The New Ink Pen

“What are you doing?” asked Gracie.

”I’m trying out the new pen I got for Christmas.”

“That’s Pearl, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it’s a drippy and messy pen sometimes. Sort of the way Pearl can be. Even though it’s not perfect all of the time, it still makes beautiful lines. You just have to know how to look at them.”

“Messy but beautiful, just like with Pearl,” Gracie said with delight. “But who are the baby chicks? We don’t have any baby chicks here any more.”

“I know. Pearl wants to be a Momma Hen more than just about anything these days. She misses having Blanche at her side. She would like to have some baby chicks that look like her. So I made this drawing.”

“It’s like you’ve said before. Drawing lets you do things you would never be able to do any other way.”

“And that is how you and I will dance in the streets of Paris even if we never get to travel there together. But that is many drawings from now. I still would like to really go to Paris with you, Gracie.”

“Is there a reason why you did this drawing without any bright and pretty color? Besides Pearl being mostly white, I mean.”

“You and I both love pictures. And our readers love pictures too. But books with pictures in color are very expensive to print. So all of our books with color have to be short. No more than sixty-four pages. But it’s going to take more than sixty-four pages to tell some of the stories we want to tell.”

“So these books with black-and-white pictures mean more adventures?”

“Exactly right.”

“Even though you didn’t stay inside the lines all of the time?”

“For me it’s harder to go outside of the lines than to stay inside the lines.”

Gracie laughed and smiled together. It didn’t make much sense to either of us, but it didn’t matter.

“What kind of more adventures?” she asked.

“Adventures like Amelia flying to the moon and back. Adventures like you dancing at the Paris Opera Ballet. Adventures like maybe even Pearl having her own little family.”

“And some baby chicks wearing little tutus would be very nice. Can you draw that too?”

She nudged me with her head to make sure I was listening.

“That would make both Pearl and you happy, wouldn’t it? Yes, I can do that. But it will all take some time. A drawing that shows how much I love you takes time to get just right.”

“We can wait.”

“You know, Gracie, this really is A Most Wondrous Place just like you said.”

Merry Christmas!


We are all hoping your day will be an enjoyable one! We will spend the day feasting and drawing and appreciating all our blessings including you, our readers!

Merry Christmas to one and all!

John, Gracie, Bessie, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia

P.S. Can you guess who got a new ink pen as an early Christmas present? It’s a leaky, drippy, and irregular pen too! 

Bessie’s Best Ever Raisin Bread Pudding

Bessie could hardly wait to share this recipe with you. She loves this recipe because it is made in a 6-cup jumbo muffin pan! Bessie loves muffin pans because they are a good way to make sure everyone gets the same amount, and who doesn’t like deserts that are jumbo-sized?!?

The wild songbirds that visit our backyard love this recipe because we cut off the raisin bread crusts and broke them into bitesized pieces for them to eat. This is a nice “make together” recipe for both children and chickens too.

If you don’t have raisin bread, you can use regular bread. Just add your own raisins, about as many as would be in the small snack-sized boxes, and increase the amount of cinnamon from 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon. Raisin bread is not as soft and spongy as regular bread, and I think that makes it perfect for this recipe. 

Bessie’s Best Ever Raisin Bread Pudding

2 and 1/2 cups, cubed raisin bread (about 6 to 8 slices)

1 cup half-and-half

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg plus one egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

First, preheat your oven to 325°F. Prepare your muffin pan by coating each of the six cups with butter or cooking spray.

Trim the crusts from 6 to 8 slices of raisin bread for the songbirds. Then either cut the raisin bread into cubes with a knife or just use your fingers to pinch off pieces that are about 1/2” big. (This could be a perfect “helper” job for smaller hands.)

Place 2 and 1/2 cups of raisin bread cubes into a large bowl.

Second, in a medium bowl, add 1 cup half-and-half, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 egg plus one egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
Whisk together until thoroughly blended.

Third, pour the egg mixture from the medium bowl into the large bowl with the raisin bread cubes.

Mix together gently with a spatula so that all of the bread cubes get covered.

Let the raisin bread cubes soak up the egg mixture for 5 full minutes.

Fourth, spoon the mixture equally into the 6 muffin pan cups. It will not be enough to fill all of them to the top, but that is okay.

Bake in oven for 20 minutes. The raisin bread puddings will rise higher than the muffin cups! Amazing! They will be soft and light like little soufflés!

Let cool slightly before serving.

Remove each carefully into a bowl and serve with ice cream, whipped cream, fresh fruit, or whatever would make them special for you. Below is a recipe for an optional sauce you can make while they are cooling in the muffin pan. (You can double the ingredients to make more, especially if you are serving with vanilla ice cream!)

Brown Sugar Sauce

3 tablespoons half-and-half

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

In a small saucepan, combine 3 tablespoons of half-and-half and 1/4 cup brown sugar and bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes while whisking. Drizzle over bread puddings.

This is not a difficult or expensive recipe. The two most expensive ingredients were the raisin bread ($1.57 store brand) and the half-and-half  ($1.55 store brand). Bessie guarantees it will be as good as the eggs you choose to use!