Sep 02

The Best of Summer 2014

by Hannah Holt »

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You know you’ve been away from blogging for a while when you have trouble remembering your password. Yikes. Has it really been that long?

This was an intense summer for me—mostly in a good way. But having all four kids home all day was a whirlwind of busy. With my two oldest children starting school today, I feel like I can finally sit down and check in again.

So, hi. Hello. Thanks for hanging with me. I have many fun crafts and activities planned for this fall, but first I want to take one last look at summer.




1. Our (mostly) finished backyard

2. Swimming at Sauvie Island

3. Summer randomness…I walked in to my room to find a rocking horse and two desk lamps in my bed. Everyday there was something like this in multiple places around the house.

4. These beautiful little sea creatures called Velella velella washed up on the Oregon Coast in droves this year.

5. Lion-dog from the Portland Japanese Gardens

6. Camping in the rain

7. These berries aren’t ripe, but we went berry picking. A lot.

8. Big boat, little boat on the Columbia River


Jul 01

Warning: Do Not Visit the Sun

by Hannah Holt »

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{Today, I’m turning this blog over to my six-year-old science correspondent. Take it away E-Man.}


Visiting the sun isn’t a bright idea. You shouldn’t visit the sun because:

1. You should never look right at the sun. Looking around on the sun would be like, “Ow! Ow, my eyes!”

2. There is no water on the sun. After about three days you would die, or be really really really really thirsty.

3. There is a lot of gravity on the sun.* It would probably squish you.

4. There is no air on the sun. Breathing without air is hard.

5. Also, it would burn you up.


{There you have it folks. Don’t visit the sun this summer.}

*You can find our your weight on other planets by visiting: http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/weight/

Jun 11

Strawberry Fruit Leather (No Added Sugar)

by Hannah Holt »

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I might have been a little over zealous with berry picking on Saturday…

straw fresh

It turns out 40 lbs of strawberries is a lot. I know, duh. But seriously, I made jam and froze berries and the kids ate more fresh berries than a digestive system really should have.

And yet, I still had gobs and gobs of berries. At eleven at night I was out of freezer space, so I started pureeing it by the bucket-load.

What can you do with berries when you have no more fridge or freezer space?

Make fruit leather, of course!

strawberry leather steps


Here’s the recipe I used. It’s sort of a choose your own adventure recipe depending on how sweet you want it. Let’s just say making fruit leather is not an exact science. Everything is plus or minus 20 minutes, but this will get you in the ball park…

Strawberry Leather

  • 3 cups pureed strawberries (about 1.5 pounds)
  • (You can sweeten it with up to 1 cup of sugar for super-sweet, but if your berries are really ripe you won’t need it. Also adding sugar, will increase the cooking time…and your dental bills.)

Step 1: Strain the pureed berries through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds.

Step 2: In a thick bottomed sauce pan, bring the berries to a low boil over medium low heat. Then simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 50 minutes. (The mixture will be thick enough to mound slightly at the end.)

Step 3: Preheat oven to 200ºF and line a 15×10-inch pan with parchment paper.

Step 4: Pour the thickened puree into the prepared pan and spread as evenly as possibly.

Step 5: Dry the puree in the oven until it feels sticky but will not stick to your finger (about 2 hours). Or you may cook it for 90 minutes and the turn to oven off and leave it in there over night. If you choose not to leave it in the oven overnight you will need to let the dried puree cool on the counter for at least 3 hours before eating it.

Step 6: Using kitchen scissors, cut up the cooled leather on the parchment paper and roll it up. It may be stored in a plastic bag at room temperature for about a month.

straw done


FYI, many fruits can be dried in the oven at low heat over long periods of time. Here are some bananas I dried the next day.



The strawberry puree dipped ones were my favorite, but they were all delicious.



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)


May 05

Bears Are Terrible People

by Hannah Holt »


Bear head

If you find a bear trapped in a forest and release it, the bear will probably eat you.

It’s nothing personal. It’s just what hungry bears do.

You see, bears don’t feel gratitude the way people do. They also can’t experience complex emotions like empathy…

…much like young children. Children don’t develop empathy until around age five to six. Even then it’s just the beginnings.

It’s not that three-year-olds don’t care about your feelings. Rather, like bears, they can’t.

Bears and Children Venn diagram2

It’s Not Personal

It might feel personal when a four-year-old yells, “I hate you, and Aunt Mildred hates you, too!”

Only, it’s not.

Actually, what the child means is, “I have learned by trying lots of different words that these particular words get a big response.”

Take another common phrase, “I wish you would die!” Here’s what it means by age:

Four-year-old: What’s death? Who knows?! I’m not even sure when next Wednesday is, but you go all crazy when I say this. It’s awesome and makes me feel powerful.

Eight-year-old: I understand death. I think. I don’t actually want you dead. I probably want you with me right now, but I’m frustrated and don’t know what else to say. These words distract both you and me from what is bothering us.

Sixteen-year-old: I understand it, and I mean it. However, the long-term reasoning center of my brain isn’t fully developed, so what I really mean is, “it’d be convenient for me if you didn’t exist at this moment.”

So when your sixteen-year-old daughter comes home and says she can’t imagine a future without her new boyfriend DJ Bonecrusher, it isn’t love talking. Rather, futures in general are a difficult thing for her (realistic ones anyway). BTW, I don’t recommend telling her this.

What Can You Do?

First, of all take a deep breath. You aren’t a bad parent because your child pushes boundaries. All children push boundaries. It’s in their job description.

Second, keep rules basic and age appropriate. The more simple the rule, the more likely it will be followed. “Don’t open the game closet,” is more likely to be followed than, “only get out one game at a time, and be sure to close the door behind you, and don’t let your little sisters play with the Monopoly pieces.”

Third, only set up rules you are willing to enforce 100% of the time. Rules enforced 99% of the time are only suggestions. You can only constantly enforce a few rules at a time. Choose wisely.

Fourth, don’t jump to nuclear with the consequences too early. There is no level above nuclear. If you play the nuclear card and it doesn’t work, you lose. Start with the most gentle consequence possible. You will probably need several (first, time out in the kitchen with me, then time out in your room by yourself, then I start taking away toys and privileges, etc, etc).

What Can Children Feel?

Children are capable of love, kindness, and cooperation. However, these are learned behaviors. Show them love and they will love. Tell them when they are kind, and they will be kind more often. Be consistent about enforcing boundaries and they won’t cross them after the six or eleventeenth try.

On the other hand, spanking and yelling will result in more hitting and shouting. Don’t show a child how painful biting is by biting them back. Remember, the child cannot feel empathy; however, they will parrot your behavior.

It takes creativity and energy to model positive behavior. This means you need to  take care of your own mental health. Ask for help. Reach out to other adults when you are feeling on the brink.

Momma Bear Speaks

It makes me feel growly when I hear adults say things like, “my children are monsters,” or “those children are bad!” Usually what these people mean is, “those children are horrible adults.” Children can be exhausting, strong willed, and frustrating, but they aren’t terrible, rotten, or ill willed. Children desperately need positive adults role models in their lives.

After all, without adults children might wander into the forest and make friends with bears. And that would be a true disaster because as we’ve already learned—bears are terrible people.


If you like this post, you might also like these books:

Children Make Terrible Pets

Children Make Terrible Pets, by Peter Brown

I Want My Hat Back

I Want My Hat Back, by John Klassen

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, by Mo Willems