Official Book Trailer

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So, what’s the book all about? For the most part, This Book Was a Tree is a book for grownups (with or without kids) who feel disconnected with the outside world. The book offers the opportunity to become reacquainted with the Earth—to look at the world with fresh eyes. The book issues a call for a new era of pioneers—not leathery, backwoods deerskin-wearing salt pork and hominy pioneers, but strong-minded, clever, crafty, mudpie-making, fort-building individuals committed to examining the natural world and deciphering nature’s perplexing puzzles.

Each chapter introduces a principle for reconnecting with the natural world, from learning to be still to understanding the importance of getting dirty. Engaged in hands-on creative activities, you will discover new ways to reanimate everyday life. With a mix of science and hands-on crafts and activities, the book will encourage you to brainstorm, imagine, and understand the world as an inventive scientist—to touch, collect, document, sketch, decode, analyze, experiment, unravel, interpret, compare, and reflect. This Book Was a Tree will inspire lasting change in your environmental awareness—one step, one action, one word at a time.

It’s coming soon. But not until April 1st. You will just have to preorder it and patiently wait. In anticipation of the book’s arrival, click on the book cover below to see the official book trailer. You can watch it ad nauseam until then. I’ll be working behind the scenes–setting up book events, working on a new author website–and will provide updates along the way.


Book Cover

Click here to see the book trailer.


“This Book Was a Tree”

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Book CoverOnce upon a time, in a land maybe not so far away, there lived a perfectly programmed little kid. And it was you. You were an accomplished world explorer and worked with just about any convenient medium—crayons, finger paints, mud puddles, noodles—buzzing with ideas and willing to take wondrous risks. We were dazzled by your wild imagination. Discarded cardboard boxes metamorphosed into mailboxes and rocket ships, sofa cushions became modified superhero headquarters, and dirt piles were mountains inhabited by creepy villainous monsters. You were tuned in. You noticed things. You collected interesting stories—muddy pebbles, downy feathers, gashes in rocks, teeny cylindrical holes, piercing birdcalls. You asked important questions. And you enthusiastically unearthed mind-blowing things. Genius was everywhere. And then, most likely, somewhere along the way, you had to deal with everyday stuff, and these things were mostly forgotten.

It’s time. It’s time to shed your old bark and go beyond the surface of ordinary life. It’s time to reconnect and reeducate yourself—to reanimate the world around you. Take a close-up view of small fragments of it. Step into someone else’s footprint—someone so often ignored—the centipede, the moth, or the spittlebug. Look at the world in multiple ways. Take a look from every side of things. See what somebody else sees. Feel the freshly turned earth in your hands. Hear what bird wakes up first. Lay beneath a hemlock stand. See the cracks and crevices in rocks and know who lives within them.

It’s time to be a participant of the world. To wake up early. To go exploring with purpose. Observe. Take notes. Unravel mysteries. Tinker with stuff. Create. Reflect. Play in the dirt. Get messy. Get yourself in a pickle and get yourself out. Plant and harvest something. Find out where things come from. Feel the moment of now. Grow solid feet and a dense, durable core. Let things sink in and grow on you. Open your eyes. Look at the big picture. And then look at the details. It’s time to believe in something. And live it.

Everything must have a beginning. And so, we will begin right here. Put down the phone, turn off the radio and all the screens, and clear your mind to head down a new path. Together we’ll trek through the trackless wild, fight our way through countless hardships and dangers, bear the banner of change, and build a new wilderness in the republic. It is often said that a risky enterprise is justified as long as it turns out well in the end. Let’s risk it. Together we’ll spearhead a true movement.

And so it begins. We’ll begin our trek in early spring. You’ll need a copy of my BOOK. It will be sent to you just in time—the first week of April (plus, it’s cheaper to grab it now). Go gather up your washboard, thread and yarn, assorted nails, shovel and pick, spices, pulley blocks and ropes to cross rivers, and a good sturdy tent. And prepare for the journey ahead.

This is your invitation. Join me. Click on the title below. Let’s take the trail to awesome.



Ideas, Adventures, and Inspiration for Rediscovering the Natural World

Written and Illustrated by Marcie Chambers Cuff

Penguin Random House

April 2014

Mossy. The Book.

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I am so very happy to (finally!) announce that Perigee Books/Penguin will be publishing….

a BOOK written and illustrated by ME

in APRIL of 2014!

My upcoming book is filled with projects that inspire you to touch, collect, document, sketch, decode, analyze, experiment, unravel, interpret, compare and reflect on the universe.  It is a funky hands-on guidebook for today’s pioneer—that person looking to explore the natural world and decipher nature’s perplexing puzzles.  The amateur explorer and the seasoned naturalist will be equally impelled to experiment and explore, and to consciously reengage in issues that matter.  The book kindles excitement in nature as a journey and an adventure.  It instills an old-fashioned sense of enthusiasm and independence.  Rooted deeply in everyday family life, it merges applied science, natural science, math, the arts and sustainable living in an interactive format.  How does a compass work?  Do frogs freeze in winter?  Why is rain not salty?  How is a cork made?  Or silk?  Or chalk?  Or pages in a book?  Often it’s the things we see every day that get overlooked.  You will find the answers in this book.  In my book.  And it will be awesome.

It will be a great collaboration.  It will be a great story.  And the story is this: to build lasting connections with our environment, we must determine the nature—the intrinsic value and realness—of everyday things—everything thought, felt, touched and eaten.  We must understand where things come from—how they are made, how they are used, how they impact the surrounding environment throughout a life cycle—and it starts with this book.

And this book will be here April of 2014.

And it will be awesome.

Stay tuned. There are a few things I cannot tell you—the book’s title will remain a secret for now.  But, if you have thoughts about what should be included in the book, please let me know.  I will put in the finishing touches these next few months.  I would love your input.  I would love for you to join me on this adventure.

Thank you for being patient with me lately.  I know I have not been around as much.  I promise to keep you in the loop from now on.

I am so super excited.


The Wild Winter Child

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Wild Winter WalkIt’s a curious thing, winter.  All year long we plan our snowman, paper snowflake and snow fort designs, then weather-strip the windows, stack the wood, wax the toboggan, varnish the snowshoes, prime the hot tub, knit a jazzy collection of sleeping caps, and await the slightest sign of it.  The first season’s snow is welcomed with heartfelt cheers (unless it occurs during October like the past few years here in the Northeast.  Rrrggh!) and nimble steps.  The entire family springs into action—equipped within seconds to fight the freeze.

DSC_5913But winter wears out its welcome superfast.  The second time the snow falls, happiness at getting snowy may not be quite as enormous as that very first episode.  The third time it snows, hurrahs are tempered and the steps are deliberately slower—a prized mitten has been lost, the hot cocoa tin is empty.  And by the tenth time, the happiness may be significantly less enormous, until snow begins to offer very little happiness at all, and instead evokes prickling memories of funky wet socks and a bone-penetrating chill.

DSC_5915It’s at this point that alternatives to getting snowy are considered.  Energy turns to indoor stuff—the obstacle course, the scavenger hunt, the indoor tent, the box fort—that keep small people busy.  Creativity is at its prime—marble mazes, body scrubs, oobleck, felted soap, salt dough, finger puppets, swittens, flipbooks, homemade snow cones—if there’s anything as magnificent as a picnic in a sofa tent in winter, well, I don’t believe you.  Unless your posse is not getting along.  Then, there is nothing as terrible.



I know this much is true.  In the winter, there are days that require getting as far away from the house as possible.  If you live within the Hudson Valley like me and you’ve found yourself in a pickle, there are neat places to go—local places that are kid-friendly during those tricky wintery-mix days.  Here are just a few:


DSC_5918New York Botanical Garden, Bronx

Spanning 250 acres of Bronx Park, NYBG is home to an amazing collection of cozy indoor greenhouses.  Don’t miss the Holiday Train Show (ending January 13th) or the upcoming Tropical Paradise exhibit (January 19th through February 24th) at the Haupt Conservatory.


Hudson River Museum and Planetarium, Yonkers

The largest museum in Westchester County, the HRM complex includes six art galleries, a planetarium and weekend family science programs.  Don’t miss the evening planetarium shows or the current exhibition of award-winning children’s book illustrator Jerry Pinkney (ending January 13th).


Grand Central Terminal, Manhattan

A visit the busiest train station in the country can perk up the entire family.  Grand Central celebrates its 100th birthday in 2013—honor it with a visit, a slice from Two Boots and an over-the-top chocolate babka from Zaro’s bakery.  Now, that’s a party!


DSC_5920Bear Mountain Ice Rink, Stony Point

Show off your inner Michelle Kwan during one of Bear Mountain’s public skating sessions.  Rent skates or bring your own for hours of walley jumps and one-foot axels— dramatic crimson red sparkly dress bedazzled with feathered flames is optional.  If weather permits, follow up with a post-skate cool down at the nearby trailside museum.


Bronx Zoo, Bronx

Winter is prime-time viewing season for cold-weather animals.  Siberian tigers, sea lions, snow leopards and polar bears consider winter weather ideal.  Warm up afterward with hot cocoa at the Dancing Crane Café.


DSC_6003Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah

This magical gem situated in the midst of an evergreen forest has 10 to 12 beautifully curated exhibitions each year.   Its children’s activity center allows space for budding young artists to explore and create their own work.  It’s just a 10-minute walk from the Katonah train station—the perfect day trip.  Don’t miss the current exhibit on 3D animation featuring original drawings, storyboards, props and movie clips from Blue Sky Studios (ending January 20th).




Small Wild Girls

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I sit on the edge of everything.

There is nothing sudden.

Everything is slow.

We stretch like taffy.

And then you’re gone.

So silent I hear just your footsteps.

Dragging around my heart.

Letting handlebars go.

Flying off stonewalls.

Meeting people I may never know.

I am the red balloon.


I made this.

I made this moment.

I am the queen of small wild girls.


Held by just a string.



Dinner: A Love Story

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Dinner A Love StoryI think some people are born magicians

Hatching artful diversions

While we watch dazed

The bullet catch

The cabinet escape

The elastic lady

Seamless 5-ball cascade juggling

We stare mouths open




My firecracker friend Jenny is magical like this.

And now for the next trick!

Pretzel chicken

Fava bean crostini

Lemony-potato smash

I am so blown away.

She has written it all down.

Voila!  It’s HERE!




The Walk

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When I am an old woman, thin white crazy hair like whispers, I will wear electric green.  Today I walk in the woods—your smallish calloused hand in mine.  You say someday you’ll live here.  In a cave.  I will visit you and bring berries.

Long before you were here, we ran wild deep into the trees, and cut willow whips and made critter traps with pocketknives and hatchets. We skateboarded home, poison ivy all up our arms, tadpoles in hand, helmet-less.  We piled into old 8-track tape rust wagons, small brown limbs and inner tubes everywhere, no seatbelts, no sunscreen.  Heads out of windows like pups licking air.

You are amazed.

But we did not crash.  We did not die.

Don’t use your teeth, you will crack them, I say.  Wash your hands.  Don’t fall.  Don’t throw rocks.  Zip up.  Watch your thumb.  Check for ticks.  Don’t poke your eye out.

Today we laugh, you say, mouths open wide.  Today we climb the highest tree, higher than any squirrel, and lean our bare backs against the bark.  And listen for waxwings.  Way up there.  Today and tomorrow we do not care.

You say great ideas come from great walks.

And just like that you have changed me.



Being My Valentine

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I’m heading out for milk

But instead find myself

Standing in this place where I

Look at you

All over you



Once, with wild hair

You carved our names into a school desk

Now you collect my secrets

Rumpled and unwound


There are at least 50 colors

In your eyes alone.



Your Wild Backyard

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When my workday has ended, and I have carefully put to bed my small spicy accomplices, I look forward to at least a light snack and a footrest in recognition of my achievement.  It would be a shame if this did not happen.  I am sorry to say, this is the case with many hardworking beings—nimble industrious laborers who endlessly whirl about finding food, making babies and cultivating crops only to return to, well, an empty snack bowl and an unfurnished apartment.

Small beings have the same basic needs as you and I—food, water, a place to live, and a healthy environment.  Amphibians, birds, small mammals, and beneficial insects—many of these busy little creatures, neither destructive nor aggressive, are an important part of our ecosystem.  However, due to fast-paced environmental change and habitat reduction, it has become increasingly more challenging for them.

It is easy to encourage these critters and to be good neighbors.  Generally, larger areas with diverse vegetation have greater species diversity, but a well-laid-out modest backyard with a variety of food, cover and water can entice a wide assortment of wildlife.  The relative location of food, water and cover is what creates usable wildlife habitat.  Below are some simple steps to take.

  • Do nothing. Allow half of your garden to remain unmanicured.  Leave some wild, untamed areas in your backyard.  Allow the weeds to grow up and the insects to move in.
  • Go organic, or minimize pesticide use.  Use compost, not chemicals.
  • Reduce the size of your lawn.  Instead, plant a wide variety of flowering native plants to attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs, ground beetles, rove beetles, lacewings and praying mantises.  Choose long-blooming, nectar-rich flowers and plants that bloom at different times of the season.
  • Feed them and they will come.  Plant bushes and trees with edible fruit. Don’t snip dead flowers.  The seeds within them provide essential food for many animals. Leave fallen trees or leaves in place whenever possible to allow birds to hunt for insects. Keep birdfeeders stocked with thistle, safflower and black oil sunflower seed.  If you start feeding, don’t stop during the winter months.
  • Landscape with features that appeal to you.  A bed of vibrant flowers, a shady spot under a tree, a privacy hedge, colorful fall berries, and evergreen winter shrubs are pleasing to everybody, including backyard critters.
  • Add a birdbath.  Birds need a dependable supply of fresh, clean water for drinking and bathing.  The best birdbath mimics nature—gently sloping, shallow, and shady at ground level.  Change the water once a week.
  • Provide nooks in the backyard with a variety of nesting material.  Hang concentrated stashes in tree crevices, berry baskets, or mesh bags. Fallen leaves, unraked twigs, dry grass, straw, pet fur, sheep wool, feathers, bark strips, pine needles, small sticks and twigs, yarn, string, and thin strips of cloth all make excellent nest materials.
  • If you have a birdhouse, add a roost box.  Birds only nest during spring and summer.  Overwintering birds such as chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and small woodpeckers require large nesting cavities during winter months.

Be patient.  Depending on your property size, it may take several years to see all the desired results.  Make a plan now, and, come spring, put out a vacancy sign.  Give vegetation time to become established, and the tenants will move in.

Soon, you will receive tiny handwritten messages regarding extra storage space, laundry and parking facilities; high-pitched calls about hooking up teeny home theater components and keeping microscopic exotic pets; and little notes about room service and spa treatments.



Your Gift To Me

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I have known you for almost a year now, and, I have never asked anything of you, although I have hinted quite a bit about that timeshare of yours HERE.

Today is different.

Never have I invited anyone else to our awesome party—no flashy donation buttons, patterns for sale, product reviews, CPM or CPC networks, affiliate sponsor sales, Adsense, direct ad sales.  I like it when it’s just us.  Just you and me.

This little site is a small piece of me that I give to you.  For free.

And, so today I am asking something from you.  And it is free.

If you find Mossy valuable in any way, please consider voting for it as one of Babble’s Top Mom Craft Blogs.  It is just a simple one-time click.  To you this small click may seem slightly trivial, but to me it is tremendous.  This could be your sweet, thoughtful holiday gift to me.  And it just happens to be exactly what I’ve been dreaming about this year (besides THESE, maybe).

Support me HERE.  It’s simple.  Just click “I like this” next to Mossy.

Thank you in advance for thinking of me.



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