Despite a very rainy May Day here, the trees are budding and flowers are finally opening. And it is officially, what I like to call, Fairy Season. May Day is the kick off for all of those wild fairy parties to come. To get ready for all of this merry making, I have a couple of new things to announce. The first is that my first ever cookbook, Fairy House Cooking, is coming out in a little over a week! It is filled with recipes for fairy mornings, fairy parties, food inspired by fairy houses and fairies, and food for the friends of the fairies (birds and animals).
One of the recipes in the cookbook is for fairy perfume which inspired my BRAND NEW Fairy Potion Kit. Well, actually, my daughter Daphne, future chemist and kitchen potion master was the real inspiration. She has always been interested in mixing things up. It started with various soap concoctions in the bath and then there was a long period of volcano explosions using baking soda and vinegar. But just about anything would work. Sometimes, she and her friends would gather flowers, twigs, bark and dirt and make elaborate soups. Other times, she would take rocks and pulverize the flowers before adding them to water to release their scents. Many times, all of these ingredients were then brought into the kitchen to boil. I remember this same love of potion making and so wanted to encourage the instinct while still leaving it as open-ended as possible. I hope kids can use these bottles, tools and recipes to make as many creations as possible. And even if they don’t open the door to fairyland, I know they will at least unlock their imaginations, which is always my main mission.
A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of a HUGE blizzard, this bright and sunny book came into the world. This is the second in the seasonal fairies series, illustrated by fairy godmother, Hazel Mitchell and published by Downeast Books. Now that the snow has melted a bit, and the days are getting longer, it actually feels like spring is right around the corner. And as some subtle signs begin to emerge, it seems as if the fairies really might be ringing their bells or tapping their little feet to help things along.
To celebrate the book’s launch, I am giving away a signed copy of the book, a packet of magical fairy seeds, and a Mini Fairy Garden Kit. To enter, share this post and leave a comment either here or on Facebook. Drawing will happen on March 3. Good luck!
To learn more about the book and to buy a copy, visit the following
link or go to your independent book or gift store to order.
Could fairies be responsible for the remarkable transformation from winter to spring? In this whimsical outing from the duo behind Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows?, Mitchell’s cheerful images, rendered in pastel shades, show fairies dressed in petticoats and ballet slippers joyfully planting and tending to flowers. Meanwhile, Walsh unspools an array of hypothetical questions for readers to ponder: “Do they use tiny brushes and oil pastels/ to paint crocuses, lilacs, and daffodils?” she writes as tiny hedgehogs and ladybugs assist a multicultural array of fairies hand-painting flowers in full bloom. Befitting the miniature subject matter, Mitchell’s delicate scenes are crammed with tiny details of fairy life that imaginative readers will enjoy poring over … children familiar with the energy that comes with spring’s arrival will feel it in the pages. A closing list of fairy-themed outdoor activities (including making a welcome sign and planting milkweed) offer light suggestions for children who are perhaps already well acquainted with the building of fairy houses.
Although it’s been a strange, snowless winter, it is still very much winter. My urge during this season is always to stay inside and hibernate. Each day I push myself out, no matter what the weather, and am immediately glad I did. The winter landscape refreshes me. Although, it is getting harder to push my kids out these days, when they do, they always have the same reaction. In Fairy Houses All Year, I encourage kids to continue their work no matter the season. Like the famous postal creed, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” children should not be kept from their awaiting fairy houses! The following is an excerpt from Fairy Houses All Year..
Perhaps the fairies sleep the whole winter, hibernating like other winter animals. Or maybe they fly south like geese or monarch butterflies. But my theory with fairies is that it always better to be safe than sorry. Just in case they are out there shivering and alone, it is best to build them a fairy house so they know you are taking good care of them. By making them a house in this frigid time of year, you are providing a place where they can rest and take the chill off. And who knows, they might be tempted to stay all winter long only to emerge when the first flowers appear. As an added benefit, because footsteps are so easy to see in the snow, you might even be able to track fairy footsteps and see how often they come to and from your fairy house.
According to the book, Finding Fairies: Secrets for Attracting Little People from Around the World, written by Michelle Roehm McCann and Marianne Monson-Burton, there are many fairies that live and even thrive in very cold climates. These fairies dress warmly for the cold in tiny fur snow suits and some even live in miniature igloos! In Greenland, the winter loving fairies are called Aua. According to legends they are on a continuous hunt for a mythic bear that grows bigger if seen by human eyes. In Iceland, these wintry fairies are known as Huldufolk and live in invisible villages all over the country.
The most well-known Eskimo fairy has a very long name but an incredibly kind spirit. They are called Kingmingorakulluk. Roehm McCann says that that t McCann says that “this affectionate little fellow loves humans so much that whenever he sees one he bursts into joyful song!” In Iceland, these wintry fairies called Kingmingorakulluk are known for their amazing sense of direction and channel this ability in order to find lost travelers stuck in the arctic tundra.
Things to Notice in Winter: animal tracks in snow, plants and leaves that come to the surface of the snow, patterns in the ice, different types of snow: wet, dry, fluffy, icicles, frozen leaves, different types of buds on trees, birds eating from feeders or scavenging the last of fall berries, frosty windows, leaves and sticks frozen in the ice, warm fires, rosy cheek, stormy skies, the shapes of trees when they are bare.
Fall is my favorite season. The fiery leaves mixed with the orange of pumpkins gives the world a golden glow. Sweaters are pulled down from attics and new hats warm our heads. And there is a new kind of bustle as geese head south, Monarch butterflies head to Mexico, and farmers harvest their fall crops. Apples are picked, pumpkins are carved and kids explore corn mazes. But even with the shorter days and cooler air, there are still fairy houses to build. I think that the fairies love all of this activity, especially when you can create fairy houses that include the golden hues of fall. There is so much to gather this time of year, especially as people put their gardens to bed by pulling up
dried out plants and reeds. And all of that gathering and harvesting can be used to build magnificent fall fairy houses.
As the bright greens of summer fade into the vibrant oranges and reds of the fall, there is much to gather in the woods to add to your fall fairy house. Acorns, pine cones, birch bark are all abundant at this time of year. There are still plenty of flowers out, especially mums, daisies, and sedum. Gather milkweed husks and the fluffy insides will make soft fairy beds. The whispery insides are traditionally called “fairy wishes.” Mums are everywhere in October as are gourds, pine cones and scattered leaves. Dried hosta stems and day lily shoots make a great material for weaving together elements of your fairy house.
- acorn caps
- rainbow colored leaves
- seedpods from spent flowers
- crab apples
- milkweed pods for baby fairy cradles
- the insides of milkweed pods for fairy bedding
- dried out cat tails
- tiny pinecones
- gourds, squash, pumpkins
- horse chestnuts
- maple catkins
- dried hydrangeas
June 21st: The longest day of the year, when the sun reaches its most northerly point, a time when that thin veil between the human and fairy world disappears. For fairy-house builders, you can stay outside longer. The dark cool nights won’t turn you away. In summer, there are so many materials to use: flowers, vegetables, sticks from your backyard; shells, driftwood, sea glass shells, feathers, seaweed at the beach. And now that school is out, you’ll have all day to embark on fairy adventures. Find a fairy festival; have a fairy tea party; write the fairies a letter; visit a botanical garden or fairy trail in your community and add your own fairy house. (Check out page 56 in Fairy Houses All Year for even more ideas).
The point is that time is on your side now. In summer, there are no “time to do you homework” or “it’s getting late, come inside,” shouts. If you want to increase your chances of seeing fairies on this day, there are two ways to approach the solstice:
- Be on the lookout for a fairy ring: a place where fairies meet to dance and sing, usually in the middle of the night. This may be a circle of stones, toadstools, darker colored grass. Whatever you do, though, do not disturb the ring. Legend is that the queen will take you to Fairy Land and it is very difficult to get out.
- Make your own ring with shells or rocks (or any other items you can find; our kits include lots of great items) and perhaps the fairies will find it an have a party there.
If your interest is piqued, you can find many more fun activities and projects in Fairy Houses All Year specifically for summer, including how to make:
- Pressed flowers
- Flower perfume
- Plant a butterfly garden
- Fairy playgrounds, decks & patios, swimming pools
- Fairy Cakes
- Seaside fairy camps
And for those who prefer the colder months, who favor the changing leaves in fall or the blanket of snow in winter, these seasons are, of course, covered equally in the book. This is the book that keeps on giving all year long. Though so many of us look forward to this time of year, we also know how fleeting it can be be, so get out there and enjoy it. And share any of your fairy adventures with us!
Did you know that May is, in fact, fairy month? May 1st, also known as May Day, is when fairies bring presents to the fairy queen and have a giant celebration. Often, people associate fairies with summer and warmer weather, but fairies actually love this in-between time – when it’s not quite yet summer, but winter has finally gone to rest. Fairy babies are also born in spring. If you want to try to spot one, be on the lookout for little pearls or tiny glass bubbles in any new flowers that bloom this time of year. Pay attention to the other elements in nature, too. A sudden gust of wind could actually be a royal fairy parade on their way to a celebration. And listen. Bend down close to the ground and you just might hear their ethereal music. This time of year is also a great time to provide your local fairies with a fairy house.
In my newest book, Fairy Houses All Year, I celebrate the differences of each season, and provide lists of things to gather, projects specific to the time of year, and ways to take care of the fairies all year long. Every day can be a fairy house building day whether there is snow on the ground or a light rain is falling. One of the very best things about fairy house building is that it pulls you outside. So even in fall as the weather gets cooler, be on the lookout for rainbow colored leaves and acorn caps. Fairies love houses made in pumpkins and apple trees; in winter, bundle up and build fairy igloos or knit tiny mittens for your fairies to help them keep warm. Regardless of the time of year, buy or make a book with blank pages to be your Fairy House All Year journal. As each season passes make lists of the materials you find in your yard or on family walks to the park. Note the differences that you see each season and how your houses change throughout the year. Then draw every fairy house after you build them. Or take photos, print them out, and glue them into your book. Maybe the fairies will write you letters and you can keep them in this journal.
Along with some stunning photography by Amy Wilson, this book also includes both general rules and specific steps for fairy house building. As you read and build, remember that one of the most important things for you to do in this fairy house work is to believe in fairies. And another thing is to follow this basic rule of fairy work: if you take care of the world around you and are gentle with nature, the fairies will trust you. There is nothing fairies like more than watching kids delight in the treasures of nature. And you better believe they are watching you! Because as you finish each masterful fairy house, they most likely are climbing through the tiny door and taking a little nap, happy as can be! As you build them a house, no matter whether it is cold, hot, or rainy, they might flutter by. You will know their presence because the hairs on the back of your neck will rise or you might develop a slight case of the goosebumps. You might even hear bells, faint wind chimes, the grass might bend or you might even see tiny footprints in the snow. And don’t forget to write down the signs that fairies have visited in your journal. Despite the potential sighting of a fairy, and the importance of making our world better by keeping joy and creativity in your heart, you must understand that this is work that needs to be done often and in all types of weather and places.
“Who likes to look for treasures?” I ask a room full of three to five-year-old children in a preschool classroom. Not surprisingly, each little arm shoots up. I explain to the children that treasures can be every day objects with unusual traits: a stick with a hole in the middle, a rock with a ring, a piece of sea glass in a rare color. I’ve been invited to this Montessori classroom by a friend whose son has recently become an avid treasure-hunter, and school visits are such a wonderful extension of my books. To start, the children are interrupted from their “work” when one of the students rings a bell. They all gather around the “ellipse” (the woven rug in the center of the classroom), where I introduce myself and read a few passages from my book: Treasure Hunter’s Handbook. We talk about other every day treasures: pottery, volcanic rock, a rusty nail. “Look closely at the world,” I tell the children. “Pay attention.” I point out that treasure-hunters learn important skills when they hunt. They learn to be patient. They learn to be curious. But the best part, I assure them: as you gather your treasures from around your back yard, the woods, the beach, each item will remind you of the day you found it and who you were with. These memories are the real treasures. The joy is really in the hunt. read more…
“You can use a tree stump for a counter. The sea makes a nice sink; so does a puddle at the end of a hose. For a stove there is the sun, or a flat stone. And ovens are everywhere. You’ll find them under bushes, in sandboxes or behind trees.” –Marjorie Winslow from Mud Pies and Other Recipes
Spring is officially here. Though Mother Nature still teeters between allowing the daffodils to bloom or be blanketed with snow, we are – or will very soon – be faced with an abundance of mud. Luckily, mud is “nature’s glue,” as one of my fairy-minded friends said, and so creating mud projects is the perfect antidote to sludging through a muddy pathway. Don’t know where to go for inspiration? Fortunately, my book Muddy Boots: outdoor activities for children (just nominated for an indie award!) includes a section on mud pies. Few things in the wonderful world of mud capture the imagination as much as a mud pie. Perhaps because you are combining two of the best words in a kid’s vocabulary—mud and pie. The beauty of mud pie making is that it can start simply and be added to over time with elaborate recipes and kitchen set ups. But to start all you really need is a good patch of dirt, some water, and some meal ideas—pies, pizza, tacos, muffins, soup. read more…
March: that in-between month. We are inching away from winter but not quite yet into spring. It certainly doesn’t feel warm enough to head to the beach, but if you bundle up, you can still take a hike or a walk around the neighborhood to see what’s going on out there. Once the snow has melted, the mud season begins, and this is the perfect time to encourage children to go outside. Yes, let them go out there and get dirty. If your children are prone to saying things like, “but there’s nothing to do out there.” If, perhaps, they are reliant on concrete places like the beach or a playground for entertainment, I have gathered some sure-fire ways to get them excited to go outside this time of year in Muddy Boots: outdoor activities for children. Here are just a few: read more…
“When I think of the wisest people I know, they share one defining trait: curiosity. They turn away from the minutiae of their lives—and focus on the world around them. They are motivated by a desire to explore the unfamiliar. They are drawn toward what thy don’t understand. They enjoy surprise.” -Dani Shapiro
There is a great scene in The Catcher in the Rye when Holden asks the cab driver as they drive through Central Park: “Where do the ducks go in winter?” The cab driver doesn’t really understand the question, not the metaphorical implications of the question, and instead wonders aloud about the fish. But Holden is really beginning to grapple with bigger questions of identity and fate and loss of innocence as he comes of age throughout this novel. He’s beginning to understand that there are many unanswerable questions.
Holden’s sentiment is echoed in Marie-Louise Gay’s picture book, Stella Queen of the Snow, when Sam asks his big sister Stella as they stare at a frozen lake: “Are the frogs frozen too?” Stella replies: “No, they are sleeping under the ice.” Stella, still a child herself, delights in coming up with creative answers for all of her brothers questions. In the world that she creates, snowmen sleep on “soft, fluffy snow banks,” and polar bears eat snowflakes for breakfast.
In my book Where Do Fairies Go When it Snows?, this question is continued. When we think about fairies, warm weather immediately comes to mind: lush green forests, warm air, barefoot children running free. So what happens when it gets cold, when snow blankets the earth?
“Do fairies hibernate like bears,
hedgehogs, and raccoons,
or are they like squirrels collecting
food under the winter moon?’
The book asks a lot of questions. In fact, it is about 90% questions. And it really doesn’t answer the title question. Having worked with children for most of my career, I am very comfortable with not answering the millions of questions that kids ask me in a day and I much prefer letting them come up with their own answers or even more questions.
Not everything has an answer.
And I certainly can’t answer the all of the questions kids ask me at events about fairies. I really am not sure.
Kids are born with the innate ability to look around and wonder. They see all of the possibilities. Fairies represent this spirit. They are the embodiment of mystery and wonder. They demand that we suspend belief for a while. That we trust. And they inspire questions.
Curiosity is the spark that gets us outside of ourselves. I believe it keeps us young. My daughter Daphne keeps a list of questions on a clipboard. Often she thinks of them while falling asleep or on long car trips and so wants to remember to “search them up” when she can.
My hope is that when your kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews, or any of the kids in your life ask you a question, that instead of answering right away you ask them a question right back, why do you think, what could it be? Children’s answers are so much more interesting. And this process gets them thinking, makes them inquire and wonder. It opens them up instead of shutting them down.
So here’s to the unknown, the unanswerable and the endless spark of curiosity!