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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Reading Gives Us Somewhere to Go

The Christmas book basket is full, our 25 day countdown has begun, basketball is in full swing, and so far no broken bones.  In case you weren’t with us last year my sophomore broke his knee and the very next day my fifth grader broke his arm.  This made for a very interesting Christmas and we even had to cancel our ski trip to Banff Springs.  Well not really, but made for a good joke none the less.  Maybe someday when I don't have four always hungry, basketball, FFA, gymnastic going, teenage driving kids then my vacations won’t just lie between the pages.  So where would I go?  Glad you asked, I’ve always wanted to visit Japan.  I love the Japanese culture and often stay up into the wee hours of the night Kindle watching Japanese movies.   Mom’s, if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? 

But back to reality, the only thing Asian around here is the Noodle House and Tae Kwon DO Plus.  I bet you didn’t know I was a purple belt, only three away from black.   Then we moved south and so my life changed direction as it tends to do.
And for those inquiring minds, we’ve started our Christmas countdown. This year I decided not to go with the chain again, but instead use an antique printer’s tray.  I printed the 25 activities on textured white paper and turned them into scrolls by rolling and tying with gold ribbon.  As Little Reader was very concerned about the empty slots, she did find chocolate kisses to put in them.  But they keep disappearing, and it’s not the little ones, it’s the teenagers.  Did I mention they also ate my candy train and secret Santa snack as well ;-{
2.  Family Game Night
3. Sonic Christmas Shakes
9.  Christmas Tree
10. Pinecone Bird Feeder
11. Unwrap A New Book To Read
12.  Ice Cream Sundaes
13. Ornament Writing
15.  San Antonio – Celtics / Spurs Basketball Game
17. Dr. Seuss Movie Night
18. Christmas Light Walk
19. Christmas Story (place light in window inviting Jesus into our home.)
20. Water Balloon Marbles & Christmas Cookies
25. Merry Christmas – Open Presents

The Not Christmas Books in Review

By Baicker-McKee, Carol

It’s the adorable felt pictures that makes this book work.  The story itself is ho-hum, but there’s a dose of cute that little book lovers will find irresistible.   So why not follow Mimi the pig, her stuffed bunny, and pet bug to library school. 

The Top Secret Files of Mother Goose
Gosling, Gabby

When the Queen of Hearts tarts go missing, Chief Detective Mother Goose is on the case. You’ll love all the nursery rhyme characters in this humorous little tale.

Miss Mingo and the First Day of School
By Harper, Jamie

Did you know a pelican's beak holds 3.5 gallons of water?   Neither did I, but here you will find all sorts of cool animal facts.  It’s the first day of school and Miss Mingo the flamingo has each animal share something unique about themselves.  Fun, informative, and you will love the illustrations. 

I Know A Wee Piggy
By Norman, Kimberly

Just like I Know an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, the author uses bouncy rhyme and rhythm here to introduce color concepts.   When one perky pig wallows himself in every color of the rainbow, will he be able to win a prize at the fair?  I will give you a hint that he’s covered in blue, but isn’t that from his wallowing? “The sentences are too long saying the same thing!” - Little Reader
By Sattler, Jennifer Gordon


We all know it’s our unique characteristics that make us special, but for Sylvie the flamingo this is one lesson to be learned.  After learning why she is pink, she eats a myriad of colored foods and enjoys the changes until she no longer feels like herself.  An adorable curious inducing read, much like A Bad Case of Stripes.  “It’s Christmas time so I want my flamingo to be candy cane!” – Little Reader  
And now how can I work in a red and white flamingo craft this afternoon?

So after printing out flamingo coloring pages and then painting with pink Jell-O, Little Reader has decided she wants a pet flamingo for Christmas.  We have Roseate Spoonbills around here, so an Indian Point  romp will just have to do.  But I could really get into this flamingo thing.  That’s it, I’ve’ had an epiphany - a flamingo Christmas.  Hello Amazon ;-)

Check out this pink read that’s landing in March.

Porcupining: A Prickly Love Story
Wheeler, Lisa
Cushion the lonely porcupine lives in a petting zoo and down on his luck in finding a wife.  Will his songs help him find the love of his life?  Not telling - your gonna have to read it and see. And yes, Little Reader did like my singing to the tune of “Oh, Susannah!"
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Monday, November 12, 2012

Circus Pigs & What’s in the Crock?

Ladies & Gentlemen let me introduce Barnum & Bailey, our “Greatest Show” on Earth. Yes the insanity continues…  Barnum the Duroc, is very fat and very sweet.  And then there’s Bailey the Hamp, the not as fat and not so sweet pig.  I’m currently without camera as Bailey decided she didn’t want her picture taken - can you say bacon!  And thanks to her I had to use my daughters IPod to take Halloween pictures, which did not come out ;-(  And no, we didn’t make the Lemon Meringue costume as planned, but Little Reader was the best candycorn witch on the block.  My twelve year old son is still all about the candy and disappeared into the night with his light up morph suit, returning with pillow cases full of candy.  Yep, we are going to the dentist this week.

                                          “Bad” Pig          "Good" Pig

Despite the not so cold weather, I’m moving into the Christmas spirit and figuring out this year’s color scheme.  I know it’s early but these things take time.  Thinking about gold and brown, going chocolaty perhaps.  It’s Pinterest time!

And yes, I’ve got an idea swirling around in my head.  It’s only the best book / toy / reader helper ever.  Looking for prototype assistance, and this someone must have sewing skills.  I’m the dreamer, the who you know, and the where to go, but missing the how to make it part.  Will get back with you fellow mom readers and writers on that.  

Now what to do with my loofah harvest?  Found this on how to make them into sponges -and what great Christmas gifts they will make.  And yes, I still have loofah seeds if interested.  Maybe I’ll video this attempt!    

What’s In Our Tote?

I Love Chocolate
By Calì, Davide

So do you have “dainty chocolate dabblers” or “monster munchers” in your house?   Originally published in Italian, this book is not spectacularly written but being all about chocolate you can’t go wrong with it.  I loved the artwork and brown tones throughout, but remember to read in moderation.  "I love this 'chocolicious' book now it’s time to head to Sonic for shakes."  - Little Reader

The Golden Locket
By Greene, Carol

Miss Teaberry will do anything to avoid the worry of caring for a valuable object.   But little does she know the chaos it will bring.   This was an odd read, and I can’t figure out why someone would want to give something away because it’s too precious.  Maybe it’s a generational thing, but obviously not this one.

Plunk’s Dreams
By Griffith, Helen

Aren’t you a little curious of what your dog is dreaming?  Here’s a look into the imagination of a boy and his dog Plunk’s dreams.   And that’s all I got!   

Once Upon A Time, The End
Kloske, Geoffrey

Okay moms, we all do it.  When reading those extra long wordy books sometimes we just have to skip over a few lines or even paragraphs.  And now that you have admitted to it, you can thoroughly enjoy this book.  Here in lies abridged retelling of different fairy tales, but to appreciate the irony you must be familiar with these classic stories.   "Is this like when you give a Moose A Muffin mama?"  - Little Reader  Very intuitive, yep that’s my girl. 

Creepy Carrots
By Reynolds, Aaron

Have you ever been stalked by a vegetable?    Meet Jasper Rabbit who is convinced batches of creepy carrots are after him.  This unpredictable humorous tale is Little Reader approved and next year she wants to be a carrot for Halloween. 

Lucky Pennies and Hot Chocolate
By Shields, Carol Diggory

In this adorable romp, a boy and his grandfather share their best friend adventures.  From finding lucky pennies to playing games, and of course enjoying hot chocolate together.   I mostly loved the last page surprise!

Brr… it’s a whopping 50 degrees this evening.  (That’s a south town cold snap for ya!)  And can you guess what’s cookin’ tonight?

Hot Chocolate in the Crockpot

What’s in it?
·         1.5 cups whipping cream
·         1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
·         6 cups milk
·         1 teaspoon vanilla
·         2 cups of milk chocolate chips

Now What?
Stir together the whipping cream, milk, vanilla, and chocolate chips in a crockpot.
Cover and cook on low for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until mixture is hot and chocolate chips are melted. Stir again before serving. Try topping it w/ whipped cream, marshmallows, candy sprinkles, or chocolate shavings.  

Oh, and you know what else is a crock?  That through voter fraud and through the ignorance of minority non-Americans, Obama is still in office.  From one conservative mama to another, we must pray for our children’s future. 
That's a Crock, Barack by Fred Eckert
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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Falling Into Fall

Quirky reads, fall birthday, pies in a jar, and pig ballet, I mean pig & ballet has kicked off our October.   I’ll get to the reads later, but first on to the fall birthday. Having to top husband’s last year’s Italian birthday, the brainstorming began.   Well, fall is my most fav time of year so what could be better than a harvest décor complete with apple pies in jars?  Thank you Pinterest  <3   Yes you can put virtually anything into a glass Mason jar, pop it in the oven, and “ding” you’ve got one really cute delish pie.  It turned out really well, and it's so much fun to cook for the people I love! 

The Menu
Apple and Pecan Baked Brie
Arugula, Proscuitto, Blue Cheese, and Pear Salad
Shrimp Scampi
Individual Apple Pies

Here’s a link to the Brie recipe I used.  A definite hit!   
I made the salad by tossing sliced pears, blue cheese, and prosciutto into Arugula, then added Balsamic dressing.  (I used store-bought & it was fine)  The tart and sweet together are divine.
So the Shrimp Scampi isn’t really a fall food, but what the hey!  Simply add white wine, lemon, garlic, butter, and you’re in business. Here's the link.

We had so much fun making these.  They are adorable and who can resist desserts in cute little jars.   So share with you I will.  
Things You Will Need
12 - Half-Pint Wide-Mouth Mason Jars (Make sure they’re the wide mouth, otherwise your hands won’t be able to push in the dough inside. - I learned the hard way)
For The Crust
The recipe calls for 3 -9 inch Pie Crusts but I bought four boxes of Pillsbury pie crusts and used every bit of it.
For The Apple Filling
  • 6 Granny Smith apples peeled and cut
  • 2 Red apples peeled and cut
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice to keep from browning while you cut
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • ¼ cup of flower
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt if desired
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter
For the Cherry Filling
  • 1 can store-bought cherry pie filling
What to do Now?
·        Preheat oven to 400 degrees
·        Clean mason jars
·        Spray the heck out of your Mason jars w/ non stick spray
·        Roll dough thinner than they are out of the package and cut into one inch strips.  Now press strips into jar making sure that you don’t have any gaps.  At first it seems impossible, but hang in there you’ll get the groove going

For the Apple Pie Filling
This is the most time labor intensive part.
  • Peel and cut apples into small enough cubes to fit into jars.  
  • Sprinkle lemon juice
  • Combine and mix brown sugar, flour, and spices into another bowl
  • Then pour over apples and mix together
  • Spoon apples into jars about ¾ of the way and put a pat of butter on each one.
  • Top with crust and cut slits
For the Cherry Pie Filling
You’re tired so just open up your can and follow what you did up top.

Cooking Them
 This is the easy part so hang in there.
  • Place jars on rimmed backing sheet and place in preheated oven
  • Cook for 35 – 45 minutes or until golden brown (It varies in cook time, so keep your eyes on the pies just to be safe.
  • Remove and let cool.
  • We topped ours with whip cream  before serving
  • Smile it’s done, so enjoy!  And a little gloating never hurt anyone. 
So moving on to the ballet…  
Little Reader is officially a ballerina and who knows; maybe she’ll go as far as her mama.  A little something about me that most don’t know is that I danced with the Houston Ballet Company years ago with the greats like Li Cunxin and Janie Parker.  Yes, I once pressed to become a prima ballerina with the Company and did so until the director, Ben Stevenson decided that my body type, (not a long enough torso & being too chesty) was not what he looked for in his primas.  Devastating yes, but I learned then how to be a real teenager outside of dance and took my talents to cheerleading and gymnastics.  So now my Little Reader begins her journey as a dancer.

On to the pigs …  
What’s all the hog wash goin’ round town?  Yep it’s true, we have decided to add to our chaos and become pig farmers.   My oldest daughter joined FFA and put us in the market for a good pig.  A pig is a pig, or so I thought?  Call me what you want - City Slicker, barn newb, Mrs. Wishy Washy, or if you see me round town you can say, “There goes the pig lady!”   Yes I see it to, the making of a good story.  So be on the lookout for your It’s a girl!announcement.   No seriously, let me know and I’ll drop one your direction.

Our Quirky Romps

The Truly Horrible Sweater That Grandma Knit
By Macomber, Debbie

We all have them.  -  That hideous thing hanging in the back of your closet, that you just can’t bring yourself to throw away.  When one little boy receives a terribly ugly birthday sweater, he will not be caught dead wearing it. But after a visit from Grandma he learns the value of a handmade gift.   A simple story with a bit of special tucked in, but think it could have been done in less words.

Down the Back of the Chair (Blue Best)
By Mahy, Margaret

A romp through absurdity if you will, but you‘ll certainly wish you had a chair like this!  On a dad’s frantic search for car keys, wonderful and amazing riches emerge from down the back of the chair.   A rhyming witty tale of one economically-challenged family, and we may all soon be looking down the back of our chairs after this next election if we don’t see change.  Silly, quirky, and this one’s going into our home collection.

HogWood Steps Out
By Mansfield, Howard

Random side note:
So do I let my teenager join FFA and raise pigs?  Why sure we’ve got all the time in the world, and I really want to get up with the roosters to wallow with swine.  And what about that pig flu thing?  Don’t get me wrong I like small town livin’ but not sure if I’m ready to become Mrs. Wishy Washy.  But what could be more fun than spending my Friday night looking up how to raise pigs on YouTube and filling up my library cart with pig reads, boy I really know how to liven things up!  

Gotta respect a pig that knows what he wants, and not about to let any humans get in his way to boot.  600 pound Hogwood escapes his pen and goes a rootin’ the landscape and a complimentin’ a backhoe.  And he is even kind enough to let the policeman walk him home.   A laugh out loud joy and I’m convinced we need a pig.

By McClintock, Barbara

A gem of a read! Charlotte is not the girliest of girls, but after receiving a fancy doll (Dahlia) she grows attached, and more sweetly is the ending.  Phenomenally illustrated with a Victorian flair.  Every little girl should have this one to read? - Little Reader Agreed, and I don’t know how I've missed Barbara McClintock until now!

The Not So Quirky

Timothy Knapman's Marvelous Manners Series

The Friendliest Ballerina
Bella the star of ballet class learns the importance of being helpful and friendly.

Cowboys Can Be Kind
Cowboy Jack learns the hard way the importance of being unselfish and kind.

The two others, The Pirate Who Said Please & Princesses Love To Share we have not read yet.  Little Reader is anxiously awaiting these interlibrary loans, but really once you’ve read one then you’ve read them all.  But they do have cute pictures, are okay for a one time read, and would work for a manners classroom focus. 

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