Thursday, March 20, 2014


The Tumbleweed Came Back
Tumbleweed invasion... some times, real life finds authenticity in story books.

A Colorado town is being usurped by a flood of tumbleweeds, as reported in The Huffington Post. See the footage here. It's quite an issue for this community near Colorado Springs, but I couldn't help but see the parallel, (or mirror) to  THE TUMBLEWEED CAME BACK! 

"The tumbleweeds came back, the VERY next day...
Even more came back, they just wouldn't stay away!"

I can just see Granny and the kids skulking through the streets with a pitch fork and (good?) intentions.

I hope to learn how this besieged town digs their way out of this calamity. More at 10. I hope.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hiking Boot Granola

I know. . . sounds yummy, right?

Well it is. Don't let my boot title sway you from grabbing a bag of oats and a mixing bowl. You won't regret one morsel of Hiking Boot Granola.

Hiking Boot Granola is a tribute to the little girl in my DO PRINCESSES series. She has a heathy appetite. And is always on the move. Sound familiar? She regularly heads into the kitchen for refueling.  Who wouldn't, after all that inquisitive play. Snack, breakfast, 2nd snackzies. You know the drill.

This recipe is loaded with goodness, made with 100% non-GMO, organic ingredients. Give it a try, won't you?


3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut (unsweetened)
1/2 sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup pecan pieces (or other nut, or none at all)
2/3 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup maple syrup

Pre-heat oven to 325°. In the order listed, place the first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir, stir, stir.  Add coconut oil and maple syrup and stir, stir, stir some more.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (Or not.) Spread the granola mixture evenly, pressing down with a spatula to the edge of the sheet, but not too close to the edge because you know the hazards.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes. Carefully stir and repress the mixture. Bake for 10 minutes more. Check. It should look nicely golden. Stir some more and bake longer if needed. YUM. Remove from oven and cool on the sheet until room temp. Transfer to a glass jar for storage in the fridge.

Photo coming soon!

Thursday, October 31, 2013


THE TUMBLEWEED CAME BACK is rolling into town. 

Please bring the little ones this Saturday to The Tattered Cover , Highlands Ranch CO for a rollicking good time. 

The best part of all? Kevin Rechin, the fabulous illustrator of THE TUMBLEWEED CAME BACK will be in town to demonstrate how he makes his awesome characters. 

Tumbleweed treats, contests, interactive readings and more!  

See you there... yes?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Morning at the Picture Books: On a Beam of Light

Albert Einstein had me at hello. And so will On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky.

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein is a clever, witty, and informative tribute to a historic icon (with a twist of comic strip thrown in for good measure). The story clocks in at a "just right" length for the picture book crowd. It's never clumsy or slow. I found it captivating.

Of course, a conscience was at the core of Einstein's deeply wondrous wonderings. It's not new that his discoveries left a mark on the world. So did his philosophies and poetic offerings. Yet, in the end, Ms Berne circles us back around to a very personal meaning. Nice.

Readers will love the tonal illustrative technique used by Vladimir Radunsky, done here in goache, pen, and ink. Beautiful. The art is fresh and superbly alive.

On a Beam of Light is exquisite. I mean... just look at that!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Grandma LaVigna's Marinara...

"It's only as good as the tomatoes..." 

That's my own quote. Repeat now with a NY accent. (Which I don't have, but do it anyway, just for the effect.) I always say that quote whenever someone compliments me on a dish, specifically Marinara. The recipe itself is nothing special. Wait. I didn't just say that. Did I? Because actually it IS special. Granted, it's lean on ingredients, but it is special nevertheless. It's special because the recipe comes from a spoken tradition of sharing recipes. Clove of this, pinch of that, handful of the other... sloshed aprons and messy counters!

Truth is, recipes that are passed down orally from generation to generation contain more than just directions on a yellowed slip of paper. Smoosh, smack, and throw are three unlikely action verbs you won't find in any cookbook. Those instructions are reserved for the days when the cook takes you into her/his kitchen (and heart) to show and tell a recipe.

So stop looking! You won't find which Italian aria to sing over the pot of spaghetti sauce in a cookbook. You won't find which old wooden sauce spoon to use either. And you won't find any footnotes about all the wrist slapping that occurs when an adult child slips into the kitchen to sample a hot spoonful of sauce...
"But Ma! It's the best eva!"

My Sicilian grandmother, Carmela Celi LaVigna, demonstrated most of her recipes. Okay, from time to time she would reluctantly write down a recipe, even though we would need a translator to read her handwriting - yeesh, at least we got it in writing. A-hum, my grandmother wrote how she spoke, in broken Italian.

That said my dears, be warned, for my version of Marinara is slightly different from the one my grandma melodiously made Sunday after Sunday. (It's true. I adapted it. Eeek!)

Over the years I have added a few subtle tricks learned from my Aunt Jinnie, my non-Italian mother (can she legally cook Italian that well?), my cousin Gary, plus my own tribulations.

If YOU were standing here, right now, in my kitchen, I would hug you all, and show and tell this recipe.  But you're not, so here's the next best thing... in broken English.

Turn up O mio babbino caro, don a stained apron, and get out that cranky old wooden spoon.

Let's DO this!

Marinara (5-ish servings)

8-10 medium very ripe amazing organic cluster tomatoes (or others)
Marinara (shown here with meatballs)
10 medium very ripe amazing organic Roma tomatoes
1 6 ounce jar tomato paste
Garlic clove
Olive oil
Sea salt (Himalayan)

Begin by removing the peels from all the tomatoes - par boil for 1 minute in a big pot of boiling water.
While the tomatoes cool, place several glugs of olive oil into a medium large saucepan. (Be generous, you'll be glad you did!) Add one to two cloves of garlic, each cut in half.  Ever so gradually heat the oil. You do not want olive oil to smoke. If it does... you must start over. (Turns to trans fat.)

Next, peel the cool tomatoes and discard skins. Squeeze each tomato over the sink to remove many of the seeds and some watery innards. This will make you feel very Italian.

Now blend the peeled and smooshed tomatoes in a blender until smooth. Add this to the warm garlic oil. Crank up the temp to medium. Stir in one jar of organic tomato paste. (Not Muir Glen.)  Fill the jar with water, and add to sauce. Stir (with that old wooden spoon.) Toss in some dried or very finely chopped fresh basil. And a heavy pinch of sea salt.  (Be generous, this isn't the time to cut back on sodium. Plus Himalayan sea salt is healthier.)  Stir often. Do not cover your marinara for three hours!

I usually allow mine to simmer for four hours, total. Then it's time to ladle your Marinara over freshly boiled and drained pasta.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saturday Morning at the Picture Books: Fly By Night

                                                 "Is it time, yet?"
No dear. It's not time yet.

Is it time yet? Now?

No dear. Not yet.

Fly By Night by June Crebbin, and illustrated by Stephen Lambert, is a thesis on the practical workings of patience. 

A young owl named Blink, has primal ambitions to fly.  Don't we all, especially during those moments when we feel succinct with the universe.

But when will it be our time to fly?

Certainly it's time to fly now. Isn't it?


But no, our wingspan isn't quite big enough yet. Dang.

Fly By Night is a coming-of-age story for the owl inside us all; children, parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles. It's a meditative piece readying us for flight—preparing us for the follies of real life. 

"The sun slipped behind the fields. 
  The moon rose pale and clear. 
  A night breezed stirred, 'Time to fly.'"

And it happens. The time does come. Eventually. What a lovely affirmation for children (er... me)! Soaring above farm, field, and metropolis. 

This theme never grows old. Learning Patience 101 is a course we all must take at some point in our lives. Like it or not. It comes inside everyones LIFE package.
Blink (and the young listener) discover there is a perfect time for everything. Cool.

Look for a copy on Ebay. Sadly, it appears Fly By Night is now OP. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Morning at the Picture Books, Grandfather Twilight

In just over 100 words, author/illustrator, Barbara Berger, ushers in a bedtime story about the slow emergence of day into night. Grandfather Twilight is a zen-like treasure with the potential to put even the busiest body to (blissful) sleep.

Grandfather, himself, is forever swashed in the colors of dusk. Powdery blues, cloud whites, pinks, lavender.  His gentle pace, not too quick(!), is gloriously calming. For you see, Grandfather IS twilight.

"When day is done, he closes his book, combs his beard, and puts on his jacket."

Then Grandfather moves from house through forest to the edge of the sea. I won't spoil his mission. But the reader will be enchanted by Ms Berger's wordless spreads as Grandfather moves iridescently closer to his goal.

If you live on planet earth, and have ever marveled at a quiet twilight, you will most likely love this epic tale. Grandfather Twilight.

(This book was originally published by Philomel in 1984, under the tutelage of legend, Patty Gauch, no doubt.)