Category Archives: nina

Pippi Moves In

Pippi Longstocking

Summer and Pippi go hand in hand, if you ask me.  What kid wouldn’t want Pippi to move in next door?  She has a suitcase full of gold, is stronger than anyone on earth, and she is an excellent thing-searcher.  Pippi books and movies {the 1970s Swedish-dubbed-in-English variety} are favorites at our house, so when we unexpectedly discovered these comic book style books at the library, of course we had to check them out!  We have since added a few to our home library because they are so funny.  I promise that if you find a copy or two for your kids, they will be laughing!  In the meantime,  here’s an abbreviated version below, featuring photos I did with my three youngest, and words by Astrid Lindgren.  Happy reading!

Tommy and Annika


On the outskirts of a tiny little town was a neglected garden.  In the garden stood an old house.  Many years ago, Pippi Longstocking’s father (a great sea captain) had bought the old house.  He had planned to live there with Pippi when he grew old and was no longer able to sail the seas.  Then, unfortunately, he was blown overboard.  While Pippi was waiting for him to come back, she headed straight home to Villa Villekulla.  That was what the house was called.  It stood there, all furnished and ready–just waiting for her to arrive.  Pippi took two things from the ship.  A little monkey whose name was Mr. Nilsson, and a suitcase full of gold coins.

Next to Villa Villekulla was another garden with another house.  In that house lived a father and a mother with their two sweet children, Tommy and Annika.  Tommy and Annika played nicely together in their garden, but they had often wished for a playmate.  While Pippi was still sailing the seas with her father, they would sometimes say to each other, “It’s so sad that no one has ever moved into that house!  Someone should live there, someone with children.”

Pippi Moves In

On that beautiful summer evening when Pippi stepped through the front door of Villa Villekulla for the very first time, Tommy and Annika had gone to visit their grandmother for a week.  That’s why they had no idea that someone had moved into the house next door.


On the first day after they came home, when they were standing at their front gate and looking out at the street, they still didn’t know that a playmate was actually so close.  As they stood there, wondering what to do and whether anything fun was going to happen that day, or whether it was going to be one of those boring days when they couldn’t think of anything to do–just at that moment the gate to Villa Villekulla opened and a little girl came out.

Pippi Longstocking

Her hair was the color of a carrot and it was braided in two tight braids that stuck straight out.  Her nose was the shape of a very small potato, and it was completely covered with freckles.  Under her nose was an exceptionally wide mouth with nice white teeth.  Her dress was quite odd.  Pippi had made it herself.  There hadn’t been enough material, so Pippi had decided to sew on little patches here and there. What made Tommy and Annika really open their eyes wide was the monkey who was sitting on the strange little girl’s shoulder.

Pippi set off up the street.  She walked with one foot on the sidewalk and the other in the gutter.  Tommy and Annika fixed their eyes on her for as long as they could see her.  After a while she came back.  Now she was walking backward.  That was so she didn’t have to turn around when she came home.  As she reached the gate to Tommy and Annika’s house, she stopped.  The children looked at each other in silence.

Finally  Tommy said, “Why were you walking backward?”

“Why was I walking backward?” said Pippi.  “Don’t we live in a free country?  Can’t a person walk any way she likes?  Besides, I can tell you that in Egypt everyone walks like that, and nobody thinks there’s anything odd about it…I wonder what you would have said if I’d walked on my hands, like people do in Farthest India.”


“Now you’re lying,” said Tommy.

Pippi thought for a moment.  “Yes, you’re right.  I was lying,” she said sadly.

“It’s bad to lie,” said Annika, finally opening her mouth.

“Yes, it’s very bad to lie,” said Pippi, sounding even sadder.  “But sometimes I forget, you see.  And how can you really expect a little girl whose mamma is an angel and whose pappa is king of the natives–a girl who has sailed the seas all her life–how can you expect her always to tell the truth?  And besides, let me tell you that in the Congo there isn’t a single person who tells the truth.  They tell lies all day long.  They start at seven o’clock in the morning and keep on going until sunset.  So if I happen to lie once in a while, you’ll have to forgive me and remember that it’s just because I’ve spent a little too much time in the Congo.  But we can still be friends, can’t we?”

“Of course,” said Tommy, and he suddenly thought that this was probably not going to be one of those boring kind of days.

“So is there anything stopping you from coming to have breakfast at my house?” said Pippi.

“No, of course not,” said Tommy.  “Come on, let’s go!”

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Afterward Pippi gave each of her new playmates a present as a souvenir.  “Now you better go home,” said Pippi, “so that you can come back tomorrow.  Because if you don’t go home, then you won’t be able to come back tomorrow.  And that would really be a shame.”

Tommy and Annika thought so too.  And so they went home.



Annika woke early the next morning.  “Wake up, Tommy,” she said, shaking him by the arm.  “Let’s go over and see that funny girl.”

They threw on their clothes.  And a whole hour earlier than their mother expected, they came sliding down the banister.  They landed right at the breakfast table, where they sat down and began shouting that they wanted their hot cocoa at once.

“What’s going on?” asked their mother.  “Why are you in such a hurry?”

“We’re going over to see the new girl in the house next door,” said Tommy.

“We might stay there all day,” said Annika.

On that particular morning, Pippi was in the middle of baking gingersnaps.  She had made a huge batch of dough and rolled it out on the floor.

“Because you know what?” said Pippi, “What good is it to roll the dough on a table when you’re going to bake at least five hundred gingersnaps?”  So she lay on the floor, cutting out heart-shaped gingersnaps for dear life.


Pippi could certainly work fast!

“Done,” said Pippi finally, as she slammed the oven door on the last baking sheets with a bang.

“What should we do now?” said Tommy.

“I don’t know what you’ve got in mind,” said Pippi, “but I’m not the sort to lie around.  I’m a thing-searcher, you see.  And that means I never have a moment to spare.”

“What did you say you were?” asked Annika.

“A thing-searcher.”

“What’s that?” asked Tommy.

“Someone who goes searching for things, of course!  The whole world is full of things, which means there’s a real need for someone to go searching for them.  And that’s exactly what a thing-searcher does.”


All three thing-searchers set off.  Tommy and Annika watched Pippi to see how a thing-searcher was supposed to act.  Pippi ran from one side of the road to the other, shading her eyes with her hand, and she searched and searched.

“Can we really take anything that we find?” asked Annika.

“Yes, anything lying on the ground,” said Pippi.

Some distance away an old man was lying on the grass outside his house, sleeping.  “That man over there is lying on the ground,” said Pippi.  “And we found him. So let’s take him!”  Tommy and Annika were both quite startled.

“Oh, no, Pippi.  We can’t take an old man.  We just can’t,” said Tommy.  “Besides, what would we do with him?”

“We could put him in a little rabbit cage instead of a rabbit, and feed him dandelion leaves.  But if you don’t want to, that fine with me.  Even though I think it’s annoying that some other thing-searcher might come along and nab him.”

They kept on going.

Pippi gave out a roar and triumphantly held up a spool of thread.  “This seems to be my lucky day,” she said.  “Such a sweet, sweet little spool for blowing soap bubbles, or you could put it on a string and wear it like a necklace!  I’m going to go home and do that right now.”

When they reached Pippi’s garden, Tommy said that he didn’t think he and Annika were ever going to find anything.

“Tommy, why don’t you look inside that old tree?”  To please Pippi he stuck his hand into a hollow in the tree trunk.

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“Wait a minute,” he said in astonishment, and pulled out his hand.  And in it he was holding a truly splendid notebook.

“You see?” said Pippi.  “There’s nothing as great as being a thing-searcher.  It’s odd that more people don’t take up the profession.”  And then she looked at Annika. “Why don’t you go feel around inside that stump?”

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Annika stuck her hand inside and almost at once she found a necklace.  Then she and Tommy just stood there gaping for a long time, they were so surprised.  And they thought that from now on they were going to be thing-searchers every single day.

Pippi had been up half the night playing catch, and now she suddenly felt sleepy.  “I think I’d better go and lie down for a while,” she said.  “Why don’t you come along and tuck me in?”

Then she lay down to sleep.  She always slept with her feet on the pillow and her head under the covers. “They sleep like this in Guatamala,” she assured them. “I always have to sing to myself for a while, otherwise I can’t sleep a wink all night.”

Tommy and Annika listened to the humming sound coming form under the covers.  Carefully they tiptoed out of the room.  In the doorway they turned around and cast one last glance at the bed.  They could see nothing but Pippi’s feet, resting on the pillow.

Then Tommy and Annika ran home.  Annika was clutching her necklace tightly in her hand.  “Tommy, you don’t think that…you don’t think that Pippi put these things there beforehand, do you?”

“You never know,” said Tommy.  “You never really know anything when it comes to Pippi Longstocking.”



“Today we’re not going to school,” Tommy told Pippi.  “Because it’s a house-cleaning holiday.”

Outside, the sun was shining in a bright blue sky. Pippi had an idea.  “What do you think about taking Mr. Nilsson with us and going on a little expedition?”

“Oh, yes,” shouted Tommy and Annika with delight.

“Run home and ask your mother then,” said Pippi.  “In the meantime I’ll make a packed lunch.”

Tommy and Annika dashed home, and it wasn’t long before they were back.  By then Pippi was already standing at the gate with Mr. Nilsson on her shoulder, a walking stick in one hand and a big basket in the other.

At first the children walked along the country road, but then they turned off into a field where a nice little path wound its way between birch tree and hazel thickets. Some distance away was a small hill that could be easily and quickly climbed.  On top of the hill was a sunny little ledge, just like a balcony.  That’s where they sat down.

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coloring station

crayon centerpiececrayon centerpiececrayon centerpiececrayon centerpiececrayon centerpiececrayon centerpiececrayon centerpiececrayon centerpiece

Have you ever been in a decorating slump?  My kitchen table had been barren for months because I was tired of my usual set up, but had no clue what to put there instead.

Sometimes inspiration strikes unexpectedly, like it did when I thought up this idea.  It was nearly midnight when I remembered I had this great wooden candle holder.  I’ve had it stored in a cupboard for quite some time because  I’ve used up the candles and don’t know where to find replacements, but it’s such an interesting piece I didn’t want to let it go.  What to do?  Turn it into a crayon caddy!  Yes!  I zipped to the kitchen, so excited to put together a centerpiece that would be hands-on instead of hands-off.  An old wooden tray, a stack of printer paper cut in half, a friendly plant to fill in the gap.  I thought of adding glue sticks, etc., but decided that simpler was better in this case.

I left a little message for the kids to see the next morning, and it was funny how interested they were in my super amazing new centerpiece.  “What’s it for?” Nina was so confused.  “It’s for you kids, so you can draw at the table all the time!” I explained.  She just smiled and smiled.  My kids are always bringing paper and crayons to the table anyway, so this just made sense.  They jumped right in and colored the morning away, as if they’d never used crayons before and just couldn’t get enough!

I know this wooden candle holder isn’t something everyone has or can find, but I think this could easily be done by using pretty glass jars (think candy store style) or a row of small cups or vases.  Get creative!  And your kids will too.

We’ve had this on the kitchen table for a couple of weeks now, and not a day goes by without our little coloring station being put to good use.  If you build it, they will come–and color lots of pictures!


just being audrey

Just Being AudreyJust Being AudreyJust Being Audrey

On the set of Roman Holiday.

On the set of Roman Holiday.

Did you know that Audrey often cooked spaghetti dinners for the cast and crew after a long day of filming?

Did you know that Audrey often cooked spaghetti dinners for the cast and crew after a long day of filming?

LOVE her style.

LOVE her style.

So does Nina!

So does Nina!

Just Being AudreyDSC_1796Just Being Audrey


We’ve been super busy around here lately with end-of-year school projects.  Invention convention, research reports, mini-society and business days, art lessons for me to teach in the classroom, the dance festival, and biography book reports.  This mama is ready for summer vacation!

Both Hannah and Nina needed to do a biography book report, and I wanted to think outside of the typical Annie-Oakley-Florence-Nightingale-Marie-Curie box.  Hmmmm….how about Audrey Hepburn?  Not only is she a classic movie star, but she also (and more importantly) had a kind and giving heart.  I thought my girls could learn some good things by reading about her.  And let’s be honest, another reason I thought Audrey Hepburn would be a winner was the fact that Hannah was required to dress up like the person, and presenting to the class in first-person.  Wouldn’t she make a perfect Breakfast at Tiffany’s beauty?

Well, Hannah didn’t like my idea so much.  She still read the Audrey Hepburn books we checked out from the library and she loved them, but her Beatles obsession took over and she ended up doing her report on Paul McCartney.  So I borrowed a great Beatles wig from my mom’s crazy dress up collection and suggested she take her guitar and strum Blackbird (she can play it by heart) as she told about her Paul McCartney life in a British accent.  She looked at me with one of those “Are you kidding me?” kind of stares.  So obviously my ideas aren’t the best in her book anymore, but that’s okay.  I’ll just shed a quiet tear and move on (sniff, sniff).  She did end up wearing Ben’s black Sunday slacks with a white shirt and black tie, so it was fine.  I would’ve paid money to see her wear that wig, play the guitar and speak with an accent though!  Hannah’s friend who did J.R.R. Tolkien wore a corduroy suit jacket, brought a pipe, and strolled around the room telling about the famous novelist in a full British accent, “I smoked a pipe for years and years, became ill with a lung disease, and then I died.”  Oh my gosh!  “See Hannah?  An accent would have been SO great!” I said.  Another friend of hers did Tim Burton and of course wore black and white stripes.  How fun!

Okay, back to Audrey…at least one child still likes my ideas.  Nina absolutely loved reading this charming picture book, Just Being Audrey.  We sat on the front steps at sunset, admiring all her movie costumes and reading about all the good things Audrey did to help other people.  Such a beautifully illustrated little book, definitely one to add to the permanent collection.  Nina decided she wants to be Audrey Hepburn for Halloween this year, so I’m excited to pull that together!

Nina’s report was a small paper cube with facts written on each side, and she was supposed to put something her famous person would treasure inside of it.  Since Audrey was a ballerina when she was younger, Barbie ballet shoes seemed appropriate and they fit perfectly inside.  Ta-da!  Cross another project off the to-do list.

P.S. Another book we skimmed through just for fun was Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit, written by her son Sean.  Full of photos.  Loved it!

Just Being Audrey

rainy day library and art gallery

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clothespin man

Will made this little man all by himself!

I don’t know what the weather’s like where you live, but here it’s been a cold and often rainy (or snowy!) spring.  When we woke up to another grey morning, my first thought was to switch on a movie for the kids…but then I noticed all the library books in the basket and said, “Hey guys…why don’t you play library?” No complaints there! A couple friends joined in and pretty soon everyone was “checking out” books and putting them into their library totes.

Once the “library” was closed, it was time to open up the art studio and get ready for a seriously cool exhibit. With some watercolors and a handful of craft supplies, the kids definitely added some much needed sunshine to a rainy day!


we {heart} cookies

valentine cookies DSC_6197 DSC_6198 DSC_6214 DSC_6215 DSC_6216 DSC_6234Valentine love from my house to yours!

Patty Davis’ Sugar Cookies (our favorite recipe)

1 c. butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. cold water
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 c. flour

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, water, and vanilla and mix well.  In a separate bowl, sift the salt, baking soda, and flour together, then add to the butter mixture.  Roll dough into a disc between sheets of parchment paper and place in a large ziplock bag.  Chill in fridge for a few hours at least.  Roll out thin and cut shapes.  Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack and spread with frosting.


2 1/4 c. powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 tsp. butter
food coloring (optional)

Mix all together, adding powdered sugar gradually.



party in paris

Nina had no clue that Aunt Hailey and Uncle Brad would be coming in disguise as special guests. Shhhh! Let's surprise her!

Nina had no clue that Aunt Hailey and Uncle Brad would be coming in disguise as special guests. Shhhh! Let’s surprise her!

Our chef's moustache fell off!

Our chef’s moustache fell off!

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paris birthday party

French name tags.

paris party

Each guest had their hand stamped upon arrival…sort of like a passport. The girls loved it!

paris party

Bienvenue à Café Nina!

paris birthday party

Joyeaux anniversaire, Nina!

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I printed these cute coloring pages for the girls to work on while we waited for all the guests to arrive.

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Paper city of Paris from Made By Joel (link below) doubled as decor and party favors.

Paris party

paris party

paris party

Pain au chocolat and mousse au chocolat…mmm!

paris party

J’adore Paris!

paris party

Gateau de crêpes, anyone?

Bon appetit!

Bon appetit!

paris party

Paris birthday partyParis party

paris party

Party favors I found at the Target dollar spot. Perfect timing!


paris party

Small bags of chocolate “bisous” and candy hearts.

paris party

Bienvenue à Paris! So happy you could join us!

I have lots to share with you about this one. Definitely my favorite party so far (although the Beatles party ranks up there too!). After Nina decided she would like a Paris party, I was super excited to start pulling it together.  So many ideas kept running around in my head, I couldn’t wait! After a long, dreary month of having Hannah in and out of the hospital with her appendicitis, it was actually like therapy for me to get this party going.

Blue and yellow seemed fitting for the decorations, to reflect the charm of French cafés and flower markets. I bought a 25 foot roll of sky blue butcher paper, then repeatedly traced half of a dinner plate all along its edge.  I cut along the lines where I had traced, then painted white stripes along the banner to create our nice little café awning. Yay! So happy to hang this in my kitchen!  It instantly transformed the space.  Next, I pulled out a Paris mural I painted seven or eight years ago (for a church activity, but I knew I’d use it again someday).  Luckily, it was just the size of my kitchen wall, so I taped that up as well.  I tossed some yellow and blue balloons around the room, hung blue and white tissue poms from ceiling, added a yellow tablecloth, blue plates, red cups, and red and blue patterned napkins.  My little Eiffel Tower made a great centerpiece among the pain au chocolat (croissants baked with  chocolate inside), and the mousse au chocolat (cheater’s recipe!).  As if we needed more sweets, I made Nina’s birthday cake by stacking a couple dozen crêpes together with layers of strawberry jam and whipped cream.  I’ve wanted to make a cake like this for years, and now I finally had a good excuse! A cute little banner of French flags completed it.

For past parties, I’ve asked my brother Trevor to come as a pirate, and my sister Erika to come as a fairy godmother. I tried to think if anyone could come dressed up as a special surprise for Nina, and voila! I remembered my sister Hailey’s and my brother-in-law Brad’s amazing Halloween costumes. When I asked them if they’d join the party as a French street mime and a French chef, they were as excited as I was about it. We had to be very careful to keep it a secret from Nina. Hailey texted me when they were in the neighborhood, so I made sure Nina was downstairs when she and Brad came in.  I quickly snapped a few photos of them before they went into hiding.

The music really helped set the tone for the party.  I highly recommend it!  I played Duo Gadjo Radio on Pandora over our system using Bluetooth.  C’est parfait!  Give it a listen.  When the girls arrived, my mom and my sister Erika stamped their hands with an Eiffel Tower stamp, and pinned on a French name tag. Originally I had planned to make little passports for the girls, and stamp those instead of their hands, but I ran out of time. They liked having a stamp on their hands anyway.  They all learned to say, “Je m’appelle…” My name is…

Tables and chairs were set up downstairs for coloring while waiting for everyone to arrive.  I printed copies of this cute coloring page and the girls were very detailed in coloring it!  I had thought of doing an art project involving paint and glitter glue to create an Eiffel Tower painting, but you know, I already had enough to do!  Here are other coloring pages of old France, l’Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre.

Once all the guests had arrived, it was time to go upstairs and explore Paris…and what did we find there? A French street mime! Nina smiled so big when she saw Aunt Hailey.  Our lovely mime did an impromptu act, then each of the girls took turns being the mime (just like charades). I thought up some ideas for them to act out, just in case: mime game ideas  All the miming was so great, especially with the Frenchy music still playing.

Then it was time for treats at Café Nina. But where was the chef?  We rang the service bell on the counter, and ta-da!  Out popped a jolly chef from the pantry, complete with a French accent!  The girls were laughing and so surprised, especially Nina.  I’m so glad the whole plan worked, it was so funny!  Our chef served all the food, and after that Nina opened her gifts.

We had a little bit of time left, so I turned on the movie Madeline.  For a younger crowd, the cartoon versions of Madeline would be great. Most of the girls had never seen the movie, or even heard of the books! So it was a fun way to end the party.  Each girl went home with an Eiffel Tower tote bag filled with matching notecards (thank you Target dollar spot), a travel size paper city of Paris to cut and color at home, and chocolate “bisous” (kisses).

Joyeaux anniversaire Nina! Et merci beaucoup Hailey and Brad! You made this party so much fun.

Feel free to use at your next Paris party:

frenchflags (For cake banner–print and cut on the lines. Fold in half and trim into triangles or leave as rectangles. Secure flags with a glue dot after lining them up on a string between two wooden dowels.)