our current books

Jan 15, 2015 by

We are spending lots of time snuggling and reading. There isn’t much else I can do right now, so it is a season of books. Annesley and I have started reading Little House in the Big Woods. I have my old, tattered, yellow set from my girlhood days. Then I have a complete other, still old, but not quite as tattered, blue set I picked up at a thrift store. We also have a few hardcover copies of the beautiful, artwork-on-the-front ones. But, when we decided to embark on this new adventure, I decided to pull out a big, beautiful, five-novels-in-one, gold-leafed edition I was saving for either Blythe or Keziah. She loves fancy things and fell in love with the gold pages and tinsy illustrations.

Little House Cover

Fisher likes to listen in and he is often found building some lego creation nearby while we read about Laura’s life with her family in the big woods of Wisconsin.

Last week Blythe drove me to physical therapy and then to run a few errands. We were able to go to the library and with the help of the scooters, I was able to zip around all three floors of the library and get a pile of fun books to explore. We have a new author on our list of favorites – Andrea Beaty. She has written Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer which we already knew about and loved (and seriously, you should read them!), but when we got to her shelf at the library, we found another gem! Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau is a fun, rhyming story about a hat maker in France who designs fancy, exotic hats for all of her customers and is deeply lonely for a friend. Annes keeps asking us to read it over and over and even asked Miss Sheri to read it to her when she stopped by for a visit.

The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett is pure genius. It is Fibonacci’s famous rabbit problem – “How many rabbits will you have in one year if you start out with one?” – portrayed with hilarious illustrations, calendars, carrot recipes, and a glorious pop-up of hundreds of rabbits on the 12th month. Really, go get check it out and laugh yourselves silly as you and your children learn all about Fibonacci numbers.

Another new favorite is The Art Collector by Jan Wahl. It is about a little boy who loves art, but isn’t adept at making the art he sees in his mind come to life (yes, I identified with little Oscar!). So, he decides to collect art so he can look at the pieces he loves so much. His collection grows and he has a museum built to hold his collection and share it with others. Such a delightful story.

Fisher and Keziah have both listened to Little Britches this week and Fisher has been listening to The Lord of the Rings. Blythe is reading Pride and Prejudice again and I have been reading Call The Midwife and To My Friends: Messages of Counsel and Comfort. Richard just finished The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics.

Our family read-aloud right now is still The Wingfeather Saga. We are on book four, The Warden and the Wolf-King, and have about 250 pages left. Our reading time at night is quite limited because of the big girls’ schedules and we are in the middle of play month for Blythe. She will be performing for the next 9 days and has had a heavy rehearsal schedule the past couple of weeks. That along with her work and symphony schedules puts her home late several nights a week. I think this will be the last read-aloud we do as a whole family because her schedule is too difficult for the rest of us to work around {tears}. On the nights she is home, I try to read to everyone for an hour so we can continue to make some progress. At the rate we are going it is going to be March before we finish! I am hoping for some long Sunday night reading sessions over the next few weeks so we can get to the exciting conclusion.

Kat really wants me to read Quiet so I can understand sensitive souls like her a bit better so that is on my goal list for the year. I think Annesley and I will keep reading the other Little House books for the next few months and I have a whole stack of books I need to be reading for my Worldviews and How To Talk classes. So my next 5 months of reading is pretty planned out and I haven’t even made my book list for the year for my colloquia group! What are you reading? Do you have any suggestions for fabulous books for my monthly book discussion group?

In other news, my knee brace is here and working well. Finding pants that will fit over top of it is proving quite challenging so it looks like I will be wearing knee length yoga skirts for the next several months. I totally overdid it yesterday trying to shop for a pair of pants, so all the muscles in my leg are pretty unhappy today, but my knee feels super stable in the brace and I am thrilled to have it and to be done with the tape that has been holding me together for the past five weeks.

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some new favorite books

Nov 12, 2013 by

some new favorite books

Enough hip, connective tissue, and passing out talk! Let’s talk books! Anyone who knows me at all knows I am book lover. We have found some fabulous gems at the library recently. Annesley and I are loving our FIAR books and yet, I haven’t taken the time to blog our adventures. Along with all the reading with the children, I am in the middle of choosing books for next year’s colloquia group and trying to make them all dovetail with the books I am reading for the scholar class I will be mentoring at iFamily next semester.

Here are some of our recent library finds. Alphasaurs is absolutely delightful! Each page sports a dinosaur made up of the first letter of its name.


Scattered around the page are facts about the dinosaur’s size, weight, eating habits, and other behaviors. Fisher and Annesley love, love, love this book.


It is definitely going to be one we purchase and we added the author’s other books, Bugs By The Numbers, and Alphabeasties to our wish list as well.

Fisher and Annes love this cute little book, Little Owl Lost.


It is a similar story to Are You My Mother, but the illustrations are much more adorable and have my kids giggling the whole way through.


The Circus Ship is super cute as well.


It is a rhyming story about a mean circus owner and his animals that escape his violent temper in a storm off the coast of Maine. They find refuge in the town and the townfolk hide the animals when he comes looking for them. The finding of the disguised animals is fun, especially for Annesley. She cracks up every time she sees the monkey in the baby carriage.


I have been mentoring a WWII class this fall. It has been loads of work and loads of fun. Some of the fun has been learning more about the stories of men and women who did what had to be done. We Die Alone is fabulous!


I am not done with it yet, but I am amazed at the human spirit. We have more courage than we know.

My co-mentor, Jenn, read Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon in preparation for her lecture on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and she has been raving about it. It is definitely on my must-read list.


Last night we discussed the story of Tito Momen, a man who was imprisoned for 15 years in Cairo for converting from Islam to Christianity. We read this fascinating news article and are looking forward to reading his book, My Name Used To Be Mohammed.


We discussed taking Christ’s name upon us and how that doesn’t always look the same in different parts of the world and different eras of time. We talked about having enough conviction of your Savior to be willing to give up your whole world and even your life if state publicly that you believe in Him. Doesn’t the book sound amazing? I definitely want to read this one in my adult book discussion group.

In my scholar class next semester we are studying John Brown, Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther, and we would like to study a great woman, but don’t have her selected yet. We need to read one biography and study one document about each of these people. Do any of you have any suggestions?

Any suggestions for my adult group? I have an eensy-weensy amount of time to get all twelve books selected for next year and I want them to be powerful, inspiring, though-provoking reads.

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book bonanzas: the perfect square

Sep 16, 2013 by

book bonanzas: the perfect square

Perfect-Square We checked this book out from the library and love it! The Perfect Square is a delightful little book full clever captions, and lovely artwork by Michael Hall. It is about a square who is taken apart in a different way each day of the week. After he is cut up, ripped apart, or shattered, he makes himself into something new. So fun! This week we are going to cut up our own squares and make them into the objects in the book and probably some objects of our own creations as well.

Perfect Square 07a

“But on Monday, the square was cut into pieces and poked full of holes. It wasn’t perfectly square anymore.”

On the next page, these pieces are turned into a fountain with all the holes making the bubbles. So, so darling. One day the pieces make a river, another a bridge, another a mountain. It is brilliant and has got the wheels turning in my two little ones minds. I can’t wait to see what they create!

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we love music

Jun 6, 2013 by

we love music

Blythe and Keziah play the violin and recently started taking piano lessons as well. Right now we have an awesome teacher who comes to our home (can you shout, YAZOO!) and teaches both of them on both instruments. I am in love with the set-up as it requires no driving for me and no entertaining of my little ones while the older ones have lessons. We just hole up in my room and do math and reading and games while the girls have their two hour lesson. Two weeks ago they had their Spring recital and played beautifully.


Yes, she is wearing ponytails all over her arm. She always has ponytails around her wrist, but I can’t believe I didn’t notice she had them on for the recital. If I had she would have been reminded to take them off.


Blythe just started piano lessons in February. I am amazed at how much progress she has made in just a few short months.


Here she is with her beloved violin, Niphredil (yes, she named her violin after a flower in Middle Earth, you LOTR fans can shout hurrah). She loves to create beautiful pieces and spends her free time dancing in the yard while she plays – now that is talent, don’t you think?


Getting a picture of these two smiling without the silliness is nigh on impossible…



Refreshments were enjoyed by all the little brothers and sisters.


I will sure miss these days of music bursting out the walls of our home when these two girls leave home. They play constantly and I often wake up to their music. I am so grateful Blythe set us on this path so many years ago.

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hurrah for chalkboard markers

Apr 9, 2013 by

hurrah for chalkboard markers

Remember last week when I posted about my new chalkboard? Well, luckily for me (and you too, right?) I found my camera cord this morning in a batch of towels I have been meaning to fold for quite some time now and now I can show you the pics of its cuteness.

The original frame.

The original UGLY picture.

Mom starting the transformation process – she sanded it with two different kinds of sandpaper that I somehow found in Richard’s stash (I think one of the kinds was his super-fine car buffing sandpaper, eek!), then primed it, let it dry completely, and then started painting it red.

In all its red glory.

Mikelle and I trying to solve the brightness problem.

Success! Notice how the black smudges fix everything!

In its place on my green table and ready for some of Blythe’s doodling amazingness.

And now, all decorated with Blythe’s quick lunchtime artwork. I have asked her to create a new piece of inspiration every week.

Love it!

I was nervous about the chalkboard markers not coming off the chalkboard and ruining it because of some negative Amazon reviews, but after we tested them out on a scrap piece of wood over night and having them wash off perfectly with a damp rag, we are confident we made the right choice. There are lots of brands of chalkboard markers out there and these Chalk Ink ones seem to consistently have the best reviews in terms of durability and removability, so we went with them. Now that we have played with them I can say they are worth the price and I can’t wait to see what Blythe comes up with next week!

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cinderella: the trip

Mar 4, 2013 by

cinderella: the trip

Friday night was the fulfillment of a dream for my Blythie. She has dreamed of becoming a ballerina for pretty much her whole life. I have never been able to make ballet classes happen for her until this year…and now she is in whole-hog. She dances for two hours a night, three nights a week. It has overtaken our life and has been an amazing experience to see her progress so quickly. She was moved into the advanced class after three short weeks in the beginning class and was invited to go on pointe soon after that. However, we were hesitant to allow her to do so and wanted her muscles and ligaments to have more time to strengthen before we allowed her to walk around on her toes. Her Christmas presents this year were The Barefoot Book of Ballet Stories, a gift certificate for pointe shoes, and a gift certificate to see Ballet West perform Cinderella.

Well, Friday night was the night for the ballet in the big city. Her friend Madison received the Ballet West trip for Christmas as well and both Madi and Blythe allowed Keziah and her friend, Courtney to attend with them. We left gym a little bit early and drove the 3+ hours down to Salt Lake City and met my mom, Mikelle, Easton, and Oaklyn for dinner at our favorite place, The Old Spaghetti Factory. Then we rushed over to The Capitol Theater for the ballet. What an experience! People were in fancy-schmancy fur coats and elaborate evening gowns. The girls’ eyes looked to be popping out of their heads as they looked at all the beautiful architectural designs throughout the building. The ballet was so lovely…hilarious and inspiring and beautiful all at the same time. My favorite part was listening to them shriek with amazement at the different moves they were seeing because through the last six months of classes, they have learned how difficult those moves really are.

We only had Keziah’s little camera with us and the lighting was terrible, so these pictures aren’t the best, but they will have to do.

Staring at the Ballet West sign


The artwork alley right outside Ballet West – Courtney is a little bit of a goofball sometimes..


Posing in the Capital Theater.


A fancy chair in the balcony, terrible lighting, but they loved this set-up.

On the staircase.


They are a lil’ bit excited.



They died over the ceiling and chandelier.



The next day a massive snowstorm hit Salt Lake City and we drove very slowly to the Salt Lake Temple and spent several hours there doing baptisms for my ancestors. It was such a lovely experience. I met a wonderful woman who I am sure is going to become a dear friend and loved spending time with all four of “my girls” in the place I love best.

After we finished at the temple I took the girls to Gardner Village. I haven’t been there since I was a young lass and it was so fun to introduce these girls to the special shops that I fell in love with long ago. The quilt shop was full of fun sayings that I want to stitch up and put all over my house. Don’t you love these:

Cinderella is proof that a pair of shoes can change your life.

Or how about…

The roots of a family tree begin with two hearts aflutter.

And I love this one…

It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us.

I think this needs to be shouted from the rooftops…

Love isn’t something you fall into . . . it’s something you grow forever.

This was on a quilted wall-hanging that I wanted to bring right home with me.

To capture a miracle, you must first believe.

This one was in the antique shop on the back of a church pew. Mother Teresa is full of win.

There is a net of love by which you can catch souls.

And I think Jennifer needs to hang this on her wall outside her awesome sewing room.

Welcome To Our Sewcial Lounge

The girls went from store to store trying on scarves and shoes. They fell in love with these shoes.


And these ones.


And especially these ones.


I’m not at all sure if Courtney liked these glasses or not.


But I think she loves this pillow.


I don’t think the girls were supposed to make themselves at home on the beds and couches, but they right comfy, don’t they?


What was Madi doing?


Was she really this tired?


Courtney got back into the swing of things. Here is she kicking up her heels.


This store had awesome lacy, ruffle shirts on clearance for $5.99. Of course, we all had to stock up. And I’m pretty sure Kez and Court spent some time at that fudge shop in the back.


They got a huge kick out of the ducks wandering the premises.


Especially this one with a “hat” on his head.


I went to the Storybook shop and used my 25% off coupon to get Tell Me A Story Cards. Goodness, these are fun! They are similar to the Story Cubes I used last year in Zing!, my writing class, but tons better, especially for the younger set. You lay out the lovely picture and then create a fairy tale to go with the pictures. We are loving these! I couldn’t resist this Mix & Match 1-2-3: A Touch and Trace Counting Book. Annesley and I have had a blast counting planes, trains, and teddys. She loves making sure all four quarter-pages match. I love the traceable numbers, dots in sets of five, and the engaging activities.

After the fun at Gardner Village, we rushed over to Hale Centre Theatre for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It was FANTABULOUS! If you are anywhere near Utah, go to this show! We laughed so hard at the actor’s antics. A trip to Hale wasn’t in our plans this time, but thanks to half-price tickets and a last-minute cancellation by one of their season ticket holders, we were able to get in off the waiting list. Hint: just because a show says sold out online doesn’t mean it is so. It just means there are less than twenty seats available. Call anyway!

When we got out of the play at 7 p.m., we found a wet, messy, blizzard had taken over the roads. Everything was so, so slick and cars were off the road all over the place. We made the choice to stay over another night to avoid driving home in pure craziness. We headed back to Jessica’s parents for another night in their home full of love and I think this time the girls got some sleep. We were up early the next morning to head up to Idaho in time for church, but we still didn’t make it. I arrived in the nick of time to teach my Relief Society lesson on faith, but the other girls missed their meetings. Drat it all!

What a fun, fun trip! I love taking these girls on adventures and am so grateful their families are willing to let me steal them every now and again for these magical experiences. I am grateful to have daughters that love theater, culture, the temple, and spending time with me. I am so blessed.

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Aug 29, 2012 by


The other day I saw a great photo on Pinterest of a little one’s hands covered in a rainbow of slime. I pinned it and showed it to Annesley. She decided we HAD to do it right away and told her papa in their Mentor Meeting (weekly snuggle and chat time) that he needed to get the ingredients so we could make it this week.

Well, tonight was the night! Walmart only had one bottle of clear glue, so we could only make a little bit, but it turned out perfect and we have been playing with it and having a blast.

Here are the directions we followed:

Perfect Slime

Equal Parts

Sta-Flo Liquid Starch
Elmer’s Clear School Glue

Stir together with a spoon, then dig in with your hands and squish and knead and squish and knead and squish and knead until it is the right consistency.

Separate it into the number of globs that you want to color. We did all four of our food coloring bottles. Mix in a few drops until the color is thoroughly mixed.

When done playing with put in an airtight container in the fridge.

Before stirring

Very wet squishing stage

Almost the right consistency

Food coloring added

How long can the snake get?

Fisher was up bright and early this morning to play with it again. I think we will be making this again and again. Now to find a fabulous bulk price on Elmer’s clear glue.

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the symphony

Feb 19, 2012 by

I have several friends in the Symphony and sometimes I am able to get cheap tickets to their performances. On a spur of the moment decision, I decided to get some $5 tickets and plan a triple date with my friends…can’t beat a $10 date, right? One friend decided they couldn’t go, then the other friend’s husband hurt his back and so they couldn’t come, so just few hours before the concert I was stuck with six tickets. I decided to try to sell them on Facebook. That didn’t work, so I decided to sell them to those in the waiting line. Then Richard decided we should have everyone get all dressed up and take the whole gang.

I thought he was crazy, but decided we could give it a shot. Maybe, just maybe, by some heavenly intervention, Fisher and Annesley could sit, not only still, but also silently, for two-plus hours.


No can do.

Now to give them credit, they did do pretty well. Well enough that at the end the people behind us thanked Fisher and Annes for being so well-behaved and not being like other children they have had to sit by at prior events.

But not well enough that the people in front of us didn’t move. Granted they seemed to be grumpy, uptight folks, but we were much too alive for their taste, so they moved to a section at the very top where the nearest person was three rows away.

Annesley loved having an almost running discourse about each instrument, each dress, each bang of the drum. She pretended to play the harp, the violin, and the cello. When our friend, Jesse, had his solo, she called out in her best excited whisper “That’s my Jesse!” She also drew a keyboard in her notebook and typed the night away.

Fisher did a little better in the quiet department, but he was definitely ready for it to be over the very moment the last note was played. He drew lots of pictures and tried to figure out when to clap and not clap (not between movements, after each completed piece, and lots and lots and lots at the end).

Fisher: What are we doing now?
Me: Clapping
Fisher: Still?
Me: Yes, clap.
Fisher: Isn’t it over? Isn’t it time to go?
Me: The music is over, the clapping is not. Right now we clap.
Fisher: Why do I have to clap?
Me: To tell the musicians thank you and great job.
Fisher: What are we doing now?
Me: Clapping
Fisher: Still?
Me: Yes, clap.

After the clapping was finally over, they were thrilled to go out to the lobby and have cupcakes and punch. I don’t know that either of them will want to go to the symphony again any time soon, but at least they will know what it is like should they ever get a hankering.

Lessons learned?

  • Have a notebook for the little ones to draw in. They both drew for quite a bit of the night and those papers and colored pencils were life-savers.
  • Should have brought a few water bottles so we could have given them a drink when they were certain they were going to die of thirst.
  • Sit away from grumpy, uptight people.
  • My children’s knowledge of music and instruments was quite helpful. I was able to whisper in their ears about what was going on and they knew what I was talking about. So, if you are planning on taking your children to a fancy-schmancy concert, put some time into preparing them.
  • Sit little one, big one, little one, big one to have the wiggling, noisy children spread out between older, more responsible ones. We didn’t start out that way, but throughout the night we rearranged into that formation and it worked much better.
  • Make it a big deal by dressing up. I think it really helped them to sit more quietly with Fisher in his suit and Annesley in her dress.
  • Most people are enamored with little ones…at least they were with mine. We had a German lady help Fisher navigate the crowd with his punch, many grandpas and grandmas talk to them about music and what they liked about the performance, and we got smiles all night long. I can only assume people thought we were either incredibly brave and were trying to give us encouragement or incredibly stupid and they were giving us sympathy looks.
  • Attending the Symphony is one piece of the musical education I provide my children. We sing, dance, write our own songs, play a variety of instruments, mingle with many musicians, attend fiddle events, bluegrass competitions, and all sorts of other types of performances (preferably down by the river where we can dance and wear our blue jeans), take music classes, attend MAT Camp, take private music lessons, practice incessantly, and attend high-brow events like the symphony. I hope this is giving them a panoramic view of what music is and can be in their lives. I’m not up to a Symphony type event on a weekly or monthly basis, but perhaps once a year we will try to add this piece into their lives.
  • Parents that take their young children to the symphony deserve a lot more than a cupcake at the end! I needed a hot soak and massage!
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paul klee

Nov 16, 2011 by

paul klee

The Nazis hated Paul Klee. That was enough to pique my children’s interest in this artist. Anything or anyone hated by the Nazis is elevated to hero-status pretty quickly around here.

Paul Klee was a musician…a violinist to be exact (another huge interest-piquing bit of info since we have two violinists and two wanna-be violinists)…but he decided to study art instead. He went to Germany to study, but after the Nazis came to power he had to flee because they decreed that modern art was degenerate or corrupt and banned it. He was forced to return to Switzerland.

Klee loved modern art because he felt art should be about ideas, beliefs, and feelings, not about people, places, or things. He wanted his art to evoke emotion and filled it with symbols and writing fragments to suggest a more magical world.

Here is one of his works, The Golden Fish

He wanted all the focus to be on the golden fish in the middle, but the entire painting is filled with sea life. He used watercolors and oil paints. We used oil pastels and watercolors as we don’t own any oil paints.

Here is Keziah’s

Photo 212

and Fisher’s

Photo 215

For those of you out there wishing to learn what it is like to be an artist, I loved My Name is Asher Lev and The Gift of Asher Lev, both by Chaim Potok. These were the first books that helped me see into the soul of an artist and what it can be like to need so desperately to create something that you are not you without the art. I am certainly not that kind of artist, but I have a daughter who is very much an artist and these books helped me understand the artists behind the art and some of the struggles and triumphs they experience.

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kandinksy concentric circles

Nov 16, 2011 by

kandinksy concentric circles

Color is a power that directly influences the soul…color is the keyboard…the artist is the hand that plays.

We are using our Art Treasury book to study artists and on Monday we studied Vassily Kandinksy. We learned that he was born in Russia in 1866 into a musical family. He began his career as a lawyer and in his thirties he started painting. He loved to study how colors blend together and how they contrast with each other. He believed colors expressed emotions and feelings in the same way as music and he felt the effect of colors so strongly that just looking at them caused him to hear musical sounds.

Since we are surrounded by music in this house, we talked about that idea for a while, and everyone agreed they had never heard music when looking at colors. Maybe we just aren’t artsy enough?

Keziah’s circles

Photo 211

One thing I hope they learn from this focus on artists is that each of us is an artist and we all have a message to share with the world in our own unique way. I hope they experience a wide variety of styles and learn that the best way to get their message out is to be true to themselves.

Fisher’s circles

Photo 213

Annesley’s circles

Photo 218

We have spent more time painting in the last few days than we have in months. Its something all three of the younger ones can do together and it is so fun everyone is excited about getting the paints out the next day. I can already see I need some oil pastels and watercolors for the two younger ones because sharing Keziah’s self-purchased ones isn’t working out as well as I hoped. She guards them a little too carefully and the two little ones don’t feel as free to explore as I would like because they are so worried about breaking or wasting her supplies. When they use normal crayons and crayola watercolors their results aren’t what they want and they are no where near as vibrant, so I need to get them their own and then not freak out if they get broken.

This is good for me. It is good for my brain to get out of the heavier academics and turn on the creative side for a few weeks.

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the usborne art treasury

Nov 13, 2011 by

the usborne art treasury

I am not an artist. At least that is what I used to say. Now I say, let’s paint! Let’s draw! Let’s try it out and see what happens!

This has been a journey for me and actually, it is one I am still on because sometimes I let those old scripts play in my mind that say “you are not an artist”. I determined long ago that I did not want my fears and phobias to be passed on to my children. They can make their own, but they don’t need to be burdened with mine. So, I overcame a pretty serious creepy-crawly phobia and now have bug-lovers for children. I am working on overcoming my kitchen, sewing, and art anxiety and one way I do that is by surrounding myself with great information.

Like this book.

It is one of our favorites and we are creating all sorts of amazing things with it. The book is laid out in four page sections. The first two page spread showcases an artist’s life and one of his or her works. The next two pages give step-by-step instructions to create your own masterpiece in the same style as the artist just spotlighted.


And even for a recovering art-phobe like me, it works wonderfully well. So well, my children don’t even know the extent of my limitations.

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