[#MoreforAKR] celebrating amy krouse rosenthal’s birthday with COOKIE book illustrator jane dyer (+ amy’s favorite cookies and a giveaway!)

“INSPIRE means, Seeing what you’ve done here fills me with energy and new thoughts and the desire to now try to see what I can do!” ~ Amy Krouse Rosenthal (One Smart Cookie: Bite-Size Lessons for the School Years and Beyond)

About ten years ago, I read my first Amy Krouse Rosenthal book, her adult memoir Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. It spoke to me because I’m an alphabet freak, and I’d never seen anyone tell her life’s story in a series of quirky alphabetized entries, a free-flowing yet carefully curated non-linear celebration of simply being alive.

I loved Amy’s penchant for cataloging ideas, recalibrating time, pruning memory. She embraced spontaneity and serendipity, indulging an irrepressible passion for making, creating and connecting. In the playground of her brilliant mind, she made the muddy, crystal clear; the cliché, passé; the ordinary, extraordinary.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal lost her battle with ovarian cancer on March 13, 2017.

After reading her memoir, I looked forward to each of her children’s picture books. Like a fairy godmother, Amy could wave her intuitive magic wand and make time-worn concepts and storylines fresh, relevant, and fun. Her joy and heart were infectious, and she had an uncanny knack for imparting advice and wisdom with a light, whimsical touch.

Goldie and Baby Bear

About twenty-five years ago, I purchased a copy of Baby Bear’s Bedtime Book, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Jane Dyer. As an avid teddy bear collector, I was mad for bear books and instantly fell in love with Goldie and Baby Bear. There was such warmth in Jane Dyer’s pictures, a quaint old-fashioned charm and innocence that made me feel safe and comforted.

I’ve been a Dyer fan ever since, swooning over her work in Piggins, Time for Bed, Animal Crackers, I Love You Like Crazycakes, Blue Moon Soup, the Little Brown Bear series, and more recently, Oh My Baby, Little One, The House That’s Your Home, and All We Know. Sweet, but never cloying, gentle and endearing, her human and animal characters are always rendered with such love.

from The House That’s Your Home, written by Sally Lloyd-Jones (2015)

I want to inhabit her cozy interiors with their wainscoted walls, polka dot curtains and checked tablecloths, and befriend the adorable dogs, cats, bunnies and sheep dressed in human clothing.

GENEROUS means offering some to others (COOKIES: Bite-Size Life Lessons)

Needless to say, I was over the moon when I saw Amy and Jane’s first COOKIE book. Two of the very people I’d admired for so long in the same book!  Double the goodness, double the joy! 🙂

As a diehard cookie monster, I couldn’t get enough of that freshly baked batch of life lessons, all defined in terms of making, eating, and sharing cookies (*licks lips*). I loved how the book appealed to all ages and made it easy for kids to understand abstract concepts.

Amy and Jane had hit upon a delicious recipe for success: COOKIES: Bite-Size Life Lessons (2006) became a New York Times bestseller that was followed by three more good-to-the-last-crumb titles (Jane’s daughter Brooke co-illustrated the last two books): CHRISTMAS COOKIES: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons (2008)SUGAR COOKIES: Sweet Little Lessons on Love (2009), and ONE SMART COOKIE: Bite-Size Lessons for the School Years and Beyond (2010).

SUPPORTIVE means that when your cookies are a huge hit at the bake sale, no one is happier for you than I am (SUGAR COOKIES: Sweet Little Lessons on Love)

Since today, April 29, is Amy’s birthday (she would have been 52), I can’t think of a better way to celebrate and honor her memory than by talking with Jane about working on the COOKIE books. I know you’ll enjoy her candid responses, memories, and personal photos.

POIGNANT means, even though Amy’s gone, we can always eat her favorite cookies and meet her in the pages of all her delicious books.

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🍪 A COOKIE CHAT WITH JANE DYER 🍪

Jane with her lamb Blossom

Please tell us about when you first received the manuscript for COOKIES: Bite-Size Life Lessons. At the time, was it supposed to be a stand alone book or was a 4-book series always part of the plan?

Originally, COOKIES: Bite-Size Life Lessons was a single book, not intended to be one of a series, but because of the overwhelming response it received, readers wanted more, and so did the publisher. CHRISTMAS COOKIES came next, followed by SUGAR COOKIES: Sweet Little Lessons on Love, and ONE SMART COOKIE. At the time I had contracts signed for the next five years to illustrate other books, so I enlisted the help of my daughter Brooke. I too wanted more COOKIES books!  Brooke and I would pass sketches back and forth and then paintings. She often helped me for years when she was growing up and the Fedex truck was on its way for pick up.

GREEDY means taking all the cookies for yourself (COOKIES: Bite-Size Life Lessons)

Did you and Amy collaborate on a back-and-forth basis, or did you pretty much work on the illustrations on your own after receiving the manuscripts?

For the first book, I worked on my own, but Amy got more involved with each successive book. As with many gifted and talented people, she could be demanding, she knew her mind. While I understood and appreciated her genius, I often find that my illustrations suffer if I am just working to please someone else, and I did indeed want to please her!

What were some of your inspirations for these illustrations?

Amy’s manuscript seemed open to a variety of interpretations for illustrations. My favorite subjects are children and dressed animals co-existing in their own world. As a child, I spent much of my time dressing up my cat and dog, along with my dolls, and imagining the world they inhabited. So it was very clear to me just how I would depict the scenes in the COOKIES books.

Scuppers

My dog Scuppers, a Tibetan Terrier, and his best friend, who is a Boston Terrier, can be seen in several scenes, as well as my daughter’s dog at the time—a sharpei (the dog with wrinkles). I worked from many photographs of animals and children. My granddaughter posed for “expansive love” in SUGAR COOKIES along with their chow chow.

EXPANSIVE LOVE means, I love this cookie, and I love this cookie so much too, and wait, I really love this cookie as well. My love keeps growing to make room for each new cookie.

Did you and Amy ever get to meet in person? If so, could you please share a fond memory or two?

My first memory of Amy was a phone call before I started work on the first book. She was smart and funny and I liked her immediately. Another early memory is the first Christmas when I barely knew her. She sent me a box of scented colored pencils, it was so thoughtful. Years later she was doing a booksigning outside of Boston so Brooke and I went to meet her.

I was actually so nervous to meet her because she seemed so cool, that I had to stop and get Tums to settle my stomach. She was indeed cool, but warm and friendly as well. She immediately put me at ease with her wit and grace. She was pixie-like: small, spunky, and full of energy. Her abundant joy was contagious.

Title Page from CHRISTMAS COOKIES (Original watercolor available for purchase at R. Michelson Galleries)

Looking back on the COOKIE series, what are some of the things that stand out in your mind? Do you have a favorite of the four books, and are there any particular paintings that you especially love?

While the first book is my favorite, I do love all four. I have many paintings that I like, but some that come to mind are those that I modeled after animals I knew. In the first book, “REGRET” is based on a photo of a rabbit that belonged to my neighbor Jeanne Birdsall (author of THE PENDERWICKS). In the picture, there is an empty plate of cookies, just crumbs left, and the rabbit has the top button of his pants unbuttoned. “WISE” is my dog surrounded by some of my favorite childhood books.

REGRET means, I really wish I didn’t eat so many cookies.

Looking back at our COOKIES books, I am reminded of how Amy wanted to share her joy and outlook on life with children and adults alike. We can all gain wisdom from her words. Here is just a sprinkling of what she thought important to know:

COOPERATE, PATIENT, PROUD/MODEST, RESPECT, TRUSTWORTHY, COMPASSIONATE, GREEDY/GENEROUS, PESSIMISTIC/OPTIMISTIC, POLITE, HONEST, COURAGEOUS, LOYAL. (COOKIES: Bite-Size Life Lessons)

MODEST means you don’t run around telling everyone you make the best cookies, even if you know it to be true.

APPRECIATIVE, CHARITABLE, RESPONSIBLE, MODERATION, RECIPROCATE, PERSEVERANCE, LONELY, GRATITUDE, GRACIOUS, JOY, SELFISH, THOUGHTFUL. (CHRISTMAS COOKIES: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons)

RESPONSIBLE means, You asked me to put away the cookie cutters, and you can count on me to do it.

ENDEARMENT, CONSIDERATE, HEARTFELT, COMPASSIONATE, ADMIRE, FORGIVE, ADORE, UNREQUITED/REQUITED, SELFLESS, BLISS, CHERISH, PROTECT. (SUGAR COOKIES: Sweet Little Lessons on Love)

HEARTFELT means, I made these sprinkly cookies for you because I know they’re your absolute favorite kind.

PROMPT, PREPARED, COMPROMISE, EMPATHY, KINDNESS, PROCRASTINATE, DILIGENT, ARROGANT/HUMBLE, PONDER, INTEGRITY, CURIOUS, INSPIRE. (ONE SMART COOKIE: Bite-Size Life Lessons for the School Years and Beyond)

PROMPT means, When it’s time to make cookies, we are here and ready on the dot!

Is there anything else you’d like to say about Amy or this series?

It was an honor and a gift to be asked to illustrate the COOKIES books. I love how Amy snuck in lessons to children using humor and warmth—her trademark attributes. The world lost her much too soon, but she left us with her lessons on life and love. She was indeed “one smart cookie.”

Before our first meeting, and when we had begun work on the first COOKIES book, Amy sent me a copy of her memoir written for adults, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AN ORDINARY LIFE. On page 36, marked “A”, Amy inscribed these words, “To Jane, here’s to life, love, and cookies…alphabetically yours, Amy K.R.   1/25/05”. If you choose to read this book, you are in for a treat. Hers was no ordinary life.

Amy in her kitchen.
HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU means that even if I made cookies from morning to night every single day forever and ever and ever, it still wouldn’t even come close (SUGAR COOKIES)

To use one word from each of the COOKIES books…

I am PROUD to have worked with Amy and have so much GRATITUDE for her words and wisdom. I offer my HEARTFELT thanks to Amy Krouse Rosenthal, she will continue to INSPIRE me and countless others for many years to come. One final word comes to mind:

ADMIRE means, “I really look up to you and the way you are with your cookies. You remind me of what is good and possible in this world.” ~ AKR (SUGAR COOKIES)

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Thank you so much, Jane!

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💛 PEANUT BLOSSOMS FOR AMY 💛

Back in 2009, I had the honor of doing a mini-interview with Amy. She had 4 books coming out that Spring, two books with Tom Lichtenheld (Duck! Rabbit! and Yes Day!), one with Jen Corace (Little Oink), and one with Scott Magoon (Spoon). She was also in the midst of her Beckoning of Lovely film project, but she took the time to answer a few of my questions.

Of course I had to ask the Cookie Book Queen what her favorite cookie was, and she said, “Peanut butter with Hershey kiss in the middle.”

I confess this was my first time making these because Len claims he doesn’t like peanut butter cookies in general. But he and the entire Alphabet Soup kitchen staff loved these! Aren’t these cookies just like Amy — the peanut butter loving girl next door who grew up to write Plant a Kiss? There’s a little love and sweetness smack dab in the middle of each one. 🙂

Please help yourself and be sure to bake up a batch soon in Amy’s honor. 🙂

PEANUT BLOSSOM COOKIES

  • Servings: 3-4 dozen
  • Time: 60 minutes prep
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or shortening
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • Sugar
  • 36-48 Hershey’s Kisses®, milk chocolate, unwrapped

Directions

Heat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, cream butter, peanut butter and sugars well using an electric mixer. Add egg, milk and vanilla and beat until integrated.

Sift flour, salt, and baking soda together, then add to the creamed mixture. Beat on low speed until a stiff dough forms.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls, then roll in granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 375 for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately top each cookie with 1 Hershey’s kiss, pressing down firmly so the cookie cracks around the edge. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on a wire rack.

*This recipe makes 3 dozen larger cookies or 4 dozen smaller ones, depending upon the size of the dough balls.

~ Recipe featured at Jama’s Alphabet Soup in celebration of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s birthday on April 29, 2017.

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Today, 1500+  members of the #MoreforAKR Facebook group from all 50 states and other countries are fulfilling their pledges to beckon the lovely and do #more to emulate Amy’s longstanding commitment to love, kindness, connection, empathy, and joy.

Amy’s books will be purchased, shared, donated, and read aloud in venues large and small, and random acts of kindness will be performed in her name. Alphabet Soup will be donating a dozen of Amy’s picture books to a local elementary school:

If you’ve been inspired by Amy’s life and/or work, you, too, can create “yellow umbrella” moments for those you know or those you’d like to know. Amy was all about bringing people together, whether it was through her books, short films, talk show or social experiments. Amy was a singular light in an ever darkening world. Let’s keep her flame burning!

📒 MORE 🍰

♥ Purchase a “Make the Most of Your Time Here” 11″ x 17″ poster, created by Peter H. Reynolds (who illustrated two of Amy’s picture books, Plant a Kiss and Little Miss, Big Sis). 100% of the proceeds will benefit the AKR Yellow Umbrella Foundation, which supports ovarian cancer research and children’s literacy initiatives.

♥ You can also make a direct donation to the AKR Yellow Umbrella Foundation here.

♥ Check out Amy’s Page on TeePublic, featuring 8 Amy-related designs that can be printed on t-shirts, mugs, hoodies, etc. 100% of the proceeds will benefit Bernie’s Book Bank, which supports child literacy by collecting and distributing new or gently used books to at-risk children in the greater Chicago area.

I Wish You More
Friendshape

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🌼 STILL MORE 🌕

Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Official Website

Jane Dyer’s Official Website

♥ A list of Amy tributes at Cynsations

♥ A moving tribute at Publishers Weekly by Maria Modugno, who was the editor for the COOKIE book series at HarperCollins.

♥ In case you missed it, read Amy’s amazing and heartbreaking NY Times essay, “You May Want to Marry My Husband.”

♥ Finally, enjoy this video about SUGAR COOKIES:

 

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📕 SPECIAL COOKIE BOOK GIVEAWAY! 📕

Today Alphabet Soup is giving away all four Cookie books in the series. For a chance to win one of them, please leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EDT) May 15, 2017.  You may also enter by sending an email with “COOKIE” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com.

You may earn extra chances by tweeting, Facebooking, or blogging about this giveaway (please mention in your comment). Help spread the cookie love!

Four winners will be chosen at random and announced on May 19, 2017. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!

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On page 164/165 of Amy’s memoir Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, she writes, “On 4/29 at 4:29 p.m., text someone I love you. That is what I would like for my birthday each year.” Let’s all do that!

CHERISH means that there is nowhere in the universe I’d rather be than here in our kitchen, baking sugar cookies with you. (SUGAR COOKIES: Sweet Little Lessons on Love)


Copyright © 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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47 thoughts on “[#MoreforAKR] celebrating amy krouse rosenthal’s birthday with COOKIE book illustrator jane dyer (+ amy’s favorite cookies and a giveaway!)

  1. Sweet post, Jama! I enjoyed it all. Seeing the photos of the subjects that Jane used for her illustrations and then the final works was fun. Thanks, Jane! And those peanut butter cookies look delicious!

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    1. I was tickled pink to discover that bunny belonged to Jeanne Birdsall (love her Penderwick books!). I was honored to be able to interview Jane, having been a fan for so many years. 🙂

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  2. Incredibly sad that she left us so early, but what a legacy of love remains. I am intrigued and look forward to reading her memoir. Great interview! So nice to learn more about both Amy and Jane- whose work I’ve long admired.

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  3. I received Cookies from a dear friend of mine several years ago. It is a lovely an inspiring book for children of all ages. I love it. The world is will miss Amy. I’m tweeting this to all my friends!

    Cookie Love, Joanne xoxo.

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    1. I do like that the Cookie books are appropriate for all ages — who doesn’t need bits of wisdom, and who doesn’t love cookies?! Thanks for tweeting!!

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  4. What a wonderful, thoughtful, uplifting way to start the day. Thank you. We have so much to do and so many people to love in our lives! Let’s really celebrate at 4:29 today and always!

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    1. Yes, as Amy said, we have to make the most of our time here. If we all texted I Love You to just one person each day, how much better our world would be.

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    1. Amy always came up with brilliant ways to express simple but invaluable truths. There’s more to these cookies than meets the eye. 🙂

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  5. Wonderful post! I was so devastated when I read her article about her husband! And peanut blossoms are my very favorite, but I can never get the recipe to yield more than about 6 cookies after an hour or so (because I attack them when they come out of the oven!)

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  6. I’m buying the Cookies books for my library, after discovering we don’t have them. I have loved her books for a while. Thanks for this wonderful post!

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  7. I’ve admired Jane’s work for quite some time, and I am completely in love with all of Amy’s work. I cried over her essay from the New York Times shortly before she died and have since been purchasing as many of her books as I can. I already had a small collection. I have some of her adult books too. I only have one cookie book. I’d love the rest. Yes, she was taken from us all too soon, but her love of life and all its small good things will last forever. Jama, thanks for this great post.

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    1. You sound just like me — a longtime Jane Dyer fan, and enthusiastic about all of Amy’s work, both for kids and adults. I recently borrowed all her picture books from the library and read through them all, and like you, hope to buy personal copies to add to my collection.

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  8. Hundreds of my students and I had so much fun celebrating Amy and her books. We loved getting to know her. I’m tweeting your post now. It was such a treat reading it all!

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    1. I love hearing about all the cool things happening in schools to celebrate Amy and all her books. We need her message of love and kindness more than ever. Thanks for tweeting!!

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  9. What a moving birthday tribute–thank you for sharing this, Jama!! I haven’t read the cookie books, but I’m planning to re-read all of her picture books next month. I love following her daughter Paris’s 123 project on Instagram too. I’m sure that an AKR Children’s book award is in the works, as they did for Anna Dewdney. 😦 ❤

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  10. What a wonderful post Jama–in turns it made me smile and made me tear up. I especially loved seeing the photos behind the illustrations in the books. I have given copies of the books to my younger nieces and nephews over the years and look forward to continuing the tradition with some of my soon-to-be great nieces and nephews as some of the older ones are starting their own families. It is sad that the world lost AKR so soon but what a mark she left. Thanks for sharing such a great post and those cookies look delicious too–I have always thought of Peanut Blossoms as such a happy cookie. 😉

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    1. I love your tradition of gifting these books to your family, Deb. The messages in these books are timeless and really no one outgrows the need to hear them.

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  11. You are a real artist Jama, putting together those charming photos and this post – what beautiful thoughts, indeed a remarkable tribute to a special woman.

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    1. Thanks so much, Claudia; I enjoy doing posts for books, authors, and illustrators I love. In this case, both author and illustrator were longstanding favorites. 🙂

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  12. Thank you for sharing such a lovely and touching tribute today. I now feel desperate (in a good way) to read these books! 🙂

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  13. It’s a wonderful post for Amy, Jama, thanks to your thoughtful ways and to Jane for sharing her own story of illustrating the cookie books. It’s “delicious” art. I think I’ve only made those peanut blossom cookies once in my life. Maybe soon? I’ve been gone much of the day, but saw your link, so went to the library to see how many of Amy’s books I could find, and managed some, and one is “Sugar Cookies.” I used her Encyclopedia so many times when teaching, to show my class what is really possible in writing. I love it! I have the latest memoir but still haven’t started. Thanks again!

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    1. The Encyclopedia is a great way to show the possibilities of writing. Cool that you used it in your class. I always appreciate unconventional, thinking outside of the box writing. I enjoyed Textbook AKR, again another example of how she liked to experiment with new forms of expression.

      I think your granddaughters (if they’re not allergic to peanuts) would like the cookies. Putting on the kisses is the fun part.

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  14. Oh, Jama. You inspired and amaze me with how thoughtful, complete and loving you are in all your posts—but this one, THIS one really is a home run. Thank you for the absolute sweetness. It helps the sadness.

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    1. You are too kind, Linda. Good to hear you enjoyed reading about Jane’s wonderful work on this series. We’ll all miss Amy, but she did make the most of her time while she was alive — something we should all keep in mind.

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  15. What a beautiful tribute to Amy. And I just love this interview with Jane. I couldn’t help laughing about the Tums. I know that feeling so well, but who would imagine that our extraordinarily talented Jane would feel such nerves? I ADMIRE all three of you so much. ❤ ❤ ❤

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    1. I was surprised to hear about the Tums too! Doesn’t it just make you love Jane even more? Sometimes when we admire people we forget they are only human. I’m glad you enjoyed this interview, Linda. I gave our great-niece a copy of ALL WE KNOW as a christening gift. 🙂

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  16. Oh, wow – I’m still reeling over the loss of this tremendous author but this was such a nice, hopeful remembrance of her — and I always just love seeing artwork and the models and the process an artist goes through. This is wonderful!

    Let us all indeed make the most of our time…

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    1. Amy left us with so many good words to live by, and she loved acronyms. This is my current favorite: ATM — Always Trust Magic 🙂

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  17. Oh my, I think you out did yourself with this post. What a great interview, what a great story. Amy, was way too young to have left this world. I would LOVE the cookies books. Perfect for readers of all ages — very good, yummy lessons and words to live by.

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  18. I have EXPANSIVE LOVE for Amy’s beautiful story, for yellow umbrellas, and for the cookie books you’ve introduced in this yummy post. I think it’d be fun to try ALL the recipes and share plates of cookies with people who need/deserve a “yellow umbrella” moment. #ATM

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