Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lukas and Willie Nelson: Floodin' Down In Texas

Last week, my sister Anna wrote a great article about Willie Nelson's son, Lukas Nelson and his band Promise of the Real. And then my brother Alan sent us this excellent video of Lukas and his dad floodin down in Texas. I'll post both here so you can share in all the family fun:

Anna's article: Out on his Own

Live performance: Willie Nelson and Lukas Nelson: Floodin' Down In Texas:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Battle of the Kids' Books 2011

I have fallen so far behind in my internet reading that I completely missed Round 1 of the School Library Journal's 2011 Battle of the Kids' Books! What travesty!

Deep into round two, there has of course been much excitement and upset. Two of my favorite books of the year were mercilessly booted after only *one* match! Seriously, people? The Dreamer lost to The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie, a non-fiction book about the history of Barbie. One Crazy Summer lost to a graphic novel version of The Odyssey.

I haven't read the Barbie history or the graphic novel, so I can't cry foul. Both are acclaimed to be excellent works in their own right. But what about the beautiful, poetic portrayal of young Pablo in The Dreamer? And the fascinating subject matter and honest characterization in One Crazy Summer? Argh! See what this silly game does to me? I'm all kerfluffled.

Two books that have been added to my to-read list after the first round:

The CardturnerThe Cardturner by Louis Sachar. I love Louis Sachar, but was a little reluctant to pick up a book revolving around the game of bridge. However, the book has made it through two rounds with ease. I've been swayed.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her SwordHereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch. Hereville lost the book battle in the first round, but a book with "Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl" on the front cover? I must read.

Okay, quit reading this and head over to The Battle of the Kids' Books before Round 2 is over already!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Grab Bag Friday: Is it Morally Wrong to Give Strawberry Shortcake a Makeover?

A few weeks ago, in a fit of procrastination-induced nostalgia, Kevin and I did a little e-bay searching for a once-loved toy of mine. (Man, I loved that it was portable so I could set it up anywhere in the house and rock out to "Sugar, Sugar, oh Honey, Honey, you are my candy GIRL"...which I totally thought was a song SS and the gang had stolen from The Archies. My first foray into the world of music licensing. But that's a story for another day.)

Anyway, in our search, I found out that my dear Miss Shortcake has undergone quite the makeover in the last few years:

Poor Kevin had to witness quite a tirade. I was completely appalled. Does Strawberry Shortcake really need to be all glammed up like a teen Disney star with glossy long locks and that RIDICULOUS pageboy hat? Isn't this just one more step along the slippery slope of pushing young girls into sexualization at a younger and younger age? When Strawberry's makeover came out, the blog Shaping Youth, in fact, wrote up a very similar response.

This kind of thing makes me crazy. Take Dora the Explorer, for example. The whole reason we all love Dora is because she's a regular, albeit bilingual, kid. So why do we need tween Dora? Do we seriously want to teach girls that being a normal kid is okay as long as you eventually "blossom" into a thin, pretty kid with stylish clothes? (Below image from AboutFace):

Or is this all simply marketing common sense? Dora lovers grow up and and voila! a new product line now awaits. I can admit the old Strawberry Shortcake was outdated and frumpy and her shoes looked like potatoes. But still.

I had blissfully pushed this all to the back of my mind until yesterday when I followed Fuse #8's link to Peggy Orenstein's post about the new Trollz. The TrollZ, you ask? With a Z? Oh, yes.

These little guys:

Have been transformed into Trollz:

Sigh. What do YOU think?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Songwriting and Fiction Writing for Kids: Registration is Open

It's that time of year again. The snow is quickly melting from my yard, so I'm shedding hat and mittens and daring to think about summer again!

One of my favorite parts of summer (besides gardening and moving my writing spot out to the swing in the backyard) is getting to meet all the creative kids who sign up for my writing workshops. I've already got a handful of registrations in, and I can't wait!

Do you know any creative kids in the Maine area? This year, I'll be offering Songwriting for Kids Vol. 1 for grades K-3 and Fiction Writing for Kids for grades 3-5 (Vol. 2 and Poetry will be offered in 2012). To read more about the programs, or to register, please visit Please pass the information on to anyone you know who might be interested.

You can also visit the Listening Room to hear all the songs that students have written in past years. They're fantastic! To give you an example, here's last year's song, "The Moon Shines Bright On the River." I thought the class did a great job.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Grab Bag Friday: Splish Splash! Book Giveaway

Hooray! Intrepid illustrator Amy Schimler has a brand new book out. Splish Splash! is an interactive "touch-and-hear" board book all about the sounds of a river. As usual, Amy Schimler's illustrations are bursting with color and whimsy certain to delight readers young and old.

To make things even more exciting, Amy is hosting a book giveaway on her blog. Stop by Red Fish Circle before March 20th for a chance to win a hot-off-the-presses copy of your own!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Another Step Further

DystopiaMy cousin Keane is in a band! How cool is that? He and four of his pals from St. Charles North High School have been rocking it out from St. Charles, IL to Milwaukee, WI and now they have a brand new album to boot. I love intrepid teens!

Dystopia, the 7-song EP from Another Step Further is an energetic force influenced by old-school rock like Bad Religion as well as new millennium hardcore/pop bands like Rise Against and Alkaline Trio.

Here's a clip from the first track, Starlight. Keane is on guitar and backing vocals. Pretty good, huh?

Monday, March 14, 2011

William Carlos Williams: Winter Trees

One last, lovely winter poem before everything turns to slush...

Winter Trees
by William Carlos Williams

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

 Photo by looseends

Friday, March 11, 2011

Grab Bag Friday: Find Your Footprint

National Geographic is sponsoring a "Find Your Footprint" contest to challenge classrooms across the country to come up with a plan to reduce our carbon footprint. Six finalists have been chosen, and you can vote until Wednesday (the 16th) for the winner.

The videos the kids have made are great, and they've come up with some fantastic plans. I'm partial to the Catalog Canceling Challenge for three reasons:
  1. It's simple.
  2. The teacher is a Bowdoin College alum (go Polar Bears!)
  3. I hate hate hate getting catalogs in the mail. Imagine the paper, resources, and mailbox space that could be saved if you only received catalogs you want!

I encourage you to go check out the finalists. Which one is your favorite? Now vote!

(In the 150 seconds it will take you to watch this video, 94,000 catalogs will be mailed. That's insane.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I Wrote a Hit Song! Winner: Charlotte, age 12

I'm excited to announce that the latest winner of the I Wrote a Hit Song! contest is Charlotte, age 12, from Lombard, Illinois.

Please take a minute to visit Charlotte's page at the I Wrote a Hit Song website and listen to her song, "Together Make it More." Be sure to leave her a comment to let her know what you think. I'm know she'd appreciate hearing from you!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Erika Meitner: Untitled [and the moon once it stopped was sleeping]

It was good to hibernate and have some facebook/twitter/blog time off, but I'm glad to be back so I can catch you up on all the great books, music, and miscellanea I've been immersed in.
This poem by Erika Meitner showed up in my inbox back in January as part of the excellent (and free!) Poem-A-Day email subscription. There are certain poems that are so unexpected and lovely, I find myself holding my breath while I read them. There are poems that have such interesting movement and pacing, I accidentally mouth the words as I go along so I can feel the sound of the poem on my tongue. I haven't been able to delete this one from my inbox yet, so I decided I'd better share it here.

Untitled [and the moon once it stopped was sleeping]
by Erika Meitner

and the moon         once it stopped         was sleeping

in the cold blue light          and the moon          while the wind snapped

vinyl siding apart          slipped around corners          whipped the neighbors'

carefully patterned bunchgrass          our snow-filled vegetable boxes

the house unjoining              the moon       our yard strips          covered with

hollow shells          of hard remnants               ice      and my son's breath

contiguous               static          a shard of green light          on the monitor

wavers with coughs                     the Baptist church                     in Catawba

the only place lit up          down the mountain          past midnight, someone

waving their hands             at something          so quiet              you can hear

the wind tear          at the houses          you can hear          the neighbor

coming home          though he's .18 acres          away          it's too late

for that feeling          (possibility)          the night       always   held

the wind                   is at it                    again            cracking

paint            on the walls              one day          it will            unroot us

one day        the wind        will tally        our losses

but        not yet             the moon        not yet

Friday, March 4, 2011

Grab Bag Friday: Support Your Local Farmers

It's time, it's time! All over the country, local farms are signing folks up for summer farm shares. I'm practically salivating thinking of all the delicious cucumbers and tomatoes and greens. Yum.

So here is my yearly CSA re-post. I hope you'll sign up for a CSA near you (see the bottom of this post to learn how to find a local participating farm). I know you'll love it!

*  *  *

Originally posted March 2, 2007. Here I am, snowed in on March 2nd, with at least a full month of winter spread out in front of me, and I'm happily dreaming and scheming about Summer! That's because I just received an email from Hatchet Cove Farm, a local organic farm that we purchase a CSA share from. Lots of farmers will be gearing up for their summer CSA programs over the next few's what it means:

CSA is Community Supported Agriculture. It means what it says. I, as a community member, buy a "share" from a local farm. In return, I get a big bag of fresh, delicious, organic vegetables delivered every week for 18 weeks during the summer season. Here's why it's great:

I get to...
  • Eat healthy, nutritious food all summer long
  • Try new things (I'd never had bok choy's delicious in stir fry!)
  • Know the farmer that grew my food
  • Support local agriculture
  • Keep my money in the local economy
  • Eat fresh, unprocessed veggies
SIDE STORY: My husband, a Los Angeles native, had never had a cucumber that wasn't bought at the store. We got our first CSA with cucumbers and he crinkled his nose, "I hate cucumbers." Until...he tried a real, fresh cucumber. He was stunned that it tasted so good! He thought cucumbers just naturally grew with a bitter, waxy buildup on the skin, never realizing that that is actually added to the cucumber to make them look more appealing and last longer in the store. Thanks to Hatchet Cove Farm, we snacked on yummy cukes all summer long!

Here's an example of how it works. I'll use our CSA, Hatchet Cove Farm, as my example...the details of other CSAs will, of course, vary:
  • Share price: [2011 update: HCF is now charging $325 for the summer-- incredibly reasonable] for eighteen weeks of vegetable deliveries (mid-June to mid-Oct) is for a "two-person" share. If you love veggies or have a larger family, you may want to purchase two shares. I think $18 a week for fresh, homegrown veggies is a terrific deal!
  • The Vegetables: you receive a selection of in-season vegetables every week, including (but not limited to!) mesclun, spinach, and other early greens in the early summer. Peas, beans, broccoli, and early potatoes in the mid-summer. Zucchini, onions, peppers, and tomatoes in the late summer. Melons, corn, kale, and chard in the early fall.
  • Pickup/Delivery: [2011 note: new HCF delivery days & routes] There are a few options for getting your veggies. Hatchet Cove Farm makes deliveries to the a number of pick-up points. If you do not want your share on any given week, the folks at Hatchet Cove will be happy to donate your share to the Area Interfaith Outreach Food Pantry in Rockland.
  • Newsletter/Recipes: Every week, along with your veggies, you receive a letter telling about activities and news from the farm, as well as recipes to help inspire you to use up every last vegetable.
  • [New: Hatchet Cove Farm Partners: CSA members can sign up for summer shares from HCFs partners for cheese, egg, bread, chicken, and more! Check for availability.]
  • Hatchet Cove Farm becomes your farm, too!: Members are welcomed at the farm to volunteer or just to visit, and a potluck/garlic planting day happens every fall.

Sounds great right? So, how can you join a CSA?

You can find out about CSAs from local farmers by keeping an eye out on bulletin boards at your local grocery store, library, church, or community center. You can also do a quick online search for farms in your area at the Eat Well Guide (Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals). If you live in my area here in Maine, you can contact Hatchet Cove Farm by email:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Frank Turner: Reasons Not to Be an Idiot

It's March, and I'm slowly coming out of my internet hibernation. February was a beautiful month of snowed-in days, but I'm getting ready to stretch my arms, poke my head out of my cave, and take a look around at the cyber-world again.

I figure it makes sense to come out of hibernation with a rousing, get-out-into-the-world song. Since Kevin and I have been blasting Frank Turner in the living room a lot these days, this one was an easy pick. Though my only problem with this video is it's so delightfully goofy that it distracts you from the brilliant lyrics that Frank Turner is such a genius at creating. So I suggest watching it once, and then playing it again (the louder the better) while reading through the lyrics below.

Frank Turner: Reasons Not to Be an Idiot

You’re not as messed up as you think you are
Your self-absorption makes you messier
Just settle down and you would feel a whole lot better
Deep down you’re just like everybody else

She’s not as pretty as she thinks she is
Just picture her after she’s had kids
I bet she sits at home and listens to The Smiths
Deep down she’s just like everybody else

So why are you sad at home?
You’re not designed to be alone
You just got used to saying “no”
So get up and get down and get outside
’cause it’s a lovely sunny day
But you hide yourself away
You’ve only got yourself to blame
Get up and get down and get outside

He’s not as clever as he likes to think
He’s just ambitious with his arguing
He’s crap at dancing, yeah and he can’t hold his drink
Deep down he’s just like everybody else

I’m not as awesome as this song makes out
I’m angry, underweight and sketching out
I’m building bonfires on my vanities and doubts
To get warm just like everybody else

So why are you sad at home?
You’re not designed to be alone
You just got used to saying “no”
So get up and get down and get outside
’cause it’s a lovely sunny day
But you hide yourself away
You’ve only got yourself to blame
Get up and get down and get outside

Amy thinks that life is lacking in drama
So she fell for horoscopes, faith-healing and karma
She’s so wrapped up in her invisible armour
She’ll never grow into herself
And it’s OK thinking me and all my friends are just wasters
But saying that I can still see through her heirs and graces
I bet she’s scared her life won’t leave any traces
Caught up like everyone else

That’s not the point anyway
Oh darling, I felt compelled to call you up to say…
So why are you sad at home?
You’re not designed to be alone
You just got used to saying “no”
So get up and get down and get outside
’cause it’s a lovely sunny day
But you hide yourself away
You’ve only got yourself to blame
Get up and get down and get outside
Get up and get down and get outside
Get up and get down and get outside
Get up and get down and get outside
Get up and get down and get outside
Get up and get down and get outside