Play (Dough)


Looking for a twist on an old favorite?  Try homemade pumpkin spice play dough!  No, you don’t eat it but it sure smells good and makes for a simple “one pot” fall craft.  Kids can help, too, with adult supervision.

The following is a basic homemade recipe that you can certainly make any color and omit the pumpkin spice if that’s not your thing :)  This is a decent amount and you can easily halve or double the recipe.


Here is your ingredient line-up:


Start by mixing the flour, salt, cream of tartar, oil, and pumpkin spice (optional) in a large saucepan.  Add water and mix well.  Stir in food coloring.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly.  Dough will start to clump.  Here’s what each step should look like:


Remove ball and let cool on wax paper or silpat about 5 minutes.


 Knead dough until smooth.  If dough seems cakey or dry, work in a few drops of water.  Your dough will be soft, pliable, and ready to use.






  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 4 tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 2 tbsp. oil (we used sunflower)
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin spice
  • red and yellow food coloring (1:2 ratio)*
  • 2 cups water
  • sheet of wax paper or silpat

*Natural food coloring works fine but requires almost the entire bottle and the color is dull. For vibrant orange, use 15 drops red and 30 yellow (1:2 ratio.)  For other colors see this chart: How to Make Different Colors With Food Coloring (with Pictures).  


  1. Mix flour, salt, cream of tartar, oil, pumpkin spice in a large saucepan.
  2. Add water and mix well.
  3. Stir in food coloring.
  4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly.  Dough will start to clump.
  5. Remove ball and let cool on wax paper or silpat about 5 minutes.  Knead dough until smooth.


{This is Day 28 in the series, 31 Days of Mug Messages.  To see an index of posts in the series, click here.}

Party by the River


My sister–in-law is a truly phenomenal person.  She will probably blush when she reads this but here are some words that come to mind when I think of her:

*creative*intelligent*kind*giving*fun*great sense of humor*lives for the moment*

She wears many hats as wife, mom, sister, daughter, teacher, friend — and more.

A few months ago, a little idea crept into my head: a riverside party to celebrate her birthday.  One year she had a breakfast party by the river so I immediately thought dinner, dessert, and twinkling fairy lights.

When I approached my other super-savvy sister-in-law with the idea and this photo as our inspiration, the rest became history.  Since several people have asked about the details, I thought I’d post them here.

Thank you all who played a role in the planning, organizing, cooking, chauffeuring, etc.  This was such a treat to do and I can’t think of a more deserving person.

Without further adieu, here is a glimpse into our evening.







solar lights

Am I missing something?  Leave your question in the comments, and I’ll try to answer.

The beauty of this is that you can modify and improvise with your own personal touches.  It really did not cost much as you can use what you and your party planners have around the home.

You’re Already Amazing

“I want to be amazing, mom.  No.  I mean really amazing.  With all capital letters.  A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.”  He spells confidently yet looks up for reassurance.  A little boy can be funny like that: all rough and tough yet a sweet tender soul lies beneath aching to be loved and recognized.

The imaginary conversation lingers in my mind.  Perhaps it’s one I’ll have with my son someday or maybe similar words will be exchanged between a mother and son in a future book.

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Cheers to 13

Normally, the number Thirteen holds the title as The Unlucky One. However, when the late laborious hours of the 12th of the month (not so) quickly became the early ones of the 13th, there was no skipping that floor on the elevator: our child would have a birthday on the thirteenth. Nuthin’ we could do about that. No room for triskaidekaphobia.

Thirteen can’t be that bad.

So, I invite you to welcome this particular “13.”  Let’s look back at 2012 with a smile then scrap the superstition and look ahead to 2013 as we would any other year: with fresh pages, expectancy, and Great Hope.

Monkey Has a Monkey Has a Monkey

Meet Grand Singe.  Pronounced something like this: grand_singe

Grand meaning big and singe meaning monkey.  It seems the little bits of French that Maman uses here and there stick around like jam on a small child’s fingers.

Grand Singe was born by the name of Jax, after Jacksonville, where a special grandma and grandpa helped fill him with fluff and love. He left the Florida sunshine par avion — by plane — and has been living the life in the Garden State as a certain three-year old’s best buddy.

Whenever they leave the house, Jax the Grand Singe rides safely all buckled in and enjoys an occasional banana.

Grand Singe shops at Trader Joes like any other respectable monkey and wears black Converse-like shoes but only when he’s out and certainly not in the house.

He sports a preppy red striped polo, khaki shorts and when the mood is right, a supercool matching hat. Recently, he has taken to changing into pajamas at night as the stiffness of the khaki keeps him up at night.

Grand Singe goes to the beach and would take a bath if he could. He cruises in the red car and sips water — not lattes — by the river, and remains calm even when Maman gets a flat tire en vélo — on the bike.

He gets owies and of course, band-aids.  He rides the slide and swings in the bucket seats at the park.

Then there’s Petit Singe.  Pronounced like this: petit_singe.  Here he is with Grand Singe at the breakfast table.

His size may be small but his adventures are not as he has traveled from the Golden Gate and met some Presidents along the way.

Apart from Curious George and Grand Singe, he has been the little boy’s nighttime companion.

Petit Singe is the stay-at-home kind of monkey and so he watches the house when the other two are away on all sorts of monkey adventures.

And, most of you have met the blond-haired and blue-eyed monkey also known as Grand Grand Singe.

He’s a Big Big Monkey all right.  But he didn’t used to be that big.  Ask Maman.

Almost every morning,  these three — Petit Singe, Grand Singe, and Grand Grand Singe — gleefully climb up into Maman’s poster bed for snuggles. The two stuffed monkeys do flips in the air while the  boy laughs and lives vicariously through them.

Every night, Maman tucks in three tired little, big, and big, big monkeys. Sometimes she mixes them up on purpose checking to make sure Grand Singe is not Grand Grand Singe, Petit Singe is not Grand Singe and Grand Grand Singe is not Petit Singe.  Uninhibited giggling ensues.

Maman leaves the room each night…will they jump on the bed?  Will she have to call the doctor and hear him say, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!?”


You know, you cannot underestimate the power of imagination.

When a boy has a bear or a monkey or two or three, you learn to step into his curious shoes. It’s a way for a child to navigate and make sense of the world around him.

I am struck by the power of narrative and how as young as infancy, we crave story — whether written, spoken, or imagined, we are always watching, reading, telling, living — a story.

Each night when those wide eyes invite a kiss on not just one cheek but on the cheeks of three little monkeys, Maman can choose to cross her arms and say “harrumph” and walk out the door or help the little one tell and live out his story.

She can say non! to the extra banana or allow Grand Singe to pretend to eat one as a harmless snack next to his adoring friend.

What to do with a monkey with a monkey with a monkey?

Let the story unfold.

Wonder what tomorrow’s adventures will hold?