suddenly.  I have a hugg-a-planet that I bought for him when he was quite young.  Now it has become "Mommy's globe," because I rest my head on it when I help him to fall asleep.  We started a game where I ask him to find places on the globe.  It all started with China.  He often asks me to read the bottom of his cars or little plastic animals, and they tend to say "made in China."  One day I showed him where China was on the globe.  The next day when I read "made in China," he ran and got the globe, flipped it around, and pointed at China.  I asked him how he knew that was China, and he explained that it was "near the big purple place" (the Russian Federation).  Since then - about two weeks ago? - he can consistently find: China, Russia, Mexico, Canada, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, California, Florida, New York, Rhode Island, New Zealand, Australia, Africa, Colorado, Nigeria, Argentina, Brazil, India, and I don't know how many other places, in addition to telling me which relatives live where!  I'm almost hesitant to change the way he is learning, because it is working so well for him.  (We do the states on the globe, but also on our Melissa and Doug state puzzle).  Still, I think when we visit the library this week I would like to grab a few geography-related books and see if any interest him.  I know a few of you have been focusing on geography lately.  Any suggestions?  He is only 2 years, 2 months old, so we'd definitely need books on the simpler side.
  • The other thing we have been having a lot of fun with lately is numbers.  The little guy loves to read out "hundreds" when I arrange his foam numbers for him (582, 343, 125, etc.).  I was wondering if there were any fun children's books about three- and four-digit numbers.  I don't plan to start doing long division with him, but I think he would get a kick out of seeing the larger numbers on the page.  
  • Along the same lines, I have been playing around with the concept of subtracting.  He is really just beginning to understand what subtracting means (if I have five objects, and I cover two, he'll tell me how many are left), but I thought a book or two to help introduce the idea might be fun.  It just occurred to me as I am typing this that addition might be an easier concept to grasp than subtraction.
  • If you find yourself in the Phoenix, Arizona area sometime in the future, I highly suggest visiting the Heard Museum, which focuses on American Indian art and culture.  Their learning center is amazing, with about 20 interactive jigsaw puzzles.  I was most impressed by all of the crafts laid out with instructions and supplies alongside examples of Native American art (braiding, beading, paper canoe, baskets, paper birds, etc.).  Just when we thought we had seen all of the children's activities, we discovered another large room with a huge canoe and an activity wall for hanging cut out felt animals, as well as more crafts.  Take two people to the museum so that one of you can play with the young ones while the other explores the rest of the museum.
  • When I came back, I had the most adorable pair of earrings from waiting for me.  Expect a product review soon, and get ready to accidentally leave the post up in a place that your Valentines Day gift-shopping spouse might happen upon it. 
  • Blogger will not allow me to delete this last bullet point, so there must be something I am forgetting.  Any ideas?  Maybe I'll just share that lately the Infant Bibliophile likes to shout out to me, "more learning!" or "more tell you!" when he wants me to teach him about things that he sees.  It's hard to say "no" to that request.  Even if he is still waking me up between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. every day.
Thanks to my rediscovery of television while away on vacation (we don't own a TV at home), my Google Reader got a bit out of control.  I have it down to 300 posts, but I likely won't have time to comment on all of the cute crafts and great learning posts that went up last week.  I am looking forward to some fun Valentine's Day crafts in the next few weeks.

So do you have any suggestions for books about 1) geography, 2) big numbers, 3) addition or subtraction, or just great "hey you should read this!" ideas?   We'd love to hear them!

Note: if you click on any of the links in those post and purchase something, we may earn a small commission based on our affiliate relationship with

Monday, January 18, 2010

Blog Tour: Review and Give-Away (One Day Only!), René Has Two Last Names

Today I am pleased to be part of a BronzeWord Latino Virtual Book Tour for the book René Has Two Last Names.  I am posting my review of the book below, as well as some companion activity ideas.  I have been told that author René Colato Laínez will be reading the comments and answering any questions on this post today!  So please let him feel welcome and ask a question or two.  To get you over any shyness, we have some additional motivation.  One random commenter will be chosen to receive an autographed copy of René Has Two Last Names!  See bottom of post for rules and other stops on the tour.

René Has Two Last Names / René Tiene Dos Apellidos (Hardcover), by René Colato Laínez.  René Colato Laínez receives a sticker on his first day at a new school.  "René Colato," it reads.  When René writes his own name, he adds in "Laínez."  "When I wrote Colato, I saw my grandparents René and Amelia singing with me.  When I wrote Laínez, I saw my grandparents Angela and Julio dancing with me."  His classmates make fun of his long name at recess (see excerpt), and that night, he dreams that his mother's side of the family is disappearing.  The next day at school, the teacher gives the children an assignment involving a family tree.  René uses the project to show his class the importance of both sides of his family.  He tells the class about his father's parents (a potter and a farmer), from Italy, and his mother's parents (a poet and great dancer), from Spain.  "'And this is me,' I said, pointing to my picture in the family tree.  'I am René Colato Laínez.  I am as hard working as Abuelo René and as creative as Abuela Amelia.  I can tell wonderful stories like Abuelo Julio and enjoy music like Abuela Angela.  If you call me 'René Colato, only, the other half of my family disappears."  His classmates and teacher happily agree to refer to him by his full name from then on.

Each paragraph appears on every page twice - once in English and once in Spanish.  Fabiola Graullera Ramirez has illustrated the book in a fun style, with plenty of detail without being overly cluttered.

Of course this would be a great book for someone with a Hispanic last name reflecting both father and mother's ancestors, but I think other children would enjoy it as well.  The message about appreciating our families and where we come from is universal.

"During recess, I played soccer with my classmates.  A boy looked at my sticker and asked, 'What is your name?'  'René Colato Laínez,' I told him.  'That's a long, dinosaur name!' he laughed.  'Your name is longer than an anaconda,' another boy giggled.  'It's a blue whale from head to tail,' said the goalie."

Bookworm's interest at 2 years, 2 months: This is more suitable for an older child, so I didn't expect that it would interest him much.  We have read it together many times now and to my surprise (given his age), he does enjoy sitting through the entire book.

About the author:

Known to his students as "the teacher full of stories," Colato Laínez has been writing about issues facing immigrant children since his debut, Waiting for Papá/Esperando a Papá. The Salvadoran writer's long and arduous journey to America back in 1985 has motivated him to write stories that inspire Latin American children living in the United States.  His other books include: 
  • Fabiola, Fabiola 
  • Los tres pastelitos sabrosos/ The Three Delicious Pies  
  • En busca de un niño/ In Search of a Baby 
  • Yo soy/ I Am 
  • Querido diario/ Dear Journal 
  • Un año de diversiones/ A Year Full of Adventures 
  • Mi abecedario/ My ABC 
  • ¿Qué hago maestra?/ Teacher What I need to do? 
  • Un cuento de colores/ A Story Full of Color 
  • Mi casa es un castillo/ My House is a Castle 
  • El numero 1/ The Number 1
  •  Mi crecimiento/ My Childhood 
  • Las 5 vocales/ The 5 vowels

Companion Activity Ideas

1.  Author René Colato Laínez was kind enough to share this great activity that he has prepared with students.  It sounds like great fun. 

The title of the student's book can be: Student's name Has Two Last Names.

The book is divided like this:

1- cover
3- pictures from grandparents (father's side)
4- what the child likes about them
5-pictures from grandparents (mother's side)
6-what the child likes about them
7-A final thought about his/her family

Kids love to make this book. Children who only use one last names, also enjoy this book because they can write about their two set of grandparents and can find another way to write their entire names.

2.  Make a family tree!   There are some free templates here.  I will definitely be making one of these at some point, but we have done many photo crafts lately, so I chose something a little different this week...

3.  "My Family" Quiz Book.  The Infant Bibliophile loves being quizzed, and he has just recently started to circle things, so I decided to make him a little printable quiz book about his family.  Some pages involve counting -- "How many nanas do you have? Circle 1, 2, 3, or 4" -- and others involve places: "Where do Gran and Grandad live?"  He loved it, but finished it in about 10 seconds flat, so I apparently need to make a much longer book next time. 

Give-away rules: This give-away runs for one day only, ending at January 18, 2010.  Winner will be chosen by  Please leave your email in your comment or make sure it is accessible via your profile.  U.S. and Canadian addresses only.  Winner will be notified by email and the prize will be shipped directly from the author.


Do you have any questions for the author?  How do you teach your children about their ancestors, and/or the importance of their names?

Other stops on book tour:

Jan 11    Regular Rumination  
Jan 12    Cuponeando   
Jan 13    Tartamuda  
Jan 14    LaLicenciada        
Jan 15    Devourer of Books 
Jan 18    Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile (that's us)

Jan 19    Latino Book Examiner    
Jan 21    The Sol Within       
Jan 22    Bilingual in the Boonies

Note: I was sent a review copy of René Has Two Last Names in order to write this post.   If you purchase any products after clicking through links in this post, we may earn a small commission as part of our affiliate relationship with

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday (A Wee Bit Late)

Yesterday I was a bit out of sorts, and as the Infant Bibliophile went into a drawer and pulled out a muffin tin, I asked him to put it back.  I realized, though, that I sometimes find myself saying "no" to him without thinking about saying "yes."  What harm does it do to eat our lunch in a muffin tin?  So I changed my mind and let him pull it out, and put the lunch we had already been preparing into it. 

It was only when we were halfway through our meal that I realized it was, in fact, Muffin Tin Monday, and it wasn't until today that I learned that this week's official theme is Back to School/Learning.  It just so happens we did a semi-appropriate muffin tin activity.  We used the lunch we had already made to do patterning and counting while we ate.  Not the most aesthetically exciting Muffin Tin creation, but he loved it and did really well.  (We had allergy-friendly "muddy buddies," chicken nuggets, french fries, and bits of chocolate and sunbutter bar). 

I have plenty of books piled up to review, but as naptime is drawing to a close, I am going to post this and catch up with some book reviews later.

Are there any children's books that teach patterning?  We use some internet games, but for the most part, we just do patterning activities for fun with buttons and game pieces.  I can't think of any children's books that explicitly involve patterns.

You can read our reviews of various books about counting here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

How To Make a "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" Tree in 10 Easy Steps

* To see our reviews of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Chicka Chicka 123, click here and here, respectively.

This project may look time consuming, but it only took us a couple of brief sewing sessions.  It really is quite easy, and (don't tell anyone) it doesn't have to be perfect.  I involved my two year-old by letting him choose the fabric (and buttons) and sitting him on my lap while I used the sewing machine (he presses the needle up and down button and lockstitch buttons when needed).

1.  Gather your materials.

You will need:
Green fabric scraps (for leaves) - 8 pieces sized 5 inches x 7 inches
Brown fabric scraps (for trunk) - 2 pieces sized 13 inches by 7 inches
Three small felt scraps (approximately 2 inches square)
Batting or stuffing of some kind.
Buttons (optional) or small pieces of brown felt or fabric.
Thread (ideally green, brown, and a match to the color of your felt letters)
Fabric scissors
Sewing machine (or a whole lot of patience for hand sewing)

2.  Cut your pieces. 

You will need two equally sized brown pieces, approximately 7 x 13 inches.

You will also need eight green pieces, approximately 5 x 7 inches.  This photo shows a felt scrap, but we used green fabric (because I have a dresser full). 

All eight pieces do not need to be the same fabric or size.  We used three different kinds of fabric.  You may notice in our tree that the leaves are all different sizes.  I did not measure at all.  You just need to make sure every piece matches another piece in size, since you are making fronts and backs of the leaves.  Pair your green fabric scraps into sets of two and cut them all out into leave shapes - roughly an oval with a point on one end.

3.  Sew your trunk and leaves.

Sew your tree trunk fabric RIGHT SIDES together, leaving a two inch opening where you do not sew.  Lock your stitch at the beginning and end of the line.  Do the same for each of your four leaves. 

4.  Turn right side out.

Using the two inch opening you left, turn your trunk and leaves inside out.  You can use a pencil to poke out the corners inside.

5.  Stuff with batting.

I used this bag of polyester "snow" - an after Christmas 75% off sale find, perfect for stuffing toys!  I wish I had bought a few bags.  I tried to let my little helper stuff the filling in, but it proved a little difficult to get it into the small openings.  Older children will enjoy this task, though, or younger ones can hand you pieces of the stuffing to push in.

Note: I considered including some rice in the bottom of the tree trunk so that it could stand on its own.  

6. Sew the openings shut.

Sew the openings shut by hand.  I'll admit to only really knowing one way to handsew - a whipstitch, perhaps?  Whatever works for you to get them shut.  The leaves will now look like this.

7.  Attach leaves to the trunk.

My handsewing skills being as limited as they are, I used some sort of combination whipstitch, running stitch, "stab the needle in and out and hope it is helping in some way" method, and they seem to be fairly firmly attached.

8.  Give it a test cuddle.

9.  Cut out felt a, b, and c letters and sew onto tree.

10.  Sew buttons onto tree.  (Note: Felt circles would avoid the choking hazard, but my son was insistent that we use buttons).  I let him choose the buttons.  First, he chose a red car button, but once I said I thought brown might be a nice color for coconuts, he chose these.  I was impressed!  They weren't the easiest style to sew on.

If you make one, be sure to come link back here with a photo!