Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Feature; Poetic Biographies

I'm ending April with some fantastic biographies about poets!  I've tried to celebrate poetry all month long by posting poetry on my school blog and by reading poems to students.  I found these stories to be inspiring and thought they earned the right to be featured.  How did you celebrate poetry this month or anytime?

1)  My Name is Gabriela; The Life of Gabriella Mistral by Monica Brown; ill. by John Parra (2005).

Born in Chile, Gabriela had a vivid imagination and taught herself to read because she wanted to read stories not just hear them.  She loved the sounds of words and wrote poetry, songs and stories as a child. Gabriela played school  with her friends and little sister and made them learn their ABC's and later, she became a teacher as an adult.  She worked hard and was able to travel, exploring and creating new stories along the way.  She was the first Latin American writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  This book contains beautiful illustrations and a happy young Latina charater with an early love of language!

2)  A Voice of Her Own; The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet by Kathryn Lasky; ill. by Paul Lee (2003). 

Wheatley's story is miraculous in many ways.  She was brought to the US on a slave ship, landing in Boston Harbor, at the age of about seven.  John and Susannah Wheatley were at the market looking for a servant girl.  Something about they way the young girl looked appealed to Mrs. Wheatley and they bought her, named her Phillis and took her home.  Luck of the draw...because the Wheatley's treated her very fairly (within the mind warp that yes, they had indeed bought another human but in this instance it worked out well)  Mrs. Sussanah Wheatly decided to experiment and taught Phillis how to read and write, which wasn't allowed in Southern states but was perfectly legit in Massuchusetts.  Phillis impressed the Wheatley's with her ability to write and wanted her poems to be published in a book.  John Hancock and other white American men said her book could not be published.  The Wheatleys sent her to England and someone there agreed to publish it. Yes, Phillis found it odd as well that she would have to travel to King George's England to get her book published as she was a slave in the US.  The American Revolution began soon after this.  Lasky's book brilliantly brings to light the indignity that while Americans were willing to fight for their own freedom they owned other people.  This is the backwards rationale we often still find in the United States.  Great book, great message.  Amazing woman.  I wonder what she could have accomplished if she hadn't been kidnapped and brought to the States. 

3)  A River of Words; The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant; ill. by Melissa Sweet (2008)

We all agreed three years ago what a beautiful book this is, even the end papers, showing his poetry!  This is just a great book about an boy who loved the outdoors and the sounds that surrounded him.  In this book is the simple reason to read poetry to young people:  "But when Mr. Abbott read poetry to Willie's English class, Willie did not feel hurried.  The gentle sounds and shifting rhythms of the poems were like the music of the river.  As the teacher read each line, Willie closed his eyes and let them make pictures in his mind."   Proof that we need to keep reading poetry to spark one mind into a deep love of language.  Who knows one of your students might be the next William Carlos Williams. 

Pick Up Some Poetry Today and share it with a child.

Yesterday I had a crazy day but part of the craziness involved two different AMAZING Authors...Alan Katz aka Silly  Dilly Man was at my school and Patrick Jennings was at the public library.  I met both and fell in love...see the photos to prove it tomorrow or maybe, Sunday.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

16 Years Ago-Birthday Boy!

Still curious after all these years!

This event deserves so much more time but I'm off to a soccer game and three other events!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday-Marc Brown Photo Op!

Groovy Girl and author/illustrator Marc Brown!
Seizing the moment she just went up and started a conversation with him while he was putting his computer away.

Another HOT book to explain climate change...Winston of Churchill; One Bear's Battle Against Global Warming

illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell

Churchill's a large great white bear who" hunts the Hudson Bay near the town of Churchill in the Canadian province of Manitoba."  He's obviously like the polar bear president because all the other polar bears listen to him as he explains why their icy habitat is melting more and  more every year.  He gets them all fired up; "We will fight for ice," boomed Winston.  "We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.  We shall fight on the  beaches.  We shall fight on the landing grounds.  We shall fight in the fields and in the streets.  We shall fight on the hills. We shall never surrender." (9)  Yeah!  The bears are filled with hope and excitement that change will come.  Except one little bear in the back asks two important questions..."we don't live on an island" and "who are we fighting?" 

Winston explains that one, he was speaking metaphorically about the island and two, people are melting the ice with their cars and smoke stacks and deforestation practices.  The whole time Wiinston is speaking he is sucking on a big old cigar.  See, even Winston needs to make a change and Winston's wife isn't going to let him forget it.  She won't participate in the demonstrations he has planned until Winson quits smoking!  As she points out the cigar is an "instrument of pollution." (17)  Eventually the polar bears protest in front of all the nice tourists that come to see them and hopefully, they take the message to heart. 

Each of us, while we try to be eco-smart, aren't perfect and could probably do just one more thing to prevent climate change.  While I read this book I couldn't help but be reminded of  my latest favorite commercial.  I don't watch very much television but I think this one came on during the Super Bowl and I fell in love.  with the polar bear. in the Leaf commercial.  Do you know the one? 

Don't let the cuteness of the polar bears detract from their message...we all need to work hard to be earth-friendly so there's less melting, less pollution, less habitat loss.  While writing this I read an article at National Resources Defense Council's website and watched this video about our changing weather.  I know lots of people who don't believe in climate change but for me as an environmentalist I don't know how we can't be effecting the earth at an alarming rate with all we pour into and take out of our one amazing planet. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Weekend Cooking; Beautiful Bread

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Click over to check out her post where she shares two recipes from her grandparents. 

Bread is a life force at our house.  We toast it, we dunk it in soup, we make fat vegetarian sandwiches with it.  I love to bake it as well.  Not one person in our 5-member family doesn't love bread.  My husband enjoys bread at dinner so if there isn't any fresh baked he will just take sandwich bread and toast it, asking everyone "Who wants toast?"  Everyone will say "YES", except for me-I only eat bread when its the good stuff.  Sometimes we have this wonderful sourdough from a local Bosnian bakery-ahhhh!  I can smell it toasting.  Can't really-my nose is too stuffed up from this cold but I can mentally smell bread so deep is our connection.

Recently we've started rethinking, just maybe, we eat too much bread.  My husband is a runner and gets plenty of excercise, I do yoga and both our kids are active and thin but still we think cutting back could help our waistlines.  Groovy Girl, suffers from tummy aches, takes her lunch almost everyday (thankfully) and she relies on a sandwich as the main part of her lunch.  We've had to get creative on how to make her a healthy lunch without two pieces of bread as her main course. Any suggestions??

But for Easter we have to have bread what with family coming and all...

In the middle of this "bread heavy conversation" I knew I still had a bread recipe to try from Faith Durand's cookbook, Not Your Mother's Casseroles.   I've now made it four times, it is super easy and each time the loaves turn out very similar, which is a win for me.  If you are making a big Easter meal or need something to bring to a big Easter meal...this bread would be wonderful to share.  I made an extra loaf and I'm going to drop it off this morning in its own Easter basket for friends. 

Simple Pot Bread

Baking Dish: 5- or 6- inch Dutch oven or other stovetop-to-oven pot with a lid
Bake Time: 45 minutes

3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
¾ tsp regular yeast or ½ tsp instant yeast
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 ½ cups water

1. Make the dough in the morning, before you eat breakfast or go to work. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. The dough will be sticky and wet; slightly goopy. Spray the dough lightly with nonstick cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it in the warmest spot in your kitchen. Let it rise for at least 6 hours, although up to 12 hours will be fine.

2. About 3 hours before dinner, lightly spray a work space with nonstick cooking spray or a little oil. By now the dough will have expanded into a wet, dimpled mass. Dump the whole thing out onto the oiled surface. Push it roughly into a ball and cover it again with a clean kitchen towel. Let it sit for 2 more hours. (this step could be skipped it needed but will add more air to your loaf)

3. When you’re ready to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put the Dutch oven in the oven to get hot.

4. Pour or roll the dough into the hot pot. You may have to pry it or peel it off the countertop. [I used my nice silicone dough mat from Pampered Chef and it popped right off]  Cover the pot with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes to brown.

5. Remove the bread from the oven and immediately take it out of the pot, using potholders or a thick kitchen towel to handle it. If you have the time, let it cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing so it can set.

Adapted from Faith Durand’s Not Your Mother’s Casseroles (2010)
I don't have a Dutch Oven-my mother says she'll pass hers on to me when she's done (which means dead) with it-that could be years but I just used my largest Corning Ware pot.  The bread came out square and it turned out beautiful.  There is something so delightful about fresh bread that makes it hard to give up.  I loved that step #2 gives me the opportunity to knead it a little.  I love watching the bread come together under my hands.  Adding the cold water to the flour mixture surprised me as the yeast doesn't get to "proof" but it rises just fine. 

Yummy with fresh unsalted butter.
I served this to my book club on 4-18-2011 with bleu cheese crumbles.  We discussed The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls-the bleu cheese represented mold. 
None of the pictures do it justice-I think photographing food is hard but look the bread has airy holes in it. 
If you want to easily print the recipe off here it as a Google Doc...Simple Pot Bread (yes, the name cracks us up also).
Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Feature; Top Ten Earth Day Books! (and a Fantastic Green Giveaway)

Image licenced by Carol Eldridge Designs
This first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970 and was the idea of Senator Gaylord Nelson.  He brought the concept up to President Kennedy in 1962, who agreed to tour the country to raise awareness.  I find it ironic that the idea for Earth Day-a way to draw attention to the ecology of our very own planet Earth-has been around since before I was born!
 Earth Day facts
Wow...and we need it now more than ever BUT just think if we had really paid attention to President Kennedy's call for change we might have made more sweeping changes, especially in the car industry!  [stepping daintily down from soap box]

I digress when we have books to talk about...

Peaceful Reader's Top Ten Books about Earth Day/Ecology w/ mini-synopsis:

10.  It's Earth Day! by Mercer Mayer (2008): Little Critter learns about the ice cap melting and polar bears losing their habitat, which gets him motivated to change his habits and invent a climate control machine!

9.  Biscuit's Earth Day Celebration by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. (2010) Biscuit and his owner attend a local Earth Day event and learn about many ways to celebrate and clean up our planet. 

8. Dinosaurs Go Green!; A Guide to Protecting Our Planet by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown (1992, 2009).  A lively romp through what every good dino or human should know about reducing, reusing, and recycling so we don't become extinct...Told through easy-to-read panels and speech bubbles. 

7. Fancy Nancy; Every Day is Earth Day! by Jane O'Connor (2010).  After learning about Earth Day at school, Fancy Nancy brings the message home, but creates a bit of a mess when she goes over the top to teach them. 

6. We are Extremely Very Good Recyclers by Lauren Child (2009).  Lola discovers how much fun recycling can be with the idea that she can earn a free tree to plant and of course, she gets all her classmates to help! 

5. What Planet are You From, Clarice Bean by Lauren Child (2002).  When she finds out a neighborhood tree is going to be destroyed, Clarice Bean resolves to become an eco-warrior for Planet Earth.

4. The Earth Book by Todd Parr (2010).  Everyday eco-advice told with his amazing artwork will teach kids to turn off the water while they brush and so much more!

3.  Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg (1990).  One young boy, Walter, doesn't think one hoot about littering and generally messing up the environment until he takes a mysterious journey in his bed. 

2. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (1971). Classic tale of creating a need for thneeds (a useless item for sure) and using up all kinds of valuable resources to create and distribute until our landscape is beyond polluted and drab.  A must read for everyone!

1. Arthur Turns Green by Marc Brown (2011).  A class project has Arthur turning green and D.W. in a panic when she thinks she might be next! 

Which brings me to my Giveaway, Giveaway, Giveaway...
and since I'm very new to creating a google form-please leave me your totals and your email with your green comment.  Ooops!  Thank you Diva for clueing me in...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Reducing Your Foodprint; Farming, Cooking, and Eating for a Healthy Planet

by Ellen Rodger
Energy Revolution Series from Crabtree Publishing

My husband loves bananas and I love pineapple! Both fruits require a lot of shipping miles and too many chemicals to grow. As this book explains, our foodprint is calculated by how farming practices and how far food has to travel to get to our table. Knowing this I choose pineapple as a delelicate treat to be savored and not purchased often.  My husband, as a runner, eats bananas everyday.  We do purchase organic when we can but even those have to travel miles and miles to arrive in our fruit bowl in Iowa.  It's tough to consider how we can decrease our foodprint and become more earth-minded with our grocery money.  This book helps to raise awareness.

From the publishers website:
Reducing Your Foodprint teaches children that what they eat and how they eat is important to the environment. Most of the food served in restaurants and stocked on grocery store shelves travels many thousands of miles by airplane and truck. The further food travels, the more harm to the environment. This enlightening new book explains how to eat locally and responsibly. Special case study sections highlight how others have reduced both their carbon foodprints and footprints just by making changes in their diets.

Topics covered include Eco-Awareness, History of Cultivation, Food from Afar, Being an Ecovore, Eating Local, Green Cooking, and Fair Trade Food.  Ecovore, a new term to me, is described as" someone who shops , cooks, and eats with the environment in mind.  It is a term first used by cookbook author Kate Heyhoe to describe someone who makes sustainable food choices that are as environmentally friendly  as possible." (14)  I'm going to add it to my vocabulary and find out more about Kate Keyhoe.

This book could be a great teaching tool but more likely will be used by eco-minded parents to open more awareness.  It would make a great Earth Day gift for a child.  I checked this one out from the library and will look for the other books in the series, Energy Revolution, for my school library.  Crabtree has lesson plans for the series.

To purchase a copy of this perfect book for Earth Day, click on the the title...
Reducing Your Foodprint; Farming, Cooking, and Eating for a Healthy Planet

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekend Update; Photos to Share

Author Marc Brown signing books
Marc Brown was the keynote speaker at the reading conference I attended on Friday.  He was interesting as a speaker and presented a slideshow, sharing his family, his writing inspirations and his beautiful farmhouse on Martha's Vineyard.  I'd say Arthur and friends has been good for him.  He just illustrated a new book by Judy Sierra called ZooZical-he read it to us.  I was able to snap a few photos of him while I waited in line but more importantly, when Groovy Girl heard him speak on Thursday a teacher friend snapped two photos of her talking to Mr. Brown-when I have those I will share.

Friday after the conference I had an Alpha Upsilon Alpha Initiation ceremony, which I helped plan.  Luckily it took place upstairs in the education building right after the conference. I had to give a welcoming speech and public speaking is not my forte! I was nervous but it went okay.   I was extremely happy to get home after this event.  So happy and cold that I plunked myself in a hot bubble bath after kissing both children. 

Simple night at home. Watched a movie with my husband and turned in for a relatively early night.  Ha...

You go to bed, ready for a good night's sleep only to be roused up by the sounds of crying and wretching from Groovy Girl's room.  Up and cleaning food chunks out of her hair in the shower while my husband cleaned the bed.  We threw away the sheets. It was that bad.  She threw up a second time after we had her set up in her empty older sister's room.  Luckily, I'd pulled her hair up into a "ballet bun" after her cleansing shower so she was easier to clean. Skin is an amazing human feature.  This time we set her up on the sofa in the family room with a bucket by the bed.  Time: 2:20.  No skating in the morning for her.  Poor Girl.


I made it to my yoga class, which was a study of the 5 Tibetan Rites.  I didn't think I was going to make it- I was so tired.   I was ready to quit after the first 30 minutes but stuck with it and enjoyed it.  I fought the urge to take a nap the rest of the day. Last night we went to a local high school play and I found it hard to arms are wicked sore from sun salutations.  Heavy arms still today as I type. 

I did get some of my house cleaned and finished The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls!  Loved it and want to read her other book.  I'm ready for book club now.  I just need to make some bread but that's another post!  Monday night we'll be gathered here at my house for another rousing book conversation, good food and a little wine! 

Palm Sunday and my kids looked great in church today, didn't they. There matching outfits were completely unplanned.  Groovy Girl looks healthy there but she is upstairs taking a nap as I finish this post. 

I hope everyone else has had a peaceful and happy weekend.
Watch this week for a giveaway of a signed copy of  Marc Brown's new book, Arthur Goes Green!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Blog Love

Book Lung is hosting a fantastic giveaway with lots of fun ARC's and other book bling.  Go check it out, admire and enter! 
I don't really need any new books on my stacks but they all just look so interesting! 

And here's what's happening in my world:

My son is struggling with school work. It is very difficult to help your children through the rough spots other than just  love and patience.  I could run out of patience any day though...

My daughter, after watching The Little Princess, has decided to be our maid.  She is now upstairs cleaning her room-as the maid-not as herself.  She refuses to clean her room as herself except now somehow it is fun as a maid.  This is me, throwing my arms up in confusion. 

On Friday I have a reading conference to go to and I'm pretty excited as thee Marc Brown is the guest speaker.  My kids love, love, love the Arthur books.  No kidding.  The college teenager would have like to have been home for this event.  She would have stood in line to shake his hand.  Brown meets with several school groups at my son's school tomorrow so my husband and Groovy Girl are going so we will have lots of signed Arthur books.  Imagine when college student girl opens up a package from us and a Marc Brown book falls out.! 

Now I have to finish typing so I can read another hundred pages in The Glass Castle-my book club book, which needs to be finished by Sunday night.  I can't spend the weekend reading though because I have to CLEAN my house-which is close to a pig sty!

Oh, and I went to yoga tonight so I was feeling centered until Chemistry problems clashed with my son's brain:(

Hope your day is blissful~

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekend Update; Library Loot

I had a meeting the other day at the library and because it started 30 minutes after my yoga class and they are right around the corner from each other-it left me about 20 minutes to browse at the library.  Browse quietly at the library by myself, she said with glee. 

I've become addicted to the NEW section of nonfiction, but specifically usually  just for cookbooks.  This time though I sort of did a swoop through all the nonfiction section.  I'm not a nonfiction reader, prefering fiction hands-down almost always but for some reason I found a ton of interesting titles this week.

1. The Locavore Way; Discover and Enjoy the Pleasures of Locally Grown Food by Amy Cotler (2009). This one has lots of tidbits and helpful advice.  As I paged through it there was plenty in there I didn't already know so I had to bring it home.

2. Earth to Table; Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann (2009).  I love good farm stories and this one has beautiful photos as well. 

3. The Power of Small; Why Little Things Make All the Difference by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval (2009).  I liked the pages I read through and thought it might enlighten me a bit.

4. River House; A Memoir by Sarahlee Lawrence (2010).  A dad and his daughter build a cabin together in Oregon.  Proof that I miss my own Dad. 

5. Scout, Atticus and Boo; A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird  by Mary McDonagh Murphy (2010).  This is a collection of interviews from authors and icons...Wally Lamb, Rosanne Cash, Rick Bragg, Tom Brokaw, Scott Turow, Adriana Trigiani and Andrew Young, just to name a few.  I read part of one chapter while standing and was intrigued.  Mockingbird is one of  my all-time favorite reads.

6. Johnny Cash; The Biography by Michael Streissguth (2006).  This wasn't on the new shelf but on a music display.  We love Cash in our house and I thought Teenage Boy might enjoy this.

7. Legendary Homes of Lake Minnetonka by Bette Jones Hammell w/ photography by Karen Melvin (2010).  When I was a kid we boated on this lake (thanks, Dad) and now my brother lives near the lake.  I recognize some of the landmarks and enjoy reading about the architechture of these beautiful homes.  My mom was here on Saturday and it was nice to look through some of it with her.

Have you read any of these?  Which section of the library do you usually frequent?

While it was strange to not have one fiction book in my stack,  I am just about to finish Moon Over Manifest,  I have to finish The Glass Castle for next Monday's book club and I have two books to read for my 5th grade book clubs so I guess I'm fiction-full as well.

Happy Reading.
Hope you've had a peace-filled weekend.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Weekend Cooking; Not Your Mother's Casseroles

by Faith Durand

My friend, Janice, found this cookbook at the public library read it a bit then passed it to me so I could check it out.  She was impressed by it and thought she would buy it.  I've browsed it and love it; am also thinking about buying it.  My mom came yesterday to watch Groovy Girl's Strut Your Stuff skating program and lo and behold; she spotted it on my library shelf, browsed through it and wants a copy as well!  I'm pretty sure that is not exactly why we borrow books from the library but oh, well.  At least when we purchase it we know what we are getting.

This book is packed full of awesome recipes and the title is correct-they aren't the gloppy soup-laden casseroles of my youth.  Luckily, my mother cooked with lots of variety but I did attend many church potlucks and one of my grandmother's was in love with a particular green bean casserole.  That memory makes  me laugh as she would say "Your a vegetarian, you can eat the green beans."  Yah, grandma, except they are swimming in a weird bacon gravy.  Thanks for thiinking of me.  Oh. She. Just. Didn't. Know.

The first great thing about this book is the introduction.  Durand explains the philosophy of casseroles, supplies, pans, filling your pantry and her preference for organic. 

My top ten favorite recipes (haven't tried them yet but they sound delicious)

1.  Baked Cheesy Chile Grits
2. Breakfast Brown Rice with Blueberries and Almonds
3. Lemon Brioche French Toast
4. Cinnamon Roll Breakfast Break
5. Gruyere and  Spinach Egg Puff
6. Baked Avocados with Tomato and Crab
7. Baked Eggplant Parmesan
8. Luscious Oven Creamed Corn
9. Summer Vegetable and Fresh Mozzaella Gratin
10. Sweet and Spicy Parsnip Bake

This list culls from only the first half of the book and I've chosen just vegetarian choices but there are many which include meat.  Durand includes helpful hints throughout the book like this one:

The Useful Mandoline

I am not a big proponent of owning a lot of fancy kitchen equipment. Most recipes in this book can be made with a good knife, a few spoons, a bowl, and a peeler (and a casserole dish, of course). but I do think that a mandoline or Japanese slicer is a huge help in preparing some of these casseroles-especially ones like this vegetable gratin, which calls for very thin, even slices of vegetables. You can find a Benriner Japanese mandoline for about $25.00 online. It will massively speed up your slicing. After I got one, I wondered what I ever did without it.(115)

I don't have a mandolin but I'm thinking about it now!  I could easily have picked ten recipes from the dessert section as well. 

I have made one recipe from the book and it turned out okay.  My kids ate them up but next time I would make them in a regular 13 x 9 pan instead of the jelly roll pan the recipe called for.  Here it is:

Baked Buttermilk Pancakes

Casserole dish: 10 1/2-in x 15 1/2 jelly roll pan
Bake time: 15 minutes (Yeah!)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 T. sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/1 tsp vanilla extract
3 T. unsalted butter, melted
Pure maple syrup, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray. 
2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a med.-sized bowl.  Add the egg, buttermilk, vanilla, and butter.  Whisk to combine.  Do not overmix; the batter will have small lumps. 
3. Pour into prepared pan.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until light golden brown.
4. Slice into long strips and serve hot, with warm maple syrup.

Then she gives a nice little snippet of advice about why it's best to use real maple syrup.  Our household agrees. We also love pancakes.  When I made these they were flatter than I expected.  I whipped them up the night before and baked them in the morning in a stone jelly roll pan.  This made me wonder if I could make pancake muffins with this recipe?

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme-click over there and check out all the other really excellent food-related posts. 

Faith Durand can be found at Apartment Therapy; The Kitchn.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Feature; April = National Poetry Month

 I am lucky to have a large collection of poetry books in my library and that I have students who check out from this section even though they stick to favorites like Shel Silverstein.  I devoured Shel's books when I was in school so I can relate.  My mom,  hip to great literature in 1974, gave me Where the Sidewalk Ends for Christmas that year and I carried it around for months.

Later I fell in love with Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes and Wendell Barry while I was in college and graduate school.  There is an bundle of great poetry available and every year, it seems, I discover someone new.

 A teaching friend and I developed a wonderful poetry unit about 5 years ago and I doubled our library's 811 collection.  She doesn't teach 5th grade anymore and poetry is  no longer in our curriculum at all. I know-it's criminal!  I am working on poetry with 2nd grade all through April.  We are going to read poems, explore some poetry sites and hopefully, create a few of our own.  What favorite poetry books do you rely on for April or anytime you bring poetry out?

Here are my poetry picks for today:

1.  Poems in Black and White by Kate Miller (2007);  This book combines beautiful imagery with poetry about everyday life.

The Cow

she wears
a bristly map
of milkweed white
and midnight black

           it seems
           as though
             strong enough
             to carry continents
                    upon her back

with oceans
in between

and islands  on her

2. Mirror Mirror   by Marilyn Singer; ill. Josee Masse (2010): This is verse in reverse and it is amazing how each verse works.  Fairy tales are the theme, which means I get to use this book in two different lesson plans this Spring. 

in the Hood

in my hood,
skipping through the wood,
carrying a basket,
picking berries to eat-
juicy and sweet
what a treat!
But a girl
mustn't dawdle.
After all, Grandma's waiting.

and on the other side of the page is the reverse but you can reverse it by reading back up the poem.  It makes sense both ways and makes you think!  Love it.

3. Here's a Little Poem; A Very First Book of Poetry  collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters; ill. Polly Dunbar (2007):  The illustrations in this one steal my heart; Dunbar is magic!  The poetry inside is perfectly picked for young listeners.

This one captures my  mommy attention:

You Be Saucer

You be saucer,
I'll be cup,
piggyback, piggyback,
pick me up.

You be tree,
I'll be pears,
carry me, carry me
up the stairs.

You be Good
I'll be Night,
tuck me in, tuck me in
nice and tight.

Eve Merriam
Try out these other poetry places:

Shel Silverstein
Kenn Nesbitt
Kalli Dakos
and Gregory K's GottaBook blog is featuring poetry all month!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ivy + Bean; What's the Big Idea?

by Annie Barrows + Sophie Blackwell
From the book:

"It's Science Fair time at Emerson School and the kids in Ms. Aruba-Tate's class are supposed to find a way to cool down the earth.  Some kids are making litterbug-eating robots.  Some kids are holding their breath for a very, very long time.  But what should Ivy and Bean  do?  Somehing with explosions?  Something with ropes?  Or maybe something...different." (inside front cover blurb)

Ohhh, we positively glowed and giggled while we read this book!  I won this special copy from a giveaway a few  months back (a signed copy!) and Groovy Girl and I read it together.  We've loved the six other Ivy + Bean books and this was no exception-and in fact this may have been our favorite.  We liked that best friends,  Ivy and Bean,  focused their attention on the science fair project and ways to help the earth.  This book is a fantastic introduction to global warming and how solutions are hard to find.  It will take more than just one or two ideas from one or two people.    It will take many of us, working together, using multiple solutions but certainly alerting future generations to the concept is a great start.
After a dull presentation by several fourth graders, the students in Ms. Aruba-Tate's classroom are curious about polar bears and their habitat loss.  Taking advantage of a teachable moment, Aruba-Tate turns the upcoming science fair into a global warming fair.  Every other student team easily decides on a project while Ivy and Bean are long on ideas but none that work.  We enjoyed how they kept problem-solving, brainstorming and generally thinking outside the box until they finally come up with the coolest idea ever!  I hope Barrows and Blackwell have other books cooking as this one is a hit.  Any age person will love reading this newest addition of second graders, Ivy and Bean.

We can all help...Do what you can, one step at a time. Buy some reusable sacks and leave them in your car for grocery shopping. Even better find some second-hand canvas bags and reuse those as grocery bags.  Do your laundry at night when usage is low or dry your clothes outside now that the weather is just beginning to warm up.  Barrows includes a list of Save-the-earth ideas at the back of the book.  Highly Recommended.

Quick Quote: 
"Think-how do you cool down a hot thing?" asked Ivy, "Ice cubes!  If we could put ice cubes up in the sky, the air would get colder, right?"  "Right," said Bean.  "But how are we going to put ice cubes in the sky?" asked Ivy.  "Well, in real life, they'd probably have to drop them out of airplanes, but for the science fair, we could just throw them up in the air to show what we mean."  Bean slapped her hand on the table.  "Great idea!  And easy, too!" (47)
Other excellent reviews:

Kathy @ Bermudaonion
first daughter @ There's A Book

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

One Day Without Shoes...give it a try!

I love to go barefoot but it's pretty cold here also.  My concession for school is to wear socks inside while teaching but afterschool I will be barefoot walking out and for the rest of the day.  Watch the video and give it a try.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Organic or Natural Food Debate-which is better?

Some of you may be able to answer this already, which is great.  I know organic is better but have always struggled trying to explain it to  people.  I know that through the certification process the word "natural" become watered down as to what it means.

Today I was thumbing through Natural Awakenings, a free publication I picked up at Whole Foods, while in Little Rock.  Inside I found an article entitled, "America's Growing Food Revolution; An Insider's Guide to Sustainable Choices" by Lisa Marshall.  Skimming through the article I stopped when I read  Maria Rodale's name of the famous Rodale family.  She writes:  "If you do just one thing-make one conscious choice-that can change the world, go organic."  In the debate between local, organic and natural I've often heard it is better to buy local, then organic and when given no other choices, natural.  I think when she is advocating organic is if people demand it, it could change revert farming to a more natural choice over the industrial farming that has become the norm.  I agree with this idea completely.

The article goes on:  "One 2009 survey by The Shelton Group found that out of 1,000 shoppers, 31 percent looked for the "natural"  label while 11 percent looked for "organic"  There is a giant misconception among consumers that somehow natural is the word that is regulated and organic is not.  In fact, it is actually the other way around," says CEO Suzanne Shelton.  "Law mandates that U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) products labeled organic be free of pesticides, hormones and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and that animals be given access to the outdoors."  I believe this part to be true but I have heard that even some organic animals are raised in cages but outside.  This is where I know, for me, it is important to know the farmer so I can ask questions about how their animals are raised.

The article then says:  "By contrast, the Food and Drug Administration vaguely describes natural as, "Nothing artificial or synthetic has been included in, or has been added to a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food."  With the exception of meat, it is up to the manufacturer to define what natural really means.  (In 2009, the USDA defined "naturally raised" meat as, ..."raised entirely without growth promoters, antibiotics, and never been fed animal byproducts."  It says nothing about GMOs or humane animal treatment."

It's confusing for many (even my mom will say "I bought the good stuff-it says natural") but for my family I need to know animals have been treated humanely-like animal living on farms, just like the farms of our childhood.   This article makes the difference clear to me. 

Other news:  I'm in the process of making Chinoiseries' quiche recipe I discovered while reading through Beth Fish Read's Weekend Cooking posts.  I couldn't find puff pastry, even though I know it has to be there but decided to make my own crust instead.  She based her quiche recipe on this Vegetarian Times one.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Weekend Cooking; Salman Rushdie's Lamb Korma

Sunday Parade photo of Lamb Korma
My husband loves to read the newspaper, which is a good thing.  I like to read certain parts  but it usually depresses me so he reads and shares things with me and that way I don't have to get bogged down by all the bad news.  He found this Salman Rushdie's recipe at the back of the Sunday Parade Magazine and said that it sounded good.  He loves Indian food and with his birthday right around the corner I decided this would be my special dinner for him.

 I bought  local lamb at my organic store where I also found the cardamon pods.  I've never been able to buy safron here so that was the only ingredient I didn't have.  It was delicious and I loved crushing the cardamon pods in my mortal and pestle which looks a lot like this one....

The recipe was a huge hit even with my daugher who didn't eat the meat but loved the gravy and the jasmine rice.   We had some frozen naan from an Indian store in Arkansas to add to the fun!

Lamb Korma

Servings: 8


1½ cups chopped onion
1 cup clarified butter (melted and skimmed of milk solids)
4 to 5 large cardamom pods (available in the spice section)
10 to 12 small cardamom pods
2 lb lamb, cubed
6 to 8 garlic cloves, crushed
½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1½ Tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp red chili powder
1½ tsp salt
8 oz plain yogurt, lightly whisked
Pinch of saffron


1. Brown onions in butter until deep golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and pulse in a blender to form a paste. Crush cardamom; mix into paste.

2. Add meat to pan; stir over medium-high. After a few minutes, add garlic, ginger, coriander, chili powder, and salt. Stir for a couple of minutes. Mix in yogurt. Cover and cook over very low heat, 1 to 1½ hours.

3. About 5 minutes before korma is ready, add onion-cardamom paste and saffron so it can be absorbed by the meat and gravy.

Mine didn't look like the picture above at all-I didn't have those tiny peas and carrot cubes and mine had more gravy (I added extra yogurt)-otherwise I thought it would be dry.  We loved it and I would make this again.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking meme.  Click over to see her post-she's making (my heavens) chocolate-ginger cake!  It looks yummy.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Feature-Book Lover's Books

Today I have three books about one of my favorite subjects...books.  Books about books! Two are new finds and one is a favorite.  I would love to hear your favorites!

1. Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile (2011) by Gloria Houston; ill. by Susan Condie Lamb

This hardcover just came in my Scholastic order and I knew from the cover I was going to like it.  Miss Dorothy loves books and people at a young age and she decides to become a librarian.  Her dream is to be the librarian at the "fine brick library just like the one where she checked out books in the center of the town square in her hometown in Massachusetts."  She goes to library school at Radcliffe, graduates and gets married.  Her husband wants to live on a farm in the Blue Ridge Mts, far away from her hometown.  Her dream changes but she still becomes a librarian, sharing books with lots of mountain people.  The illustrations are beautiful, capturing the Appalachian countryside with great color.  I read it aloud to one class and they were quiet and thoughtful by the end.  It is based on a true story from the author's recollections of Miss Dorothy's bookmobile.
2. The Wonderful Book (2010) by Leonid Gore

I love many of Gore's books-they are quirky.  This one is no exception.  Several animals find a book in the forest and invent ways to use the object.  Rabbit makes it into a house, bear makes it into a hat and the mice use it for table. When a boy comes upon the book and begins to read it the animals find out the true purpose of the book.  As the animals nestle down to listen to the story it reminds me how many children automatically tuck into your side as you begin to read.  Very charming!

3. Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook (2003) by Michael Garland

If you haven't experience Miss Smith's fabulous storybook you need to find it at your library.  She is a funky brand new teacher and she takes the boredom out of any day by reading from her amazing book.  While she reads (and students eyes get big as saucers) the stories come alive and suddenly the characters are next to the kid's in class.   A perfect way to illustrate how our imaginations work as we read!  When I read this aloud last week one student said "Mrs. Holt, you need to get a book like THAT!" 

What new treasures have come alive for you this week?
Happy April Fool's Day!  I played one great trick on a class and was delighted to pop back in to their classroom and say "April Fool's"-they laughed and laughed!!