Love Grows Strong

love grows strong

Nurture your garden of family and friends’ names with heart confetti, sprinkled from a watering can. Katie designed this project, and she upped the “awwww!” factor to eleven, folks!

We read Plant a Kiss, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (Harper Collins, 2012). Little Miss plants a smooch in the ground, and it grows into a sparkly, gorgeous feeling of love. And what does she do? Shares it, of course! Beautiful book.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (ours was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • Assorted construction paper (but definitely include green)
  • 6 green pipe cleaners
  • 1 name flowers template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 small oatmeal container
  • A box cutter
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • 1 strip of poster board (ours was 1″ x 8″)
  • Red poster board
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

family flower box

To make your flower box, fringe green construction paper and attach it to the inside perimeter of the box. Color and cut the flowers from the template, and write the names of  loved ones on them. Then tape each flower head to a green pipe cleaner and tape the stems inside the box. We added a crepe paper streamer and ribbon to the outside of the box as well, but this is optional.

watering canThe watering can is a small oatmeal container wrapped in construction paper. Use a box cutter to cut a hole for the “spout,” which is a toilet paper tube that has been cut down to 2.5″. Attach a poster board handle, and then decorate everything with (optional) color masking tape or markers. The final touch is heart confetti:

watering can heartsOur confetti was a blend of foam shapes, iridescent fabric hearts, and red poster board hearts (the construction paper versions were too light, and tended to jam in the spout). Drop your confetti in the watering can, and gently shake over your garden to share the love!

Mission: Hugs for All

hugs for allIt’s a big world out there. A world with lots of things in it. And those things need HUGS. The question is…are you up to the task? Are you a Hug Machine?

We recommend Hug Machine by Scott Campbell (Atheneum, 2014). Prepare yourself world. The Hug Machine (a little boy in a striped shirt and red rain boots) is on a mission to cheer people up, calm people down, and make things right. Tree? Hug! Park bench? Hug! Crying baby? Hug! Even a spiky porcupine gets a special padded hug. It’s impossible to read this book without smiling. Highly recommended!

Today’s simple project was designed by Jennifer Hyde, an ingenious teacher in Logan, Utah. Jennifer’s “Paper Hug” was featured in Family Fun magazine many years ago. I modified it only slightly for today’s post.

You’ll need:

  • Poster board
  • Scissors
  • Markers

Trace your left and right hands at each end of a 5.5″ x 27″ strip of poster board. Keep the hands connected as you cut them out of the poster board.The result is a long “hug.” Decorate the hug with markers (or use color masking tape like we did).

poster board hugOK, you’re ready to start hugging – and by hugging we mean go forth and find things to wrap your poster board hug around! You can just use the paper hug, or get right in there and use your arms too. Always dedicated to seeing a project through, Katie and I hit the streets on a rainy afternoon to share the love with Princeton.

Hugging John Witherspoon, Founding Father and past President of Princeton University…

witherspoon statue hug

The classic tree hug. It was a little damp, but who cares?

tree hugA mailbox clearly in need of a hug.

mailbox hugHugging a roaster and barista pal at our awesome local coffee shop, Small World.

small world coffee hugA hug for House of Cupcakes, who sell me donuts and cupcakes. Like, everyday.

house of cupcakes hugHugging a rainbow narwhal at JaZams, our stupendous local toy store.

jazams hugNo park bench escapes me…

bench hugNor jungle-like foliage…

leaf hug

A super-sweet hug from the folks at the Bent Spoon, best bakery in the world.

bent spoon hugAn attempted hug of one of Princeton’s famous black squirrels…yeah, no go.

attempted squirrel hugFinally, a hug from a random person who totally rocked the love. Awwwww!

random person hug


Sending hugs to those experiencing devastation and loss in Florida following Hurricane Michael. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Mrs. Wonka

mrs-wonkaThe name “Mr. Willy Wonka” is synonymous with delicious chocolate, zany confections, and unusual flavors. Who doesn’t, for example, want to try a Wonka’s Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight? See what’s simmering in the Inventing Room? Or take a sip of that amazing, rich, creamy chocolate that’s been mixed by waterfall? But you can’t of course, it’s just a story in a book.

But what if I told you that you could?

Enter Gabi Carbone, co-owner of, and flavor wizard for, The Bent Spoon. Established in 2004, the Bent Spoon is a renowned artisanal ice cream and good ingredients bakery in Princeton, New Jersey. And when I say “renowned” I mean that it is legend.

gabi-and-matt

Photo courtesy of the Bent Spoon

Not only do they have a mission to use regionally-sourced and preferably organic ingredients, they offer some of the most unique and delicious flavors your tongue has ever dared to taste.  Alongside classics like vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio, you will also find avocado, sweet corn, basil, bacon, kale, cardamom ginger, habanero pepper, heirloom tomato, and green tea.

In addition to ice cream and sorbets, the Bent Spoon offers baked goods so amazing, you will find yourself standing in their long line of daily customers to snag a fork-pressed peanut butter cookie, a creamy cupcake, or a brownie with a well of caramel sea salt embedded in the center.

browniesGabi has brought her flavor wizardry to our library events too. She created chocolate Earl Grey ice cream for Alice in Wonderland, lime sorbet “Bombo” for Treasure Island, nector & ambrosia sorbet (with a hint of pomegranate) for The Lightning Thief, and honey ice cream for Robin Hood. Recently, I caught up with Gabi to chat about her magical Wonka touch.


Tell us a little about your culinary background!

I think both Matt [co-owner of the Bent Spoon] and I have been involved in culinary everything from the time we were in our young teens. I got my first job at a good ‘ol café near my house. They had a soft serve machine and I started learning how to use it. It was a small family run business, and Matt bussed dishes at a restaurant! Both Matt and I grew up with families that really enjoyed food and had small gardens… and we both worked in food service at a young age. We got a taste for all of it.

After I graduated college, I lived in Japan for a year. I took every possible class and visited every grandma to learn how to make miso, soba, ramen…basically everything! I eventually went to the French Culinary Institute in New York City for pastries. That was my formal education, but ice cream making and almost everything else came from absorption. If you really love it, you search out teachers wherever you can.

How do you craft or discover different flavors of ice cream?

We have over 550, probably 600 flavors by now. It all comes from wanting to make it taste as much like the pure thing as possible. Cantaloupe, pear…to make it taste like a cold version of that thing. Once that part is good, it’s deciding what spins on that. A great example is Matt’s grandma always loved to eat pears with sour cream. We had to figure out how to craft that. Then we may taste it and think “oh, this could use some lavender just for fun.” Starting out 12 years ago, it was really important for us to perfect the individual flavors. When we first started out, we didn’t have a flavor like ‘Peach Rose’ or ‘Bellini’ because we wanted to perfect just the flavor of peach. We built on the core flavor.

yummy-tripleWhat’s the most unusual ingredient you have experimented with?

There’s a lot of them. Oysters, lobsters, mushrooms, different kinds of wood…

Seriously?

Yes! I joke that we go through periods, like our wood period. It almost doesn’t matter what it is because every ingredient is fascinating to work with. But milk and cream are still amazing ingredients. Everything gets reverence.

If you could turn one non-edible flavor into a baked good, ice cream or confection, what would it be?

A wet brick. I like the smell of a brick building after it rains.

I heard rumors about marshmallows flavored with mushrooms. Is that true?

Yes, marshrooms! They are delicious. I love them because they are so earthy in taste. I use maitake mushrooms, which are the hen of the wood mushrooms. They are beautiful, gorgeous, earthy and delicious. It’s a cool way to eat your mushrooms – enjoying it as a marshmallow on your hot chocolate.

What are the challenges of flavor experimentation?

Very few challenges, really. It’s more about just doing it. Ice cream making is sometimes like making a soup. You start with an idea and if you don’t like the way it tastes, you add a little of this and add a little of that. Try it.

Once though, I made a peach sriracha flavor, which was delicious. But after seven days, not so delicious. The garlic got very strong. So one challenge is to see how an ice cream tastes a week later. Sometimes it’s awesome because the flavor develops even more. But sometimes it doesn’t work. Like if it’s a garlic, or onion, or a chocolate chip Bellini flavor. It’s great for four days, maybe. But get it to a week? It tastes like a big onion.

In a few words, describe your philosophy on creating delicacies for your customers.

Real. Lots of love. I feel like local and sustainable are together, they are not separate things. You can throw organic in there, too. Community, for sure. Empathy is a huge one, believe it or not. Thinking about the chicken that laid the egg that’s eventually going to be here, or someone who is growing the product, what it takes to make it, empathy for the customer with a food allergy…that’s a big one.

mini-cupcakes

Of all the goodies at The Bent Spoon, which one has the most rabid fan base?

You’d be surprised, but every area has its own fan base. The banana whip people are the banana whip people, the hot caramel people are the hot caramel people, the chocolate sorbet people are the chocolate sorbet people, and the hot chocolate people are the hot chocolate people. And we know what you are, Dana!

My blood is 75% Bent Spoon hot chocolate.


I’ll finish this post with a quote from the blog, Serious Eats. They visited the Bent Spoon and had the following to say:

“These are the kinds of flavors so powerful that they go beyond mere taste—conjuring up memories, rather than just sensation. ‘This tastes like Peanut Butter Ripple at this one, tiny ice cream place on the Jersey shore,’ mused my dining companion, as we worked our way through the flavors. ‘This tastes like stealing my neighbor’s pears in September.’ ‘This tastes like Thanksgiving.’ And with the lingering warmth of all those pumpkin pie spices, with the bite of cranberry and sweetness of apple, it truly did.”

It’s fantastic, fabulous, and dare I say it? Wondercrump flavor magic.