Oct 302016

flamigoIf you have stopped in the Cambria Toy Station, you already know that we are a very small store (although we do manage to pack a lot in to the available space). When we started the shop, we wanted to focus on encouraging kids to “do stuff.” The thing is, no toy store (no matter how large or how small) can carry every single thing and some of the best things can’t be carried at all. So we decided that we were going to expand beyond the norm of toy stores and offer something of value even if you never walked in the shop (although, of course, we think you should if for no other reason than we are located in the world’s coolest places–a 149 year old train station).

The Creative Play Pages (see the right hand column of our front page) were created to provide parents and kids access to some very cool stuff–from games (some of which were created out of cardboard boxes) to science projects to history, civics, and geography.

We believe that kids learn best through play, exploration, imagination, and curiosity. While we carry toys, kits, games, and puzzles that encourage these activities, there is a whole lot more out there in the world for them to try that no toy is going to teach them or to encourage their interests.

The Creative Pages are our way of helping youngsters to pursue their passions, learn cool new stuff, hone skills, and have fun. We continue to add new stuff to the pages periodically (mostly when we have some time to spare or are avoiding less pleasant tasks).  We also includes access to materials for parents (choosing toys, thinking about safety, encouraging creativity, etc.). We encourage you to explore the pages and if you have a suggestion, just fill in the form below.

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Aug 222016


It’s that time of year…September 3, 4, and 5th

readersrock3For twenty years, we published The Scale Cabinetmaker.  Publishing a quarterly journal, or any journal, is a lesson in Sisyphus rolling the same rock up the same hill every three months. Most of the time, the process of developing a new issue, designing new projects, and working through the kinks in the next issue was enjoyable–that is until we put together the Winter issue with the Christmas cover…in August. While everyone else was still enjoying the heat and humidity of late summer, we were designing toy articles, decorating miniature trees, and wrapping very small presents (everything was in 1/12th scale). It has been 20 years since we wrapped the last issue of The Scale Cabinetmaker, but I still find myself humming “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” on August 1st and beginning to think about Christmas season.

This explains why we are gearing up for a Christmas on Labor Day Sale (September 3, 4, &5)  at Whistle Stop Books (also known as the “we really need to paint the roof” sale). I’m not sure we will go so far as to put up a tree (that does seem a bit excessive…even for a relatively quirky bookstore), but we’ll pull out the music, bake some cookies, brew some coffee, and haul out lots of books and stack them on tables.

If you are a book lover, this is a great time to pick up books to help you get through Football season, prepare for winter, and help us reach our $20,000 goal for painting the roof this fall.

Thursday Night & Friday Afternoon
Coffee Klatch & Readers Club.

It is that time of year.  Now that the end of summer is fast approaching, we are fast approaching “readers season.” The time of the year when the weather passes from hot and muggy to cooler and a bit more unpredictable. Kids are back in school,  Football takes over the television (whether you are a football fan or not). Political ads dominate the airways (whether you want to watch endless attack ads or not).

Reader’s Season is the part of the year, generally late September through the middle of April, when the weather may or may not cooperate with outdoor activities and television is dominated by things you do not particularly want to see (unless, of course, you have already switched over to Netflix or you have resigned yourself to watching a few months of reruns on TVLand).

If you are a reader, set aside some time on Thursday nights (7 to 8:30) of Friday afternoons (2 to 3:30) and join us for a cup of coffee (or tea) and some lively discussions about books. This isn’t a traditional “book club.” We don’t assign a book for each week. Rather, it is a chance to compare notes on writers, pick up some great suggestions, collect opinions on books, and generally chat about what you are reading.  You also get a chance to save on books (club participants get 25% off books from Whistle Stop Books with a membership card–free to participants).

World War II @ the Depot.

A special thank you to Henry Tieleman of Riner. A couple of weeks ago, Henry stopped by the shop. He arrived with a SUV full of books on World War II, thermal dynamics, and sundry engineering. For history fans, this is quite a collection. Be sure to stop by and peruse Henry’s collection.

New to the Stacks

We have so many new books, it is hard to tell where to start. We are especially excited about a couple of large collections we have received in the few couple of weeks–one included some terrific books on Archaeology, Art,  and ancient antiquities and another included almost a complete set of Stuart Woods mystery-suspense novels (thank you, Caroline and ARG). If your are a mystery fan and enjoy James Patterson, you will love Stuart Woods.






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Jul 222016

This week’s newsletter centers, it seems, on a central theme–Be Nice!  Every four years I watch two series of events: the Olympics (as a Montana native, I tend to be fonder of the winter version rather than the summer…but that is neither here nor there) and the political conventions–the latter not because of politics but because they are usually an interesting affair. I love the whole cheesy state-by-state roll call, and I would hard pressed to say which group is cornier–the Republicans or the Democrats. It is always fun to find out what each state is going to emphasize. This year, however, the tone is distinctly different: far less enjoyable, far harsher, and really not nice.

Turning out the lights at the Side Track Tap.

This month marked a sad point in American cultural life–the closing of the saga of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota (“Where all the women were strong, all the men were good looking, and all the children were above average”). Lake Wobegon was one of those quintessential upper mid-western and western towns settle by Scandinavian and German immigrants during the homestead years of the 1800s and early 1900s. They defined the culture from Lake Michigan (at least above the Wisconsin/Illinois border) westward to the Rockies. Norwegians and Danes, Swedes and Finns, came west, settled, and created a small town culture defined by hot dishes and rhubarb pie and, once refrigeration reached the high plains, jello salads with assorted additions. Quiet, gentle small towns built by quiet, gentle people.

It seems ironic that Mr. Keillor turned out the lights on Lake Wobegon a couple of weekends before the political conventions and in the midst of what has, thus far, be one of the most vitriolic presidential campaigns in recent history. Ironic that the inhabitants of the Side Track Tap and the Chatterbox Cafe have gone silent at a time when we could all use their reminders of simple humanity.

I started college in Minneapolis (@MCAD) in 1975, a year after the start of Prairie Home Companion in St. Paul. Going over and listening to the show while it was being taped was cheap entertainment for starving art students. Since then, the show has defined my Saturday nights and/or Sunday mornings for 41 years.

The show will continue this Fall with a new host, Chris Thile, but the tone and the stories will shift to a new story teller with a new voice. Thank you, Mr. Keillor, for forty-two years.

A Sale of Sorts. July 20th to July 28th.

Convention Sale

Why a book sale?

When I was a kid (not quite in the Jurassic period, but close), my grandmother would threaten to wash all of our mouths out will Fels-Naptha soap for verbal transgressions. One did not say “damn” in public, much less in polite society. It just wasn’t done.

A violation of one of her basic tenets (bearing false witness, lying (slightly different from the bearing thing), cursing, being unkind, being thoughtless, being ungracious. All ended with a quick swat and banishment to weed the gardens, to polish the silver, to dust every available flat surface, or to mow the lawn with a non-powered push mower (sage brush is not easily cut with a reel lawnmower).

For anyone who has turned on the television recently, it is hard to miss the level of hatred, anger, and waist deep vitriol. It is hard not to miss the violation of the rules of conduct my father spoke of from the pulpit. It spills over into  places like Facebook and Twitter and assorted other media outlets. It floods the streets, the airways, even over the white picket fences separating neighbors. I hear it from customers, from folks in grocery store lines, and from folks who listen to sermons on Sundays and Wednesdays, but think nothing of repeating rumors and bearing false witness in the hours between services.

So, I go back to “why a book sale?”  Perhaps because the act of reading is tranquil, and we are, given current passions, desperately in need of domestic tranquility. A book sale is our response to a culture being torn apart by hate.

One final side note: The cartoon in the ad was chosen because Mr. Trump is easier to draw and his hair is a lot more fun. He doesn’t, however, have a corner on the anger market, but he does have a much more expressive face.



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Jul 072016

July’s Writers Challenge : Have some fun and win a free book.

This month, something slightly different. Your contest entry must contain the following words or terms:

  • nail polish
  • a VHS tape
  • a book of spells

Have fun!

Each month, we publish a Writing Prompt and invite folks to submit a story, short essay, poem in response to the prompt. The winner gets their story published on the Whistle Stop Books website (see below) and wins a free book (their choice) from Whistle Stop Books. There are very few rules, other than keep it short (500 word limit)–our volunteer judges love reading, but are hesitant to tackle anything the length of War and Peace–and keep it relatively clean (we share a website with a toy store). Other than that, have fun and have at it. All entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on the last day of the month.

Dog Days of Summer Start in July

readersrock2Have you looked at the weather forecast recently. Ninety (+) temperatures; humidity levels approaching the indoor quality at the aquatic center. In short, hot and muggy. The perfect weather for sitting in a porch swing and listening to the mourning doves (perhaps this is only a Kansas “thing”) or camping in front to the air conditioner with a nice cool drink and a good suspense.

Baldacci1We have a wide variety of suspense novels from some terrific writers from Clive Cussler and David Baldacci to Kevin O’Brien and Stuart Woods. Looking for a good spy novel? Try Len Deighton, Forrest DeVoe Jr., or Steven Hartov.

A recent donation added some great young adult novels, including a terrific selection of Newbery Award Honor and Winners, including a number that are not available on things like Kindles and Nooks.  The Newbery Awards are given out each year by the Association for Library Services for Children (a division of the American Library Association) for the best of the best children’s books in Children’s novels. Actually, it is given to an author who has made “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

WatsonsGoFor the critter lover, there is Sterling North’s Rascal, a Newbery Honor book from 1964 (Rascal is a raccoon) and Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo (Newbery Honor Book, 2001). In historical fiction, we have Katie Seredy’s The Good Master (Newbery Honor, 1936) and The Singing Tree (Newbery Honor, 1940); Chrisopher Paul Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 (Newbery Honor, 1996); Cynthia Kadohata’s Kira-Kira (Newbery Metal, 2006); and an old favorite, especially for folks who love dolls, Rachel Field’s Hitty, The First Hundred Years (Newbery Metal, 1930).

For fantasy lovers, we have some terrific novels for kids, including Melissa de la Cruz’s The Isle of the Lost  (2015); Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy (Newbery Honor, 2006); and CS Lewis’s  The Magician’s Nephew (1970), among others.

Come by Whistle Stop Books and explore the shelves. We are certain we have something for every age and nearly every taste.


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Jun 252016

Cozy Mysteries.

Wander through the mystery section of a bookstore, new or used, and you’ll notice a burgeoning section of what is affectionately referred to as cozy mysteries, those mysteries that provide a fun read after a long day. Great for a long soak, for sitting on the back deck with a glass of wine or a cup of tea, for the beach. They are fun, intelligent, and not particularly gory. A few happen in urban areas, but most are centered in small towns with detectives who are far more familiar with knitting, baking, or reading than criminology and police procedure–in short, your next door neighbors.

Cozy mysteries trace back to some of the best from the Golden Age of Mysteries: Agatha Christie (Miss Marple and Tommy and Tuppence), Dorothy L Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey), and  Margery Allingham (Albert Campion).

For more information, explore the Cozy Mystery List (a great resource for the lovers of murders and light reads).

Cozy Writers on the Shelves:

Susan Wittig Albert Janet Evanovich Ellis Peters
Margery Allingham Joanne Fluke Ann Purser
Nevada Barr Anthea Fraser Monaca Quill
Lorraine Bartlett Caroline Graham Ruth Rendell
Lawrence Block Martha Grimes Dorothy L Sayers
Duffy Brown Joan Hess Dell Shannon
Rita Mae Brown Ellen Hart Alexander McCall Smith
Chris Cavender Erin Hart Kathy Hogan Trocheck
Agatha Christie Sue Henry Margaret Truman
Laura Childs Hazel Holt …and many more…
Carol Higgins Clark Jane Langdon
Mary Higgins Clark Leslie Meier
Mary Jane Clark Elizabeth Peters

A Dead Body in a Hot Tub:

contestThis month’s writing contest only had a few days left, so grab a pen (or your computer keyboard) and start scribbling. Each month, we will pick a winner (who gets a free book of their choice) and we’ll publish the best of the best on the website.  Rules (such as they are): 1) The story must include the prompt (this month is a dead body in a hot tub); 2) Stories should be no longer than two pages (500 words); 3) Stories can be submitted in hard copy (drop it by the depot) or electronically (email: whistlestopbooks@gmail.com) by the  last day of each month. The next month’s prompt will be published on the the website and on the Whistle Stop Books Facebook page. The monthly contest is open to writers of all ages. Results of the previous month will be announced in the first Our “Weekly Reader” of the month, as well as on the website and on Facebook. Be sure to include your email address so we can send you your certificate good for a free book.

@the Depot: June 26-July 1, 2016

  • June 26: Recipe and Produce Swap. Short on tomatoes but have an abundance of zucchini? Just in time for the 4th of July–trade recipes, gardening tips, and extra produce.
  • June 28: Read Anything Good Lately?  Our weekly Tuesday Afternoon Book Chat. (Adults)
  • June 29: Construct This–Paper Building Projects for Kids ages 9 and up. 2:00-4:00 p.m.
  • June 30: Pick-a-Book — Reading, Art, and Storytelling Activities for kids ages 6 to 9. 1:00-3:00 p.m. (activities and stories vary per week).


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Jun 162016

contestYou Have a Body in a Hot Tub!

A not-so-serious monthly contest for readers,  writers, quasi-writers, and occasional writers. At the beginning of each month, we will publish a “prompt”–a story idea, a character suggestion, a first line, or some other random bit of information–for a bit of writing fun.  The rules, as with Bulwer-Lytton, are fairly straight forward.

  • Take the prompt and go with it. The choice of genres is yours.
  • Submissions should be no longer than 500 words (roughly two pages) and should be submitted in the text of an email no later than the last day of each month. Email should be sent to whistlestopbooks@gmail.com
  • Folks are welcome to submit as many stories as they wish, thus improving their chances at an odd and somewhat random Grand Prize handed out on December 31st,

On the first of each month, we will announce the winner and runner(s)-up on our Facebook page and on the website. The winner gets a free novel (the choice of genres is yours) from Whistle Stop Books (stop in and pick up). As extra incentive, we’ll publish the winning entry (and a few of the runners-up) on the Whistle Stop Books website.

The monthly winners are chosen by our “distinguished” panel of judges who we’ve bribed into doing this.

The Grand Prize, a somewhat random item, is awarded on December 31st.

JUNE-JULY 2016 prompt: A dead body in a hot tub.

It was a Dark and Stormy Night

In 1830, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton wrote, “It was a dark and storm night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies, rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” Bulwer-Lytton’s phrase remains both far better known than the author himself and the one phrase guaranteed to drive creative writing teachers to near distraction. As an old friend often noted, “it was a dark and story night” is the literary equivalent to “moon behind trees” for art teachers–an image so over used that it self-parodies the artist’s intent.

In 1982, the English Department at San Jose State decided to start a literary competition for the opening line to the worst novel never written and named the contest in Bulwer-Lytton’s honor. The rules are fairly simple:

  • Write one sentence (aim at no more than 60 words) in what ever genre you like and submit you entry either an index card (sentence on the front and contact information on the back) or in an email (no attached files, please) to the Grand Panjandrum at San Jose State.
  • The “official” deadline is April 15; the actual deadline is June 30th, so there is still a bit of time if you wish to try your hand at writing the worst opening line to the worst novel never written.

For more information on the Fiction Contest, to become a bulwarian, or just to waste a bit of time while you are at your computer, check out the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (Where WWW means Wretched Writers Welcome).

Weekly Calendar:

  • June 16: Pick-a-Book — Reading, Art, and Storytelling Activities for kids ages 6 to 9. 1:00-3:00 p.m. (activities and stories vary per week).
  • June 19: Paper Modeling for Grandparents. Learn basic paper modeling techniques you can pass on to your grandkids. 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. (Adults) Part of our ongoing “Grandparents 101” Series.
  • June 21: Read Anything Good Lately?  Our weekly Tuesday Afternoon Book Chat. (Adults)
  • June 21: Mysteries @ The Depot…a Book Chat for Mystery Lovers. 7 to 8:30 p.m. Includes a very cool challenge for the intrepid sleuth. This week’s challenge: the perfect villain.
  • June 22: Construct This–Paper Building Projects for Kids ages 9 and up. 2:00-4:00 p.m.


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Jun 122016

If you are a long term customer at the depot, you have, more than likely, ended up in a conversation about cooking, gardening, or both as you were checking out. Food, both the growing and the cooking, is a favorite topic, and is to vary degrees a passion, evidenced by the kale and rhubarb in the front planters and flower beds.

The Cambria Toy Station & Whistle Stop Books is owned by two people, Meghan Dorsett, who is originally from the High Plains, grew up with folks who make hot dishes, and subsequently knows very little about cooking–or at least cooking things other than hot dishes; and Carol Lindstrom, who is a Cajun from Louisiana and takes great pleasure in swapping recipes, tips, and occasionally hot sauce.  She is also largely responsible for the bird sanctuary and garden at the back of the depot. The idea for a book chat for cooks who garden (or gardeners who cook) was hers.

Come by the depot between 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on the 2nd and/or 4th Sundays each month and join in the fray. For the first Cooks Chat, Carol has a raft of tomato plants that need to go to good homes. Bring a favorite recipe with you, and we’ll add it to the Depot Cookbook (an ongoing collection we are starting this summer and which we will publish on the web). If you love to talk cooking and recipes, this chat’s for you!

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Jun 092016


The Depot summer season kicks off this next week with the introduction of a number of new weekly & monthly events:

  • The Cook’s Garden (1 -2:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Sundays of each month). Come talk gardening and cooking, trade recipes and tips, and swap produce (effective during over abundant zucchini season). A “reader’s group” for cooks who love to garden (or the versa).
  • Mysteries @the Depot (7-8:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month). Come join the mystery fray. Mysteries @the Depot is a readers’ group (come and compare notes, talk mysteries, get suggestions, et al.) with a twist. . Each meeting has a different activity. Pour a cup of coffee (or tea) and figure out how to stump even the most intrepid investigator. Create the perfect detective. Figure out who dumped the body in the hot tub.
  • Read Anything Good Lately? (1-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoons). A different type of readers’ group. Come spend some time talking to other readers. Learn about new authors or authors new to you. Pour a cup of coffee (or tea); compare notes on character development, settings, genres; and explore why folks read what they read. Each meeting revolves around a different question or topic.
  • Construct This! (2-4:00 p.m, Wednesdays). Paper modeling and construction for kids (and adults) ages 9 and up. A different project every week.
  • Pick-a-Book. (1-3:00 p.m., Thursdays). Reading, art, and storytelling activities for kids ages 6 to 9 (activities and stories vary per week).

Tea & Scones: Celebrating Dorothy L. Sayers

Come by the depot on June 11 for tea and scones and help us celebrate Peter Wimsey’s creator in thoroughly English fashion.  Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957) created the Lord Peter  mysteries during the period between the two World Wars.

New to the Shelves

We have had some amazing donations this week (thank you to the Lazars, Stephanie Gilmore, Marvi Stine and Greg Duncan, Paul Poff, and others), which means we have some really cool new books. Our personal favorite is the Hogwarts pop-up book (who doesn’t like Harry Potter). We also have a great collection of Robert Parker (Spenser) mysteries and Stuart Woods thrillers. For romance enthusiasts, we have all three volumes of Nora Roberts’ In the Garden series (Blue Dahlia, Black Rose, and Red Lily).

Book of the Week:

radioMy mother used to listen to the television but very rarely watched it. She used to say she got bored staring at the screen, so she would reach for one of her projects, glancing up only occasionally. One of the reasons had to do with radio. As a child of the 1930s, she learned early on how to multi-task from her father, Sam. He would go out to his shop, turn on the Cubs, and spend the evening woodworking and groaning (the Cubs had a fairly poor decade).

Raised on Radio. Gerald Nachman (1998) is part memoir, part social history, and goes a long way in explaining why folks from the radio generation managed to get a whole lot more stuff done in the evenings than those glued to the television set. A fascinating and very entertaining look at vintage radio and how it impacted the Depression, WWII, and 50s generations.  As Carol Alessio of the Chicago Trib put it, “Raised on Radio is a compelling guide to an era.”

Wrestling with Air Conditioning

While old buildings, including old depots, have their charm, air conditioning is not on the list. Despite the abundance of windows, half of which have been painted shut for roughly a century, the temperature inside is always going to mirror (or at least closely parallel) the temperature and relative mugginess beyond the exterior walls. So, every year, we do battle with the window air conditioner. Unlike other types of technology (computers, phones, even books–much to our dismay), air conditioners have not gotten lighter with technological advances. They are still bulky, rectangular, and abnormally heavy. They are also not designed for the width of windows built when folks waved pieces of cardboard attached to popsicle sticks and pretended to be cool while drenching in talcum powder.

The annual match starts with unearthing the air conditioner from the void under one of the freight wagon–a nice, out-of-the-way location that prevents painful toe stubbing for seven months of the year. Unfortunately, it also prevents easy access when time comes for re-installation. As the crow flies, the air conditioner only needs to travel about 30 feet, but (as with all old buildings) there is no such thing as a straight line or a simple route in the depot.

This year’s annual air conditioning wrestling match turned out to be much easier because a long-time friend with younger back muscles arrived (with his two young sons in tow) and managed to wrestle and weather strip the air conditioner in place.



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May 242016

Feeling stressed?  There is a simple solution that will cost you a whole lot less than stress-related medical bills or years of therapy. Try coloring. Go to you local toy store or book store and pick up a coloring book; swing by an art supply store (in our area…Mish Mish or Michael’s) and buy some colored pencils and a small pencil sharpener (if you don’t have one stuck in the back of a kitchen junk drawer); and sit down at the kitchen table with a mug of tea and color.

You can thank Joshua Reynolds, a British artist, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and Friedrich Frobel (Swiss educators), Kate Greenway, and the McLoughlin Brothers for the coloring book.

In 1769, Josh Reynolds, gave a series of lectures in which he argued, essentially, that art and art instruction should be made accessible to the masses (the democratization of art) rather than merely to the upper echelons of society. Artists became art educators who based their production of art education materials (drawing and painting manuals, templates, etc.) on the premise that “art could be learned by anyone because it consisted of teachable knowledge (‘general truths’ or principles established by the great masters) and skills”  (Masien, 2014). In short, anyone can become an artist and can learn to appreciate art.

PaintBook1The McLoughlin Brothers published the first “paint book,” The Little Folks Painting Book, in 1879. The book feature illustrations from Kate Greenway, an English illustrator best known for childrens’ illustrations and a contemporary of Randolph Caldecott. The annual awards for best children’s illustrations are called the Caldecotts in the US and the Greenways in the United Kingdom (just an aside). Other companies soon followed suit: Charles E. Graham Company,

Enter the Crayon and the Depression. If you look closely at the toys created during the Depression (with the exception of Legos–yep, a product of the 1930s), you will notice that the vast majority of products were paper based, from paper dolls to fiberboard dollhouses to games (think Monopoly) to card models included in and on the back of cereal boxes. Paper products took off because they were relatively inexpensive and could be included as part of a wide-range of promotions aimed at the persuasive power of children. Coloring books were on the forefront, especially as crayons entered popular use (again, they were far less expensive to produce than other artists’ mediums). While crayons had long been a medium for artists, with versions dating by to Da Vinci, they became the child’s medium with the development of the wax stick crayon in the early 20th Century (you can thank Binney & Smith, aka Crayola; Prang; Milton Bradley, and Joseph Dixon).  By World War II, coloring was firmly a child’s activity despite its adult roots.

According to the Washington Post, the act of coloring “generates wellness, quietness and … stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity.” (Elena Santos, 2014). Carl Jung colored mandalas as a relaxation technique. Just ask the French. In France, coloring books designed for adults are one of the fastest growing genres in the publishing industry. According to clinical psychologist Sally Austen,

“Because coloring-in requires focus, it is quite meditative and mindful. You are completely in the moment, not ruminating about the past or worrying about the future….There is also–and this is probably quite significant–no element of competition or possible failure, which is quite rare these days…Colouring in is as near to doing nothing as you can get…It is creative and peaceful; a lovely moment of inane happiness.”

So the next time you stop by to pick up a coloring book for your child, buy two–one for the child and one for you and pick up an extra-large canister of crayons (or colored pencils). Set aside 15 or 20 minutes each day and color.  You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.

Online Resources:

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May 242016

Disney, best known for magic, had a particular method of magic in Mary Poppins that has always fascinated me…chalk art…sidewalk art…street art.

In the movie, Mary Poppins and company fall through the art and into a land where carousel horses and their riders dash across pastel countryside and subvert a fox hunt by hiding the fox; where tea is served by dancing penguins; and where having a “perfectly splendid” time is perfectly acceptable.

Think chalk and chalk drawings are only for kids? Think again. While chalk art dates back to pre-historic times (think cave dwellings here), the sidewalk activity dates from 19th Century England. Like Dick Van Dyke’s character, well over 900 folks were making a living drawing on sidewalks in Great Britian in 1890.

Colored chalk is one of those mediums we often dismiss, but there are a fair number of rather well-known chalk adherents, including: De Vinci, Raphael, Micelangelo, Durer, Rembrandt, Rupens, Matisse, Picasso, and Degas. One of the appeals of chalk was that it was relatively cheap and plentiful…a great medium for studies and quick sketches.


Storytelling on the Walk. Most sidewalks, at least those leading to a front door, are split into sections rather than being poured as a solid slab. Ask your kids to illustrate their favorite book by telling the story in drawings, one drawing per section of sidewalk.

The Most Colorful Driveway. 1 or more neighborhood kids (and adults). Pick a nice day and throw a block drawing party (typically combined with a neighborhood potluck and/or cookout and a rousing game of volleyball in the back yard). Divide your driveway into squares an invite your neighbors to add to the drawing. The object is to fill the space, create neighborhood art, and have a good time. I’ve also seen this done as a neighborhood activity where everyone decorated their driveways and walkways. By the way, if you have an asphalt driveway, make sure you have plenty of white chalk to go along with the various colors.

The Game Course. One of my favorite examples of chalk art came from a neighbor in Missouri, who used to go out and draw a version of chutes and ladders or another kids’ game on his driveway every Saturday morning. He made a large die the kids could “roll” out of a cardboard box he covered in white butcher paper and decorated with construction paper cutouts. By the end of the day, the board was scuffed, the box was dented, and the construction paper decorations had faded to a dull, color-tinged gray. The board varied from week to week, as did the die. The kids were their own game pieces, and one child was designated as “die roller.” I have no idea how many games were played during the course of a Saturday, but the “board” was always in use. By the time the neighborhood came to life on Sunday, the board was gone and the neighborhood had to wait a week to find out what was next.

readChalk Drawings: Types, History of Drawing with Chalks.

ART ENCYCLOPEDIA 2016. Bar none–one of the best sites on the internet. If you are interested in art education, this is one of the best places to start. 

Chalk Pastel Tutorials: Lessons & Resources for the Artistically Inclined..Intended for beginning and intermediate artists.

Street Painting and Street Art. Wikipedia.

3 Amazing 3D Graffiti Artists: Street Paining and Sidewalk Chart Art. The Web Urbanist.

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