Friday Find: Brains On!

brainson“Wait! Pause it!”

We were listening to an episode of Brains On!, and my six year old could barely hold in her comments and questions.  I let her choose among the recent episodes, and she chose Is There Life on Other Planets? which opened with an excerpt from a science fiction story about aliens written by a kid, not too much older than my daughter.

“So this is a real story written by a real kid?” was her first question.  Then we had to go to the Brains On! web site to see the young author’s alien drawings.

Astrocat_001That was only the beginning  of the speculation and discussion that the episode sparked in her.  It wasn’t just the day we listened to it, either.  The ideas stuck with her enough to bring it up again and again.  We explored more about space in Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space, which has a great spread with speculative aliens that my daughter loved.

We will definitely be listening to more of Brains On! And catching up on past episodes.  I love that it features kids asking real kid questions, and I am excited to explore more science with my daughter.

Since I am always thinking about books, I already have a few books in mind for some of the other episodes:

  • For Water, Water Everywhere we will check out Did a Dinosaur Drink this Water by Robert Wells and Let’s Drink Some Water by Ruth Walton.
  • The Soil–Can You Dig It episode fits well with A Handful of Dirt by Raymond Bial.
  • In How Do You Catch a Cold? there is talk of sneezes; Explore more in Sneeze! by Alexandra Siy.
  • If you listen to Is There Life on Other Planets? with kids a bit older than my six year old, you can direct them to The Alien Hunter’s Handbook by Mark Brake for more about what life is and how to find it.

Happy listening, reading, and exploring!

Interested in past Friday Finds posts? Click here

Friday Find: Yellow Fever

I grew up going to a lot of community theater.  My mom loves theater, and she made sure we went to whatever community production we could find in our small suburb.  Very occasionally we even went into the city for a real show at the Chicago Auditorium.  All the shows we saw were fun, but the few professional shows we saw were really quite extraordinary.

yellowfeverI am embarrassed to note that it had been years since I’ve seen anything outside of children’s theater until this week.  A friend recommended a show at the Guthrie, and we jumped at the opportunity to do something new.

Yellow Fever” turned out to be a great show for non-theater people like us. It took on serious topics without taking itself too seriously.

It is a comic mystery set in 1970’s Vancouver that explores the racism of the era and the lasting effects of Japanese interment camps during World War II.

Here are a few reviews of note:

  • Play off the Page recommends it “for the laughs, the mystery, the colorful characters, and the parts that make you think.”
  • The CityPages review was mixed, but it notes that it is a mix of humor and more important issues.
  • How Was the Show recommended the show saying “The trick with this play is to capture the era capturing another era, playing to an audience of another era – without flat-out stereotypes marking the path.  This production does this deftly; we get the laughs – and we get the point.”

The show runs through March 24th, and I recommend it.

I have to admit that part of my enjoyment came from revisiting a part of my childhood that always felt magical.  And knowing how excited my mom would be when I told her all about it.  :)

Friday Find: Pratfalls of Parenting

“We make cool stuff. We make people too. How has that affected you?  Along the way we try to stay creative types at the end of the day.” –The Pratfalls of Parenting theme song

pop-itunesI recently discovered the Pratfalls of Parenting podcast about life as a parent in the arts, and I’ve become a bit obsessed with the show.  I am far from being a working artist myself–that isn’t even on my map really–but that doesn’t matter.  The sense of camaraderie in the casual conversations between the artists in the podcast extends to the listener, and turns people whose names I see on advertisements for gallery shows or theater performances into real people whose struggles are not far off from mine.

All the interviews that I’ve listened to so far seem to circle back to the idea that you have to be you to be a good parent.  You might be able to put parts of you in the background at times, like when your kids are quite young, but you have to keep making things or whatever it is you are into.  For me that means writing and making zines.  For my husband, it means making music.  We’ve made these things priorities in our house, and it’s nice to know that there are other families out there who are making the same kinds of priorities we are.

But I don’t think you have to be some sort of artist to know the tension between keeping your pre-parent self alive and being a good parent, and I don’t think you have to be an artist to appreciate the Pratfalls of Parenting podcast.  For one thing, it’s a fascinating angle on the Twin Cities arts scene.  I’ve discovered so many artists and arts organizations in the few weeks I’ve been listening.  :)

Here are some of the highlights I’ve found so far:

  • Seniz Lennes (improvisor/actor/photographer) talks about parenting as part of her creative practice and the way that her work as an improvisor informs her parenting.  She blogs about this at Yes And Parenting.
  • Carolyn Swiszcz (painter/video maker) references children’s books as a great inspiration, and she mentions several illustrators in particular that she likes.  While I’m on the subject of books, I’ll also point out that Susannah Schouweiler mentions that having free reign of the library as a kid influenced her decision to become a writer and William Alexander (children’s book author) talks about writing, the book industry, and all sorts of other things kidlitgeeks like me love hearing about.
  • Jena Young  (comic/theater producer) brings up the topic of humor in that what is funny to kids is often not the same as what is funny to adults.  I wonder what she and host Levi Weinhagen (of all-ages theater company Comedy Suitcase) would think of my assessment of Kid Humor in picture books. ;)

I highly recommend the podcast to parents of all sorts, but especially to those who make stuff and make that a priority.

Friday Finds: National Craft Month, The Universe, & My Weekend Picks

I’ll start off with another confession, though two Fridays in a row is a bit much, I know, but bear with me. Here goes: I’m not crafty.  This might not seem like a big deal except I was raised crafty.  My mom crochets beautiful afghans, and my dad does all sorts of woodworking things.  They spent a few years on the regional craft show circuit, and I’ve tried to get my mom to open an Etsy shop many times. With that kind of heritage behind me, I should be crafty, right? I, however, have about the same crafticity level as my 4 year-old. It’s too bad.  Ladybug loves stories like Shoe-la-la and Crafty Chloe.  I wouldn’t be surprised if crafticity skips a generation.  

I’m fairly content being a craft-appreciator for the most part, and it’s National Craft Month, so I thought I’d share a couple of my favorite Etsy shops for your browsing pleasure.

  • Bookshelves of Doom isn’t just a kidlit blog, it’s also an Etsy shop filled with book related crafty items.  Right now she has pendants and brooches made with vintage literary stamps.

  • Water Nymph has all sorts of lovely jewelry, including this lovely ring my honey gave me for Annibirthmas:

Unrelated to crafts entirely, this video is too good not to share.  (via Intelligent Life)

Twin Cities Weekend Picks:

Friday Finds: Dr. Seuss’ Birthday & Weekend Picks

  • Happy Birthday to Dr. Seuss!  Is this a good time to admit that I hated Dr. Seuss as a kid?  It’s true.  I preferred realistic fiction even back then.  The made-up words and strange animals were never as appealing as characters whose lives seemed more like mine–check out my ode to contemporary realism in teen fiction on Books in Bloom.  I have come around to Seuss (and occasionally fantasy in general) as an adult, and fortunately, my daughter does not share my early bias against the fantastic.  We’ll probably celebrate by playing her Dr. Seuss Matching Game and talking about her favorite Seuss stories.
  • You might celebrate by contributing to this Kickstarter project to put Seuss’ words in lights on the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis.
  • There are many, many more Seuss-related ideas on the obSEUSSed with Dr. Seuss pinboard on Pinterest.
  • If you want something Seuss-related to feel outraged about, this commercial with The Lorax selling an SUV just doesn’t seem right no matter how Truffula Tree Friendly they say it is.

Weekend Picks:

  • It’s Free First Saturday at the Walker Art Center on March 3rd.  Kids are always free at the Walker, but the first Saturday of each month is all about them.  The theme is film, and you can get get a sneak peek of some of the short films they will be showing on the Walker Blog.
  • The Nick and Eddie Winter Party on Sunday, March 4th has a great lineup of local bands.  Starts at 4pm with Mayda, and there are 12 other bands.  Well worth the $6 cover.

For more of what’s caught my eye this week, find me on Facebook (updated to timeline–check it out!),  Twitter,  Pinterest.

Disclosure: links are affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog.  Thanks for your support!

Friday Finds: Mormons & Fairy Tales

I actually haven’t been online much this week, which is kind of a nice break from my usual.  But it wouldn’t be Friday if I didn’t share what I’ve found for the week, so here goes:

  • Everybody already knows I’m an MPR geek, so I won’t hide the fact that I’ve been excitedly listening to The Daily Circuit all week.  I’ve been loving the new show!  In particular, I thought the discussion of Mormonism was very interesting “(and eye-opening for me).  The show’s blog also linked to some controversial topics they didn’t really get into on the show.
  • I also happened to read a couple of related blog posts.  First, Sellabit Mum‘s post Mormons Exposed, which isn’t nearly as scandalous as the title makes it seem, has a really great conversation about what matters (kindness, love, peace) between mother and daughter. Then, Wendy Thomas Russell takes on bigotry and how that relates to religion in a very interesting post on her blog Relax It’s Just God.
  • Are fairy tales really too scary?!  This study says that parents think so.  Book people on the internet (like the librarian who blogs at Waking Brain Cells) say no.  I’ve written before about the power of fairy tales, and incidentally, that post is easily the most popular post on this blog. So people are interested at least, right?


For more of what’s caught my eye this week, find me on Facebook,  Twitter, and Google+.  Don’t forget, there’s still time to support the local Kickstarter projects I highlighted in this post.   Support Minnesota music!


Disclosure: links are affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog.  Thanks for your support! :)

Friday Finds: Wonder & Disenchantments

It’s been a very busy week, so I only have a few links for you.  First a couple of books:

  • Everyone is talking about #thewonderofwonder, which is awesome.  I read Wonder by R.J. Palacio and blogged about it as a “Promising Bloom” on Books in Bloom in October. It was published this week. Children’s fiction readers, don’t miss this one!
  • Also published this week: The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour. I loved this coming of age novel about a band spending the summer touring before they go off to college (or whatever they’re doing after high school).  Highly recommended.

And a bit of local love:


For more interesting stuff, find me on Facebook,  Twitter, and Google+.


Disclosure: links are affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog.  Thanks for your support! :)

Friday Finds: Bullying, Breast Cancer, & Are You Local?

First some serious links:

  • I avoided reading the Rolling Stone article “One Town’s war on Gay Teens” for days.  It kept popping up on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, and it was never a good time to read what I knew would probably make me cry, so I would scroll past.  I finally clicked one afternoon on my bus commute home from work.  I did indeed cry a bit, but that isn’t terribly unusual for my commute reading.  Later this week, I picked up an advance copy (via my employer) of The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves, and I was tearing up again. The bus is an emotional place for me! :)
  • Breast cancer has been in the news with the whole Susan G. Komen Foundation/Planned Parenthood controversy, but I’d like to point you to the person who helped me get beyond the pinkwashing.  Susan Niebur, who blogged about mothering with cancer at Toddler Planet, passed away on February 6, 2012.  I never met her personally, but I’ve been following her blog for a long time.  She had a rare type of breast cancer that doesn’t present with a lump.  If you want to make a difference, consider donating to Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

And the less serious link:

  • Voting for the Are You Local? best new band contest has opened.  Listen to the songs by some great MN bands, rate them, and the winner goes to SXSW.  Some of my favorites bands (& people) are on the nominee list.  Check them out!

For more interesting stuff, find me on Facebook,  Twitter, and Google+.


Disclosure: links are affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog.  Thanks for your support! :)

Friday Finds: Books, Songwriting, & Minnesota


  • What book lover doesn’t like Books about Books?–that’s the topic of my latest Books in Bloom post featuring some very cute picture books.
  • Speaking of picture books, I also have a guest post on The Artful Parent this week: 4 New Picture Books to Inspire Your Young Artists.
  • As for non-picture books, an interesting and controversial book I reviewed for Library Journal is now available.  Choosing Cesarean by Magnus Murphy is a fascinating read for anyone interested in women’s health issues or the politics of birth  regardless of whether you agree that women should be able to choose an elective c-section.


  • As part of Arts Week on MPR’s Midday, Marianne Combs, Jeremy Messersmith, Haley Bonar, and Toki Wright talked about songwriting in this great segment.
  • If you are interested in what local musicians have to say about songwriting, you might like this post of mine in which I did just that: Speaking Music.



  • Maybe you’re sick of the meme already, but I thought this was pretty funny.  I present to you, Sh*t Minnesotan’s DON’T Say via


For more interesting stuff, find me on Facebook,  Twitter, and Google+.

Friday Finds: Colbert interviews Sendak and a few other not-as-funny links


  • Grim Colberty Tales on the Colbert Report.  It is a must-watch.
  • Librarians looking for a February book display might be interested in this list of teen fiction with hearts on the covers on my Book Lists Wiki.


  • If you, like me, were unable to make it to the Best New Bands showcase at First Avenue this week, you will be happy to know that you can live it vicariously on the Internet.  You can read Citypages‘ write-up here or read about local drummer Jared Isabella, who played in 3 of the bands, here.  Don’t forget that the hours are dwindling to support Bloodnstuff’s Kickstarter project.


And it’s all about me: