May 16

Music and Art Paper Dolls

by Hannah Holt »


Sometimes I’m asked how I made the switch from engineering to writing.

For me, it’s a no brainer. Engineering and writing require the same key trait—persistence.

That doesn’t mean all skills transferred. However, differentiating an equation isn’t that much different than writing a story, or painting a picture if you ask the question WHY. Why is 2x the derivative of x²? What makes a good story? Can the painting be pushed further?

Solving an equation to find the answer isn’t very interesting. The process is the intriguing part. It holds the keys to unlocking more equations and blazing new trails. You’ll never find those paths by flipping to the answer key. The longer way takes persistence.

Writing a picture book might not seem hard. Most only boast 500 words. Anyone can write 500 words. However, filling a word count isn’t any more interesting than looking in an answer key. The trick to writing a good picture book is in creating colorful characters. The character needs a journey with a beginning, middle, and end. This requires stakes, motive, disappointment, and success—all in 500 words or less. That is why I love picture books. It’s why I read over 200 each year and critique more than 100 peer manuscripts and write hundreds of thousands of words…so I can find that perfect  500.

It’s a work in progress. It takes persistence.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of this work: poring in hours no one will ever see. And that’s a good thing. I don’t need to be out there with all this all of the time

However, that means I haven’t been working on other projects, like my paper doll series. Well, I decided to make time. These dolls aren’t as perfect as I want them to be. They could really use five more hours. But often five more hours leads to five more hours, which leads to a complete overhaul. Somewhere I have to draw the line and be done. Persistence needs a deadline.

These dolls are a nod to the arts, but they’re also a tribute to creativity in all its forms.

I hope you enjoy!

Music paper dolls

Ann and Sarah Get Creative in Color (pdf)


Music paper dolls bw

Ann and Sarah Get Creative in Color (pdf)


Apr 01

Egg Carton Seedlings

by Hannah Holt »

one comment

For a while now, I’ve been hoarding egg carton containers.

empty egg carton planters

At first, I thought maybe I’d do a cute spring craft with them. However, then the yard project started, and I realized I need plants. Specifically, lots and lots of thyme.

Instead of grass, we are using thyme as a ground cover for a good portion of our backyard. Thyme needs less water than grass, and it smells great. Win-win. However, it’s a slow grower. So unless I want my yard to remain a dirt bowl this summer…

yard crazy

…I need to get planting. Now. Enter the egg cartons:

egg cartons with dirt

Here are a few tips when using egg cartons as seed starter planters:

  • I recommend cutting slits between the individual cups before putting the dirt in. This makes it easier to separate them as needed later.
  • When starting plants indoors, many need to be hardened before transplanting outdoors.
  • The egg cups won’t hold a very large plant. Check the germination times and recommended outdoor planting season for each type of seed. You don’t want to be growing a sunflower for very long in these little cups.
  • FYI, among other things, we are growing creeping thyme. Most thyme seeds you see in nurseries are culinary thyme. Culinary (or common ) thyme grows 6 inches tall. It’ll still make a good ground cover, but I wanted something walkable. Culinary or common thyme isn’t very walkable. It’s always a good idea to research the mature height of the seeds you plant.

With a little planning, starting from seed can save start up cost and time from your growing season. Happy planting!

egg carton seedlings

Mar 13

Butterfly Life Cycle Poems & Coloring Page

by Hannah Holt »


Butterfly Life Cycle promo

Last year, my kids wanted to raise a wild caterpillar. We named him Greenie:


He’s that small sticky looking thing next to the apple leaf. We did lots of research, and we tried to make a good go of it. But it turns out we stink at raising caterpillars. R.I.P. Greenie.

Maybe sometime in the future we’ll order a premade kit and have better luck. For now, we’ll stick to the lesson we learned: wild things should be kept in the wild.

We did enjoy learning about butterflies, and I wrote a set of poems about the life cycle of butterflies. I’d like to dedicate them to Greenie (there’s a coloring page at the end!):


Monarch’s Nursery

With a leaf for a crib
and no nanny to beg,
so begins life
as a butterfly egg.


Dining Hall

 The sleepy little caterpillar loves to munch and munch,
laying on his underside for breakfast, brunch, and lunch.
Shedding skin that feels too thin, he eats leaves with a crunch.
The growing bigger caterpillar loves to munch and munch.


Dressing Chambers

 Pupa, pupa changing quick,
hanging underneath your stick.
First you’re green and then you’re brown,
trading kid-clothes for a gown.

 The Ballroom

 They twirl and glide, this dancing pair.
Then dip a curtsy in midair.
Waltzing wind, they flutter by…
I wish I were a butterfly.

And here’s a butterfly life cycle coloring page:

Butterfly Life Cycle Coloring

Here’s a pdf copy: Butterfly Life Cycle Coloring Page.

And here’s a color version with answers: Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle.

Mar 03

How to Make a Sun Map

by Hannah Holt »

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We’re landscaping our backyard. By “we,” I mean my minions and me.

Line Level

{Aren’t my minions cute?}

My top priority for landscaping is food: I want my yard to grow stuff I can eat. So the first step of this insane exciting project was making a sun map.

Growing fruits and veggies takes sun and lots of it. So I need to know how much sun my yard gets and where.

First I made a sketch of my backyard (I traced over a google satellite image):

blank yard

Then I made ten copies and waited for a sunny day. Here in Oregon that can take a while…

When a sunny day arrived, I kept watch for the first hour of sun in my yard and sketched the area with direct sunlight


Every hour, I made a similar map until the sun went down. I’ll admit, I couldn’t stay home and watch the sun all day. I made my maps over a few days. However, you’ll probably want to make your map within a week to avoid sun shifting (more on that later).

After I had charted out all my hours of sun, I made a cumulative map:

February Sun Map

The purple area gets 6+ hours of sun, so that’s the best space for planting. The white area gets no direct sunlight (at least in February), so I probably want to avoid planting along the southern fence.

FYI, I did this same process at the end of January. Here’s my  sun map for January:

January Sun Map

Notice my January yard has fewer places with direct sunlight and those places get fewer hours of sun. Soooo….

1) Why does my yard get fewer hours of sun in January than February?

2) What do you think my sun map would look like in March?

(Answer 1: I live in the Northern Hemisphere, so the sun angle is lower in January compared to February. My southern fence casts a longer shadow in January. Answer 2: The angle of the sun continues to climb until mid-summer, so my March map will have more areas of sun and longer hours of sun than February.)

Jan 14

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Crafts

by Hannah Holt »

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We were washing dishes the other night when my son said…

Him: There’s this song I really like, but I can’t remember all the words.

Me: What do you remember?

Him: Something about…deep in my heart…

Me: We Shall Overcome?

Him: Yes, that’s it. I love that song.

His singing reminded me Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is coming. We’ve done a few crafts this week to celebrate.

I Have A Dream Self Portraits

I have a dream

Each of the kids drew a self portrait. We cut out the portrait and put it on colored construction paper. Then we glued on cotton balls to make dream clouds.

It was a good chance to talk about Dr. King’s dreams and what dreams my own kids have.

The Q-tip People March on Washington

qtip people

I cut a bunch of Q-tips in half. By mixing small amounts of burnt sienna (brown) and ivory acrylic paint, the kids and I were able to make a variety of skin tones. We dipped their heads in paint for hair and applied eyes using toothpicks.

After the paint dried, we glued the Q-tips to a printout of the Lincoln Memorial. Here’s a blank copy of the Lincoln Memorial just in case you want to make your own march on Washington picture:

March on Washington PDF

March on Washington

(Note: Because of the fine motor skills required for this craft, I recommend it for ages seven and up.)

The best part about these crafts were the conversations I had with my kids. My five-year-old was surprised to learn some people used to not be able to eat at certain restaurants or sit on buses because of the color of their skin. We talked about how unfair that would be and how even today we can find ways to choose more kindness.

We shall overcome hate and hurt with a little more love. Thanks Dr. King!