Create a LEGOS set!

We have LEGOS strewn all over our house on a very regular basis. My 5-year-old, Mia, claims she’s going to be a builder when she grows up. Turns out, she can be, and it could be a result of building and designing LEGO sets. In fact, anyone so inspired can create the next new lego set for sale.

Meet Thomas Poulson, a tree surgeon and gardener in Bristol, UK, whose passion for nature and love of LEGOS have collided to inspire the very first LEGO Bird Set. Poulson credits a chance encounter with a certain Robin Red Breast, who happened to land on his shovel while he was working one day, as the inspiration that began his journey.


A recently rekindled passion for LEGOS (he refers to them as the best puzzle in the world) sent him scurrying home that fated evening to work on an idea, and “Bobby the Robin” was born. The original Poulson made that first night was given to his mother as a thank-you for providing him with his first set of LEGOS. He found the creation of Bobby so enjoyable that he decided to make his favorite birds of Europe. When he finished the first seven and posted them online, he was quickly encouraged to submit his ideas directly to LEGO, where enthusiasts get a chance to see their ideas in production if they get 10,000 supporters. Poulson says the biggest challenge of designing is that he never has enough LEGOS, a sentiment with which LEGO builders like my Mia can sympathize.

  1. Cindi Johnson says:

    Wow! I have never seen any Lego projects like that! Going to have to share this with my bird-watching friends; after I go visit the Lego site 🙂

  2. Connie-Killarney says:

    Boy! would I like to own those birds! Thanks for sharing! I so enjoyed this!! I got a new Bird -feeder for Christmas, shaped like an Old-Fashioned Tire swing, bet that would look cool made from Legos!

  3. Deb says:

    Happy New Year, Meg! Some of my fondest homeschooling memories include the sights and sounds of LEGOS Both of our children spent hours building. I always felt like the best teacher ever when they were using their creative thinking skills with LEGOS. When they were little they belonged to a LEGO club where they would build with other children… We took photos of their creations to be saved in a notebook for future reference. Nicolette used to create little mini pieces of furniture that were adorable. I bought her the pink girly LEGOS but she used them all as did her brother! I think Thomas’s birds are GENIUS!

    • Megan says:

      Haha, I absolutely agree on the best teacher feeling. The girls and I have what we call Lego dates. We grab a glass of water and a little snack and spend hours on the floor designing restaurants, airplanes, monster trucks, etc.

  4. Katy Cervantes says:

    What imagination! My Grandbabes will love this. Thank you for sharing these talent. Welcome.

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Story Prompts

Do you know Frederick? He has big ears, sleepy eyes, and a rather prominent tail.

Oh—maybe I forgot to mention—Frederick is a mouse. He’s the unlikely hero of a lovely little book by Leo Lionni called … you guessed it:


It’s a children’s book, but I really don’t like making such a rigid distinction because, hey, we’re all kids at heart, right? And this tiny gem speaks volumes to literature lovers, no matter what age.

Frederick, you see, is considered among his mischief (i.e. mouse tribe) to be a layabout loafer. In the eyes of his hardworking companions, he appears to shirk his pre-winter duties—stockpiling grain and the like—in favor of daydreaming.

“Frederick, why don’t you work?” they ask. “Are you dreaming?”


Image courtesy of Story Philosophy blog

But in fact, Frederick is working, in his own way. Instead of corn and nuts, he’s gathering words.

Words? How can words possibly be as important to winter survival as food?

That’s for Frederick, in all his marvelously mousy wisdom, to tell …

Winter may be upon us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start collecting sunbeams and colors and words right now. This season of togetherness is the perfect time to share the intangible treasures of poetry, songs, and stories. But if you don’t have a friendly Frederick around to gather goodies, the next best thing is a good story prompt. A prompt is a preliminary nugget of an idea that sparks the telling of a tale, and thanks to the Internet, prompts are easy to come by. Take a look at the sites below, collect some tidbits that tantalize the imagination, and jot them on separate scraps of paper. Then gather your loved ones (big and small) for an old-fashioned storytelling session that will brighten even the darkest of winter’s nights.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I remember these stories of Frederick when my children were little. Such fond memories of reading them with my girls.

  2. How very sweet MaryJane ! what a nice way to start a sunny but cold day, 2 days after christmas, when people tend to be feeling a bit down after all the excitement and build up of the holidays.
    I adore stories about mice and collect children’s books so I must add this one.

  3. Cindi Johnson says:

    I love books designed for the child in us; a love I discovered when a long-ago boyfriend introduced me to Tolkien in college. I’m reading one now, actually, and just bought another last week… under the guise of previewing them to determine which child to pass them on to, of course. My collection of kid’s books is larger now than it was before my kids all grew up! My grandchildren treat it as a check-out library. One recent discovery is a wonderful book/game called “And Then… Story Starters” ~ a collection of cards with story beginnings that introduce characters and background settings and leave it for the reader to complete the story. I do not have Frederick, but that problem will be remedied soon! It sounds like a wonderful story.

    • MaryJane says:

      And Then … sounds fabulous. As usual, thanks Cindi! I read Tolkien for the first time as an adult also and LIVED that world until I’d finished them all. I couldn’t put them down. It wasn’t just the story line, it was the writing. Fantastic.

  4. Patricia Miller says:

    So love this story. Thank you.

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  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Something savory looks perfect after so many sweets the past few days!

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  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    A beautiful blue-eyed kitty! My oldest daughter rescued a feral cat and he has the same sandy fur and blue eyes. Just mesmerizing, I think.

  2. CJ Armstrong says:

    Love kitties! What a beautiful kitty with those stunning blue eyes!

    • MaryJane says:

      Meet my boy, Jasper Tomkins (my house cat). I’m wrapping presents this morning and he is having a blast hiding in boxes, popping bubble wrap, and chasing spools of ribbon. Nick and I were almost in tears a few minutes ago laughing at his antics. He’s a sweetie and so well behaved. I got lucky.

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  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    There is nothing better than fresh farm eggs with their deep golden yokes!

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Healthy Out

During this busy, festive time of year, we think more about home cooking, but may be more likely than usual to grab a restaurant meal on the go. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice all of our healthy ideals for convenience.


Photo by Ingolfson via Wikimedia Commons


A new app called HealthyOut has the answer—lots of answers, in fact. Currently covering over 20,000 restaurants in over 500 cities throughout the country, this handy app allows you to search by calories as well as nutrition tags like …

low carb,


Photo by via Wikimedia Commons

heart healthy,


Photo by Suzette,, via Wikimedia Commons



Photo by Saaleha Bamjee via Wikimedia Commons

or—the amusingly popular option—NOT salad!


Photo by Ruth Ellison via Wikimedia Commons

You can further customize your search based on cuisine, delivery or dining in, and ingredients. Plus, HealthyOut integrates Yelp ratings and maps to restaurant locations. The app is free to install for both iOS and Android platforms, and once it’s on your device, you’ll sign up for an account so that you can specify your desired diet.

According to the app’s creators, “Every dish listed on the app comes in at about half the calories and half the fat of average restaurant meals.”

Find out more and download the app at


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I love that healthy eating is more mainstream now and restaurants are offering local, healthy and delicious food! Those photos that you shared look so delicious and inviting.

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  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Mmmmmmm, fresh made butter! There is nothing sweeter and more delicious to enjoy on fresh baked bread.

  2. Cindi Johnson says:

    Fresh churned butter is the best. Very satisfying to make it, too. We’ve really given up a lot in the attempt to make life easier with automation. Not only good, fresh food, but a sense of accomplishment. Hey! I just happen to have some good cream in the frig!

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Symphony of the Soil

You may have already heard that 2015 will be the Chinese Year of the Sheep


Photo by Rob via Wikimedia Commons

But did you know that it’s also been declared by the UN as the International Year of Soils?


International Year of Soils 2015: Healthy Soils for a Healthy Life courtesy of FAO

There would be no sheep without soil. In fact, there would be no life as we know it without the unsung substrate we so often dismiss as “just” dirt.

Okay, wait—why is soil THAT big of deal? Inquiring minds want to know …

Allow me to tickle your sense of wonder in the next two minutes by sharing this:

The clip above is an invitation to watch the moving, majestic, full-length documentary called Symphony of the Soil. Produced, written, and directed by Deborah Koons Garcia of Lily Films, known for the equally stunning The Future of Food, this film illuminates the veritable symphony of the Earth’s soil for us to experience.


Not for a moment.

Symphony of the Soil is a riveting drama complete with joy and tragedy, passion and triumph, wisdom and hope. It’s a story we all share.

“Drawing from ancient knowledge and cutting edge science, Symphony of the Soil is an artistic exploration of the miraculous substance, soil. By understanding the elaborate relationships and mutuality between soil, water, the atmosphere, plants, and animals, we come to appreciate the complex and dynamic nature of this precious resource,” explains the film’s website. “Filmed on four continents, featuring esteemed scientists and working farmers and ranchers, Symphony of the Soil is an intriguing presentation that highlights possibilities of healthy soil creating healthy plants creating healthy humans living on a healthy planet.”


Image courtesy of Symphony of Soil via Civil Eats

To celebrate the International Year of Soils, the Symphony of the Soil website will be streaming the full feature film for FREE through December 12, 2014. Watch Symphony of the Soil here.

Now, this is where the spirit of giving kicks in …

This is a movie everyone should see. Perhaps most importantly, school kids with fertile minds need to know what’s going on beneath their feet, behind their food. That’s why classrooms need to have access to Symphony of the Soils in the coming year. But educational funds are in perpetual drought throughout many parts of the nation, and not every school can afford the Educational Collection, which is licensed for use in schools, universities, libraries, and educational organizations.

So Lily Films has created an Educational Gift Program that allows us to purchase or contribute to the purchase of the Educational Collection (which consists of Symphony of the Soil and two DVDs of short films called Sonatas of the Soil Volume I and II) for a community that may not have the resources to purchase it.

Visit the Educational Gift Collection site to make a donation that will help sow appreciation for our vital soil in the growing generation.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Thanks, MaryJane for this information. I look forward to watching the whole film soon. I also shared this site with my friend who works for our public school system on a new program that brings farm to school in a variety of ways, including growing lettuce for school kitchens for lunches. This film might be a resource for the program that will be of great interest and a source of learning for the students of the program.

  2. Thanks MJ for sharing this important information. I watched the film last night, it was a bit long but fascinating . I learned a lot, as I am sure anyone will who watches it. I think every older school child should see this as well all lawmakers that control our farming laws and practices. It should be crammed down the throats of all Monsanto executives ! It is a bellwether of the future of our planet.
    The fertile valleys of the Punjab in the film brought back memories of my years spent in Northern India. it is the best land in India and considered its breadbasket. It’s good to know that they are beginning to go back to sustainable agriculture there.
    Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where I live, has the richest and best soil in the USA and we are scraping off the topsoil and then paving over it , it is heartbreaking! We have the highest producing farmland in the country and we are losing it. The Lancaster Farmland Trust –
    can’t move fast enough to save it.
    I will highly recommend this film to all my farming and gardening friends, as should all you Farmgirls out there !

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  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Looks so warm and yummy. This star marshmallows are the best!

  2. Cindi Johnson says:

    Oh boy …. I’d much rather be enjoying that as I look out the window. There’s a fresh coat of ice on everything! Hot chocolate and a view are much better than rushing to get ready to brave the roads this morning.

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