Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Weathervane Story Resources; Everythings Ducky

A Duck in flight tops this building at a fair and tells us which way the wind blows. I love the artistry of the wings, very close to life like. Our foul friends show up in stories let's see what we can find!
Let's start our duck resource list with a Russian Folk Tale about a Duck That Lays Golden Eggs!
No collection of Duck resources would be complete with out The Ugly Duckling
Here is some Ugly Duckling Background info:
Here is a pre-school curriculum to go with the tale:
and another
How about an Aesop Fable: The Tortoise and the Ducks
(I also know this story as the Rattlesnake and the Vultures from Mexico)
In 1908 Miss Jemima Puddleduck was introduced to Peter Rabbit and the barnyard at Hill Top by Beatrix Potter
Listen to it here:
Here is the  e-book from Project Gutenberg
May of 1944 master story artist Walt Disney introduces Donald Duck
Henry the Duck has a website with an ongoing list of stories chronicling his many adventures:
Here are some stories not from storytelling but from Duck Hunters - there was even a proposal on a duck hunting trip, from Ducks Unlimited a long list of stories:
Along the same lines a collection of duck  and outdoorsmen stories from the 1940's is available in the 3 book set by Gordon Macquarrie
Couldn't close this without a reference to the popular game Duck Duck Goose try it with wet sponges for Drip Drip Splash
The image for Duck Duck Goose from a great resource of children's games:
Photos taken at Goodwin Forest Conservation Education Center
Here are a couple of previous Weathervane posts:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Focusing on One Thing

There is power in focusing the camera on just one thing, see what these 10 images taught me.

Focus, I try to focus and see what an image is telling me, what does it represent in my life. I try to see the world around me as individual entities and as a part of the whole, instead of the blur of a tech assisted whirl of work and family. I need to make time to stop and take the pictures!

                               From the Willimantic Frog Bridge (CT) Just one of the four frogs. The frog for me is a symbol of  "celebrate our weakness and strength, learn to laugh at myself."  Willimantic celebrates a history of the early settlers fearing an attack from an imminent army on the march take to their weapons and march out to meet the foe and protect the families. Only to find the waters receding on a local pond to the dismay of the many bullfrogs in residence who croaked their last death calls to the world. I have learned to face my fear, it might be nothing more than another frog and to have a hearty laugh when I misinterpret the world around me! http://connecticuthistory.org/bridge-ornaments-help-tell-the-legend-of-the-windham-frog-fight/

                       Jump back to a prior season and enjoy the beauty of one Cardinal in the snow. The Cardinal reminds me that even when I shine in my work or creative life there are those unseen, partners with a subtle display of strength who help me go forward. The female Cardinal is drab with a touch of color, but without her where would he be? Without my supporters where would I be?

                                               Looks like a perfect summer day outside! The window looks perfect and shows us one frame of the world outside. Could thunder clouds line the other horizon? I am reminded to get more than one view before I make my statements!

                                            Not everyday a beautiful butterfly sits near you! Life is fragile, it can be torn apart by a simple raindrop but that does not deter the butterfly from spreading his wings and going great distances. I am reminded to go, the world is waiting and worrying about not succeeding won't get me anywhere.

 Like Robert Frost  suggests in his poem, choose the road less traveled by- and that has made all the difference. I learned that poem first in music in high school choir, the message has stayed with me since. Hear the choir version I learned here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-sLY-BgYpo

Leave a mark on the world. It does not matter if no one can see I just think I should mark my time here, it tells me I  have a place in the long history of the world and no life or event is insignificant. This boat etched into the roof sheathing of the Nathan Hale School House in New London CT reminded me to do something, even if no one will see it. This was hidden behind lath and plaster. Through restoration  175+ years later it tells a story of the students once there, and the ships at New London Harbor. http://www.connecticutsar.org/sites/nl-schoolhouse.htm I am leaving my mark through teaching and stories, both invisible, both a mark that will shine through time.

Greet every day with great expectations! My attitude  will determine the quality of my day.

Simply stated, I need to make time for my friends. A cup of coffee, a call to them, an old fashioned letter. The sign ( from Cafemantic in Willimantic CT) a simple reminder to make that happen often!

Don't leave kids on the outside of conversations or decision making. "Kids Say the Darndest Things" was once a TV show, how sad we had to be reminded by TV to listen to children.

                                           It takes a lot of workers and only one Queen!

I love taking pictures, now with the ease of photography with a phone in the pocket, I get to take even more. The biggest change in my photo hobby came with the jump to digital photos the economic freedom to take as many as I want!

Stone inspired thoughts with resources for stories: http://carolynstearnsstoryteller.blogspot.com/2012/07/story-stones-story-resources.html

Where I went with my inspirations:


Friday, May 30, 2014

One Day Museum

     The One Day Museum was an impromptu idea that has hung on for the long haul through May and will be around through the end of the school year and into summer day camp. I have been pleasantly surprised at the interest and enthusiasm the One Day Museum has created with students.
     The set up is simple, an old aquarium turned upside down on a side table holds an item for a day. Sometimes we have a worksheet to go along with it. There are days when someone just answers questions about the item. I love days when we leave it to the kids to talk about the item and see what they think. We have a monthly theme at our program for the students lessons and activities to revolve around, the museum item may or may not correlate to the theme.
   In this photo the museum holds an antique key. There was a lot of discussion about locks and size comparison to present day locks. Then when told the key was handmade and each was a bit unique the conversations tool a turn. I am happy when the children engage in one on one conversations and small group discussions ( informal) over the item in the museum. Like all museums they appeal to different clientele. Some items appeal to our 1-3 grade kids, some really get the 7th and 8th grade students interested. We have had a taxidermy duck, tools, model airplanes for flight month, live pollywogs, fossils and so many more items.
   The day the One Day Museum hosted seashells we had so many questions about the different shells. We talked about the sea, ocean ecology, the different types of shells the shell purpose and the make up of the shells. We talked about Native Americans and Pilgrims using shell fish and about the catching and cooking of different shellfish.
     The glass enclosure protects out Museum exhibit from too many fingers but it also teaches the students that some things in museums are only to look at not to touch. We are learning everyday with our One Day Museum and hope other schools and after - school programs will enjoy this idea and try it, please feel free to reply what item you might put in a one day museum.

Paper City another activity you might enjoy trying with school children: http://carolynstearnsstoryteller.blogspot.com/2014/02/a-paper-city.html

Here is a fun way to interpret fairy tale content - or any book for that matter:


Friday, April 11, 2014

Where do Fish Stories Come From?

         Where do fish stories come from? How do we find the vehicle to tell a story and make it compelling for the listening experience.  I am a performance storyteller for all ages, my current project is for a curriculum guided school based program. Whose voice should the story represent and what message do I need to focus on? Will children grasp the complexities and what new vocabulary will be introduced and  explained via the storyline. Do I have adequate research on my topic to tell the story?
          I was inspired by Mark Kurlansky's book Cod to delve further into the world and history of fishing and fishermen. Then an opportunity presented itself to construct a story for performance to  third grade children around the  topics of  Wildlife, Water, People and more specifically immigration and the ecology of the sea. Cod would be the perfect vehicle to  help tell this story. At the outset I was not even aware of the children's version of this book and was so excited to find it! Here is a look at that version from Amazon http://amzn.to/Q4xdcL 

        That was just the beginning, a story is a complex intertwining of facts from multiple sources. Cod gave me my background knowledge. Then I needed characters, I found mine on the list of passengers on the Mayflower voyage to the New World in 1620. Here I researched the children of the Ancient Time as it was called and selected two. The characters themselves required more research as they are historical not fiction. My characters are Remember Allerton and Richard More, each have left a long lineage and a place in the history of the founding of our nation.

My next question to answer was, What does Cod fishing look like? How do you fish for Cod in the old ways and the new?

      I journeyed into the realm of salt water fishing and the life and habits of Cod. Here is where You-Tube came in handy to give me some visual reference. Here is a link to a story about the decline of Cod populations. http://youtu.be/cLE56imBjJs  This next link is a moving video full of the visuals I needed to be able to tell my story with an accuracy and  true representation. http://youtu.be/Git-48_CPww  From you-tube it as a long read in several nautical history books and a visit to  Mystic Seaport http://www.mysticseaport.org/  and the Essex Shipbuilding Museum  http://www.essexshipbuildingmuseum.org/  . I got to know the Cod itself by drawing and painting them so I would remember their distinctive fins and chin barb.

Cod Watercolor on textured paper by Carolyn  Stearns '14

      This is heavy material and  my focus audience for the premier of this story is third grade. I need a way to take the  depth of history and content and make it memorable and fun to hear and retain. I have added music to the story, interspersed to introduce new sections of the story and as a culminating piece to  spark conversation about the ecological and financial damage done to the Cod legacy by over fishing the waters. The music I chose for this is an old sea chantey "Cape Cod Girls", hear a version at this link; http://youtu.be/VQ_rFz9djz4  As with all chantey music there are many versions and arrangements so I took the liberty of adapting this song to fit the story a bit more and have our sailors/ fishermen bound for a "New World". The music to close this piece is one verse of a sea ballad called " Peter's River"  by Mary Garvey (c) 1995 and used with  her permission. The sheet music and lyrics are available here: http://www.timberheadmusic.com/disc/boatspetersriver.htm      I heard this song  a few years ago and it haunted my mind but in a weekend filled with music I could not remember the melody. Then in June 2012 I shared the stage at Mystic Sea Music Festival with Mary Garvey, it was from that meeting that I learned the song that has become one I hum often when working.

      Spring of 2014 this story will debut and be added to my regular repertoire of stories to tell. The story has such depth I will be able to offer an adult version with more content as well.

My review in 2013 of the book Cod is here: http://carolynstearnsstoryteller.blogspot.com/2012/09/rape-of-sea-book-review-cod.html

Interested in booking this story and other sea tales? www.carolynstearnsstoryteller.com


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Chalk It Up to Hans Christian Andersen

                                         The Flying Trunk - A Fairytale in Chalk

   Hans Christian Andersen penned the fairy tale “The Flying Trunk” The tale was first published in 1839. I chose it for a project at the after school I work in because of its relation to flying.  For the month of April the theme at after school  is, “I will fly – Volare”. The flying related fairytale was perfect to share as the storyteller at after school. The arts and after school programming go hand in hand. With the thermometer outside climbing to an early spring 50 degrees we headed to the sidewalk for our story.

   The young man in our story inherits a sizeable fortune only to squander it down to the last few coins. Now poor, his soul possessions are his slippers, and an old dressing gown. He needs to leave where he lives and does not know where to go. A friend gifts the young man a trunk. (I used the word suitcase to help the children define this kind of trunk) The young man has nothing to put in the trunk so he gets in himself. The trunk is enchanted; its magic lifts him off in a flight across the countryside to the land of the Turks.

      He flies through this foreign country like a bird under the sun and over the mountains rivers, villages and people working in the fields.
He comes to the palace of the Sultan and sees a beautiful Princess at a tower window.
 He flies up to her and in through the open window. The princess has been kept in the tower to avoid a prophecy that she would marry poorly. He visits several times, each time sharing stories to entertain her. As expected in a fairy tale, they fall in love.  The princess tells her parents of her suitor and they come to the tower to meet him.  He tells them a story, they enjoy it. He is a good looking young man with a magical flying trunk, they agree the couple  should be married!

In celebration of the wedding the young man buys a big box of fireworks. He flies over the city with the fireworks setting them off in the night sky.
He lands his trunk in the city to tell everyone his story and why he is lighting the fireworks. Sadly he does not watch over his trunk and the sparks of the fireworks cause it to catch fire. The fire incinerates his trunk,  nothing is left.
He can no longer fly to the tower to see his beautiful bride. She sits at the windows and her tears fall to the ground.

Once again he has nothing but his slippers and an old dressing gown. He wanders the streets of the land of the Turks telling stories.

I told the story to the children once straight through, then told it in pieces noting a section of sidewalk for each image they could draw. This was a chance to reinforce story sequencing with the children.They worked on their picture and visited up and down to see what others were doing. There was a lot of discussion of what things should look like. This allowed us to talk about what each person sees in their mind when they hear a story and differences in how they draw it with chalk. At the end we walked the length of the story and everyone told a part to go with their chalk drawing.

Our vocabulary words from this story:

Trunk                                  foreign                           Volare                   

Enchanted                         inherit                            possession

Turks                                  palace                             Sultan

Prophecy                           suitor                              entertain  

wander                              incinerates                    dressing gown

fortune                               squander


A Previous adventure with chalk and fairy tales:   http://bit.ly/1ei3XF5

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I'm Leaving You

    My close friends won't be surprised by my declaration of independence. My neighbors won't hold any grudge although some will miss socializing with "us" as a couple. I will learn to be social without the pain of the long tenuous relationship.
    We set out in our relationship so many years ago. We had the usual hot and heavy beginning but as the years passed the time we spent together has become such a burden. I don't regret a day of our past time together but know we have grown apart to an irreparable point. The thought of waking up to face you for another morning is too harsh.
    Once upon a time we lived and worked together in a magical world. Long ago we built great things together, that's all just a fading memory. Now each day together we give each other icy stares and the drudgery of a furrow too long in a cold and heartless relationship.
    I'm leaving you, good-bye!
This weekend March 6-7-8-9, 2014 I will be in Texas at the Tejas Storytelling Festival,
 it's spring in Texas!
another blog with a touch of humor:
Snow day activities:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Birth of an Audio CD

         How many hours, how many emails, how many years? Yes, years from start of the CD  idea to CD in hand.  In order to make the best CD, I needed to be ready, and so did the material. This is a storytelling CD, but the same could be said for music, you have to be ready. There is the honing of your skills to a certain level and then learning and practicing the pieces. Well that's the tip of the iceberg!

        From there it was into the studio for recording sessions, it took several sessions to get what we needed done. www.suiteaudio.com was where I worked and I was very pleased with the engineering by Bob Nary and his adaptability to recording spoken word.  A story without an audience and told in the limited studio space takes some tweaking. I am accustomed to certain movements and moments when I wait for audience response. Those moments were not there and so there were gaps that needed to be tightened up. There were a few phrases that relied heavily in performance to my body language, those needed some new wording to work in the world of audio.  That was a learning process on how we listen to story and what story tells the listeners through language spoken and  emanating from the storytellers gestures and facial  expression. That was all awhile ago, in the very beginning of the CD dream becoming a reality.

    Before I could do the recording there had been months of reading and research to bring the stories to life through thorough understanding of the setting and content. Google images, library hours, family documents, historical reference books, and some field trips to actual sites. Time on Ancestry.com, historical sites, museum sites and art exhibitions and then the writing, thinking, talking it out and multiple rough draft tellings of each story.

   In the end I recorded  seven stories  and selected Tim VanEgmond www.timvanegmond.com to  record hammered dulcimer music between tracks as a story break. This works much like a palate cleanser at a wine tasting, the snippets of music are a simple way to give the listener a moment to soak in the story before moving on to the next. I decided to do this after listening to every storytelling CD I could get my hands on. I took notes while listening. I liked having a moment to breathe before jumping into the next story and I hope my listeners do too!
   The CD cover art process was a learning experience as well. I wanted to exemplify the art work of my Great Great Uncle and that meant getting copyright permissions. The front cover art is from the White House Art Association. The Abraham Lincoln portrait is the most iconic use of his art ,having produced this image of the popular President after three days of preliminary sketches done in the Presidential office. The portrait hangs today in the White House. The back cover has a black and white image of his Rembrandt style self portrait from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. With the permissions granted and the CD cover approved, fees paid the cover was becoming a reality. I chose a 6 panel cover to be able to showcase additional art and to properly thank all involved in this project.
        Anticipation ran high as I awaited the delivery of the cases of CDs. I was planning a launch party and  needed the CD there to make its official debut. I had given allowed extra time because it was December and shipping and all other work seems to get bogged down in holiday agendas. Finally on a snowy December 2013 day I hold one in my hands. I couldn't wait to share them with my family and peers. Now we were ready to party! I rented the firehouse banquet hall and planned some light refreshments and a Champagne toast with my brother and guests to  Great Great Uncle George, to art and to the untold stories now shared. I used the stage there to showcase a couple of the stories on the CD and  had a table for CD sales set up. I even considered the proximity to the holiday and provided a wrapping station.
   Next step on my CD journey was making my CD available online as a download through CD Baby. I finished that in February 2014 after taking a break from the project to adjust to a new schedule and to spend time with my family.  Now it is available there, it was a simple task to load and set up. They have designed a simple interface and walk you step by step through the process. It was only a matter of days before it was available.  here is the link to that http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/carolynstearnsstorytelle
     The CD is born, but that is not an end just a start to a new chapter. Now it is a schedule of CD promotion I am working on. I have done a radio show and placed them in the local book store. I am covering my social media accounts and taking them with me to performances. I have sent courtesy copies to reviewers, award organizations and to the people who helped make it possible.
     A storytelling CD is not a big money maker. They are sometimes referred to as the " new business card" In this case the CD "George Henry Story - The Man Who Painted Lincoln" is a legacy. It was time for the world to hear his stories so carefully preserved and passed down through multiple generations, it is time to renew interest in his art. The legacy of the man named Story is his story. How fortunate that my career as a professional storyteller allows me to share it. Maybe it's not fortunate maybe the name has a genetic implication!

Links to selected museums of art galleries with George Story art in their collections:

a favorite of mine: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/1675/Playing_Soldiers

http://www.thewadsworth.org/  Hartford CT.

In Mass. http://accessaddison.andover.edu/4DACTION/HANDLECGI/CTN3?display=por

and many more as well!

 A blog about George Story's contemporary Mark Twain written after my visit to his home


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow Day...Again

      Another Connecticut snow day has me locked away in my home office. I had work to get done, but since I was up early my long day included some arts. 

       I had a fun time exploring the new set of watercolors, they are fancy, in little aluminum tubes. I painted  this Cod, that must seem to be a funny art subject but I am working on some stories for a storytelling performance, Cod fishing and immigration are the core of my research.

       On the subject of Cod I highly recommend the book by that title, written by Mark Kurlansky. Here is a link to my review of the book in an earlier post. http://carolynstearnsstoryteller.blogspot.com/2012/09/rape-of-sea-book-review-cod.html
      I stirred a big pot of chili and watched the snow assault the windows, my mind wandered. I grabbed my pad and penned the thoughts of snow, nothing fancy just a bit poetic, a rare journey for my mind.
Here is a piece of my writing from today
I hear you singing
Soft and distant
I hear you singing
a whispered tune
I hear you singing
 voice now bold
I hear you singing
crescendo to forte
I hear you singing
a herald to multitudes
I hear you singing
 lament to freedom
I hear you singing
Wrap me in your cloak of white
I hear you singing
all day and all night
I hear you singing
a song of centuries
I hear you
old friend and enemy
I hear you sing
Another snow post you might enjoy or find useful if it keeps snowing! : http://carolynstearnsstoryteller.blogspot.com/2014/01/8-things-to-do-when-it-is-wicked-cold.html

Here is a post about singing:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Paper City

    The after school program I work at has been making little paper houses, bigger paper churches and more. The Paper City Project introduces maps in a 3D lesson on the students home town. The cold winter days lent themselves to  coloring tiny buildings and cutting them out. From a simple hand drawn pattern the basic houses were crafted and the small collection grew along a window sill. We had a date for the display to be shared and we worked toward it.

      Snow cancellations, and a Monday holiday and more  kept us from making as many buildings as we first imagined but we made a fine representation. This view is less than a quarter of our city.


    We learned about places in our town that children were unaware of. We learned how to give directions by the building location. We understand now that the mills are on the river and the train yards near the mills. Along with all our building we had a guest to share the paper city. The President of the CT Eastern Railroad Museum, Mark Granville, brought a length  of track, engines and cars so we had a real view of where the trains were in proximity to the town.  Thank You!http://www.cteastrrmuseum.org/

 We talked our way through the layout of the city by starting where we were and moving out from that point. Students had different buildings they were familiar with. Library, post office, schools, hospital and favorite food outlets were pretty easy. Smaller shops and businesses brought a lot more discussion as to which side of Main St and where in relation to certain churches or other dominant buildings. The entire discussion and placement process went well. Strips of  black construction paper became our roads and wavy blue pieces the Willimantic River.

      Students learned about Willimantic history, some heard the story of the Frogs of Windham, which is why we have a bridge with huge frogs on it! http://www.damnedct.com/the-frog-bridge-willimantic/  This story took place in 1754 in Windham, the town Willimantic is a part of.

     Here is an image of the plan I drew for the smaller houses. For the youngest students I outlined the cutting edge in colored pencil. Once cut out and the students name added we folded the creases and then flipped the house over to color on the windows, doors, siding and accessories. Some of these also became small businesses like Cafemantic and the Shoesmith. The final piece colored was the roof. Then we used glue sticks to assemble the house.

     A companion activity to this was a timeline around two sides of the room. Our theme for the month was Decades, so it was broken out in those increments. There were many pictures of historical Willimantic along the timeline. This was a fun project for the middle of winter and one I would do again with the kids.

Looking for some other winter type activities? http://carolynstearnsstoryteller.blogspot.com/2014/01/8-things-to-do-when-it-is-wicked-cold.html

This was fun too, but if you are in New England you will have to wait for better weather!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

8 Things to Do When it is Wicked Cold

                                   I don't know about you but I am ready for spring!
 It won't be here for awhile yet in Connecticut and even longer if you live north of this latitude. So I gathered some ideas for things to do when the North wind blows and the snow piles up and the little red line in the thermometer does a disappearing act.

1.) Table Games
      When was the last time you had Monopoly's  Boardwalk and Park Place loaded with hotels? What word in Scrabble made you laugh until you cried? How many rounds of Uno until you finally win a game? Seriously, how can a 4 year old consistently beat me at Candyland? Hot Chocolate and pop corn and this is a perfect winter day!
2.) Storytelling
         Here are a short list of story prompts, you may know some more that work perfect with your friends and family. Just write them on slips of paper and put them in a hat. Draw an item and tell everyone your personal story to go along with the idea. ( Somebody get the video recorder going!)
Where were you when the police arrived? Where did you go when you skipped school? When you were a kid what kind of trouble did you get into? Who gave you your first kiss? What was your prom like?  What car did you learn to drive on? What was the strangest workday you had?  How lost did you get? What really happened to your homework? Why did you sneak in? Looking to learn more about storytelling? Here are links to my website, the CT. Storytelling Center, the League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling,  the home of story in Massachusetts and the National Storytelling Network. www.carolynstearnsstoryteller.com  www.connstoycenter.org   www.lanes.org  www.massmouth.org   www.storynet.org
3.) Old Fashioned Letter Writing
         That's right, get out some paper and a pen and  craft a letter to stay in touch with an old friend or family member. Tell them about recent news and then maybe reminisce about a shared time long ago.  Dig out the address, put a stamp on it and make someone's day.

4.) Drawing
         Is there an inner artist waiting to burst forth. Even if there is  no hint of an artist you can have fun drawing. How about stick figure cartoons about some work oops. Got a funny family story that can be done in stick figures. Look  at this online site of how to draw and try a couple of the images here: http://www.my-how-to-draw.com/    You could draw a super hero to rescue you from the cold!

5.) Charades
          Who can't remember laughing at friends playing this at a party. Of course you may have to talk some family members into the game. You may need to institute a Charade dinner, no talking just gesture the conversation and  pass the peas and let the fun begin. See how a teacher uses Charades to teach proper grammar. http://seemoreplaces.com/blog/2010/09/video-of-the-week-using-charades-to-teach-english-grammar/#.UusWdpWPKUk

6.) Play Music
           Dig out an instrument and play some music. It  doesn't need to be performance quality to be fun and good for you too. Playing music is good for the mind and if a wind instrument it is great exercise for your lungs! Not musical? Turn on a CD, radio, or personal music and tap  to the beat, you can improvise a drum with a coffee can, box or book ( don't tell a librarian I said that). Start here for ideas: http://www.redtedart.com/2012/10/15/musical-instrument-crafts-for-kids/

7.)  Books to Read
   1.)        Cod   by: Mark Kurlansky  his work is a historical  book and an environmental warning, but the writing is easy to read with a flow of a  favorite mystery or novel.  There is a Kids version too! This is the book to help the world, to better understand the effects of over fishing and  the ramifications of that practice.
   2.)  Lincoln; Team of Rivals By: Doris Kearns Goodwin here is a interview of the author about the  book. http://youtu.be/WUWHRbXdIEM  We need to know where we have been and the sacrifices made to keep our country in order to move forward. A must read book for the American spirit!
   3.)  Dancing Men  by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle  This is an oldie but a goodie. First our brains need a little mystery to work on, its like push ups for the brain. The take the wonderful code of the dancing men and have some fun creating family messages, challenge your co-workers, plan an event around the theme, or have a dinner party mystery.
   4.) Gather the kids, grown ups to, never to old to read a story aloud together. May I recommend a classic, Secret Garden by: Frances Hodgson Burnett perfect to read about the coming spring!
   5.) My final recommendation is one to make us appreciate the rest and reconnection to family that winter brings. There is a special beauty  in winter and no one captured that better in words than Robert Frost in,  Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

8.) Puzzles
      There are many kinds of puzzles, jigsaw, word, and mechanical among the favorites. To me it just wouldn't be winter if we didn't pass at least one week with a giant jigsaw taking up the whole dining room table. Family members stop and put in a piece or two and go on.  A couple of us bring steaming cups of coffee, tea or hot chocolate and settle in for some serious puzzle time and conversation. It's simple as long as the cat stays off it! Here is a puzzle image to chase away winter blues: http://www.wayfair.com/MasterPieces-Colorize-Flippity-Flop-1000-Piece-Jigsaw-Puzzle-71346-MIN1826.html

You might like this link too:  http://carolynstearnsstoryteller.blogspot.com/2013/06/singing-chesapeake.html

More on the book Cod in a review I wrote: http://carolynstearnsstoryteller.blogspot.com/2012/09/rape-of-sea-book-review-cod.html