Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover

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Frankenbunny – Picture Book & KID KANDY



Written by Jill Esbaum

Illustrated by Alice Brereton

(Sterling Children’s Books, 2017)


Sibling rivalry, picking on the youngest, evil plans, plans thwarted, scary premise – Jill Esbaum delivers them all in Frankenbunny. Wonderful characters, setting, and interactions. The illustrations perfectly add to and tell the story.

I won a copy of Frankenbunny from Jill Esbaum and Picture Book Builders. I couldn’t be more excited!

The power of suggestion. It really packs a punch, doesn’t it? When big brothers tell Spencer about Frankenbunny, he doesn’t believe them. At first. But after many conversations, Spencer becomes convinced that monsters are real.

Or are they?

You will have to read Frankenbunny to find out the truth of the matter.


Make Your Own Frankenbunny

Supplies: paper scraps, scissors, glue sticks, markers, construction paper

1. On construction paper, draw the scariest Frankenbunny you can!

2. Add clothes, hair, eyes, nose, mouth, fingertips – everything – by cutting up paper scraps and gluing them on.

3. Finish up with markers.

Show off your Frankenbunny! I bet it scares everyone!

P.S. I’d love to see your Frankenbunny! Ask a parent to help you post a picture of your artwork in the comments. Wow! I can’t wait!



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The MABEL Gate: In Memory of a Furbaby


Just before Christmas, our family was devastated to discover neighborhood dogs had destroyed our precious love-love (my nickname for her) Mabel. It was pretty awful. We still miss our little gray girl every day.


No more “Which one is this?” from the grands (and everyone else). No more help working on my writing projects. No more kitty tracks on my printed papers. No more head butts and lap cuddles.


Monet, her twin sister, was lost for quite a few weeks and is now just finally starting to come into her own as an ONLY cat. There are times she quite enjoys the attention. The rest of the time she’d rather be out mousing or birding. She was always the more independent wild thing.


To combat future attacks, we put up a gate on our driveway to discourage any other dogs from wandering in to check out what trouble they could get into. As Papa and Hayden finished up the gate, they decided it should be named after Mabel, a tribute to her short, cuddly, furry life.


Perfect! In honor of our Mabes, Mabel, love-love, gray girl, kitty baby. The MABEL gate. Ta-da!


This Is My Dollhouse ~ Picture Book & KID KANDY

This is what a homemade doll house looks like.

By Angie Quantrell @AngieQuantrell

This Is My Dollhouse

By Giselle Potter

(Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016)

I’ve always loved doll houses, so I was instantly attracted to This Is My Dollhouse.

A young girl uses an old box, craft materials, and toys to create and decorate her own doll house. Her imagination is in full swing as she makes food, clothes, and props for the little family that lives in her dollhouse.

Her friend, Sophie, also has a doll house. It’s a fancy store-bought dollhouse with pretty furniture and a family. When the girl goes to visit Sophie and play with the dollhouse, their imagination is stilted and comes to a stand still.

After seeing Sophie’s doll house, the girl is afraid of showing her own dollhouse to her friend. But one day, when Sophie came to play, Sophie discovered the hidden house and was delighted. Many hours of creative play followed and the girl was once again pleased with her own dollhouse.

I don’t think this book is against store-bought doll houses at all, but rather This Is My Dollhouse celebrates creativity and ingenuity of those who build from scratch.

It was so much fun to see the creativity of the young girl and the way she used her imagination to create scenarios and adventures for her little family. This book will inspire little ones to create from miscellaneous materials found around the house.

This is a little sewing room I made in a wooden box. Can you find the tiny mouse?


Make A Doll House

Materials: box (any size will work), cardboard, paper scraps, fabric scraps, ribbon, markers, scissors, tape, glue, toy figures, wood scraps or blocks

1. Make a doll house. You can use ANY type of container to make a little house. I once made one from a teapot! Cut cardboard and paper to make walls and floors. Ask for help in cutting a door and windows.

2. Use craft scraps and other materials to decorate your house. Add curtains, rugs, furniture, and whatever else you want. Use markers to add color.

3. Make your little family comfortable. Cut blankets, clothes, and other household necessities from your supplies.

4. Give your family (and their pets) names. You are now ready to imagine adventures for them!

P.S. This would be a fun activity to do with a sister, brother, or friend!

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STORYSTORM 2018 Day 4 Debbi Michiko Florence Explores Culture and Family Tradition

I love this post! Family traditions and culture are so interesting – and unique to each family. What a perfect place to mine ideas for stories!

Thank you, Debbi! Thank you, Tara! (Get well soon!).

via STORYSTORM 2018 Day 4: Debbi Michiko Florence Explores Culture and Family Tradition

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Peace & Joy, From Us to YOU


Mary and Joseph were pleased that Jesus had been born but nervous about the waiting crowds.

An angel, wearing pink socks and blue wings, was happy to eat fruit snacks before donning one snow boot to wear while dancing up the aisle.

One of two shepherds sported adorable glasses while keeping watch over his tiny flock of one.


The other one of two shepherds was having none of this mess.

From our Christmas story to yours, Merry Christmas!

Peace and joy to you this day and on into 2018.


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Hobbies? Rubber Stamping Cards is One of My Top Favorites


My stamping buddy (aka college roommate and friend of many many years) and I were recently trying to figure out how long we’ve been stamping. We sort of came down to the correct decade and several-year span, but we couldn’t quite pin it down. Suffice to say stamping has been a part of my life for most of my life.

This hobby has become a habit. A tradition. A much anticipated gathering.

Actually, another college roommate joins us or we join her to feed our habit. Maybe being a college roommate is a prerequisite? LOL. No. We have other college buddies and friends that join crafting days or at least tolerate our obsession by bringing their own crafts or visiting with us while we crazily create.

I think it’s the creation part that is addicting. Playing with stamps, papers, inks, glitter (always glitter!), and stuff is exhilarating!

And just look! The benefits involve large stashes of beautiful cards, fit for any occasion.

Let’s hear it for the college buddies, friends, stampers, and crafters!

P.S. A recent stamping trip netted an addition of 45 lovely cards. Coming your way . . .

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Applesauce Day ~ Picture Book & KID KANDY


Applesauce Day

By Lisa Amstutz

Pictures by Tabitha Shipman

Albert Whitman & Company, 2017


I love Applesauce Day!

Fall is my favorite time of year, when the apples, pumpkins, squash, and other great produce is harvested. I can’t wait to sink my greedy fingers into a box of apples or a trunk-load of pumpkins.

Applesauce Day takes me right into autumn. I can just imagine the fun and tradition of gathering with family to make large amounts of applesauce. What tastes better than homemade applesauce? Nothing! Ok, maybe homemade pumpkin pie or apple cake or pear tartes or . . .

This lovely picture book tells the tale of a family traveling from the big city to the orchards to pick apples and then to grandma’s house to put those apples to good use. What’s special about Applesauce Day is the family heirloom – the applesauce cooking pot. Family traditions and passed-down items are a passion of mine, so I immediately bonded with this tale.

I found Applesauce Day to be well written and beautifully illustrated. Flashbacks! I don’t know that I’ve seen other picture books with flashbacks, but the ones in this book are adorable.

Even though apple season is at an end, boxes of apples are still available. Go ahead. You know you want to read this book and make applesauce. Just imagine the scent of warm apples and cinnamon wafting through your home. See? I can smell it from here.


Make Crock-Pot Applesauce


apples, cinnamon, water


1. Wash, peel, and core apples. Slice into wedges.

2. Put apples in Crock-Pot. Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon. Add about 1/4 cup water.

3. Cover Crock-Pot with lid. Turn heat to high and let it simmer. Occasionally stir and check apples for tenderness.

4. When apples are soft and mushy, use a potato masher to mash the apples into sauce. I love chunks, so I don’t strain it.

5. Eat warm! Cool and put the rest in the fridge. Or freeze individual containers for later.


I love making Crock-Pot Applesauce with my students every fall. Everyone brings 2 apples, no matter what variety, and we put them all together to cook. By the end of the day, everyone in the school wants what’s bubbling in our room!

I’d love to hear (and smell and taste) how your applesauce turns out!


Non-Traditional Thanksgiving


It’s been a rough year for my family, so we decided to switch things up. This year, we went off the charts for Thanksgiving.

We chose to:

-travel to the beach (off-season is awesome)

-cook our own little turkey breast

-decorate for Christmas

-begin our annual Christmas movie countdown


What really happened:

-beach plans were cancelled due to health issues

-went on a drive to the mountains to collect pine cones for art projects

-soaked by pounding rain

-did a little off-roading to travel up a steep, rocky, bumpy, muddy path

-met a wolf

-the wolf turned into a Husky, lost VERY far from civilization

-he loved us. And jumped eagerly into the pickup

-had to figure out what to do with a huge lost dog (wearing a collar, but no tags)

-Did you know everything is closed (pretty much) on Thanksgiving? Unless you are shopping.

-which was good, since we needed dog food

-by the time we got home, it was very late when our little turkey breast went in the oven

-spent all afternoon taking photos, hanging out, searching for lost dogs, and contacting friends and social media groups in efforts to find this handsome boy his family

-nowhere to keep a large, very large dog in the RV

-our daugther and family took Mr. Handsome home to sleep

-Mr. Sweetie (SO good with kids, pets, noises, crowds) hunkered down in exhaustion

-turkey dinner became our traditional leftovers meal: turkey, cranberry sauce, cream cheese, sliced red onion sandwich (I had a salad)

-actually had a six-course meal. That’s what I told Kevin as we ate and drank different courses while waiting for the turkey to get done

-nearly sugar-free crustless pumpkin pie is delicious!

-decorated the RV. Put up our tree in less than 5 minutes. Done.

-put up the outdoor tree. Less than 5 minutes. Done.

-finished the Harry Potter movie marathon. Next, Christmas.


Our day was totally nontraditional. But we liked it.

Who knows? Next year we might go back for pinecones.

Or another lost dog.


P.S. More about our Mr. Handsome later.

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Happy Thanksgiving!


Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;

His love endures forever.

Psalm 107:1


While I always remember to give thanks this time of year, I wish I would remember to daily recall the many blessings and gifts the Lord has given me.

We hear the saying,”Christmas is not just one day, but 365 days a year” and “Keep Christmas alive every day of the year.” I think the same could be said of Thanksgiving.

I’m just going to bring my New Year’s resolutions forward a bit…I’d like to spend 2018 remembering and giving thanks each day. Happy Thanks-for-giving from 1 to 365.

Happy Thanksgiving, lovely ones. I pray you are surrounded by loved ones, great food, warm houses, and thankfulness.

Feeling thankful.



One Year in RV: Survival!


August 20 was our one year anniversary of moving into the RV. And guess what? We made it!

I haven’t taken him (my honey) out, though I’ve sent him out when I need to clean (or write, cook, organize, read . . .).

He still loves me even if the heat factor in an RV – during summer – is higher than my happy tolerance level.

He survived record-breaking snowfall and freezing winter temps regardless of how close I came to helping him build his own snow igloo far far from the RV.


I managed not to throw out the superfluous (not for him) heating items – throw, bed blanket, heat lamps, floor heater – and we were both able to speak in civil tones. Most of the time.

Long-time RV living is not for the faint of heart, but definitely for the adventurous!

Let’s pretend you just arrived for a fancy cooked-mostly-by-BBQ meal. We’ll fill you in on some observations and interesting events that came about from our inaugural RV year.

– It is possible! One can live without piles of stuff – and survive!

– Storage? Premium. If we don’t use it, it has to go. To storage, to someone, to the thrift store…

– Less is more. Truly. The less we have inside the RV, the more space we have to move about.

– Cooking is a bit tricky. Too hot in the summer for the stove. Very humid in the winter.

– Humidity is an issue. One chore I never dreamed of having? Wiping down windows on a daily basis.


– Electrical circuits can and will be blown. Until you figure out which items can be used at the same time.

– The electric skillet will most likely blow the fuse if anything else is plugged in and going. Anything.

– Do not use the skillet and the AC at the same time.

– Splurge on the skirting. We only experienced one tiny freeze in a waterline. That’s saying something when we were below zero several times and hovered in the frozen zone for months.

– Cats. Litter. Fur. Toys. Cat tree. A bit crowded. Now that they are free to roam, we are all much happier. The catio is disassembled.


– Mice. Peek before letting cats back inside. Trust me on this.

– Company. Things will be different when guests arrive. Say, for instance, seating. Or standing. Finding room to maneuver. But that’s what makes entertaining exciting.

– Breezes in the bedroom. This is awesome. Open both windows and the wind just blows across our bed. As does dust, smoke from fires, and stinky skunk fragrance, but still!

– My office. A drawer. Half the dinette bench plus the table. That’s it. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I yearn for a bigger creative area.


– All of outdoors. Right here.

– We have everything we need. Running water, electricity, internet, laundry facilities, bathroom, bed, fridge, grands in and out.

– Our home moves. We can hitch it up anytime we want and hit the road.

I’d say our inaugural year was pretty successful. So you’ve seen me wear the same clothes over and over again. I am dressed, right?


Happy RV anniversary to us! Come on by, we’ll cozy up and share a seat. Maybe even throw in a meal or tour of the facilities. Feeling up to the challenge? Either the visit or the RV living? Love to hear about it.