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Sacred Heart Griffin Springfield Illinois

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT – We had a very special visit from entrepreneur and author of The Sugar Plum Tree, Mary Louise (Lynch) Santacaterina, ’82.

Mary Louise spoke to Miss Thompson’s entrepreneurship class about starting her publishing company and the marketing of her book, which she co-wrote with her two sisters, also alumnae.

To read more about Mary Louise, or to be featured in a future edition of the Alumni Spotlight, click the link below:


Events For the Holidays!

Line Up: The Sugar Plum Tree Event Calendar

November 14-16: Room With A View, Westport CT
November 19: Lolipop Kids, Naples FL
November 22: Holiday Fair, Fairfield CT

December 1: Christ The King School, Springfield IL
December 3: Blessed Sacrament School, Springfield IL
December 4: Sacred Heart Griffin, Springfield IL
December 6: Weston Women’s League, Weston CT
December 7: The Chocolate Expo, Hartford CT
December 12: Reading, Greenwich CT
December 13: Five Kidz Kandy, Waynesburg PA
December 13-14: Shop POST 154, Westport CT

AND there’s still room for more! Let us know if you want an event and we will try to accommodate!f2mvkGnjqSXFvOaA0XPRD3Ajllztc2g6aUELK-1ZtWw


The Sweetest Contest EVER!

The Sweetest Candy Craft in Ten Minutes or Less Contest


It’s summertime!  Magical days and lazy nights filled with fantastical memories; memories we’d love to be a part of…

So we asked ourselves, how can we be a small part of your summertime memories?  The answer was too simple:   Ask kids (with parents help) to create “a sweet candy craft,” name the “candy craft,”  and video tape how they made it.

“The Sugar Plum Tree” is visually-magical-world filled with candy that grows on a tree. It resides in Garden of Shut Eye Town (which is found across the Lollipop Sea.) There are zippity-zaps, chocolatey- chews, sugary-snaps, and loli-lous.”

Here is what we are asking:

1)     Assist your child with creating the sweetest candy craft by coming up with a unique candy name and craft concept.

2)     You and your child will create the craft along with a ten minute or less video showing us how you did it.

3)     Like us on Facebook and post your video on our page as a status update. In the comments, please leave your e-mail so we can contact you, if you win.

4)     Once you have uploaded your video, head over to our Twitter page to follow us and tweet the following: I just uploaded my “sweetest candy craft” video on the @sugarplumtree3 Facebook page. Check it out!

5)     You and your child will be entered in our contest for an autographed copy of “The Sugar Plum Tree” book.

The contest ends on Friday, August 15th at 11:59 p.m. EST


We will be choosing 22 of the most creative crafts and submissions to receive our book.

In addition, we will feature the top 5 submissions on our website and blog.

How sweet is that?

Some guidelines for the contest:

1)     You can only submit one video per household. Please be sure you are absolutely happy with your submission before uploading.

2)     Please do not steal candy crafts from online or any other publication. We will automatically disqualify you for using something already out there. Be creative and really try to come up with something unique.

3)     We will not consider submissions over ten minutes.

4)     By uploading your video to our Facebook page, you are giving express consent for us to use your video for the purposes of this contest.

5)     Parental submission and permission is required. We will not accept entries from a child’s Facebook profile.

6)     We will contact all of the winners via e-mail on Monday August 18th, 2014. If you are chosen as one of the top five submissions, we will again ask for your consent to post this video on our website. Please note that you may opt-out at that time and any time preceding the end of this contest.

7)     We ask that you refrain from using this as an opportunity to upload spam to our Facebook page. We will remove any spam and/or inappropriate videos uploaded to our page.

8)     Most importantly, have fun!


For more information on “The Sugar Plum Tree” visit us at . Good Luck!


Weston Forum (in full)

When Mary Louise Santacaterina of Weston was growing up, every Christmas her parents would tell her and her sisters a special poem in order to lull them to sleep.

The poem was about the adventures of a chocolate cat, a gingerbread dog, and a magical sugar plum tree where the most delicious candy would grow.

Sisters Karen Parkell, Susan DeAngelis, and Mary Louise Santacaterina of Weston wrote the children’s book The Sugar Plum Tree, based on their family’s storytelling tradition.

Sisters Karen Parkell, Susan DeAngelis, and Mary Louise Santacaterina of Weston wrote the children’s book The Sugar Plum Tree, based on their family’s storytelling tradition.

When the girls woke up the next morning, they would find little candy treats under their beds — proof that the magic of the sugar plum tree had worked!

In an effort to memorialize their family’s special tradition, the sisters decided to update the poem, write it in their own words, and publish it.

The result is the colorful hardcover book The Sugar Plum Tree, available for purchase at Lang’s Pharmacy in Weston Center, Swirl Ice Cream in Georgetown, The Candy Scoop in New Canaan, and online at

The poem was inspired by the works of Eugene Field, a 19th-Century children’s poet. The book’s whimsical illustrations were done by Jan Dolby.

“The theme of the story is that dreams can come true,” said Ms. Santacaterina from her Weston home.

She remembers first hearing the poem at her family’s home in Illinois, where she grew up. It was reserved for special occasions, particularly around Christmastime.

As the girls grew older they became very popular as babysitters by telling the poem to their young charges, and planting little treats for them under their beds.

“One of the great things about this poem is that the magic doesn’t end when you grow up, because you get to recite it and pass it along to the next generation,” Ms. Santacaterina said.


The book took about four years to produce, with Ms. Santacaterina in Weston collaborating with her sisters, Karen Parkell in Texas, and Susan DeAngelis in Florida.

p1-SugarPlum_Book12.5“It was initially Susan’s idea to write the book. We are a big ‘dream’ family, we dream a lot — and in color,” Ms. Santacaterina said.

The idea initially languished for a bit until Ms. Santacaterina had a dream about turning the poem into a book. “I couldn’t stop dreaming about it. I said, ‘We need to do this and get this done,’” she said.

The women talked about the project with their cousins, who were also purveyors of the poem. “Everyone said to go for it,” Ms. Santacaterina said.

So the women put together seed money for the project, and came up with a business plan for the book. They decided to create their own publishing company, LilyLu & TT2 Publishing, to maintain creative control over the process.

The company’s name is derived from the women’s nicknames. “Lily is Susan’s nickname, Lu is my nickname, and TT is Karen’s nickname,” Ms. Santacaterina said.

The Sugar Plum Tree’s author, Katherine James, is a collective pen name, a combination of their parents’ middle names. “We wanted to acknowledge our parents because they were the ones that created this family tradition,” Ms. Santacaterina said.

Divided work

The women divided the work on the book. Since Ms. DeAngelis is the “visual” sister, she oversaw the book’s illustration and the book’s overall layout.

Ms. Santacaterina, who has a degree in creative writing and is a freelance journalist, handled the writing and pulled the words together.

Ms. Parkell, who Ms. Santacaterina said is not an especially creative person, got the “gavel” and authority to say yes or no to everything.

“The project took us four long years. Sometimes we needed a break and wouldn’t talk to each other for a month. We each had our part, and it never would have come together without all of us working together. Our cousins were great and gave us feedback before the book was published,” Ms. Santacaterina said.

Ms. Santacaterina and her husband, Paul, moved to Weston eight years ago. They have three children, Maria, Donald and Sofia, who continue the poem’s family tradition.

She hopes others will be inspired by The Sugar Plum Tree and will memorialize their own family traditions on paper.

“One of the goals for LilyLu & TT2 Publishing is that we can someday be large enough to publish other people’s family traditions in book form,” she said. “Our company’s tagline is ‘Sharing one tradition at a time.’ That’s our dream.”

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Kirkus Review (in full)


The Sugar Plum Tree stands at the heart of a magical gardena wonderland for children with good imaginations—in this debut children’s tale.

This picture book is the work of three sisters, working together under the pen name Katherine James. According to the authors, they based it on a bedtime story they were told many times throughout their childhood, in which they traveled to a world made of candy in their dreams. The next morning, they would wake to find that some candy returned with them, in the form of goody bags that they’d find under their beds. Clearly, this book is intended as a bedtime story, as it begins with the phrase, “Come little child cuddle closer to me / as you lay your sleepy head down,” and later adds, “Now sleep little child, dream all through the night to make your wishes come true.” The Garden of Shut-Eye Town, where the Sugar Plum Tree resides, is a candy-loving child’s fantasy, full of chocolates, lollipops, “fizzy pops and zippity-zaps.” The tree itself bursts with as much candy as a child could want. It’s too high to climb, but luckily, a chocolate cat and gingerbread dog are there to help children out. In order to accurately mirror the authors’ childhood tradition, the book closes with a promise of more candy to come: “And when you awake, tradition has said magically there will be / candy treasures beneath your bed, for those who believe… / in the Sugar Plum Tree.” The verse is paired with bold, colorful illustrations. Here, the focus is on the candy, and the bright, cartoonish images make it hard to miss; children, as well as the aforementioned cat and dog, appear largely at the periphery. Although the overall story might be too saccharine for some readers, the bright colors and verse effectively depict the magical land. However, the book does make a promise that parents might be expected to keep when the story is done.

A bright, bold picture book about a world of sweets.


Twin Dad Book Review

Twin Dad Book Review: The Sugar Plum Tree

**DISCLAIMER: The following review is not a paid review, but I received the following book as a gift and wanted to review it.**

I don’t know about you, but we are always looking for good books to get the kids.  We all know our classics, but sometimes we want to step out and get something for them that is different, something that is not know by a lot of people.  If you are like our family, then it always intrigues you when something new and excited comes out.  It’s pointless, in my opinion, for me to review “Green Eggs and Ham”.  You either like Dr. Seuss, or you don’t have kids.

So I’ve had an opportunity, thanks to an acquaintance, to review a new children’s book called “The Sugar Plum Tree”.  You can find the book at its web site,, where you can order the hardback version of the book, and you can even order bags that can have a child’s name embroidered on the bag.  These bags, and especially the book, can make great gifts.

Image courtesy of

The book seems to be based off the poem that most of us have heard about.  It’s a very colorful adventure that makes for a great read at bedtime.  Kids are encouraged to go to sleep and dream of the sugar plum tree, because when they wake up they will find candy underneath their beds.  The book is not very long, maybe 25 pages, and mostly pictures.

My reason for liking the book is that it is written in a very easy-to-follow, rhyming format that helps kids link words together and makes it easier for them to remember the story and reinforces word recognition by anticipating what sounds or words will come next.  Kids love the pictures and find it very visually stimulating.  Even though you can read it anytime, it really seems to fall in line with the holiday season (I keep thinking of the Christmas story “while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads”).

The story is written by Katherine James, which is actually the collective name of three sisters that came up with the idea for the book.  The idea for the story is from the 18th century poem that has been in the family for an obviously long time, and the sisters wanted to publish their own family tradition in the form of a story book for kids.

Image courtesy of

The only downside for the book is that some parents may be turned off by the focus of “sugar”.  I’m not, because for me it’s more figurative than anything else.  I think kids have to be able to use their imaginations…just because you read a book about candy doesn’t mean you have to dump candy in their beds.  But it’s worth noting that because the book focuses on candy, and even has a character called “the Chocolate Cat”, some parents may be a little put-off by the focus.

Having said all of this, I feel as though this is a great book to purchase for your child to enjoy as a bedtime story.  My twins both enjoyed the story and love the pictures in the book.  You can visit the official website at to purchase the book and/or the bags I mentioned at the beginning of the post.  This is also a fantastic idea for a gift, and through the website can be sent to the lucky recipient.  So, if you’re looking for a new story and are interested in reading about a family tradition, check this story out and enjoy with your children!


Hamlet Hub Article

Children’s author, Katherine James, has transformed a century old children’s poem, “The Sugar Plum Tree,” into a 21st century children’s book.

Katherine James, a pen name for 3 sisters from Springfield, IL, (one sister currently lives in Weston, CT) had a crazy plan: to turn their favorite 118-year-old poem, The Sugar Plum Tree, into a book. The sisters modeled their book of off the original American author from the late 1800’s, Eugene Field. The new poem keeps the whimsical feel of the 19th century but brings the story to modern day times.

The Sugar Plum Tree is a fictional story of a magical tree where the most delicious candy grows. The tradition is to read the poem at bedtime to help children go to sleep. James explains, “I remember the joy I had as a child sitting in the living room with my two sisters listening to my mother tell us the story of The Sugar Plum Tree. By the end of the poem we were all excited to go to sleep because we knew the next morning we would find something sweet under our beds.”

The Sugar Plum Tree contains wonderful and mesmerizing visuals that even adults will find playful. Yet, the poem’s 118-year-old message remains intact: to inspire young children to believe that their dreams can become reality.

James emphasizes, “Even though it was a great way for my parents to get three children to sleep, as adults we now see the powerful message behind the poem. It taught us that if we believe our dreams can become reality. And that’s an exciting feeling for young children to know that your dreams can come true.”

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