How To Use A Wish Lantern


  I’ve heard about wish lanterns, sometimes called sky lanterns, for a long time, but only recently got a chance to use one in a family ritual.

            These are rice paper lanterns that contain a flammable pad at the bottom. Once it is lit, the lantern fills up with hot air and then it can be released, carried off by the wind and eventually burned up completely. The lanterns come in white or colors, and typically are about three feet tall.

            Weddings are one of the festive events where sky lanterns have become common, and you may have seen photographs of dark skies dotted with dozens of bright lights.

            I’m taking some lanterns to the Jersey shore soon, and plan to launch some lanterns with my son to celebrate the milestone of his starting college, but my first use of wish lanterns had a more somber theme. I was gathered with immediate family at a small reunion on the coast of North Carolina in June. This is where my parents spent the end of their lives, and where their ashes are scattered: my mother’s at an ocean pier and my dad’s on the golf course, near his last hole-in-one.

Throwing rose petals on the water, in memory of our mother, June 2011.

Throwing rose petals on the water, in memory of our mother, June 2011.

             In the past, we have scattered rose petals where the ashes lay, but this time, I decided it might be good to try sky lanterns instead. I was able to buy two white lanterns at the local kite store, one for each of them. I decided that as part of the ceremony, we would write each write a note or wish to them on the lantern itself. This proved quite easy to do, as the rice paper was sturdy.

My nephew Stephen writes on one of the lanterns.

My nephew Stephen writes on one of the lanterns.


            All of us were staying in a lovely beach motel, and we gathered at dark on the grass in front of my sister’s first floor room.  It took a little time to get a feel for how the lanterns work: you have to hang on to them until they fill with air, or they drop to the ground.


Trying to light the wish lantern.

Trying to light the wish lantern.

          When it was full and gently tugging on our arms, we released the first lantern. It was so beautiful and hopeful as it rose, and all of us, even the teenagers, had tears in our eyes as we watched it soar slowly out of sight. Then we launched the second one, shouting good wishes to our beloveds.

         This was one of those pure ritual moments I love so much, when every sense and thought is collectively focused. We lived and breathed in those moments together, and felt the same things, and knew how connected we truly are.


We love you Mom & Dad!

We love you Mom & Dad!

         And as we stood there, we suddenly realized that many other motel guests were standing outside on the grass and balconies, watching us light and launch these lanterns. They clapped and cheered, and that magnified our feelings of joy.  It was a very special night.

         I’m eager to use this tool again, and explore some of the other milestones and occasions where it will deepen the experience.

Two cautionary pieces of advice:

*Remember you are, literally, playing with fire and you MUST take the recommended precautions seriously. Don’t try this in a high wind, or next to trees or buildings. I have watched a YouTube video where 200 wedding guests launched lanterns at the same time, and one landed on the roof of the party house and caught it on fire.

*Do not buy the cheapest, chintziest ones, as they can be defective and even more dangerous than the regular ones. I recommend the ones made by Birando, which are well made and packaged. I bought the 10 pack for about $25, which is quite reasonable. (They also sell wish lanterns to float on water, confetti cannons and plenty of other party and ceremony supplies.)

I’d love to hear about your experiences with wish lanterns, and I hope you’ll share a comment.

P.S. Having tried and failed to ignite wish lanterns on several subsequent occasions, I wanted to give you our “secret to success.” I’ve found that regular cigarette lighters and those long-handled grill starters are really difficult to use. The best bet is super-long matches, like these. We used them recently to send off a wish lantern the night before my son left for college. 


The T-Shirt Quilt for My Son’s Graduation

What kid doesn’t have a mile-high collection of t-shirts? 


Usually, these tees are a visual history of the things, places and activities deepest in the hearts of our children, a record more true than any trophy or scrapbook.

Like many mothers, I decided that making a tee shirt quilt for my son would be a perfect high school graduation gift. Although I’m a pretty confident quilter and have practiced the craft since the late ‘80s, it somehow made me queasy to cut into these treasures. Plus, I had no experience working with stretchy t-shirts. And a tight deadline.

So I hired a pro from my local guild, Sandy Merritt, and gave her very explicit instructions. I knew which tees I wanted to feature, and where, and what fabric I wanted to use between them. He was totally nuts for trucks as a toddler, but I thought 2 truck shirts was enough. I also wanted to include some embroidered patches, like the one he got for reading extra books for the library’s summer reading program.


My son really loved this gift, and we’re going to hang it over his bed now. Partly because these quilts go back to toddlerhood, he’s not interested in taking this to college. I told him if ever stops wearing all his high school theater tees, I’ll make the next quilt myself!

I wanted to share this because I’m so happy about how it came out, and to encourage others to try this.


TIP: if you are collecting tee shirts for a future quilt, let me pass on some advice. Store all the shirts carefully, and in a place you won’t forget as the years roll by. Sandy Merritt adds that you should NEVER store them in a dark plastic bag: not only will that lack of air cause them to deteriorate, but she knows a mother who diligently saved tee shirts for years in such a fashion. Until the day her husband decided to help clean up clutter around the house, and assumed the garbage bag was full of …. Garbage. 


Got a Toddler? Do This Now for A Memorable High School Graduation

No, this isn’t about playing Mozart while your two-year old naps, or picking the right language to assure your kid is Valedictorian.  It’s about celebration, and memories. And thinking ahead.

            High school graduation is one of the major milestones of our lives, and perhaps the clearest and most widely accepted marker of maturity and independence. Childhood is done.

             hun graduation      

            My son just graduated from high school last week, and I’m feeling exhilarated and sad. I’ve sorted through all his class photos, remembering the grinning, geeky child he was in grade school. That boy is no more.

            1st grade, w_Ms Heller                      

            But I started thinking about this day a long time ago, and preparing for a very special present that would track his growth and progress through the years, academically and otherwise. 

            I confess this idea didn’t originate with me: I was interviewing a woman for my first book, The Heart of a Family: Searching America for New Traditions That Fulfill Us. She told me that every year starting in kindergarten, she had asked the teachers of each of her children to write a letter the child wouldn’t receive until he or she graduated from 8th grade. The letters were going to be included in a lovely scrapbook.

            I seized on her idea, with variations. I wanted to gather teacher letters through high school, and then present them in a keepsake box rather than a scrapbook. 

             I soon learned that most teachers are very receptive to the idea, as long as you respect their workloads: don’t ask until the school year is over, and just request a highlights letter, not a massive report. I asked them to be as specific and as honest as possible.

            teacher w:letter

            The trickiest part was getting the high school letters assembled, because there was such a narrow window between the end of classes and graduation. I made the request to my son’s three favorite teachers: all of them had taught him at least twice. His favorite, the drama teacher, had been working with Max since middle school, and he’s had the biggest impact on my son’s life.



            TIP: I did not start project this until 2nd or 3rd grade, and though I tried to catch up with some of the earlier teachers, they did not respond. There are missing years in my letter box, but that didn’t stop me, and it shouldn’t stop you either. I just presented the ones I had. Another option would be to create your own write-up of the missing years, listing the teacher’s name, favorite classmates, some projects or triumphs that stood out.

              3rd Grade                        

            I wanted to supplement the teacher letters in the box with others from family members full of memories and good wishes for the future. So I sent a request about a month before graduation, asking them to send a letter on paper rather than e-mails.

            On graduation day, Max was celebrated with all manner of treat foods and gifts. But he said the box full of letters was the absolute highlight of the day.  

            At the party, I saved the box for last, and my son was both surprised and elated. One by one, he read the letters aloud, and it was such a powerful experience to see the portrait painted by the succession of teachers who had taught him. The letters were full of anecdotes and humor, things he said, occasions he misbehaved, the funny “lobster dance” for which he was famous in 5th grade. His 3rd grade teacher wrote, “You had wild hair sometimes and you didn’t like to wear shoes so much.”  They all praised his amazing writing, and his extravagant use of big words.


            Photographs are wonderful mementos, but they are insufficient to help us fully recall our past. Whether you follow this exact pattern or not, think about how you can someday deliver to your children a deep, emotional recreation of their childhoods. 



From Death to Ice Cream: Ideas for Fully Celebrating Memorial Day


My Father Writing a Letter to My Mother During WWII

My Father Writing a Letter to My Mother During WWII


           If you are like me, even if you believe deeply in the importance of family traditions and believe deeply in honoring those who died serving our country, you are a tad flummoxed by Memorial Day.

            I mean, how do you celebrate death? Especially with little kids. Memorial Day was first celebrated on May 30, 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War.  Over the years, it’s become a time to remember all the warriors who sacrificed their lives for this country. Dark stuff. But it’s also become the national kickoff to summer: time to fire up the grill, hit the beach, mix the Margaritas. Our most bi-polar holiday.

            What shall we do? Weep over the red, white and blue paper tablecloth before scarfing down burgers and hot dogs?

            I’ve got another idea. I think this holiday weekend should be consciously broken apart and celebrated as two very different occasions, and that both of them would benefit from the genesis of much more personal, even quirky, rituals.

            I’m a big believer in DIY holidays, taking the broad themes and historical conventions of major occasions and marrying them to a family’s personal passions, beliefs, and personalities.

             It’s one thing to learn that flags are supposed to be flown at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day, or that at 3 pm, during a national moment of silence, taps is supposed to be played across the country. But how do we make meaning personal in a national holiday?



             On Memorial Day, partake of the local parade with the flag-waving politicians, marching bands and uniformed veterans, but find a quiet time to talk about the veterans in your own family. Huddle over the family scrapbook or photo of someone in your family who served in the military, even if he or she didn’t die in service.  Kids love to light candles, so consider a brief ceremony to light a candle in remembrance of that person, maybe even a candle on top of a cupcake. Take the cupcake outside, and let the wind blow it out.

Visit some or all of the war memorials in your town and talk about the battles and history they commemorate, but first, gather up some flowers from your yard or the local florist. Leave the flowers at the monument, say a few words of thanks for the fallen, maybe take a photograph. With your kids, say those actual words, “Thank you for your sacrifice.”

           This is when the abstract can become vivid for everyone, not just the kids: there is something visceral and solemn about standing among the dead. With your heads bowed, observe a moment of silence and think about the real people laid here.  Touch the stones, maybe have your kids find a soldier’s tomb and make a grave rubbing. Intense, as it needs to be.

            Once you have honored the fallen in your personal way, it’s time to get zany. Just accept that this weekend, it’s OK to have diametrically opposite feelings and ceremonies on the same day and ride with it.

             In your family, what represents release? Blowing bubbles in the yard or nearby park? Squirt gun battles? Having a picnic? Going to the zoo?  Have a weekend long family challenge to see how many activities you can complete during which you feet leave the ground: climb trees, leap, take out the jump rope, shoot hoops in the driveway.


Photo from

Photo from

             Eat giant ice cream cones with red, white and blue sprinkles. Go to the beach, and after dark, create a pathway of candles leading down to the water’s edge.  If your town pool is opening this weekend, like ours is, invent your own first day traditions: jump in as a family holding hands.

            I love rituals whose goal is to get wet and messy: there’s a family in my book that celebrates the end of school every year with a huge watermelon battle in the backyard.

            Thank the freedom-fighters. Then celebrate freely, like you mean it.


Take My Workshop on July 20 on Quilt Photography

The nonprofit Quilt Alliance will host a terrific one-day conference outside of Washington, D.C. on July 20 called “Not Fade Away,” about documenting quilts using tech tools and social media.


I’ve been working with others on the board to put this workshop together for months, and we’re so excited to be able to offer the tickets now. For a real bargain price ($45 for Alliance members, $55 for nonmembers) you will get a full day of lectures and hands-on workshops, plus a breakfast reception and box lunch, plus a ticket to see the biannual Sacred Threads exhibit, which will occupy the same venue.



A lot of major players in all aspects of quilting will be here, from Alliance board members to quilting legends like Jinny Beyer, to an entire panel of A-list curators. You’ll learn a lot, and have a great time. 


Click here to get loads more information about the conference, and buy your tickets online. Honestly, we expect a lot of these workshops to fill up, so you would be smart to register soon. Attendees can choose their favorite workshops, and the Alliance staff will enroll them in two, one for the morning and another for the afternoon. 


Here is a description of my workshop:

Taking Better Photos of Your Quilts with Meg Cox
Meg Cox will provide quilters and quilt collectors with loads of tips and tricks. She’ll talk about lighting and placement, how best to hang a quilt for photography, and the difference between the requirements for online and print publications. Expect many examples of excellent quilt shots by famous quilters and photographers, along with some amateur “failures” (Meg will share a few of her own.)  An important part of documenting your quilts, for any use– including preserving the image for museums, historical societies and resources like the online Quilt Index— is taking a crisp and clean photograph showing both the entire quilt, and important highlights. There will be handouts, and a chance to play with some of the concepts covered: feel free to bring a smartphone or a digital camera to the workshop to try some different techniques, but this is not required.


I’m hoping to see you there!!!!

First Printing Sells Out!!!!!!

Happy news!!!

The first print run of The Book of New Family Traditions (revised & expanded) has sold out, and Running Press has printed more.

Here is a photo from Local Author Day at the Princeton Public Library, which brought nearly 400 people to the library to meet 45 authors.  As a featured author, I got a big table up front, gave a reading, and did an interview with a local TV station. There was a fascinating mix of authors, and they put me at the table next to my good friend novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz, author of Admission.

Author Day


Just so you know, this book is a perfect gift for mothers and mothers-to-be, so don’t forget Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 12. There are some fun suggestions in the book for celebrating that holiday as well: I am partial to the one where your kids “mother” you for the day. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have your boo-boos kissed, and get tucked into bed after a story? 

A Fun, Simple Project for Valentine’s Day


I’ve been making “heart books” for my son since he was a little guy, and I’ve come up with an easy and very adaptable design that I want to share.


The first book was called “10 Things I Love About Max,” and in successive years, they were titled “10 More Things I Love About Max.” Each of the 10-heart-shaped pages told about some aspect of my son’s personality or passions that I cherish, and these were decorated with stickers, characters cut out of old magazines and calendars, and in a pinch, my own drawings. 

Each morning, Max would wake on Valentine’s Day, and find one of these books hanging from the doorknob on his bedroom door. 


I always save up old calendars and magazines and catalogs that include images that lend themselves to this sort of personal collage project. The covers of the Heart Books are cut from thin cardboard from an old box, like a cereal box, or from the posterboard we always seem to have lying around for school projects.

A simple hole punch makes 2 holes, which are threaded with ribbon to make the handle. Just tying multiple knots at the ends of the ribbon, where it comes out the back of the book, secures the handle in place. 

I urge you to make Heart Books for your kids and your sweetie!

And here’s the thing: these also work great for birthdays, where the number of pages is equal to the birthday number. I swear, I once made a 75-page Heart Book for a dear friend. 

Plus– these work great for Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day.



Milestone Birthday Sheets: A History of One Tradition


They say you should practice what you preach, and when it comes to family traditions, I have surely tried. 

I began to write my first book on family traditions while I was still pregnant with my son, and while I interviewed experts and families all over the country, I kept getting inspired to be creative in my own rituals and celebrations. Not everything worked, but if there is one single tradition of my own invention that really has come to be treasured, it is our “birthday sheets.” (Like many of my personal traditions, it is included in the new edition of The Book of New Family Traditions. For those who are not aware, all of my books go way beyond my own ideas and practices and are based on interviews with hundreds of other families.)

I remember when my son was about to turn 3. I was still working on The Heart of a Family and reading a lot of books about traditions in many times and places. I was fascinated by tribal rites of passage, and by the notion that when a person marks a milestone in his or her life, they should have a concrete feeling of actually crossing over a threshold. I felt that my son was changing profoundly from a baby to a child, as he entered nursery school, got potty trained, and experienced many other “firsts.” I thought long and hard about how I could somewhow create a physical barrier that he would cross through to symbolize and celebrate this change. Should I buy wood and erect something? Could I fashion a structure out of twigs, or tie two saplings together to make an arch? Everything seemed too complicated and beyond my skills. 

Somehow, a lightbulb turned on: I could create a threshold simply by taking a white bed sheet and painting it with symbols of “big boyness,” like underpants. I would tape the sheet over the entrance to the family room, and cut a slit up from the ground as high as my son’s head, and he would go “through” the sheet to find his presents on the other side. He would feel an element of venturing into the unknown, of taking a leap of faith, I hoped. That first year, I explained the concept while I held him in my arms, after a birthday dainner with cake and all the trimmings. He got very excited when I set him down, and he raced through the opening . I assumed he would immediately tear into his gifts, but the experience of racing back and forth through the sheet was just way too much fun to stop. Suddenly, these familiar rooms became mysterious: it was like playing hide and seek with an entire room!


My assumption was that these Milestone Sheets would be few and special. I already planned to make one for his 5th birthday, and expected the next to happen at age 10. But before his 7th birthday, Max began pleading for a sheet, explaining that he earned it. “I can do so many things I couldn’t do at 5!” he insisted. So that sheet was all about his important new skills, whereas the 5th birthday sheet led to a Pirate’s Treasure. 




For this 10th birthday, I had a lot of fun painting characters he loved, like the Pokemon called Pikachu, and also Bart Simpson, who was (and always will be) 10 years old. 


For the milestone sheet at 13, I again painted a lot of my son’s favorite things, including a wizardy looking woman of unknown species from World of Warcraft, the video game, as well as the mean cat Bucky from the Get Fuzzy comics. I also added 13 lizards, one for each year (and for luck), because my son owned and loved lizards. 


Interestingly, the sheets for age 10 and 13 never got “cut” up from the bottom, because my son felt they were too precious. He decided to go around them into the family room instead.  

I thought that his 13th birthday would be the end of the sheets, but before he turned 18, Max informed me that he very much wanted and expected to return to the tradition for this major coming-of-age. Unfortunately, this happened around the time of Hurricane Sandy and we lost power for a week, just as I was struggling  for an inspiration of how to illustrate this milestone on cloth. Eventually, I grasped at the idea of the unknown, that Max was soon to leave us, after this senior year of high school, and he truly was entering the mystery of his adult identity. I decided to illustrate this point by cutting question marks out of a bunch of fabrics that represented things that Max loved, like reptiles and Japanese Anime. I even found some fabric that included a map of Italy, one of the places Max hopes to visit someday. 


I also decided that to signify the milestone of Max striking out on his own for real, he should cut the sheet himself, for the first time. So I drew a dotted red line down the middle, as a guide. That turned out to be a pretty powerful moment.


I’ve saved all of these sheets, and Max has asked that eventually I should cut out his favorite bits and make a quilt or wall hanging. I explained that since I used water soluble paints, this can never be washed, and he’s cool with that. The lesson in all of this to me is that the simplest materials can help us celebrate those we love in very profound ways. Clearly, I’ve got only average artistic ability, but I found a way to make these birthdays really stand out and feel special, to help him really feel more palpably a sense of growth and change. I share this with you, hoping that some part of it speaks to or inspires you in your own search for making meaning. 

Looking Back: A Review of 2012

 I was inspired by my friend Leslie Tucker Jenison, who posted a wonderful series of photographs about  her year. This made me realize that while there were many challenges in 2012 for me and mine, there was alo a great deal of joy and beauty. 

 March: Quilt Alliance board meeting in Nashville, here w/exec director Amy Milne. Due to a hurriance, we were evacuated early!


Spring Break: the first of many college visits with my son, Max. Here he is at Amherst.

Work-in-progress: a house quilt for the Hun School gala.

For my birthday in mid-March, I visited the Museum of Art & Design in NYC…

And had lunch with my dear friend Wendy Kwitny.

April: Another trip to NYC, for the opening of an art show with quilts by the fabulous Luke Haynes. Here I am with another Alliance board member, novelist Marie Bostwick.

Grounds for Sculpture is one of the BEST culture treasures of New Jersey.

I went with Gerry DeGeorge, an awesome woman who is married to my husband’s cousin.

June: Yippeee! A book launch party for the revised edition of The Book of New Family Traditions. 

July: A Pasta Potluck lunch on the deck with some girlfriends, all in my magical yoga class.

More college visits: here at Brown in Providence, Rhode Island. A reach school.


August: Quilt Alliance board meeting in Nebraska, where we had a wondrous add-on trip to Lincoln, to visit the spectacular International Quilt Study Center. Curator Marin Hanson is on our board.

So many great family memories and sunsets at the Jersey Shore!!!

Good eats, too.


September: Quilters Take Manhattan 2.0 was another awesome Alliance event. Here I am with one of our keynote celebs, Denyse Schmidt.

The room was crowded, and the crowd was pumped!

I had two surgeries in September, figuring I might as well pile on the misery to make it shorter. But it was more intense that way. Here with stitches from Mohs surgery to remove skin cancer on my forehead.

Daily walks were part of my “therapy,” and I tried to fashion them into a compelling ritual to increase the likelihood of completion.

October: my recovery weeks were punctuated by a quick trip to LA, to tape a TV segment on Thanksgiving traditions. Here a shot of the hipster hotel they put me up in, close to Santa Monica’s glorious beach.

Late October/early November: Hurricane Sandy is definitely one of the more memorable events of the year. Here we are trying to eat up the ice cream when the power went out. Who knew it would be out an entire week and then some!

December: all year long, I continued to write for multiple magazines and newsletters, often about quilts. Here is one of my favorite quilts of the year, about which I wrote a story for the December issue of The Quilt Life. This is called “infinite Gratitude,” and it is a red and white Dear Jane quilt made for quilt collector Joanna Rose by her niece (with help). Rose’s collection of red and white quilts was displayed at the Park Avenue armory in NYC last year, in the much-buzzed about Infinite Variety show.

To end the year, a sweet photo of my grand babe Lucy (who calls me Queen), at her parents’ home in DC. She is here with darling Luna, a dog owned by my husband’s ex-wife. 

Happy New Year to all!!!! I hope you will check back to this blog occasionally to see how my 2013 is going. 

Good Reading: My Traditions eNews, Winter Edition

To everyone who reads this, I wish peace and hope and love will guide you and inhabit you throughout the holiday season.

If you care about ritual and celebrations and want to deepen your own traditions, you may enjoy reading my regular newsletter on the topic. I’ve been researching and writing about tradition for nearly two decades, and writing a newsletter on the topic about 10 years. I recently switched to the Constant Contact format so I could include photos and reach a larger audience.


Click here to read my Winter edition. And find out why I took photographs of my own two feet every day for many weeks. 

Family Traditions for a Grieving Nation

The senseless slaughter of 20 innocent schoolchildren just 10 days before Christmas Eve has left a nation of parents weeping. We feel hopeless and helpless, and fear for the safety of our own kids.






But we aren’t helpless. That urge we feel to hug harder is not just primal, but powerfully effective. The comfort that we can give to our children — and ourselves — by clinging to our daily and holiday traditions is not transient. 

No, we can’t promise there will never be another madman with a gun. But we can start to heal by using our traditions to celebrate the love and closeness we have now.

Psychological studies have shown that if regular rituals and celebrations can be continued during difficult times, they give children a lifeline to cling to even in the worst chaos and suffering. I’m not talking about specific rituals used by a community to heal together from atrocities, like when the survivors in Oklahoma City gathered by a tree that had survived the blast and together poured water over its roots. I’m suggesting that, especialllly for young children, the most important ritual is the regular bedtime story and hugs, and hanging the Christmas stockings and making cookies, and all those comforting, familiar rituals. 












I read about a United Nations study of Bosnian children whose villages were bombed and their parents killed. So-called talking therapies did little to help these kids rebuild their psyches. But then authorities got the idea to help re-create some of the festivals and other rituals that had filled their childhoods, and for many, having that continuity to hang onto made it possible to go forward. 

In this country, studies of families plagued by alcoholism also showed an outstanding result: in families where alcoholic parents managed to maintain such regular traditions as holiday rituals and birthday celebrations, their kids were less likely to become alcoholics themselves. 

The policy issues about important questions like better mental health treatment and gun control must be addressed.

Bur right now, don’t just hug your children so tightly that they squirm, make sure you don’t neglect your daily your daily silly games and songs. Light candles and sing a hymn you all love each night. Gather around your Christmas tree before bedtime and talk about which ornaments tell the stories of your life together. Bake cookies, and share them with family and friends. 





You have the power to do this every day. And now it means more than ever. 

More Great Reviews!!!!

 I feel guilty about not blogging more, but I’ve been overwhelmed with deadlines. And then, there was that whole week we lost to Hurricane Sandy, here in New Jersey.

Now that things are getting back on track, here are a few recent reviews I want to share.

First off, a starred review in the November 15 issue of Library Journal called The Book of New Family Traditions “Browsable, readable, doable and lovable” and added, “This stellar offering belongs on the shelf of every library, and every kid’s home.”

Read the full Library Journal review here.

The Momma’s Bacon blog gave me a terrific review here.

As someone deeply involved with both family traditions and the modern world of quilting, I was delighted with this warm review from the hip new publication for quilters called Generation Q. Here is a photo from the review, which talked about the wonderful Christmas quilt tradition in the book. 








 Finally, I was delighted when Trina Dalziel, a British illustrator who did all the charming drawings in my book, blogged about her experience working on The Book of New Family Traditions.

Here is her blog post, and below is one of her delightful illustrations for the book.










Thanks, Trina!!!


I’ll be back here soon with a new post. Meanwhile, don’t forget that The Book of New Family Traditions makes a great holiday gift for a young family still trying to figure out how and what to celebrate. 








Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Here is a short segment from Yahoo! TV’s Away We Grow, in which I shared some fresh ideas for celebrating Thanksgiving. Enjoy!!!!!!!!!

School Rituals for the First Day & Beyond


     One of the mothers I interviewed for The Book of New Family Traditions practices this wonderful tradition of writing inspiring messages in colored chalk for her daughters to find as they walk to school. If your kid only walks to the bus stop, you can still write a note or make a silly drawing.

     There’s another mom in my book who created an instant photo book for her kids the day they began kindergarten: she took photos of them waking up, dressing, brushing their teeth, eating breakfast and boarding the bus. While they were gone, she printed photos on her home printer, pasted them to cardstock, then took them to Office Depot to be laminated and turned into a book. 

     The first day of school is a big deal and celebrating it is a good way to demonstrate to your children that education is valued in your family. All transitions are ripe occasions for ritual and celebration, but the start of school each year is an especially major marker, a rite of passage that gives us an opportunity to think and talk about our children’s growth, progress, aspirations and accomplishments.

     But it’s also important to think about school rituals for the weeks and months to come, rituals that will help keep your children focused. So, take a little time now and think about how you might use ritual to celebrate but also motivate. Like the family in my book that has “Monday Sundaes.” The kids are slow getting started on Monday mornings, so the mom declared that everyone who was dressed and in the kitchen by a certain time would get a sundae, made of frozen yogurt, fruit and nuts. Maybe you want to do something special on Fridays, to welcome the weekend?

     One of the single most important things to consider is study rituals. The earlier you start good ones, the better off your student will be throughout school, and beyond. One of the single smartest things I ever did was declare that studying was the top priority after school, with only a very limited play period and a snack before starting homework. Unlike many rituals that did not stick with my son, I’m happy to say that this ritual is so ingrained at this point, that even in high school, he still does his homework first thing even on a Friday.

     I’ll be coming back periodically with other fun family traditions as the weeks and months go by. Now it’s time to take my son out shopping for new school clothes: probably his least favorite school ritual!

Happy Birthday, America!!!!!!!!!!

In The Book of New Family Traditions, I write about celebrating the fourth of July as the birthday of America, and that’s a good way to get into the real meaning of this holiday with your kids. We have a tradition of always reading aloud from the Declaration of Independence, which is easily found online and is often printed in daily newspapers on this day. 

Here are some ideas for your birthday bash:

*Uncle Sam hats for party toppers

*red, white and blue bunting and decorations

*cupcakes or cake for desert, and sing “Happy Birthday, America” after lighting and blowing out the candles

*have everyone at the party talk about what freedom means to them

*play Sousa music and march around, or sing some patriotic standards: if you forgot some of the words, click here. 


There are more ideas for this holiday in the book, including how to write your own family constitution, and the best fireworks apps. Yep, there are tons of smartphone apps featuring fireworks. What a country!

Have a blast! Here’s my favorite treat for this holiday. 



This recipe comes from the July/August 1996 issue of Cooking Light.

Berry Patch Parfaits

2 cups raspberries or blackberries

1/4 cup sugar, dividid

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 (32 ounce) carton vanilla low-fat yogurt

12 raspberries or blackberries (or blueberries)

1/4 cup frozen reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed

 1. Place 2 cups raspberries in a blender or food processor, process til pureed. Press pureed berries through a sieve into a microwave-safe bowl, and discard seeds. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and cornstarch to puree: stir with a whisk until blended. Microwave at high 3 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring halfway through. Spoon 1 tablespoon of berry mix into each of 4 (10 oz) stemmed glasses. Chill, uncovered, 10 minutes.

2. Spoon yogurt onto several layers of heavy-duty paper towels: spread to 1/2 inch thickness. Cover with additional paper towels, let stand 5 minutes. Scrape into a bowl using a rubber spatula. Add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar to yogurt, stir well.

3. Divide yogurt mix evenly among glasses. Top each with 3 tablespoons of berry mix. Cover loosely: chill at least 2 hours. Top each parfait with 1 tablespoon whipped topping and your choice of berries (I add blueberries for the red, white and blue look). 

4 servings.