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Friday, April 03, 2015

Easter Eggs - in a basket

Dying Hollow Eggs

Nothing fancy here.  We just set out to make a basket of Easter eggs with a 2 year old.  So wanted to keep things simple.  Did not want to boil the eggs (deviled eggs were not in the schedule this Easter) so decided to blow the eggs out (use the eggs for scrambled) and then dye the egg shells for a centerpiece basket.  Read all the blogs with hints and instructions for blowing out the eggs and decided that I was not going to "blow" them at all.  A can of air would do the trick.  So with a cup to catch the insides - I began, can of air in hand.
Holes at each end -- and I used the can of compressed air to blow out the insides.  Worked nicely -- except, the pressure of the air also blew out the egg shell in interesting ways.  Few of the egg shells remained intact.  But fortunately we really did not care as we wanted to have chicks hatching from the eggs anyway so a few cracks here and there would only add to the authenticity.

Cups, a few drops of food coloring, a splash of vinegar, and HOT water filling each cup 1/2 full and... — a great helper.

Since the eggs are empty the shells had to be held down or they would just float to the top and only dye the bottom side of the egg shell.
 Once the egg has the intensity of color one wants it to be it should be lifted out and put gently on a paper towel.  Of course if one is impatient, the eggs may just barely get dyed to the palest of pale colors.
 Now we just need some baby chicks to sit inside the basket with the cracking eggs.

Happy Easter.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Easter Baskets - Easter Books

Easter for many people will arrive on April 5th and those of us who will be observing the traditional holiday may also be dealing with the Easter Bunny tradition.  For those of any religious persuasion who would like to understand the religious significance, a reading of Gail Gibbons's Easter would be in order.
Easter  is a very simple nonfiction book about the origins of Easter. The text focuses on the basic history of the Christian holiday but includes the origins of more secular holiday traditions like Easter Eggs and the name of the holiday coming from Eostre, the pagan goddess of Spring. 

Easter does signify the coming of Spring and new life, both in the animal and plant world.  It is the day for daffodils, and spring flowers.

The tradition of the Easter Bunny seems most prevalent in the secular celebration of Easter and it has long been a mystery as to how a bunny came to deliver colored eggs to all the little children at Easter time -- painted eggs and chocolates delivered in a basket.  Katherine Tegan has written a story that explains how that came to be and leaves young readers with a vision of rabbits in a hollow tree weaving baskets, coloring eggs, and pouring chocolate into egg molds.  A most delightful book.
These are among the books that are just right for sharing during those 20 minute a day read aloud times.  Whether or not your children are reading on their own, only reading aloud to them will stretch their vocabulary above where they are at, at the moment, help to build a schematic background with new information, build attention span, and in general build a love of books and learning.  Read aloud to your children EVERY day.

Gibbons, Gail.  (1991) Easter.  Holiday House.
Tegan, Katherine. (2005) The Story of the Easter Bunny.  Illustrations by Sally Anne Lambert.  HarperCollins.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Time for Spring...Birdhouses

These birdhouses are fun to decorate for decorations indoors or hanging on a covered deck or screened in porch -- don't think they would last too long in an outdoor garden ... but you decide.  The fun is in the process.  Images were affixed with Modge Podge®, painting was brushed on or spray painted.   Books and Birds -- both signaling time for spring.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day

March 17 - Happy St. Patrick's Day

Some interesting reading -- Older readers will find many books about Ireland, but one of my favorite readings is a essay about why a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust considers St. Patrick's Day as the favorite holiday in his family.  Read about Erich Otto in an article by his daughter, "Why St. Patrick's Day Is My Jewish Family's Favorite Holiday" at and then don't miss the post and Erich Otto's own story about the Hoover Rolls (Herbert Hoover, WWII) at

Then a  few books to celebrate the day... and beyond.  A few of my favorites...
Six legends about St. Patrick and information about traditions of how St. Patrick's day was celebrated in the past and is celebrated today.

St. Patrick's Day by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House)

 A biography of the man behind the celebration of St. Patrick's Day from his birth in Britain to his kidnapping and being taken to Ireland as a captive of bandits.  Tomie dePaola's signature illustrations are exquisitely integrated into the well-known legends. 

Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola (Holiday House)

A favorite character focused on the holiday.
Happy St. Patrick's Day, Curious George based on books about George by H.A. Rey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

 A parody of the favorite childhood song, The Little Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly -- this parody by Lucille Colandro and illustrated by Jared Lee who also illustrated  St. Patrick's Day from the Black Lagoon (see below).
There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Clover by Lucille Colorandro, illustrated by Jared Lee (Cartwheel Books)
 And Tomie dePaola is always a favorite story teller.  This legend is straight from Ireland.
Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato: An Irish Folktale by Tomie dePaola (Grosset and Dunlap)

Always a favorite series - The Black Lagoon Adventures --
St. Patrick's Day from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler with illustrations by Jared Lee (Scholastic).

Enjoy celebrating St. Patrick's Day

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Re-Thinking the books on Laura Ingalls Wilder's Birthday

Re-Thinking the Wilder books.

Today - February 7th is the 148th anniversary of Laura Ingalls Wilder's  birthday in 1867.  She died three days after reaching 90 years of age (Feb. 10, 1957). Anyone who "teaches" these books or reads them with children should be aware of some of the concerns about the depiction of American Indians in these books.  Please check out Debbie Reese's blog and search for "Laura Ingalls Wilder" -- I think you will uncover some very thought provoking ideas.  And another essay about Wilder that must be read is Laura June's Parent Rap "No Offense to Laura Ingalls Wilder" -- you will see that the stories are no better to African Americans either (although less frequent in the text).  See page ninety-eight of Little House on the Prairie.    But better than being a writer, she was a strong independent woman at the turn of the century and beyond.  She cared for her husband, wrote a column for a newspaper, and became a nationally recognized writer -- all because she was the strong woman that she was.  I'll celebrate that, but to honor her I will eat gingerbread...
I personally LOVE the Wilder books but I read them as an adult and read them from another perspective -- realizing that Wilder wrote these with memories of her childhood but with the stereotypical perspective of a 65-year-old woman who had the ingrained attitude toward many people that had developed over a life-time.  Just as she described the prairie lands surrounding her Dakota home with flowers that did not exist when she was growing up there.  The memories of some of the flowers she describes came most likely from visions she gathered during one of her adult visits back home to see her family.  Her books are indeed a look into the pioneering spirit but they also are reflective of the prejudices and attitudes Wilder developed as she matured into adulthood.  The value in her books is a look at the attitude and prejudices that exist during the 1930s when she and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane wrote them.
When she was writing these books it was acceptable to have a cigar store Indian in front of your store.  And the genocide of 100,000 NA Children was supported by the citizenry of the USA. -- Certainly these attitudes toward NA provided enhancement to any childhood memories and created situations with a lot of hyperbole.

HarperCollins, her long time publisher has put up a list of 10 things one can learn from reading the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder at  Sadly there are other things one can learn from the books as well. She does not treat Native Americans very well in her writings and that is a product not so much of her childhood but of the time in which she lived and wrote.

Consider the following:  
Try the Birchhouse Series by Louise Ehrlich -- or I can suggest others such as Laurie Lawlor's Addie series.

Just think about it --

Laura Ingalls Wilder

For some little known information about the first editions of the books go to the Purple House Press site and its pages about Laura
The books are definitely fiction -- but do share some very important glimpses of pioneer life.
On Laura's birthday I will celebrate her strength of character with her own favorite cake -- gingerbread.  In her later years she often greeted guests with her well-known gingerbread with a glaze of chocolate frosting and lemonade.

Here's her recipe for the gingerbread --

Laura Ingalls Wilder's gingerbread was
most often served with a thin glaze of
chocolate and a glass of freshly made
1 cup brown sugar blended with
1/2 cup lard or other shortening.
1 cup molasses mixed well with this.
2 teaspoons baking soda in 1 cup boiling water
(Be sure cup is full of water after foam is run off into cake mixture).
Mix all well.

To 3 cups of flour have added one teaspoon each of the following spices:
ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Sift all into cake mixture and mix well.
Add lastly 2 well-beaten eggs.
The mixture should be quite thin.
Bake in a moderate oven for thirty minutes.

Raisins and, or, candied fruit may be added and a chocolate frosting adds to the goodness.

And for Google's take on the legacy of LIW - check out the links on this page

And you may also be interested in this post about LIW's days in Iowa --


Saturday, December 27, 2014

What do Alice Waters and Beatrix Potter have in common?

I'm sure when Tom and Tiffany (I'm betting Tiffany) found this adorable tea set, they had in mind that the theme would fit right in with my love of all things Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit) .  And don't miss the Beatrix Potter guest room.  But I digress.  The set is indeed a great addition to the Beatrix Potter collection BUT I also saw a set that would be well connected to Alice Waters too.  Alice Louise Waters (born April 28, 1944) is an American chef, restaurateur, activist, and author. She is the owner of Chez Panisse, a Berkeley, California restaurant famous for its organic, locally-grown ingredients.  She is also the subject of Jacqueline Briggs Martin's most recent book -- Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious.
So what do Alice Waters and Beatrix Potter have in common -- a connection to cabbages and carrots and all things good to eat.  And although a thin connection both have birthdays that land on the 28th of the month -- Alice Waters was born on April 28 (1944) and Helen Beatrix Potter on July 28 (1866).  Potter died (Dec. 22, 1943) just four months before Waters was born.
I'm thinking in April we just must have an Alice Waters brunch and celebrate her birthday -- using this cabbage tea set. And again in July to honor Beatrix Potter.  Baby carrots in the carrot dish, and using the large peter rabbit decoratively.  Now Peter is supposed to be a tea pot but I'm thinking there might be other decorative ideas that might involve him.  All in all -- I'm loving that these pieces -- so adorable and will be very fun to use. 

Love it.  Love Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious and Beatrix Potter.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Norman Bridwell Remembered (Feb. 15, 1928-Dec. 12, 2014) RIP

Norman Bridwell
This picture is one that I used in my book 100 Most Popular Picture Book Authors and Illustrators: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies (Libraries Unlimited/ABC-CLIO, 2000).  Bridwell is featured on 53-56, and the interview for that book is most likely the last time that I spoke with him.  He would have been about 74 at that time and still as interesting as ever.
I first met him in the late 1980s when I contacted him for a contribution to the Iowa Reading Association's t-shirt project.  We asked several noted illustrators for images that we might print on t-shirts and bags; and I had one run made with quilt squares (besides Normal Bridwell, illustrators such as Tomie dePaola, Leo and Diane Dillon, Steven Kellogg, Bill Peet, Aliki, and others contributed).  This image of Clifford the Big Red Dog and Emily Elizabeth was Bridwell's contribution and a 2-year-old in 2014 is still enjoying finding "Big Dog" on his nap quilt.  In the next few years I met him in person as the reading association hosted him at their annual reading conference in April.  I was his liaison and helper during his autographing session that Saturday.  One of the most memorable exchanges was when a young twenty-ish woman brought a book to be autographed but due to time constraints she had to leave it to come back and retrieve it later.  When he got to her request the personalization request read something like:  "To my friend, Mrs. _____________, the world's best teacher and friend to all children."  He turned to me and said, "Do I have to write that?"  I didn't get it at first, and then he said, "If I write that and sign my name and she turns out to be a child predator, how does that make me look -- she's not 'my' friend."  I agreed and we had a good time laughing at the possibilities that might ensue if he had written that inscription.  After that I and he often talked/wrote.
During our conversations he recounted the women who had made his career as Clifford's creator possible.  He was trying to get an illustrative job and Susan Hirschman at Harper & Row (later Greenwillow) was very forthright and told him that she doubted if any jobs would be coming his way, for him to illustrate someone else's books.  But if he developed his own stories maybe there would be some possibilities.  She identified a sketch of a small girl and her BIG dog as a possibility.  Clifford was born.  When in the beginning  "Tiny" was born as it wasn't until his wife suggested he name the dog after his own imaginary childhood friend -- and the red, that just happened to be the color of paint he had on his desk at the moment.
A couple of Clifford books (and some other titles) were published but not to any great acclaim.  Eventually though the first Clifford book made its way to the Scholastic Book Clubs.  At the time Beatrice deRegniers was the acquisition editor there and when Clifford sold well, she asked Bridwell for more stories but with the admonishment that "I just can't take Clifford soup. Don't turn in any old story with Clifford stirred in.  It has to be a real story."  Clifford was a great success and turned into one of Scholastic's best marketing campaigns.
The Bridwells moved to Martha Vineyard where they lived in a house with Clifford red shutters, and a Clifford red door.  He drove a Clifford red car with the license plate that read "Clifrd."
(A side note: The Bridwells were next door neighbors to Don and Carol Carrick and in fact he and Norma were the Carrick's first friends on the street to introduce themselves when the Carrick's moved to Edgartown. Later they became Godparents to the Carrick's second son.  Norman and Norma felt the sorrow of the loss of their friend Don Carrick when he died in 1989; and then when Carol moved, in 2002, to a home in West Tisbury. where she lived until her death in 2013.  But I digress.  The Bridwells and the Carricks and later Carol Carrick and her friend Jack Burton enjoyed a friendship for decades and both brought many books to the world of children's books.)
Clifford debuted in 1963 and was only illustrated in black and white, with the splash of red for Clifford.  At some point Scholastic felt the illustrations should be in color so they interviewed colorists to add color to Bridwell's earlier illustrations.  Bridwell applied for the job himself... but was rejected.  So he continued to draw in black and white and others colored in his illustrations (or at least that is the way he told the story).  I never did know the truth of the story -- was he rejected, or was he just popular enough that the publisher would rather he work on new books as opposed to spending his time adding color?  Either way the books are now published with full color illustrations and have merged into movies, toys, games and many other products that bring Clifford into the lives of young readers.

My oldest grandson whose other grandmother worked at Red Lobster once told his 2nd grade teacher in Massachusetts that he had one grandmother who owned Red Lobster and another grandmother (me) who knew Clifford the Big Red Dog.  It is now my very youngest grandson who feels that his special friend is Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Clifford is an enduring character that has been beloved for decades ... and most likely will be loved for several more decades.

Norman Bridwell - RIP and thank you for your books, including my favorite How to Care for Your Monster (and the story of how that book came about is part of the entry in 100 Most Popular Picture Book Authors and Illustrators: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies).