The first time I ever saw Russian nesting dolls, or "matryoshkas", I fell in love with them.  Maybe because they look so motherly.  In fact, the word matryoshka is literally "little matron".  The doll was originally made to symbolize motherhood -  specifically the mothers of large peasant families who are well fed - leading to the portly figure of the doll and her "family" inside of her!

Shop full of matryoshkas at Izmaylovo Market, Moscow
Nesting dolls were first made in China in the early 1800's (traditional Chinese nesting boxes had been started there hundreds of years earlier).  In the 1890's, when a group of Russian artists began reviving native culture and folk traditions, the idea found its way to Russia.  Artist Sergei Malyutin designed the first set of Russian nesting dolls, probably inspired by a Japanese example.  He made the largest doll a peasant girl with a babushka (kerchief) on her head.  The dolls, carved and turned on a lathe by a master wood-carver, were then painted in bright colors.  Many regions of Russia - each developing its own particular style - took up the art, inspired by Malyutin's first matryoshka.  Most of the dolls are maidens, but some sets have families, animals, or characters (like St. Nicholas).

The Littlest Matryoshka, by Corinne Demas Bliss, illustrations by Kathryn Brown.  Click HERE to read all about the making of this book on Corinne's website.  If you order the book from Hearthsong, you can also purchase a set of nesting dolls that look very like the ones featured in the book! (ages 3-7)

The Magic Nesting Doll by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, illustrations by Laurel Long. Katya is given a magical nesting doll by her dying grandmother but is told that she can only use its magic three times. After entering a land of eternal winter, the young woman discovers a prince who has been turned into "living ice" through an enchantment. Aided in turn by a bear, wolf, and firebird that appear from inside the doll, Katya is able to restore the prince to his former self and destroy the villainous Grand Vizier. Gorgeous illustrations, reminiscent of Russian iconography! (Kindergarten - 3rd grade)

The Art of the Russian Matryoshka, by Rett Ertl, Rick Hibberd. (Mainly for parents, but if you have a child who's interested in these dolls, they'll love the photos!)  A MUST have for the obsessed, like me.
The Art of the Russian Matryoshka

MORE MATRYOSHKAS (to make yourself!)...

Click here for a Bigu Handmade "How To" for Matryoshka bookmarks.

Want to  learn to make a Maytroshka fold-out CARD, found at Zakka Life?
I bet you can't resist crafting these mini-matroyshkas!
Sew to Speak has step-by-step instructions.

I gave these cute FRED AND FRIENDS Measuring Cups to my goddaughters for Christmas last year...

Available on AMAZON
Loving these cute Sippy Cups by SUGARBOOGER!
Sippy cups and plates available on AMAZON
And these Babushkup Tumblers from FRED AND FRIENDS!
Find them on AMAZON
Do you sew?  There is lots of cute matryoshka fabric from JAPAN out there...
Fun fabric choices on ETSY


Proper Display of the Flag:
* Display of the American flag is usually from sunrise to sunset.

* The flag should be displayed daily on or near the main building of every public place and during school days in or near every schoolhouse.

* Flags are flown at half-staff to show grief for lives lost. When the flag is flown at half-staff, it should be pulled to the top for a moment, and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should then be raised to the top before it is lowered for the day.

* When two or more flags are flown from the same pole, the American flag must be on top.

* When displayed with another flag against a wall, the U.S. flag should be on its own right (left to a person facing the wall).

(from VA Kids)

Holiday Weekend for Partying, Picnicing, or Sneaking in Work?

On the eve of Memorial Day Weekend, I find myself busily preparing for my teaching gig at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference (here), in between packing my son for an overseas trip, and packing for this long weekend away. Phew! No wonder I feel scattered, though I really do want to post. In all my busywork, I miss the blog community.

First of all, I want to belatedly thank the gracious C. Lee McKenzie for giving me a Stylish Blog Award! Go take a peek at her awesome TheWriteGame here and check out her interview on CBS Bay Sunday!

Secondly, as I put a final polish my longish 96K manuscript draft, and try to cut extraneous words, I can report that there is no such thing as exact word count! My draft in Garamond comes out to a different count than in Courier, than in Times New Roman. In doing subsequent research online, I discovered that many authors have this experience, and their counts vary as much as 10,000 words! Just a heads up for anyone freaking over his or her word count. Have you experienced this discrepancy? Which font provides the most accurate count?

Today, in preparing for the hot weather, I planted my portulacas and fed my climbing yellow roses and my hubby's okra seedlings. I've got a rocking chair and a table with an umbrella. An inner-city deck sure takes the edge off of the big city.

So, I wish you all a fun and restful holiday weekend. Anyone traveling to an exciting location? Sneaking in some work time? Throwing a party? Heading to the beach before the crowds set in? How do you take the edge off? Dish here!


“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it”
-Albert Einstein

Have you considered gifting your graduates with a book as they step out and continue their way down the long path of life?  Whether they're moving on from Kindergarten, Middle School, High School, or College, they've gained knowledge, but have really only just begun their lifelong journey of acquiring wisdom!

I hope you like these selections - some are fun and celebratory, some inspirational, some were chosen by me, and others from a survey I put out to my friends. (C.S. Lewis won!)  Click on the titles to see more details about each you have any to add??

ONLY ONE YOU by Linda Kranz. There's only one you in this great big world. Make it a better place. Adri's mama and papa share some of the wisdom they have gained through the years with their eager son. Their words, simple and powerful, are meant to comfort and guide him as he goes about exploring the world. This exquisitely illustrated book explodes with color and honest insights. Kranz's uniquely painted rockfish, set against vibrant blue seas, make an unforgettable and truly special impression. Only One You will inspire parents and children of all ages as they swim through the sea of life.
Only One You

WHEN I GROW UP by Al Yankovic. To read my past post about this book CLICK HERE.
When I Grow Up

OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO! by Dr. Seuss. Inspirational yet honest, and always rhythmically rollicking, Oh, the Places You'll Go! is a perfect sendoff for children, 1 to 100, entering any new phase of their lives. From kindergartners to graduate students, all will glean fun pearls of wisdom about the big, bountiful future.
Oh, the Places You'll Go!

OH, THE THINKS YOU CAN THINK! by Dr. Seuss. "Contains one of Dr. Seuss's solid-gold morals, the joy of letting one's imagination rip."--The New York Times.
Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!

C.S. LEWIS' LETTERS TO CHILDREN A collection of letters to children from C. S. Lewis that will enthrall Narnia lovers. Most children will skip the foreword by Lewis' stepson and the brief sketch of Lewis' childhood (although both are accessible to young readers) and go straight to the letters themselves. Most of the letters concern Narnia, but there are also touching letters to Lewis' godchild. Some letters offer encouragement and advice to young writers. The letters answer questions that today's children might still have.
C. S. Lewis' Letters to Children

HINDS' FEET ON HIGH PLACES by Hannah Hurnard. This allegorical novel is the story of a young woman, "Much-Afraid", and her journey away from her Fearing family and into the High Places of the Shepherd, guided by her two companions "Sorrow" and "Suffering". It is an allegory of a Christian devotional life. The title is taken from Habakkuk 3:19, "The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places." I loved having this book read aloud to me the summer I was going into 6th grade.
Hinds Feet on High Places

WHAT THE DORMOUSE SAID:  Lessons For Grownups from Children's Books, compiled by Amy Gash.  Illustrations by Pierre Le-Tan and Judith Viorst. This one-of-a-kind collection reminds us not to lose sight of the values and virtues we learned as kids. Here are over three hundred quotations from over two hundred well-loved children's books.
What the Dormouse Said: Lessons for Grown-ups from Children's Books

THE LAST LECTURE by Randy Pausch. When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give his "Last Lecture" talk, he didn't have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave--"Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"--wasn't about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because "time is all you have...and you may find one day that you have less than you think"). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.
In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form.

MEDITATIONS FROM A SIMPLE PATH by Mother Teresa. This work typifies the simplicity of the life lead by Mother Teresa. The major themes of the volume are as follows:
- The Fruit of Silence is Prayer.
- The Fruit of Prayer is Faith.
- The Fruit of Faith is Love.
- The Fruit of Love is Service.
- the Fruit of Service is Peace.
Meditations from a Simple Path

MOTHER TERESA: IN MY OWN WORDS by Mother Teresa. A timeless testament to the power of her words. Here are the same quotes, stories, and prayers that helped strengthen and inspire the poor, the dying, the suffering, and the doubting who she met during her lifetime, and that will continue to strengthen and inspire all who read them.
Mother Teresa: In My Own Words

THE FOUR LOVES by C.S. Lewis. A candid, wise, and warmly personal book in which Lewis explores the possibilities and problems of the four basic kinds of human love: storge (affection), phileo (friendship), eros (romantic love), and agape (charity or God-love).
The Four Loves

THE ABOLITION OF MAN by C.S. Lewis.C.S. This appears to be a book specifically about public education, but its central concerns are broadly political, religious, and philosophical. In the best of the book's three essays, "Men Without Chests," Lewis trains his laser-sharp wit on a mid-century English high school text, considering the ramifications of teaching British students to believe in idle relativism, and to reject "the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kinds of things we are."
The Abolition of Man

THE GREAT DIVORCE by C.S. Lewis. C. S. Lewis takes us on a profound journey through both heaven and hell in this engaging allegorical tale. Using his extraordinary descriptive powers, Lewis introduces us to supernatural beings who will change the way we think about good and evil.
The Great Divorce

THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS by C.S. Lewis.  Lewis' satire is a Christian classic. Screwtape is a veteran demon in the service of "Our Father Below" whose letters to his nephew, Wormwood, instruct the demon-in-training in the fine points of leading a new Christian astray.
The Screwtape Letters: With Screwtape Proposes a Toast

LEFT TO TELL: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza.  (Think of a Rwandan version of THE HIDING PLACE.) Terrible, yet triumphant at the same time.
Left To Tell (1st); Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust [Left to Tell]

RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL SON: A STORY OF HOMECOMING by Henri Nouwen.When Henri Nouwen stumbled across Rembrandt's painting, Return of the Prodigal Son, he began a spiritual journey that would help him understand the biblical parable as well as the story of his own life.
Return of the Prodigal Son

THE WAY OF A PILGRIM translated by Helen Bacovcin. This classic work of Russian spirituality has charmed countless readers with its tale of a nineteenth-century peasant seeking the truth with simple humility, finding joy and plenty everywhere in life as he practices the prayer of the heart, "Lord Jesus Christ Have Mercy on Me".
The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way

All books are available from,, and