Friday, April 17, 2015

Happy Friday! {Books, Instagrams, Food, and Etc.}

It's Friday! I apologize for not posting much lately. Richard 3 opens this Sunday, the girls are out of school for a 4-day weekend (starting today), and we're trying to make our gross house presentable, so that Little Sis's friend can spend the night on Sunday.

My opening pictures are taken from Instagram. Last Saturday, Little Sis and I indeed drove to Hutchinson, Kansas, to the little old-fashioned mall cinema, to see The Last Unicorn. It opened with a preview of some of the merchandise, then some giveaways. We actually won something - two Last Unicorn book-inspired art prints. After that, Peter S. Beagle answered questions from the audience. It was so very cool. The Q&A was followed by a screening of the movie, in a beautiful new digital print. I think I saw the movie at a Wichita mall cinema, when my parents took me to see it the first time in 1982, so the cheap mall atmosphere made me feel especially nostalgic. When the movie ended, we headed to the merchandise table, where I bought a t-shirt and Little Sis got a comic book and little crocheted wizard doll. Peter S. Beagle signed the comic and the prints we won. They were not selling copies of the book. A new special edition is coming out soon, so they were taking pre-orders for that. I was low on money, as usual - all the cool stuff comes just before pay day, right? - so I haven't pre-ordered mine yet, but I did sign up to be a Last Unicorn Tour Member, which should allow me to do so from home. I hope. I'm not sure how it works.

I regretted not getting our old SelectAVision CED of the movie from my dad's for Beagle to sign. Apparently, it's pretty collectible.

The second set of pictures were taken the day before that, at the first grade science fair, in which the kiddos showed off the crazy-creative "recyclebots" they made with their families at home. Little Sis's was made of two differently sized coffee cans, a little nut can, 3 soda cans, 2 bubble bottle lids, some straws, and a pair of broken wings from some plastic toy. She named it Fly. As you can see, there were some adorable robots on display!

On to books.

What We Read

Alphabetabum by Vladimir Radunsky and Chris Raschka. New York Review Children's Collection, 2014.

Little Sis chose this book at the library, and she and her sister have had a good time with it. The book consists of found vintage photographs, like a picture book version of the Miss Peregrine's books. It's also perfect for April - National Poetry Month - as each photograph is accompanied by a humorous verse. As you may have guessed by the title, it's also arranged as an alphabet book. I haven't even had a chance to look at it closely myself, but they love it, because as Little Sis says, "I love old things!"

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee. Beach Lane Books, 2014.

It seemed to take our library for-ever!!! to get this book. This is a sweet wordless picture book about a baby clown, who bounces off a circus train into a farmer's field. The farmer takes the little clown in and takes care of him, until the train comes back to collect the little guy. It's an adorable book. You can see more pictures of it over at Pen Pals & Picture Books.

As for our bedtime chapter book, we are more than halfway through The Lost Princess of Oz!

What Little Sis Read

Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe #2: Little Red Quacking Hood (A Branches Book) by Noah Z. Jones. Scholastic, 2014.

I have decided I looooove Scholastic's "Branches" series for early readers. Every page is illustrated, but the books have enough text to justify them as chapter books. The fun (and often funny) subjects and characters keep the kiddos reading. I'm impressed, because Little Sis is not the most excited independent reader. She likes to be doing something with her hands (especially drawing!) at all times, and it's hard to multitask when you're holding a book. These books hold her interest so much, however, that she read this one aloud to me one evening, because she wanted to. When I told her it was time for bed, she kept begging, one more chapter, until she finished the book. We read the first book in this humorous fractured fairy tale series last fall. She read another "Branches" book, the first in the Owl Diaries series, in February.

Big Sis Update

Big Sis finally finished the first Sisters Grimm book. She has requested the next book, but until then, she is reading Lord & Lady Bunny - Almost Royalty. 

What I'm Reading

I've been working on lines for Richard III! I don't have many, but they take my time. I started The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, which must be one of the most physically beautiful regular hardcovers I've held in a long time. Mine is special, too - thanks, Schuler Books!

But... I got two new cookbooks! I've been a vegetarian for nearly twenty years. Not a vegan - I do eat eggs and dairy. I admit, though, that I overdo it on the dairy (especially cheese) and I need to revamp my diet. So as part of my effort to cut down on dairy, I've turned to some vegan cookbooks. There are not many I particularly like, as some contain a lot of processed substitutions - fake cheese products [shudder], fake meats, over-the-top expensive and/or hard-to-find ingredients. I have found a favorite, though.

Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes Every Day of the Week by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Little, Brown and Company, 2013. 

I own Moskowitz's Veganomicon, which is gigantic. There are some repeat recipes in this one, but I find Isa Does It to be easier to use, plus it's full of gorgeous full-color photography. I finally tried cashew mac and cheese, which turned out to be delicious! My favorite recipe so far as to be the Bistro Beet Burgers (also in Veganomicon), which my entire family loved. Really. Even the beet-haters! They don't taste like meat, but they're crunchy and tasty, especially topped with avocado. You can find the recipe on her Post Punk Kitchen website.

The America's Test Kitchen Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. Cook's Illustrated, 2015. 

Mr. B and I love to watch America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country, so I was thrilled when my dad gifted me with the new vegetarian cookbook. This thing is full of information, recipes, even product taste-tests. There are so many things I cannot wait to make. It includes vegan and gluten-free recipes, too.
I've also been pulling out my favorite cookbook from last year.

The Southern Vegetarian by Justin Fox Burks & Amy Lawrence. Thomas Nelson, 2013.

This one is by the folks behind The Chubby Vegetarian blog, which I love. It's full of fabulous comfort food, made with fresh ingredients. Finally, a vegetarian recipe for biscuits and gravy that doesn't include frozen fake sausage! And it's really good! Plus, this book introduced me to my favorite lentil tacos, which I make at least once a month.

I made something particularly wonderful for lunch today, by the way. Smitten Kitchen posted this lovely recipe for Fried Egg Salad a few months ago, and I pinned it immediately. Maybe I needed the protein, but I craved eggs today. I didn't have all the ingredients for the original recipe, so I improvised. I had a bag of ready-to-eat kale, so I poured half into my colander, rinsing and massaging it thoroughly. I had some baby spinach, too, so I added half the container of that. Then I added grated carrot and some rings of red onion. For a dressing, I mixed some toasted sesame oil and a little white vinegar with sesame seeds, lime juice, dry mustard, salt and chili powder. I followed her directions for the crispy fried eggs, draining and salting them generously. (I'm not a big salt person, but these needed it.) The result? Amazingness. Big Sis, Mr. B, and I gobbled it up in no time. (Little Sis wouldn't touch kale with a ten-foot pole, and ate a turkey sandwich instead.)

As for the rest of our week, I've discovered Mr. Belvedere reruns on Antenna TV. It's hilarious how many of these episodes I remember, and I'm surprised at how well they hold up. It's actually entertaining, compared to some other shows of my '80s childhood. When it's time to scale Mt. Laundry (folding and sorting, yuck), I've starting re-watching The X-Files on Netflix, which I loved back in the day. I never saw the movies, nor the last season of the show. I was feeling a bit fed-up by then. News of the impending re-launch has made me miss the show, though.

I LOVED this song.

My husband's best friend has been going through a rough time lately, so he's been coming over on Mr. B's days off. It gave us an excuse to watch all of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt again, which means I've seen every episode at least twice, and in some cases, even more. We finally started watching the second season of the new Doctor Who, too. Both of these shows are made even better by the fact that our whole family, parents and daughters, enjoy them together.

We also have this Blu-Ray checked out from the library. Cannot wait to watch it. And did you see this beautiful trailer

And speaking of trailers...  the ending to this one is so epically awesome!!!  Not! Enough! Exclamation Points!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I hope the weather is lovely where you are - we're expecting those Kansas storms again! I'll leave you with fan video I found on YouTube, set to the opening theme to The Last Unicorn, written by Jimmy Webb and performed by America . Little Sis has decided she wants to dance to it at next year's school talent show.

As always...

Merry Weekend! Happy Reading!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fortunately by Remy Charlip

Fortunately by Remy Charlip. Parents Magazine Press, 1969.
Currently published by Aladdin, 1993.

Have you or your kids ever played the game Fortunately/Unfortunately?  Big Sis told me she played this in drama class at school. The kiddos sit in a circle, and the first person starts a story by saying, "Fortunately..." The next person adds to the story, beginning with the word "unfortunately." They go around the circle, alternating "fortunately" with "unfortunately," letting the story build from there.

Well, coincidentally, I had checked out several books illustrated by Remy Charlip from the library this month, and one of those books is a great illustration of the game!

On the first page, we meet Ned. "Fortunately one day, Ned got a letter that said, 'Please Come to a Surprise Party.'"

"But unfortunately the party was in Florida and he was in New York."

Fortunately, Ned is able to borrow a plane. Unfortunately, it explodes. We see Ned parachute, get a hole in said parachute, spot a haystack in which to land, avoid the haystack because of a stray pitchfork, land in water, get chased by sharks, make it to land, get chased by tigers, find a cave, dig his way out...  Whew! Finally he crashes a party, but it's okay - the party is for him!

This is some silly fun, and the girls were giggling throughout the story. I love the way the "Fortunately" pages are in color, while the "Unfortunately" pages are in black and white.

As for the game... I like this game! I think I will use it on car trips.

Let me try it now.

Fortunately we read this great book. Unfortunately my camera is a bit dinged and wouldn't allow for the best photographs. Fortunately I managed to take some anyway. Unfortunately Mabel wanted to play and kept casting shadows. Fortunately she is very photogenic.

Unlike many awesome vintage kids' books, this one is still in print! If I were an educator, I would definitely want it in my classroom.

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Tulips, Fairies and Forts at Botanica

Well, I've covered most of the books we've read lately, and I don't have many links to share, so here are some pictures of our trip to Botanica! We attended Week 2 of the Tulips, Fairies & Forts event (formerly Tulips, Fairies & Friends) at our botanical gardens last weekend. It was an opportunity to play dress-up, smell the flowers, build a fort or two...

Our arrival at Botanica. A volunteer was stationed there to take pictures.

Fairy house contest entries. I love the peacock feather house! Next year, we may try our hand at this ourselves.

Botanica is the proud recipient of the old Allan Herschell Company-designed carousel from Wichita's defunct Joyland Amusement Park. As it's being restored, some of the freshly painted horses have been put on display in the main lobby.

The Bug Lady was on hand with lots of specimens. I liked the huge tarantulas. Big Sis pet a Mexican hissing cockroach.

I want a weeping crabapple.

There was a fairy garden scavenger hunt. We found most of the little fairies, hidden near trees.

The "fort" aspect of the event was especially cool.

Little Sis built her own fort out of wooden blocks. Big Sis played a game of Jenga.

In the Downing Children's Garden, the girls painted gnome doors made from popsicle sticks, and made fairy bells from sticks, yarn, beads, and jingle bells. We played there for a while, before resuming our scavenger hunt, and visiting the little Railroad Garden.

Tomorrow, Big Sis will go to her dance class and a birthday party. I'm taking Little Sis to Hutchinson, KS, to see The Last Unicorn. I still remember seeing it in a mall theater with my parents, when I was in kindergarten. Little Sis is actually older than I was when it came out! It's a stop on The Last Unicorn Tour. Peter S. Beagle will be signing posters and copies of the original book, and there will be merchandise, a Q&A, stuff like that. My nerdy little kid-like self is very excited.

I hope you have a pleasant weekend, and I hope to have more books and stuff to share next week!

Merry Weekend! Happy Reading!

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Lost Princess of Oz

The Lost Princess of Oz by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by John R. Neill.
Originally published by Reilly & Britton, 1917.
Books Of Wonder edition published by HarperCollins, 1998.

Tonight, we are watching the skies here in south-central Kansas. We are under a tornado watch. The Weather Channel is here! Friends have spotted their truck around town, along with other popular tornado chase vehicles. I don't know if there will be anything, but the threat has been so strong that everything is canceled tonight. There were no after-school clubs, dance classes are canceled, even my rehearsal for Richard III was canceled. "Well, if there is a tornado and it hits us, I hope I go to Oz," said Little Sis.

It has been so long since I blogged about our reading adventures in Oz! Indeed, I blogged about Rinkitink in Oz way back in August. Well, last week saw us finishing ol' Rinkitink - finally. I can firmly state that my least favorite Baum Oz books are that one and Tik-Tok of Oz. Little Sis gave up on Rinkitink completely, and Big Sis and I would only read it if we felt like it. We were so excited as we neared the end, however, because now it is time for Big Sis's favorite Oz book, The Lost Princess of Oz.


I started reading the Oz books to Little Sis before her third birthday. It probably sounds ridiculous, reading big chapter books to a 2 1/2-year-old, but she loved for me to tell her stories at bedtime, and I was running out of stories. I had never read the Oz books, so I started to check the Books Of Wonder almost-facsimile editions out from the library. Because she was so little when we started, her memories of the earliest books were fuzzy to non-existent. She remembered bits of Road to Oz, and the Glass Cat and Scraps and the Woozy stood out from Patchwork Girl of Oz, but her favorite, the one that stayed with her all this time, is this one.

The dedication is so sweet. Ozma was the daughter of Baum's youngest son, Kenneth Gage Baum.

One day, Dorothy, Betsy Bobbin, and Trot discover that Ozma is missing. She is nowhere to be found, and Jellia Jamb, her maid, never saw her leave her chamber. What's more, Ozma's Magic Picture is missing, too! The Wizard rushes south to the Gillikin Country to see Glinda, but Glinda has a mystery of her own. Her Great Book of Records, in which every important thing that has ever happened in the world is magically written down, has disappeared. When the Wizard tells her about Ozma and the Picture, they go to the gather Glinda's magical instruments, only to find them gone, as well.

Meanwhile, in a tiny country at the top of a steep rock in the Winkie Country, Cayke the Cookie Cook is making a big racket over her missing gold diamond-studded dishpan. Her fellow Yips, as the people are known, take her to see the Frogman, a giant frog who walks on his hind legs and wears magnificent clothing. The Frogman is known as the wisest of the wise in Yip country, but he's really a humbug. He loves to think himself superior, but deep down, he knows he is less wise than the Yips think he is. When no one comes forward to admit to stealing the dishpan, Cayke and the Frogman descend the mountain, determined to find it in the outside world.

Back in the Emerald City, search parties are gathered, in order to find Ozma. What makes this book so fantastic is it's the first time many of our favorite characters appear together for a full book! Ojo, Unc Nunkie, Dr. Pipt, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Shaggy Man and his brother, the Wizard, Dorothy, Trot, Button Bright, Betsy Bobbin and Hank (her donkey), Scraps, the Woozy, the Sawhorse, Toto...  They all set off to look for the missing Ozma.

This is also the book where Toto really starts talking. He can be quite amusing, if a little exasperating.

We visit many odd places, and meet many more strange people. John R. Neill's illustrations are awesome, as usual. Baum gave him a lot to work with in this book.

The diamond-headed inhabitants of Thi.

Here is Button Bright, picking a peach. This is a very important plot point.

Oh, the bears! I can't wait until we get to Bear Center. And later, we'll meet Ugu the Shoemaker, who lives in a wickerwork castle. Sadly, there is no illustration of the castle.

I don't want to give the entire book away, but if you must, you can always read more about it here. I'm thrilled to say that both girls are very into this one. That includes Little Sis.

The kitties have been snuggling with us as we read, too, but I think that has more to do with wanting attention than it has to do with talking dogs and donkeys and the like.

Say cheese, Jenny!

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