Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend Update; fun library picks and the Oscars!!

Groovy Girl and I stopped at one of the two public libraries we are fortunate enough to have in our adjoining small towns.  She plunked herself down with a stack of interesting picture books while I ventured out to look around.  I am always on the search for chapter books to capture her attention.  She is a struggling reader and as of yet hasn't really finished a chapter book on her own.  One reading teacher told me I'm enabling her by always reading to her but I did this with our other children-the oldest one was already an accomplished reader by the time we met but she still loved listening to stories.  Teenage Boy didn't take off on reading until his 3rd and 4th grade years so I'm not worried but none-the-less ever the good librarian I seek a perfect reading fit that will send her to a quiet corner to read and marvel. 

We picked Orphan Train Children; Lucy's Wish by Joan Lowery Nixon, which I thought would appeal to her American Girl love of history and Amber Brown is Not a Crayon by Paula Danzinger, which is a 3rd grade character like herself and filled with fun. 

I brought home only two treasures from the new section: In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby; a picture book,  and She Looks Just Like You; A Memoir of  (Nonbiological Lesbian) Motherhood.  Groovy Girl actually picked this last one out as we perused the new adult nonfiction.  I'm not a fan of nonfiction and maybe I was looking for cookbooks but G.G. pulled this one out and liked the mother/daughter on the front cover.  She was thrilled that I decided to check it out! 

Tonight we go off to an Oscar party at a friend's house.  We usually sit home and watch them with our score pads.  My husband is a bit obsessed with watching all the nominees.  Luckily we can get half of them from Netflix.   I hope that Winter's Bone, The King's Speech, The Kid's Are All Right, and Black Swan do well. I liked Inception, 127 Hours and The Social Network also-so many good ones this year.  

I can't decide if The Illustionist, How to Train Your Dragon or Toy Story 3 should win for best animated movie-I loved all three!   I don't understand why Julianne Moore wasn't nominated at all-I thought she should have been in best supporting actress category.  In will all be over within the next couple of hours and I know it is not the Most Important Thing right now but it serves a purpose, just like going to the movies or reading a book for that matter-to escape, for just a little bit.  

Happy Sunday.
and I'm off to the Oscars...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekend Cooking with Slow Food

Come To The Table; The Slow Food Way of Living edited by Katrina Heron with a foreward by Alice Waters presented by Slow Food Nation easily caught my eye as I browsed the new nonfiction at the public library.  This book, filled with 12 California farm stories and a section of delicious sounding recipes,  is packed full  of information-all that and sage bits of wisdom from Alice to open the book.  Heaven. 

I've enjoyed paging through this book, looking at the earthy photographs of farming people, animals, and the  fruits/vegetables of their labor.  In each section I've found pearls of wisdom that I'm taking to heart.  Sometimes it seems when our heart is into something we feel we know all about it.  Reading this book made me realize I have so much more to learn about "organic" and sustainable-living.  In "How-to: Store it/Saving from Scratch"  I read this bit  " It seems obvious, but people forget: You can save a lot of money if you buy food you can store and use over time.  For example, beans.  Dried beans are far cheaper than the canned ones."(11)

Reading about the 12 farms was enriching and made me ready to sow some seeds of my own.  I can't have chickens where I live but we do garden and these stories inspired me to try some new plants, to reach farther in my gardening quest.  I read about Jennifer Greene, a grain specialist, who decided to see how many people one woman could feed...she says about 100.  She grows grains the old-fashioned way in northern California in an idyllic setting.  Now I like King Arthur Flour myself but I can only imagine what it would be like to buy flour from a woman farmer just down the road.  That would truly be cool.  Each farm family has an story worth telling and many have taken over family farms and turned them back to what they were years, and years ago.  Funny that a big handful of people knew that what was once  tradition  would now be new.

At the tail end of the book live many slow food recipes I plan to try over time but not this weekend as Groovy Girl are on our own and we had take- out Chinese last night that did not muster up to what we can make ourselves.  I was just trying not to have to cook after a very long day.  Hmmmph. 

Here is a short list of recipes titles that I'm interested in making:

Paul's Best Biscuit Recipe (Sweet Home Ranch)
Spearmint-Stuffed Artichokes (Full Belly Farm)
Jennifer's Chickpea Puree (Windborne Farm)
Battered Fried Zucchini (J & P Organics)
Pastaless Vegetable Lasagna (Tierra Miguel Farm)
Bean and Barley Stew (Redwood Roots Farm)
Eggplant Curry Soup (Vang Family Farm)
Okay, that recipe looks just so easy to type I'm going to share just this one:

Eggplant Curry Stew
2 or 3 Chinese eggplants, thinly sliced
1 T yellow curry paste
1 can coconut milk
3/4 cup sliced bamboo shoots
3/4 pound chicken breast and thigh, cubed in 1/2 pieces
3 or 4 lemon tree leaves or 1 stalk lemongrass can be substituted
Salt to taste
Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring the mixture to a low boil, then simmer until chicken is cooked to your preference. Add salt to taste. This thick stew can be served over rice.
Makes 4 servings(130)
[unless i' ve recently cooked one of the few organic/local chickens from my freezer i would substitute tofu for chicken]

I've never read a recipe for Suckling Pig (Clark Summit Farm) but there is one listed and for dessert, let's all have California Cloverleaf Farms Organic Cheesecake (Burroughs Family Farm).

Thank you to the library for such a feast of cookbookery!!
This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Click to her to find a whole slew of other foodie folks blogging about what they're cooking up.

Look for it at in IndieBound bookstore near you by clicking on the title/link:

Come To The Table; The Slow Food Way of Living
This book counts toward my Foodie's Reading Challenge.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Feature/Black History Biographies

I’m trying to be consistent by posting this Friday Feature  before I leave school on Friday afternoons.  Today was an unusual day at school for me and one of our school families.  I can’t go into the details but it greatly affected me.  So this post is late but still done because sometimes consistency is all you have.  Have a blessed day.

I've been working with third grade students, cementing the idea that the Underground Railroad is a journey slaves took from the Southern plantations to the North and freedom.  I highlighted six great books last week about slave experiences.  This week I want you to know about four fantastic biographies.  There are biographies that are good for research but I like to see if they make good readalouds.  Unless it is someone a teacher points to or someone already talked about in the history books kids don't pick up biographies which is sad because we have some beautiful ones.  Oh, unless it is a wrestler, pop star or sports figure, i mean.

1.  I, Matthew Henson; Polar Explorer by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by Eric Velasquez
I find Matthew Henson's life story fascinating and when this book came out I was so happy-I thought for sure kids would pick it up just for it's cover.  I've read this one aloud several times and once you read it to kids they love the story.  Matthew, at just 13, walked himself from D.C. to Baltimore to find a ship he could work on and each page reveals another step he took to become Admiral Peary's right hand man and fellow explorer of Nicaragua, Greenland and eventually the North Pole.  Gorgeous illustrations.
2.  Satchel Paige; Don't Look Back written by David A. Adler; illustrated by Terry Widener
We are a baseball family.  We love the sport and my husband has all his old cards from when he was a kid.  Often we are disappointed by players mistakes nowadays-Miguel Cabrera-if your reading this my son is so very disappointed in you.  It makes us happy to read stories like this one where Satchel Paige played hard and spoke his mind when confronted with segregation.  A true hero, Paige played for the Mobile Tigers, a semiprofessional black team after serving time in reform school for stealing toy rings.  He eventually become the first African-American to pitch in a World Series game; the Cleveland Indians against the Boston Braves!  Also amazing illustrations.

3. Talkin' about Bessie; The Story of Aviator Elizabeth  Coleman by Nikki Grimes; illustrated by E.B. Lewis.  This book is especially unique because it tells Bessie's story from many different perspectives.  Here's the beginning of  the "school teacher's"  memories:  "When it came to knowledge, Bessie was a miser, hoarding facts and figures like gold coins she was saving up to spend on something special."    This fictionized account helps to explain how Bessie became the first female licenced pilot of African descent.

4. Stealing Home; Jackie Robinson against the Odds written by Robert Burleigh; illustrated by Mike Wimmer.  This book is easy to read outloud with a small amount of text to tell thestolen base story but each page includes a baseball card with added historical information.  A sample:  "Jackie's mother decided to take her family from rural Georgia to Pasadena, California.  All aboard!  Things were better for black people in California than in than in the South.  But not by that much.  The family found it difficult to rent a house.  Food was scarce.  The children were called insulting names."  Reading this to older kids it would be easy to add in these extra bits of critical information. 

Honorable Mention goes to Visiting Langston by Willie Perdomo for the amazing Bryan Collier's collage-style illustrations and it's easy to read style-told from the point-of-view of a young girl who admires Langston Hughes. 

Have a peaceful weekend.
Love yourself and your family.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fabulous Little Picture Book; Monkey Truck by Michael Slack

"When there's trouble in the jungle, Monkey Truck knows what to do. "  and the cute little truck zooms off to save a bug from a very large elephant foot.  This book has BIG WORDS, funny expressions (banana gas) and a perfect rhythm paced for little listeners. With words like rev, rev, toot, Vroom, Vroom kids were reading along with me when I shared this with first graders.   Michael Slack has done a fabulous job making a silly  monkey/truck into an jungle action hero framed against a lush jungle background.

Mr. Stack sent this book to me a few monthes ago after I reviewed The Flim-Flam Fairies , illustrated by him.   I took  Monkey Truck to school and shared it then brought it home and Groovy Girl and I read it.  She laughed and had a great time exploring the illustrations.  Then the book sat on my to-review shelf for a few days...days turned into weeks and then one day in January I sat down to write the review but couldn't locate the book.  I couldn't figure out what happened to it and was sad cuz it had such a beautiful inscription from Mr. Slack, who by the way should win a prize just for coolest last name. 

Then one night I came up to tuck Groovy Girl into bed and found her reading to her doll, Jaime.  She was reading Yoko by Rosemary Wells.  Hmmm.  Light Bulb.  "Groovy Girl, do you remember Monkey Truck?"  "Yeah" and right there it was in a basket of books she's been reading to Jaime.  Ohhhhh.  Enough said.  Michael-I'm very sorry  I didn't get the book reveiwed faster but just so you know....dolls and girls are loving it too!  This is the perfect book for an active PreK-1st grade crowd.   This is his first attempt at writing and illustrating together and I hope he is working on more, which he probably will not send me after I lost track of this one. 
Check out his fabulous website, Michael Slack,  and this awesome video:

Other great thoughts on this book:
Jen Robinson's Book Page

Buy it from an IndieBound (I am an associate but have yet  to receive a dime)

Monkey Truck

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How can I go to bed when my to-do list isn't finished?

1. Call Barb
2. Call brother (text)
3. relook at library budget line items
4. Practicum student arrives today
5.Check out new magazines
6. blog

 This is a question I ask myself nearly everyday.  I hardly ever get my entire list done and then everything I didn't get done today gets automatically added to the beginning (or sometimes end) of tomorrow's list.  I feel this constant surge of never quite measuring up.  I have to have just one or two things on my list that are TOP PRIORITY-those I get done (on a good day) and the rest-ho hum.  But then what happens when late in the day  you realize that one of your low priority items really should have been a TOP.

Like today when it dawned on me that my Scholastic Book Fair begins next week and I have yet to get up any of the posters or ready the flyers for students to carry home.  Am I crazy?  How do I let these things slip through the cracks?  I knew the book fair was during conferences and I knew conferences were coming up but next week?? How is February ending so soon?  I did find a cool list making tool online while freaking about my own to-do list.  Check it out here:

Want to view my to-do list for today (notice book fair publicity isn't even on the list!!":

I did get two baskets of laundry folded (not on the list), I did call Barb for her birthday and talked until my phone died (should have had "charge phone" on the list), and I did spend quality time with Groovy Girl while she did 3 homework projects.  Also I  poked my nose into one of my new magazines (Eating Well) while she was doing her homework.  I found about 10 recipes I wanted to make and several articles worthy of blog posts but I now go to bed without calling Julie and no yoga.  I did text my brother but that doesn't really count.  All I can hope for is a better finish tomorrow.  My plan is to focus and spend 5 minutes in the morning right when I get to school (or maybe at home as I eat my breakfast) and prioritize my list with my date book next to me.  I'll add that item to my list!
Are you a list maker?

Monday, February 21, 2011

January's Sparrow by Patricia Polacco

I ordered this in my last Titlewave order without knowing anything about it, other than the cover art was striking.  Usually I only order books I've read a review about, heard about or have looked at myself personally at the public library but because I have such good faith in Patricia Polacco-I oredered it with out a preview.

Once again Polacco's book overwhelmed me, brought me to the brink of tears and showered me with great joy. This is the amazing story of the Crosswhite family, a slave family, working for a terrible master in Kentucky. After January, a family friend/brother figure is captured, returned back to the plantation then beaten by local slave traders in front of the family-it is more than they can bear.  That and the secret knowledge that their sons are soon to be sold at auction gives the Crosswhite's reason to flee the plantation even knowing what it will mean if they are captured. 

This book highlights the Underground Railroad stations as well as Marshall, Michigan, a town where many residents disagreed with slavery and the Crosswhites get used to this taste of freedom, staying there for several years.  Ultimately they must rely on the neighbors surrounding them as well as white townspeople to save them from recapture.  If you haven't had a chance to read this; this would be the perfect month to use this for a readaloud. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Little Stranger; A Novel by Sarah Waters

My book club picked this for its February read.  It's a big book at 463 pages for such a short month but it took me less than a week to read it and for me, that's pretty good.   It kept my interest and I rather enjoyed the lengthy English descriptions but I was left wanting.  Waters purposely never ties up the ends, which left me shaking my head.

The Little Stranger is a detailed story about an old house, Hundreds Hall,  and the Ayres family that lives within.  Our narrator, Dr.  Faraday, the son of a former nursemaid at the house, is called out to the house to examine a young maid and begins a relationship with the family members; Mrs. Ayres, her daughter, Caroline and her son, Roderick.  He's a country doctor who grew up in the village and visiting the house as an invited guest and doctor is a bit of thrill for him, even though the house has not weathered well.  Something about the family (and the house) intriuges him and he continues his visits to have tea, treating Roddie's war injuried leg and helping them through one catastrophe after another.  The house is driving the family members mad in one way or another and Dr. Faraday is like this outsider who has a front row seat to the show. 

This is where it gets a bit tricky.  Several incidents are described, leading readers to believe that the old mansion is haunted or cursed, which was creepy and exciting but never explained-just left me on the edge.  I wanted some loose ends tied up.  Part of the intrigue was that the house tormented each family member in a different way.  For Roderick, it played on his insecurities as a landowner/gentleman farmer.  For Mrs. Ayres, the mystery "ghost" was  Susan, the young daughter she had lost before Caroline and Roderick were born.  As for Caroline's haunt-I leave it a" mystery"-because that one left me more well, mystified than the others.  You'll have to read it for yourselves and post back to share your own explanations. 
And  Dr. Faraday has some odd pull to the house which did make me wonder once or twice if he was somehow involved. Why does the house never bother him?

Tomorrow night is our book club meeting and I look forward to discussing this story with everyone.  I sometimes try and bring a food item to match with the book.  Last month I brought Baking Soda Biscuits to share for The Widow of the South discussion but this book they don't dwell on food much-they do drink a lot of tea and cakes but that didn't seem as fun to me.  I purchased a copy of this from Alibris (a bargain @ $4.00)...just because the library copies were checked out (probably by other members of my bookclub) and PBS didn't have it listed.    The book now resides on my husband's side of the bed.  Creepy and mysterious is right up his alley. 

Did I like the book? Yes.
Was I creeped out?  Yes, making it tough to read at bedtime.
I disliked the ending.  My only issue.
What I enjoyed?  The characters and the historical aspect.
Learning more about the class system in England kept me riveted:

Here's a quote:

The story ran on, Caroline and Roderick prompting more of it; they spoke to each other rather than to me, and, shut out of the game, I looked from mother to daughter to son and finally caught the likenesses between them, not just the similarities of feature-the long limbs, the high-set eyes-but the almost clannish little tricks of gesture and speech.  And I felt a flicker of impatience with them-the faintest stirring of a dark dislike-and my pleasure in the lovely room was slightly spoiled.  Perhaps it was the peasant blood in me, rising.  But Hundreds Hall has been made and maintained, I thought, by the very people they were laughing at now. (25)

Sarah Waters website

Other interesting thoughts on the book:
Wordsmithonia's review
A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore...
Things mean a lot...

Have you read other books by Sarah Waters?  I did enjoy her style.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Weekend Cooking-Clara's Kitchen

I went to the library today after my 75-minute yoga class.  I only went in to browse the new cookbook section and I found 3 good ones to bring home.  It has been nice here, which makes me hopeful for Spring, but snow is on it's way tonight so I thought a few new cookbooks would help my Winter depression. 

Clara's Cookbook (2009)  is a small book with big ideas.  Clara shares her family's  Great Depression stories with recipes scattered throughout.   I've had a great time reading her thoughts and I've already concocted one of her easy recipes.  

Here's what I made:

Bay Leaf Tea
Here's an old Sicilian remedy right from the garden that takes care of sore throats, stomachaches, and the flu...

You will need

Hot Water
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 tsp sugar

Boil the water in a pan [I used my kettle]with the bay leaves.  After it boils, remove from heat and pour it in a mug, leaves and all.  Add the sugar and drink it slowly. [130]
My tea cup is next to me-well, tea cup is a bit of an exaggeration.  It is a heavy Harry Potter coffee mug but all the same the tea is delicious.  Just what my ticklish throat needed and it made lovely, earthy smell in the kitchen as it was steaming. 

Spread throughout the book are little sidebar quotes from Clara entitled "Take it from me" and I have to share a few of these wisdoms:

*If you run out of oil, just add a little water to your pan.  It will keep food from sticking-and it's free. [78]

*If you're adding meat to your sauce, don't add olive oil or basil.  There will be enough oil from the meat, and you shouldn't eat basil with meat.  Use a stalk of fresh rosemary instead. [95]

and I love this piece of advice from a bread recipe:

From "Ma's Sunday Bread":  With your hands, knead the ingredients together, adding more water as you go to make the mass more doughy.  In all, you'll be adding about 31/2 cups of warm water.  This should take about 20 minutes of continuous kneading.  (Pretend you're mad at someone.  This will help the time go faster.) [46-47]

I love kneading bread and this quote made me laugh.

This marvelous little book is broken up into six chapters:  Goods from the Garden and "found" foods, Bread, the Magic Filler, It's a Hot Meal-Stop Complaining,  Pasta...Again, A Chicken in Every Other Pot and Sweet Rewards.  There are many recipes without meat (good for my family) but the recipe for roast chicken looks especially appealing so I know I'm going to take notes for the next time we have a local chicken in our hands. 

In the opening, Clara talks about how this book and her You Tube videos came to be thanks to her grandson, Christopher Cannucciari.  Of course, I had to check-out the videos and I found she has quite a few.  I share with you her video for couscous:

My tea is done.  I'm going to make her pasta with beans for dinner.  I hope you're cooking up delicious things today .  Has everyone else already heard about dear Clara?   This post is linked to Beth Fish Read's Weekend Cooking.  She shares how to make Lora Brody's Focaccia with Greens.  Happy Cooking!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Feature

How many readers are celebrating Black History Month through February?  I've had a few question why I bother highlighting Black History and not because they thougth it was a waste of time but because they figured by this time black history and white history should have easily  merged.  Maybe this is true but sadly, not much history is taught at all at the elementary level.  That and I love enlightening students with what our country was like during slavery and the Civil Rights movement. 

I think they should know about Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, George Washington Carver (the list goes on), as historical figures so they can go beyond their knowledge of Rosa Parks and Dr. King-great people to know-but there is more to understand.  We study it because it is the human history of our country.  I want my elementary students heading to middle school with a clear idea of what the Underground Railroad was; a path to freedom not an actual train that runs below ground.  Uhh, yes, many think just that.  Lord.

My 3 featured read-aloud books this week emphasize the Underground Railroad.

1.  Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine; illustrated by Kadir Nelson (2007)  I loved this book from the moment I laid eyes on it.  It is an example of losing those you love and a burning desire for freedom.  It begins like this:  "Henry Brown wasn't sure how old he was.  Henry was a slave.  And slaves weren't allowed to know their birthdays."  Kids snap to attention when they hear those first words.  The idea of not knowing your birthday, no cake, no gifts, no intercom announcement-that and the woeful picture of Nelson's young Henry sitting on a barrel with no shoes helps students to grasp a tiny piece of this other life.  5 stars

2. Almost to Freedom by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illustrations by Colin Bootman (2003).  This title is from a rag doll's point-of-view.  It begins:  "I started out no more'n a bunch of rags on a Virginia plantation.  Lindy's mama was my maker.  Miz Rachel done a fine job puttin' me together, takin' extra time to sew my face on real careful with thread, embroidery they call it.  I don't have no hair.  Miz Rachel just made a bandanna from some old cloth and tied it 'round my head like she wore.  I used to think about havin' me some hair, but now it don't bother me none."  The doll is given to Miz Rachel's girl, Lindy, who name's the doll Sally-her new best friend.  Lindy, Miz Rachel and Sally escape, heading North, and Sally is lost at one of their secret stops. The doll is eventually found by another young girl traveling to freedom and happy for this new handmade companion.  5 stars

3. Freedom River by Doreen Rappaport; illustrated by Bryan Collier (2000).  Plantation owners would go to great lengths to keep slave families from running.  This book illustrates the vast difference between Ohio, a free state and Kentucky, a slave state and how the river between facilitates the Underground Railroad.  It begins:  "Listen.  Listen.  'I heard last night someone helped a slave woman cross the river,' said one of the workers at John Parker's foundry.  John Parker couldn't take credit for this escape, but it pleased him enormously to hear about it."  We see how Parker helps one family, terribly afraid of their master, finally get to freedom.  Collier's collage and paint illustrations are beautiful. 5 stars

Three more exceptional choices I'll use next week:

The Patchwork Path; A Quilt Map to Freedom by Bettye Stroud, illustrated by Erin Susanne Bennett (2005).
Friend on Freedom River by Gloria Whelen, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuzen (2004).
Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson; illustrated by Hudson Talbott (2005).

What are you reading this week?  Does your school celebrate Black History Month?
Check out these other Friday Features:
Valentine's Day
Exciting New Books

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf

A Choreopoem by Ntozake Shange
1975, 1976,1977, 2010 (big leap inbetween)
96 pages

I admit I'd never heard of this title before.  I'm not an actor like my husband or my friend, V.  They've heard it used many times for auditions and readings.  I'm happy to say I did recognize the author's name though as it is attached to a beautiful Coretta Scott King book and Ellington was not a street-both illustrated by my favorite, Kadir Nelson.

For Colored Girls is a little more in your face than those children's is a sample:

i asked this silly ol boy
he say
i looked right at him
those skidded out cordoroy pants
a striped teashirt wid holes in both elbows
a new scab over his left eye
& i said
                 'what's yr name again'
he say
'i'm toussaint jones'
i am on my way to see
are ya any kin to him
he do't take no stuff from no white folks
& they gotta country all they own
& there aint no slaves'
that silly ol boy squinted his face all up
'looka heah girl
& i'm right heah lookin at ya (43-44)

It was a joy to read this choreopoem.  It was encouraged in the prologue to read it outloud, so I did.  The words and rhythm flowed sometimes smoothly and others rougher, jagged but still good. It helped to make a audiovision of friends who might talk this way on occasion.  It worked.  It has a powerful message for all people, especially women, but not just black women. And it isn't anti-men although it surely doesn't sugar coat in anyway possible. 

While researching the author I found this excellent interview about her life, her new-ish work, Some Sing, Some Cry, a collaborative novel she wrote with her sister and the Tyler Perry movie about For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide.  I plan to watch this movie, even though it didn't get great reviews, because I like the cast and I would love to hear the language.  I have to wait to watch the movie until I see the play and lucky for me, I will have the thrilling opportunity in mid-March, when my family heads to Little Rock to visit V and her family.  She is directing and acting in a local production and I'm so EXCITED to see it.  I was inspired to read the book because she was involved and I only found out later that I would be able to watch a rehearsal of the play. Yeah... [me, jumping up and down]!!!

This is an author worth checking out.
Have you read her books?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Happy Valentine's Day!  A day of love, a day to celebrate friendships, a day to eat more chocolate, a  money maker...

In the last week or so I've received a bunch of books in my mail box.  I ordered a used copy of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters from Alibris and was anxiously awaiting it last week.  My son texted me one afternoon and said I had a box in the mail and he thought it was probably that book.  When I got home he handed it to me but I knew right away it was not the pkg. It was a medium size box with four books inside from Zoe Luderitz at Little, Brown and Company!  I was delighted. (picture me jumping with glee)

Inside I found:

1. Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney-It is 1936.  America is in the middle of the Great Depression, and three children-Otis, Willie and Hibernia-are about to become friends.  (a snippet from the back cover)

2. I'll Be There by Holly Goldbert Sloan-This is an innovative portrait of two brothers who cross paths with a family that will change their lives forever.  (from publicity letter)

3. The Time-Traveling Fashionista by Bianca Turetsky- When Louise Lambert receives a mysterious invitation to a traveling vintage sale in the mail, her normal life in suburban Connecticut is magically transformed into a time-travel adventure.  (back cover)

4. Bitter End by Jennifer Brown-The second novel in the Hate List series tackles abusive relationships in one teen's life.  (publicity letter)

Each one of these titles has something that intrigues me so I'm looking forward to slipping these ARC's  into my reading schedule.

I also received a nonfiction title, Astro, The Steller Sea Lion by Jeanne Walker Harvey, from the author-love to get those big manilla envelopes.

And Saraswati's Way came from Monika Schroder. 

From Paperback Book Swap I received two books:

Elin Hilderbrand's A Summer Affair and Barefoot.  We are heading to the NC beach in June and these will be my beach reads. 

This has been a busy week and a half for my mailbox...

Hope you've had a lovely Valentine holiday with lots of chocolate and books!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lazy Sunday

Crushing cumin for chili
I got left behind(on purpose) for church this morning because I didn't get another good night sleep and my throat hurt.  As a librarian I use my voice all day long during the week and by Friday night my voice is taxed.  This was one of those weeks.  As I made bread on Friday night I could feel the scratchiness, which was made worse by staying up late with my non-rising bread.  I feel better today thanks to my extra morning sleep, tea and Vick's.

I have chili on the stove cooking for a late dinner.   I googled vegetarian chili because I've made all the chili's from my cookbooks and I was looking for something new.  I picked the one with unsweetened cocoa because it sounded warming.  I made it as spicy as the recipe called for and hope my kids will try it.  I made a back-up small pot of chili without all the spices for Groovy Girl, just in case.  I altered the recipe by taking out the bulgar, using only two onions, and I didn't have any cilantro.

I never (okay, occasionally) cook seperate meals for my children but I wanted the chili to kick  and I don't think she'll be able to handle it.  She likes kidney and black beans and she likes tomato soup so I just basically put those items together for her own chili.  Just in case.  I'm only going to serve it to her if she complains about the spice.  I made cornbread  from the directions on Bob's Corn Meal package.  This is a one of my husband's favorite meals so let's call it a pre-Valentine treat, shall we.

Tomorrow night we are making homemade pizzas for our family Valentine dinner.  I already have the yeast proofing.  Love to watch it bubble.  Groovy Girl had a special dessert picked out from an American Girl calendar that arrived inside her first issue.  I'm more of a bake-from-scratch kinda woman but this little recipe called for a boxed cake mix and canned frosting.

In hindsight we should have done the frosting ourselves because she picked  a lemon cake mix and fluffy vanilla frosting for this sandwich cookie recipe.  Myself I would have leaned more toward a chocolate cake mix with peanut butter frosting but hey, it was her dessert.  We made it just as is but the dough was crumbly and dry so we added some water.  They are out of the oven, frosted and hidden so when Teenage Boy and Big Daddy arrive home they won't be the wiser. 

Because I was left home today I had an unprecedented several (!) hours alone to read my book club choice for February; Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger.  At one point I started getting a little creeped out so I had to put the book down and fold some mundane laundry.  I'm more than 3/4 done and bookclub is still a week away-wow, rare for me.  Usually I'm rushing to finish my book over my lunchbreak the day of our meeting. 

"A.G. "Sweetwiches"-our Valentine dessert)
How was your Sunday...
Are you ready for Monday?

I, sadly, had to purchase two plastic containers at the grocery store today.  I've been doing really well on my plastic free February.  I guess two isn't too bad for the first 13 days of the month.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Weekend Cooking; Bread Uprising

Potato Bread on its 2nd rise-looking plump and airy.
Last week I wrote about an Oooey Gooey Bread but I hadn't made the bread yet.  After making it I had a revelation...I should generally test drive the recipes before sharing. Brilliant, I know.  The bread was good but it didn't rise as much as I expected.  The recipe did make three loaves and I did share the love.  I took one to church and they ate the whole thing.  I took one to school and they ate the whole thing.  I have half a loaf still on my counter that we are whittling away at.  I enjoyed rolling out the dough and folding it but when I got to throwing down all that sugar into the middle  I couldn't do it.  I changed it up, adding the cinnamon and  brown sugar but  just a little cane sugar.  This sugar mix worked for me.  The cinnamon was intensely wonderful.   I was only disappointed in the rise.  I love to watch the rise and this one didn't do that-it was flat.  I'd love feedback on this if anyone has any clues. 

In last week's post I mentioned another potato bread recipe (from Barefoot  Kitchen Witch) I was going to try and that one gave a good rise as well as a great kneading experience.  I even got my KitchenAid out with the dough hook (first time I used the dough hook) because her photos and commentary told me this would be good.  I generally just mix it myself with a wooden spoon or my hands but I liked watching it come together with the dough hook so I might be a new convert.  I don't get my Kitchen Aid out much because it's heavy and in a tight cupboard space.  This bread looked beautiful in the two different rising stages but once I put it in the pan it didn't rise over the top as much as I expected.  I don't know if it is the yeast or the cold, but my bread is not becoming airy and light, but dense is okay as long as the taste is good. I toasted two slices for breakfast and it was yummy.  I plan to try this recipe again.

 I made this Baked Penne with Broccoli and Smoked Mozzarrella from Mel's Kitchen Cafe for dinner last night.  It was good but my kids didn't like it.  I left the chicken out and it  tasted great (the smoked mozzarella was amazing) for my husband and I.  My kids are really in a disappointing eating phase. They eat tofu, endamame, sushi, Thai food but I make a simple baked pasta dish and they squirm.   They do not like things mixed up so much.  Groovy Girl separated the broccoli from the penne pasta.  It is so disconcerting.  Hmmm.

First loaf out of the oven and ready to toast.

Hope your cooking up something good. 

Weekend cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads-click on her name to see her reviews of several story book inspired cookbooks.  I would love the Mary Poppins Cook Book.

Happy Saturday.

I've been to a 4-H breakfast and two soccer games so far today and still have a speed theatre event to attend

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Feature (a wee bit late)

Here I was going to be good about writing a post every Friday with some of my favorites from the week.  I had a librarian's district meeting today and completely forgot.  I don't even know if I want to get into how the meeting was so I am just going to focus on the books. 

1.  Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane de Groat-read this to first grade students;  I love Gilbert- he makes mistakes-this time he goofs up by writing two mean Valentine poems to classmates.  This is a great book about making choices and making amends.  Kids laugh right when you read the title-you can't go wrong with that! 5 stars

2. Louane Pig and the Mysterious Valentine by Nancy Carlson-I read this to kindergarten and first grade students and they solved the mystery!  I'm happy to report that at least one child in every class figured out just who gave Louanne her BIG Valentine.  But I have to admit I love all the other silly answers that the other kids it was a DOG,  her mom (even after it states in the book that the sender was a guy, I know, crazy),  Gilbert (yes.) , oh the joy of spontaneous children.  Priceless. 5 stars

3. The Valentine  Express by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace- Her books-all of them-are beautiful.  I love their craftiness (i'm not) and their simple yet delightful themes. Valentine's Day is not just for romance but for showing how much we care for our friends, parents, and neighbors and this book gently shares that with easily little crafts and caring bunnies.  It's way better than Hallmark, really.  5 stars

Do you have Valentine books you love? 

 Kids love it but need to be reminded it is about caring about your friends and family not about the mushy stuff.  Leave that to the teenagers, like my son who took it upon himself to locate and send flowers to his girlfriend-arriving on the day, a mixed bouquet.  Hmmm.  On that note I'm finishing my tea and heading to bed.  Another busy Saturday awaits me.

**Stop back next Friday...I haveoh, so many  Black History books to share.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A letter to Alan Silberberg- (creator of Milo; Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze)

Dear Mr. Silberberg;

     I just wanted to write you a quick thank you note for writing such an outstanding middle grade book!  Milo is a one-of-a-kind-kinda guy!  There isn't a part of this book that I didn't of it I loved so much they made me weep.  I learned quickly that Milo has some obstacles-he's not graceful or popular but he does have big ideas and a kind heart.  I also learned Milo misses his mom everyday and that her memory has been cleaned right out of their house by his grieving father. Since his mother's death Milo's been walking around in a fog, moving from house to house, never getting a grip on the simple fact that his mother is no longer there for him.

     I loved how you gave him someone to pine for in Summer Goodman and a suave alter-ego in Dabney St. Claire.  You gave him a wonderful friend, Marshall,  who is there to be silly with but through Marshall's family you gave Milo a way to experience a happy family.   You developed another friendship for Milo by introducing him to Hillary, his annoying next-door-neighbor, who turns out to be not so annoying after all.  Hillary shares with readers that we all have our secrets and our strong points.  Yeah Hillary!  You gave Milo an adult neighbor and friend, Sylvia Poole, who shares her experiences with grief and helps Milo clear away some of his fog.  You gave him a kind teacher, Mr. Shivnesky, who cares enough to give Milo a 5-minute break when things get tough. 

     Mr. Silberberg, you gave us other tensions like the Halloween party and the box of Barbie parts to keep our minds shifted away from just MILO'S GRIEF.  This was brilliant because Milo is an easy read-I want to hear about his grief but not be hit over the head with it.  For a kid his age life keeps moving on.  You are a funny guy-a really naturally funny guy.  I give you a standing ovation for writing and illustrating Milo; Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze.  {picture me standing, clapping loudly} 

Sincerely in awe,

Peaceful Reader

p.s. Thank you for giving Summer, the crush, some last minute redemming qualities-because after all we all have something that makes us unique!
p.p.s could you please write your next book for elementary kids because I noticed your first book, Pond Scum, is also for middle school kids and I think they've had enough of your attention.  PLEASE; I will be your friend for life.

Check out Alan Silberberg's kooky
Silberberg's blog-with a book trailer.

Every page has a gem but I leave you with just two quotes:

Dabney St. Claire says that "timing is everything," which is why i make sure to wear a watch every day so I'm always ready just in case.  I figure it's like when you go to a baseball game and bring your glove because it's possible a foul ball will come right at you.  And even though you're sitting under the grandstand roof where no balls ever go, you wear that baseball glove through the whole game, which makes the popcorn you buy taste like dirt and oil and other stuff you can't even put a finger on-but probably already did-and all that matters is you feel ready for the slimmest-ever chance that the first stray ball in the history of baseball is going to be  hit right at your impossible seats.  (39-41) (what an optimist!)

and this:

I mention this at dinner my first night at Marshall's house, and you know what?  They all laugh, and it's so weird to hear people laughing at the dinner table that I feel really bad and stare into  my plate, but Mrs. Hickler says, "No, Milo-that's really funny.  My mother does act a little like she's still in high school.  You should see her yoga clothes." And it's so shocking that laughing even coexists with eating, and it's while I'm having broiled chicken (which I love) and green beans (which I hate but eat anyway) that I want to go home and pack up all my stuff and move right into Marshall's house forever.  (134-135) (see-you want to give him a hug too!)

Other magnificent reviews:

The Boy Reader
Chocolate Air

and Stacy @ Welcome to my Tweendom

To purchase your own beloved copy of this book at an IndieBound bookstore near you click on the title...Milo; Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bread Givers

I purchased Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska a few years back while my family and I were in Washington D.C.   We toured The Holocaust Museum, which was heartbreaking but  informative and well worth the tour.  Afterward we spent a few minutes browsing the museum kiosk store.  This book's synopsis caught my attention so I bought it, brought it home and added it to my bookshelf.  Maybe I should have read it right then but I waited four years and pulled it off just recently. 

Snynopsis:  Sara Smolinsky, the youngest daughter of an Orthodox rabbi, watches as her father marries off her sisters to men they don't love.  The sadness and injustice of their broken lives leads her to rebel against her father's rigid conception of Jewish womanhood.  "No girl can live without her father or a husband to look out for her," he proclaims.  "It says in the Torah, only through a man has a woman an existence."  But Sara replies, "My will is as strong as yours.  I'm going to live my own life.  Nobody can stop me. I'm not from the old country.  I'm American!"  She leaves home, takes a job as an ironer, and rents a room with a door:  "This door was life...the bottom starting point of becoming a person."  Set during the 1920s on New York's Lower East Side, the story of Sara's struggle toward independence and self-fullfillment-through education, work, and love-is universal and resonates with a passionate intensity that all can share. (from the back cover)

My thoughts:  You can see why the book appealed to me.  Sara is an intense character who, as the youngest, watches all these family mistakes play out.  Rather than allow her father to ruin her own life she strikes out on her own, leaving behind her mother, father and sisters.  Her sisters make fun of her even as they complain about the terrible marriages their father has forced them into.  Father's love of the Torah and studying are completely (for lack of a better word at the moment) CRAZY!  He takes the Torah at it's word only as it applies to help his cause. 

The struggle between family members, old and new traditions, right and wrong are so fanatical and vivid-I raced home every night to read a few more pages before making dinner.  It made me grateful for my own father who was very forward thinking and giving of his time and thoughts, unlike Sara's father, who never listens and always talks with bitterness.  Not only were the characters memorable but the language was extraordinary.  This book will stay with me for a long time but only in spirit because as per the Reading From My Own Shelves Project I must depart with it-I'm glad it is going to a good home.  Tina graciously accepted  to take it home with her. 

Memorable quotes: 

and this one from a particular blue day while she is living alone working hard each day to put away money to go to school:

Had a miracle happened?  My father come to see me?  In a rush of gladness words from Isaiah flashed before me as in letters of fire: "I will join the hearts of the parents and the children."  Never had there been any show of feeling between Father and us children.  Only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, he put his hands over our heads to bless us.  Now, as I looked at him, he seemed to me like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Solomon, and David, all joined together in the one wise old face.  An this man with all the ancient prophets shining out of his eyes-my father.  (she's so happy to see him even after all the bad)
"Father," I cried.  An then my voice stopped.  For I suddenly became aware of his cold, hard glance on me.
"Is it true what Max Goldstein said?" His eyes glared.  "Is it true you refused him?"   Not a word could force itself out of my tight throat.  "Answer me! Answer me!"  His voice grew louder and harsher. 
"It wasn't the real love," I stammered, hardly aware what I was saying.
"Love you want yet? What do you know about love?  How could any man love a lawless, conscienceless thing like you?  I never dreamed that a decent man would want to  marry you.  You had a chance to make a good ending to a bad play, and you push away such a luck match with your own hands.  I always knew you were crazy.  Now I see you're your worst enemy."  (204)
There is so much wonderful in this book-this newer version has a great forward and introduction written by Alice Kessler-Harris, which gave me a lot of insight into Anzia Yezierska's life.  It's not often I wax poetic about an intro to a book but it's a great opening.  I wish this book would be mandatory reading for high school or college.  It's fits into many different themes: history, gender studies, religion, philosophy, early immigration to the U.S., and  American labor in the 1920's.  It shows what it was really like to work hard and hope for a better life.  I'm so glad the forces that be made me pick this book and purchase it.  I'm trying to get Teen-age Boy to read it before I pass it over to Tina.  Purchase this classic book from an IndieBound bookstore near on the title to find it-Bread Givers

Whatever you're reading today-I hope you are enjoying it!  I'll be reading and lesson planning while the game goes on but if I had to root for a team it would be the Green Bay Packers.  Why?  Because I've read about both quarterbacks and Aaron Rodgers wins in my book. 

"I'll show you how quickly I can marry off the girls when I put my head on it." "Yah," sneered Mother. 
 "You showed me enough how quickly you can spoil your daughters' chances the minute you mix yourself in. 
 If you had only let Mashah alone, she would have been married to a piano-player.""Did you want me to let in a man who plays on the Sabbath in our family? A piano player has no more character than a poet."      "Nu-Berel Bernstein was a man of character, a man who was about to become a manufacturer."
 "But he was a stingy piker.  For my daughters' husbands I want to pick out men who are people in the world."
 "Where will you find better men than those they can find for themselves?"
"I'll go to old Zaretzky, the matchmaker.  All the men on his list are guaranteed characters."
"But the minute you begin with the matchmaker you must have dowries like in Russia yet."          
"With me for their father they get their dowries in their brains and in their good looks."  (71)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Weekend Cooking/Bread-Making/Bread Givers

I've been writing my review of Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska.  I loved this book.  When you enjoy a book so much it's difficult not to share every little thing about it.  One of the themes is resounding poverty; the Smolinsky family are poor-1920's  poor.  They never  know where their next meal will come from.  The father studies the Torah and expects his family to work for him; to put food on the table.  The mother constantly has to beg the shopkeepers on the Lower West Side of NYC to give her credit so she can feed her family.  It begins like this:
I had just begun to peel the potatoes for dinner when my oldest sister came in, her eyes far away and very tired.  She dropped on the bench by the sink and turned her head to the wall.  One look at her, and I knew she had not yet found work.  I went on peeling the potatoes, but I no more knew what my hands were doing.  I felt only the dark hurt of her weary eyes. (1)
"We must dry our heads worrying for bread, while they bathe themselves in milk and soak in honey."  (81)
Mother skimmed off the fat part of the potato soup, and carefully picked out all the little pieces of suet and fried onions for Father's plate, and handed it to him.  "Woman!" Father frowned.  "Why have you no meat for my dinner this whole week?  With the hard brain work I do day and night, I can't live on the flavour of onions!"  (81)
My quest for weekend cooking is to make some bread for this albeit fiction, yet starving family.  I can't resist.  They need some good bread.  They need a whole pot of potato soup. 

My mom gave me this recipe for bread that uses potato water and I've been excited to try it.  Last time I made mashed potatoes I thought ahead and saved the water.

Ooey Gooey Bread (from Baking with the St. Paul Baking Club)
Makes 3 loaves

1 3/4 cups potato water or 1 3/4 cups water mixed with 2 tsp instant potato flakes
1 3/4 cups lowfat milk
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups honey [local, of course]
1 T. salt
1 cup rolled oats
2 pkgs active dry yeast
2/3 cup bran
6 T wheat germ
1 cup whole wheat flour
7 cups bread flour, about [I don't buy bread flour so I double sift my KAF]
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tsps cinnamon

Heat potato water, milk, and butter in a saucepan over low heat.  As it warms, add honey and salt.  When mixture comes to a boil, add rolled oats then remove from heat, and let cool to lukewarm.
Transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Stir in yeast and let stand for a few minutes until softened.  Add bran and wheat germ, and then beat in whole wheat and bread flour.  Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead [my favorite part] until elastic and springy.  The dough will be soft and sticky, but resist the urge to add to much extra flour.  Turn into a slightly oiled bowl, turning to coat, cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
Mix together white sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
Turn dough out onto floured surface, and divide into three pieces.  Roll each piece into a 12-inch x 8-inch rectangle and sprinkle with 4 T. sugar mix.  Take a rectangle and fold the left third to the center and the right and the right third over that, as you'd fold a letter.  Rotate the dough 90 degrees, and roll out again into a rectangle, sprinkling with another 4 T. of sugar mix.  Fold as before.  Form dough into a loaf shape, and place seam side down in a greased loaf pan.  Repeat with remaining 2 pieces of dough.

Cover pans with a cloth, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven.  lightly cover with foil and bake for another 20 minutes or until loaf makes a hollow sound when removed from the pan and tapped on bottom.  Cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.

This will make a great Sunday morning bread but not the bread I was thinking of for the Smolinsky family.  That potato bread I found at The Barefoot Kitchen Witch's website complete with play-by-play photos:  Potato Bread
I'm going to try her recipe as well-maybe tomorrow.

This post is part of Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  She reviews $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook; Breakfast and Lunch, which seems like a really useful cookbook!

Happy Baking!
Read Bread Givers-you will enjoy it!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Feature Friday

I have three picture books to feature today because I fell in love with them just this morning!  It is the month of love so I give you three books you shouldn't live without...

1.  The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen (2009)

I'm not a fan of the circus-the kind that uses animals to entertain so I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to feel about this book, until I read it of course.  It is a delight!  It rhymes.  When a storm ruins the ship the captain saves the the mean and greedy circus boss, Mr. Paine, who chooses to leave the animals behind to save his own.  The animals swim to an island beach, taking refuge with the local people, who are at first scared and then learn to love having the animals around.  The circus animals win their freedom from the demanding circus boss through a great hide and seek scene.  The illustrations are larger-than-life beautiful and it is loosely based on a real event.  5 stars

2.  "I have a Little Problem," said the bear by Heinz Janisch and Silke Leffler (2007)

Bear wanders in to town to get help but noone listens to his problem.  The inventor, the tailor, the hatter, the doctor, the street vendor, the eye doctor, the shopkeeper, and the shoe maker all jump to their own conclusions.  Noone even listens to what it is until bear meets a curious fly outside of town. In my storytime hour children didn't get the big picture but I know a little girl at home who will understand and love it.  The illustrations are whimsical and kindergarten students loved the repitition.  5 stars 

3. the cow loves cookies by karma wilson and marcellus hall. (2010)

I've come to expect great things, usually rhyming things, from Mrs. Wilson as she is the author of The Bear Snores on series of books.  This one didn't disappoint.  All the other animals on the farm eat what the farmer gives them-the horse loves hay, the chickens; chicken feed, the pigs love their slop but the cow...she gets special treatment.  Students loved learning why the cow loves cookies...because she shares her milk with the farmer and he shares his cookies.  Milk and cookies go so well together.  I wish I had some for my lunch today!  5 stars

What ever you do today, ENJOY!!
If you need a picture book-these 3 will not disappoint.