Welcome to My Castle!
And I certainly didn’t start out as a princess.
I was quiet, shy, often tongue-tied as a child. A shrinking violet who avoided crowds, conversation, and especially cameras. I kept my head down. I found cubbyholes where I could hide away and read.
And write, of course.
And then one day—magic! I sold a story I had written. And then another. And another. Thirteen novels and novellas for adults and eight children’s books. So far.
One of my picture books is even about princesses. A pair of very famous princess sisters, in fact. (Anna and Elsa of Arendelle. Maybe you’ve heard of them.)
I deliver programs to crowds of kids, teachers, librarians, writers, readers. I speak at community events and festivals where hundreds of kids and parents come to talk to me, have books signed, and (horror of horrors) take pictures! Of me. Wearing a gown and tiara.
It’s out of my hands…. I simply am the Queen.
And since you’ve found your way to my castle, come on in. Please. Pop into the royal library to see the books I’ve written, the pressroom to find out how I ended up a queen, the playroom for videos, coloring pages, fun activities. Sit down in my kitchen to find out who’s helping the Queen eat healthy, and how. (The kitchen, my blog, is stocked with food art, coloring pages, kid-friendly recipes and other fun stuff, too.)
Barbara Jean the Story Queen
Detail, “Veggie Medley,” © Ben Mann 2016. www.mann-alive.com.
(Cooking Up Some Healthy Fun!)
If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be writing a blog dedicated to healthy foods, healthy cooking and healthy eating, I would have said you were crazy.
I mean, I’m not known as the healthiest of eaters. (My family, friends and housemates will corroborate.) Sometimes I skip meals. Sometimes—especially if I’ve skipped a meal—I stop at a drive-through for a burger. Sometimes I open a can for dinner and call it good. I have a weakness for pie and ice cream. Red wine. Dark chocolate. And I’ve never thought of vegetables as my closest friends…. [READ MORE]
Perhaps you planted a zucchini start and didn’t realize it would spread 40 feet and produce a veritable mountain of squash. Perhaps your neighbor sneaked the zucchini they didn’t know what to do with onto your porch under the guise of being friendly. Or maybe you purchased a box of zucchini because they were such a great deal, you couldn’t resist.
Now what to do with all that zucchini?!
Zucchini latkes are one great, kid-friendly solution. It doesn’t have to be Hanukkah and you don’t have to be…. [READ MORE]
Graphic artist Gerald G. created a series of sweet garden signs, available for free download at openclipart.org, to glue to a stick and poke in the dirt next to your newly planted seeds in the garden.
You can find his images for zucchini, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, yellow and green string beans, radishes and pumpkins here, in sizes appropriate for a garden sign. I’ve adapted the zucchini sign as a coloring page. (This might be a nice one to watercolor, too.)
“Zucchini.” Doesn’t the word just roll off the tongue? Somebody ought to write a song about it.
Somebody has written a children’s book about it. In fact, four somebody’s! Here’s a quartet of fabulous zucchini books to introduce this giggle-inducing veggie to your kids.
Make the introduction. Read a book, and the kids will be clamoring for…. [READ MORE]
The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer. (See #10 below.) Your kids will enjoy learning these fun facts about zucchini and trying them out on their favorite grownup:
1. The world’s largest zucchini on record was 69-1/2 inches long and weighed 65 pounds! It probably didn’t taste that great–if anyone even tried to eat it–because…
2. When it comes to zucchinis, biggest is not best. The most flavorful zucchinis…. [READ MORE]
It’s hard to find a kid, a mom and dad or even a grandma and grandpa who don’t know Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
In fact, 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of this beloved picture book, in which a little egg hatches into a tiny (and very hungry!) caterpillar.
After eating his way through five days of delicious fruits, our intrepid caterpillar…. [READ MORE]
I met John S. Green, a.k.a. “Papa Green Bean,” in a local writers’ group and was immediately drawn to his puckish sense of humor. Papa Green Bean is, among other things, a poet, a scholar and a Montessori-trained teacher.
(Okay, so he looks more like a bottle of sriracha sauce than a green bean in this photo, but he can be forgiven–he’s a dad and it was Halloween!)
John’s blog, Papa Green Bean: Sharing Simple Insights for Nurturing Young Children, is thoughtful, playful and relevant…. [READ MORE]
Have you ever wished for a magic wand you could wave over your kids to get them to actually like eating healthy foods? Magic Fruit Wands just might do the trick!
There’s nothing like time in the kitchen to get kids’ mouths watering–especially when they’re helping to put together something as easy, fun and fresh as these magic wands made out of fruit. The best part is that after you’ve cut up the larger fruits, your kids can make these special treats almost entirely on their own.
COLOR ME COOL (&YUMMY!)
Watermelon’s distinctive striped outer shell and the rich color of its flesh make it a fun food for coloring. But before you get the red crayon out, take your kids to the google images here and show them the rainbow of colors watermelon comes in.
According to the UCLA Science and Food website, a watermelon’s flavor has a lot to do with its color. A yellow Early Moonbeam, a pale Cream of Saskatchewan and a deep red Crimson…. [READ MORE]
How about that ginormous watermelon?! The small print at the bottom of this 1909 postcard reads, “This Is How Watermelon Grows in California.” And someone has handwritten on the image of the giant fruit, “Doesn’t this look good to you. Wonderful!”
I’m not sure if that painting got anyone to move to California, but I’m guessing a few. Some people will believe anything!
Below you’ll find three still life paintings that depict watermelons in very different styles. Two are by well known artists and the third is a tabletop painted by an unknown Mexican folk artist…. [READ MORE]
What’s better than bringing home a watermelon from your local grocery store? Picking one out at the Farmers’ Market or picking one off the vine at a U-Pick farm. What’s even better than that? Picking one from your own garden!
Watermelons need lots of room, as they grow on a vining plant. In a small space, you can grow them upright in a pot on a trellis…. [READ MORE]
What’s more refreshing on a hot summer day than a slice of juicy watermelon? Yum!
Here’s a list of fun facts about watermelon to share with your kids:
1. Watermelon is well named–it’s 92% water!
2. This watery fruit is thought to have originated in Africa’s Kalahari Desert. (The desert would be a good place to stumble across a watermelon, no?) [READ MORE]
Kids are like the rest of us: we all like to think we’re in charge. If not all the time, at least once in a while.
One day a week, have your kids take turns acting as “food cop” at the dinner table. Let the chosen one have fun with it. Find a cap with a badge at a costume shop and let him wear it at the table. Pin a star to his shirt. Give him a whistle. (Or not. Personally, I’d rather not have a whistle interrupt my dining experience…) [READ MORE]
When kids sink their teeth into healthy foods like vegetables, fruit, lean meats and whole grains, they develop a taste for those foods that will stay with them for a lifetime. To get kids invested in healthy eating, the next best thing to having them grow their own healthy foods is to have them cook it. One of my favorite resources is The Mayo Clinic Kids’ Cookbook (Good Books 2012), which introduces kids ages 8-12 to the kitchen–not only with fun and healthy recipes but with nutritional information, cooking abbreviations, conversion charts, kitchen equipment and safety tips. Most kids love kitchen projects. Let them at it! [READ MORE]
Broccoli? Fun? Are you wondering if I’m maybe a little crazy?
Here’s the deal: 90% of getting kids to try a new food is getting them ready to try it. “Selling” it to them. Making it “cool.” Making it fun! Plopping a pile of overdone broccoli on a plate and saying, “Eat it, it’s good for you” usually doesn’t do the job…. [READ MORE]
Does your child turn up his nose at vegetables? Would he rather miss out on dessert than finish his greens?
Children often do not like trying new foods. Sometimes we have to talk them into taking just one bite of something new–and do it every day for a couple of weeks, months, maybe even longer…. [READ MORE]
Farm-to-Table. It’s all the rage–and with good reason.
For starters, local food tastes better! It’s fresh-picked at its peak and delivered to your table in minimal time. Food that comes from somewhere else has traveled on trucks, trains or planes and sat in warehouses before it finally gets to you…. [READ MORE]
Do your kids know where healthy food comes from? (Hopefully they realize it’s not from a convenience store or the drive-up window of a fast food restaurant!)
One of the best ways for children to learn about where the good food on your family table originates–and one of the best ways for them to learn to love it–is to grow it themselves.
Think about it: How much more likely is your daughter to eat a salad she makes herself–from ingredients she grew herself–than a salad plopped down in front of her at the table with…. [READ MORE]
Since everything is new when you’re a kid, pretty much every food is unfamiliar. And introducing kids to unfamiliar foods isn’t always easy.
Children warm up to new foods slowly. Sometimes it takes 15 or 20 or dozens of times for a child to be presented with a food before he learns to eat it. (Check out the Ellyn Satter Institute for more information.) Making the introduction to an unfamiliar food fun instead of a forced feeding can make it easier. How to do that? Many ways! Read a book. Download and print a coloring page. Share a hands-on activity…. [READ MORE]
10 FUN FACTS ABOUT COCONUTS
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about kids, it’s that kids love to learn—especially if what they are learning is quirky and fun! Try out these fun facts about coconut on your kids:
1. Coconuts are not nuts; they’re fruits, related to peaches and plums because, like these fruits (called “drupes”), they have a single seed at their center.
2. The word coconut comes from the Spanish and Portuguese word coco, which means “grinning face” or “skull.” It was named by 16th century sailors…. [READ MORE]
3 FUN & HEALTHY RECIPES FOR THE 4TH OF JULY
A creamsicle might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of healthy foods–but this homemade red-white-and-blue version, made with fresh berries, coconut milk and a little sugar-free coconut-milk ice cream and honey, is as healthy as a yummy, kid-friendly dessert can get.
The recipe, adapted from kaylaaimee.com, was created for a child with dairy sensitivities; if you prefer, use low-fat dairy milk and ice cream, which will also reduce the sugar content a bit…. [READ MORE]