January 9th: Weekend Links

snowman Photo by woodleywonderworks

Winter has fully descended where we live!  Is it cold where you are?

If you have a little free time in the coming week, would you take a moment to read through the Simple Kids Showcase FAQ page?  You may just be inspired to share something from your family with the Simple Kids community in the weekly Showcase!

Grab your mug of hot tea (or cocoa!) and settle in from some weekend reading:

Simply Practical

Throughout January 2010, Mandy of Organizing Your Way is running an amazing series called 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010!  Click on the link to see topics she has already spoken to as well as what is coming up.  She has invited some of your favorite bloggers to join her in sharing wisdom on each topic.  This may be all the practical inspiration you need for the entire month!

Simply Delicious

angry chicken: bread of the monkey
itty bitty fish: a meal for the new year
The Picky Apple: Homemade Tortillas

Inspired Projects

red bird crafts: art boards
Playful Learning: Bird Watching Station
Family Fun: Fan-Tastic Snowflakes

Inspired Images

davejenbarnes: Project 365 (2)

Inspired Words

Handbook of Nature Study: Fresh Thoughts on Nature Study
A Holy Experience: When Your New Years Resolutions Feel Like Trying To Walk on Water
Steady Days: Start the New Year with a Child’s Heart (column from Angie of The Creative Mama)

Happy January! Stay warm!

Crafting Fun and Cooking Fun – Giveaway!

Today, I’d like to pick up where I left off on Tuesday in sharing my enthusiasm for Rae Grant’s  Crafting Fun and Cooking Fun books.

Here is more from my interview with Rae:

SK:  What has been the most rewarding part of creating these books?

Rae: There are so many new and interesting people I have met as a result of making these books. Becoming exposed to the huge craft and home based communities through the blog world has been nothing but fun and inspiring.

SK:  How does living in Manhattan inspire creative living for your family?  What limitations does city life pose for the creative family?

Rae:
We are always able to walk or scoot everywhere and see and do so many things. Just the other day we were walking home from a museum and passed by a small church on a side street. We noticed these amazing carvings on the exterior and stopped to look at them and take photos (I still have to download them for my blog). Living in the city offers art experiences like that all the time.

On the other hand, I am an outdoor person by nature, so the quiet of the country is something that I miss a lot. Central Park has an oasis of land where we can go for walks or bike rides anytime, and the Hudson River is also a magnificent body of water that helps bring nature into the everyday here. There are also great farmers markets that offer local produce and flea markets for some great vintage thrifting.

Lately I’ve been getting the urge for a small farm lifestyle thanks to all those bloggers who post about their lives in the country. They are pulling on my heartstrings! But I think I will still probably call Manhattan home for the time being.

Thank you again, Rae, for taking time to share more about yourself and your books with the SK community!

My daughters and I have thoroughly enjoyed picking out timely and seasonal projects from the Crafting Fun book, but I have to confess that I have a particular affinity for Rae’s Cooking Fun book. Not only does she include recipes for dozens and dozens of classic American recipes for beverages, sandwiches, simple suppers, yummy desserts, and more, but she also devotes the first several pages of the book to carefully explaining all manner of cooking terms and equipment.

I think I have such fondness for this part of the book because it reminds me of my grandmother mentoring me in her kitchen. Rae writes in a way that is simple and easy-to-understand, but not at all patronizing or dumbed-down.  She shares “Kitchen Basics” for the beginning cook, including reminders such as

“Don’t hurry through the recipe.  Take your time, and stay organized as you work.  It’s more fun this way and cuts down on what I call “kitchen distress” (eggs rolling off the counter and flour spilling on the floor).”

Wise words for the cook, whether the cook is four or thirty-four!

The opening pages of Cooking Fun contain everything the beginning or intermediate cook needs to know – measuring equivalency charts, cooking terms, measurement instructions, even how to “reduce, reuse, and recycle” in the kitchen.  Throughout the book, Rae’s vintage-inspired illustrations guide and inspire both the novice and the master in the kitchen.

The recipes are – in a word - delightful. Charming titles (such as Can’t Sleep Hot Milk and Honey, Pigs in the Poke, Sunny Day Cheese Biscuits, and Rainy Day Rice Pudding) invite the preparation of beverages, snacks, and meals that rely on nutritious whole foods.  In fact, you probably already have most of the ingredients stocked in your kitchen!  Favorites from the book for our family include Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges, Easy Cheesy Broccoli Soup, Avocado Toast, and Everday Cupcakes.

Two other big hits in our home were the Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs:

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and the Chocolate Sauce, which was particularly fun for my four-year old and makes for chocolate milk that is remarkably delicious:

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Check out CookingFunForKids.Com and click on “Recipes to Try” for more examples of recipes included in this book.

These books come with my highest recommendation.  They would make a great gift or a wonderful addition to your own home’s library.  I’m excited to offer you the chance to win a copy of each of these books!

To enter this giveaway, simply share one favorite crafting or cooking experience from either you own childhood or one that you have enjoyed creating with your own children. Giveaway will run from October 8th until October 14th at 8 AM CST.  Winner will be notified by email.  Giveaway open to residents of US addresses only (with many apologies to international readers!)

(And how about one more chance to win this pair of books?  Jamie of Steady Mom is also running a giveaway of Cooking Fun and Crafting Fun that ends Friday, October 9th, at 8 PM EST. Click on over to Steady Mom for one more chance to win!)

Rae Grant’s Crafting Fun and Cooking Fun

It is always a delight to connect with another parent who delights in celebrating the simple, reliable, and joy-filled traditions of the past. The more I get to know Rae Grant, the more I find myself delighting in this inspiring woman and her gorgeous work.

Rae is the author of Crafting Fun: 101 Things to Make and Do with Kids and Cooking Fun: 121 Simple Recipes to Make with Kids. When these books arrived for our review, I gushed to my husband about how visually stunning they are.  Her studies and training in fine letterpress printing, bookmaking, collage, and design all culminate in two books that captivate and enchantment grown-ups and children alike.

cookingfunEach book draws from the simple, practical, and useful ideas of a less complicated era in time. The recipes in Cooking Fun invite families to use basic, healthy whole foods to create meals that many of us probably remember from meal times with our grandparents.  The instructions are carefully written to be easily understood by the youngest chefs.

craftingfunCrafting Fun features projects divided into four seasonal categories – Rae has even gone so far as to suggest projects month-by-month.  Here you’ll find crafting projects that range from very easy (like the Waxed Paper Leaves pictured below) and Dandelion Bracelets to the slightly more involved projects like kite-making and Rolled Beeswax Candles.

Notably missing from each of the books are photographs of the finished projects and recipes.  I found this to be so liberating. Oftentimes when working with children, grown-ups form a picture in mind of what the result “should be.”  With only charming illustrations to guide the process, the outcome of each project or recipe will be as individual as the family who is doing the creating.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Rae and she shared with me some insights into her inspiration:

SK:  The artwork in your books is simply stunning.  What served as your visual inspiration?

Rae: Thank you! I’m a collage artist and a book designer. I like to work with a variety of images and colors and try to tell a story within the story, so Crafting Fun and Cooking Fun (as sister books) have many narrative images. I also wanted kids to get a sense of what it was like to be a kid when family life was a little simpler (and fun) for many people.

SK: Tell a little about your own childhood.  Were you raised in a craft-friendly, kitchen-helpers home?

Rae: I grew up in a large family in a smallish town in the Midwest. Our house at the time was 200-years old and said to have been part of the Underground Railroad. There were lots of stories and imaginings about who lived in the house over the years and we were always trying to uncover its history. I also had grandparents who were born at the turn of the century. They lived long lives and were a big part of my life. My grandmother was a talented homemaker, cook, baker, and organic gardener. We grew up eating very well at her table, and learned so much from watching her cook, preserve food, and garden. My mother on the other hand was a creative spirit. Music, dance, the arts were always plentiful in our childhood. She had a sewing room and sewed all of our clothes for school and gave us free range in the kitchen for baking as long as we cleaned up after ourselves. She too was a very good cook.

SK:  Do you have a personal favorite of the recipes and/or crafts?

Rae: Well, I actually like them all. I was able to present classic crafts and foods that I thought kids and families could relate to and that were charmingly simple to make. I do like the Baking section in Cooking Fun. Banana Bread is a recipe we make regularly. The Spooky Cheesecloth Ghosts that we made last year are really funny and cute. I saved it for this year. The nature crafts also are a favorite. I like to take walks and collect leaves and acorns and also watch birds.

Be sure to be back on Thursday when I’ll share more of my interview with Rae as well as more pictures of what my family created from these books. In the meantime, take time to browse through Rae’s websites for each book craftingfunforkids.com and cookingfunforkids.com where you’ll find many more looks inside each book as well as what other families have created based on Rae’s inspiration.

I’ll leave you with a look at our first fall project – Waxed Paper Leaves.

“Reading” the instructions:

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Arranging the leaves and shredded crayon bits (we couldn’t locate our pencil sharpener to make proper crayon shavings!):

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We carefully used an iron to melt the crayon and wax paper together:

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We’ll place all of our Waxed Paper Leaf projects on the windowsill to bring the beauty of autumn inside:

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Do you have a favorite “vintage” recipe or project you’ve created with your children?