Thursday, January 29, 2015

Happy Kansas Day, Kansas

Happy 154th Birthday to my home state. Oh, Kansas. Sometimes, I want to run away from you so so badly, but as Dorothy said in the movie, "There's no place like home."

If you followed this blog over the last couple of years, you'll know that Kansas Day is a big deal to Kansas. Or it was. Little Sis told me they read S is for Sunflower in drama class (performing arts magnet, remember) and Big Sis said they're doing something for Kansas Day in her enrichment intervention group. I have fond memories of parties and fun activities in elementary school.

To learn more about this day, check out my posts from 2014 and 2013 

I wanted to do something this year to acknowledge the date, so last night, the girls and I made a sunflower craft.

After all, Kansas is "The Sunflower State."

I started a new Pinterest board, pinning new ideas as I found them. I kept coming back to the idea of paper plate weaving, a craft I remember from Family Fun magazine, when they were still owned by Disney. This pin directs to a link at Spoonful, the website Disney transferred their Family Fun stuff to, after they sold it to Meredith. Spoonful has become a Disney Family Crafts page, and the paper plate weaving craft has disappeared. Thank you, Red Ted Art, for coming to the rescue. I used small, yellow dessert plates. Dinner plates would be easier, but the craft store was out of the darker yellow plates in that size. The yellow and dark brown yarn was the cheap stuff. Please see the link at Red Ted Art for instructions. Her tutorials are fabulous, and you should be following her anyway!

Yesterday was a bright, warm sunshiny day, with a high of 75. The sunflowers looked as if they belonged.

I grabbed green paper straws and two pieces of green scrapbooking paper (in two different shades) when I bought the plates and yarn. While I admit the flowers would be prettier if I adhered the stems and leaves with glue, laziness hit, and we used tape instead.

Look at how they brighten up the fireplace! Which is great, because today is cold and dreary, no sun in sight. Um, thanks, Kansas.

While the girls are at school today, I am baking bread. How very pioneer of me, right? Kansas, after all, is "America's Breadbasket," weather and climate change permitting.

Of course, the Kansas pioneer women would have kneaded everything by hand. I'll bet if they had trusty stand mixers with dough hooks back then, they would have used one, too!

Sandwich Bread (adapted from the recipe for White Sandwich Bread, from the magazine Homemade Bread, from the editors of Hobby Farm Home Magazine.) Makes two loaves.

1 cup warm water
1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast (I buy mine in a jar. This recipe calls for more yeast than one envelope would provide.)
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup melted butter
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
6 3/4 to 7 1/4 cups flour (The recipe calls for all-purpose. I used half unbleached all-purpose flour, and half whole wheat.)

1. Combine 1/2 cup of warm water, yeast, and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl or measuring cup. Stir to dissolve yeast, let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy. (I had a new jar of yeast, so it was foamy in just a couple of minutes!)

2. In a large bowl, or in the work bowl of your stand mixer, combine the remaining water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt. Add the yeast mixture, and stir until combined. (Use your paddle attachment, if using a stand mixer.) Add 2 cups of flour, and mix well. Continue to beat the mixture for one or two minutes until smooth. Add more flour in 1/2 cup increments, stirring well after each addition, until the dough holds together and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

3. Okay, now if you want to feel like a real pioneer and get your hands messy, turn out the dough onto a very well-floured surface. It's kneading time. Knead in the remaining flour by the spoonful, until the smooth, satiny dough no longer sticks to your hand. If you want to plant yourself firmly in the 21st century, however, you can swing like me and use your stand mixer. (I love my red KitchenAid!) Switch to your dough hook, and add your flour while the mixer is on low. It should only take 3 or 4 minutes.

4. Now, grease a big bowl with a small amount of oil. (I used olive oil. It's up to you.) Place your dough in the bowl and turn it, coating the dough with the oil. The magazine instructs you to cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap, but I use a damp tea towel, because that's the way I've always done it with other recipes. Let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled - about 1 1/2 hours. (NOTE: If room temperature is particularly chilly at your house, you can use my trick of preheating your oven waaaaay in advance, and letting your dough rise on your stovetop.)

5. Turn out the dough onto a work surface, and divide it evenly in half. Grease two standard loaf pan (9x5 inch) with butter, and set aside. To form your loaves, pat or roll each ball into a rectangle. The longest side of the rectangle should match up with the side of your loaf pan. Starting with the longest side, roll the rectangle into a tight loaf, pinching the seam to seal. Place each loaf seam-side down in the loaf pans, and cover loosely with plastic wrap (or be stubborn like me, and use your damp tea towel.)

6. Time to let your dough rise again! It should only take about 30 minutes this time. Meanwhile, preheat your oven (if you haven't already done so) to 350 degrees F. Just before baking, take a sharp serrated knife to make two diagonal slashes 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep in the top of each loaf. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the loaves look deep golden-brown and sound hollow when tapped. Allow to cool completely before slicing, unless you really, really want to taste it hot. I don't blame you. Go for it, just don't blame me if you wind up with a crumbly mess. Seriously. Hot bread is a pain to cut. Tearing it might be easier, in fact.

ENJOY. See? It really isn't that hard.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Twelve Dancing Princesses (Brigette Barrager)

Twelve Dancing Princesses, retold and illustrated by Brigette Barrager.
Chronicle, 2011.

Another fairy tale book to share with you today! This one is Twelve Dancing Princesses, illustrated by Brigette Barrager. Barrager, you may recall, is the illustrator of Amy Krouse Rosenthal's darling Uni the Unicorn. This is a simplified version of the original fairy tale. I happen to like the darker undertones of the original Brothers Grimm story: the defiant princesses, the brutal deaths of the men who fail to solve the mystery, the fact the victor chooses the eldest princess to wed because she's closest to his own age. This version might be more suitable to the youngest set, however. The text is as simple and playful as Barrager's adorable princesses. In this version, the hero is the palace shoemaker. His favorite princess is Poppy (we don't know her age compared to the others'), because she was nice to him. The princesses are under a spell at night, and have no idea what they do when they're asleep. No one dies. There's a happy ending. Simple and sweet, just right for the preschool set.

You can read Brigette Barrager's own blog post about the book here.

Wouldn't this be a sweet gift for a little beginning dancer? To complement the book, Barrager and Chronicle also put together a "Stage & Play: Princesses" set, "Princess ABC Flash Cards," and a "Princess Matching Game."

By the way, Barrager's latest book, Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson, came out yesterday. It's getting some wonderful reviews, and I can't wait to see it for myself. (More pictures here.)

I'll leave you with a glimpse at my own dancing "princesses." Last week was Observation Week, which meant family got to sit in on dance classes. We got to observe Little Sis's ballet class a second time, because she had a substitute last week. Big Sis is very grumpy about going to dance tonight. Today, the temperature is supposed to hit 75 degrees! In January! (NOT RIGHT.) It's supposed to be colder tomorrow, with a chance of snow Saturday. (Really. This is Kansas.) She is less than thrilled that on the last unseasonably warm and sunny day, she will be stuck indoors. I do feel badly for her. I think she's solar-powered.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Obsessive Nostalgia Disorder Monday: Pinwheel on YouTube

Paying homage to the weird things from my childhood that haunt me as an adult.

Finally! An actual ONDM post on that odd show I still find myself referencing - frequently - Nickelodeon's Pinwheel.

I haven't done an actual Pinwheel post until now because I haven't had anything solid to point you to. I've posted the occasional clip of the show, and some of its contents. In fact, my very first ONDM post, written in the very early days of this blog, was about the Emilie (Emily) books by Domitille de Pressensé, on which the "Emily" cartoons were based. These, of course, I knew from Pinwheel. I've also shared several shorts here, in a post about BunnyEars.TV.

Basically, Pinwheel was the other weekday show of my very early childhood, the one not on PBS. I had no idea until recently that the last episode was recorded in 1982. They aired the same 260 one-hour episodes over and over again, in six-hour blocks, until 1990. I was in middle school by 1990, with a two-year-old brother. I hadn't watched Pinwheel in a few years by then. My dad canceled our cable, and I was too old for it, of course. My mother still had cable, though, and I remember feeling so angry when I saw that Pinwheel had been replaced by Eureka's Castle. How dare they cancel my childhood like that! Pinwheel faded from memory, but throughout the last decade, I've felt the need to search the internet to more clues about the weirdness of Pinwheel, all the barely-remembered shorts and well-remembered songs.

A few years ago, some blocks of the show hit YouTube, but that user has since disabled their account. Lucky for me, however, two 3-hour blocks of Pinwheel, complete with old station IDs and commercials, hit YouTube again! They're the same ones as before, as they seem to be all that exist anymore. While a VHS cassette was released commercially in the 1980s, called The Pinwheel Songbook, it only features the puppet/Playhouse segments of the show. The full show as it existed in the 1970s and '80s will probably never be commercially available, as most of the filler consisted of shorts from a variety of sources, many of them international, the rights to which have surely changed sources many times in thirty-plus years.

Anyway, here are some YouTube videos of Pinwheel, and some of the stuff I remember from Pinwheel. The quality may not be great, as the clips come from 30something-year-old VHS tapes. NONE of these are mine - I'm just excited to share them with you. I'm not sure the adult me enjoys this stuff even half as much as Little Me did, back in the day. The girls like some of it, but not as much as I did as a kid.

To watch the two sets of the full show, you will have to go to YouTube. You can find one set here, and the other set here

Here is The Pinwheel Songbook, the official home video release.

We haven't seen the new movie yet, but this is Paddington Bear as I first knew him.
We have a DVD of this somewhere!

The 1952 UPA version of Madeline.

The lovely British stop-motion series, Bagpuss.

I loved these Curious George telefilms. I'm not sure if they aired during Pinwheel,
or between episodes.

While I watched that very occasionally, I knew the cartoons from Pinwheel.

Friends of the Elephant Goshko is a Bulgarian animated short from 1968. I loved it
when this one came on.

A happier elephant can be found in Halas-Batchelor's Hamilton the Musical Elephant.

Snowman's Dilemma, a Bulgarian cartoon from 1960, was one of my favorites.
But I remember always heading to the bathroom at my babysitter's house, just before the ending.
It made me cry.

Here's the young Ronnie James Dio singing "Love Is All," animated by Halas-Batchelor,
taken from Roger Glover's concept album, The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast.

I vaguely remember Crystal Tipps and Alistair.

My whole family loves watching this playlist of A Kockásfülű nyú (The Bunny With the Checkered Ears.) I would still love some Bunny merchandise from Hungary, by the way!

Musti was a Flemish cartoon series that began in 1968. Pinwheel showed it in English.
There is a new computer-animated version.

One of the Pinwheel full episodes links posted above opens with Emily. 
Unfortunately, that one episode seems to be the only one I can find in English.
Here is one in French! (Emilie has also been updated in recent years. Here is
a new episode!)

I recognized this character from Pinwheel, too! They showed it in English, but you don't have
to understand the words to enjoy the beautiful animation.

They never bothered to translate Chapi Chapo. The music will be stuck in your head forever.
My husband hasn't forgiven me yet.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. If you click here, you can see an Alfie Atkins short in English. Here's a playlist of The Magic Roundabout

This post has taken me a very long time to put together.

I need to be doing something else now.

I hope you enjoy!

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Reads and Link Love

Happy Friday, dear readers! Sorry for such a late post. Sorry for such a slow blogging week! I've been doing a lot of reading, attending the girls' dance classes for Observation Week, borrowing Brony bandages, and making vanilla cupcakes for no reason whatsoever. I made the most delicious pasta sauce tonight: roasted zucchini, carrots, red bell pepper, and garlic, mixed with sauteed onion and heated tomato paste and a can of San Manzano tomatoes, then put through the food processor with some salt and pepper and basil and oregano. I let it simmer for a little while, then spooned some over rotini pasta. Sooooo good.

Okay, books first!

What We Read

The Adventurous Chef: Alexis Soyer by Ann Arnold. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.

I've seen the book Fanny at Chez Panisse by Alice Waters on a few blogs, but my library doesn't have it. They did, however, have another culinary-themed children's book by the illustrator of that one, Ann Arnold. I had never heard of Alexis Soyer before reading this book. His life was fascinating. Born in France in 1810, he emigrated to London, becoming the head chef at the newly formed Reform Club. While there, he co-designed the most amazing kitchens. His young wife died in premature childbirth, and he vowed never to remarry. He helped make and serve nutritious soups to the poor, both in England and potato-blighted Ireland. His work eventually took him to hospitals and the front lines of the Crimean War, developing recipes and food preparation methods for soldiers in the field. He worked alongside Florence Nightingale, saving lives in his own right with his healthy food. [One of his inventions was the Soyer's Field Stove, which my former Marine husband is familiar with now.] Both he and Nightingale became ill, and while they recovered enough to function, their health plagued them for the rest of their lives. The girls and I enjoyed this book very much. The subject was fascinating, the text was well written, and the illustrations were lovely. It looks like it's out of print now, which is a shame.

What Big Sis Read

The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book One: The Field Guide by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2003.

2003? Really? I remember when this series was brand-new! Of course, there are tenth anniversary editions now, so I don't know why I felt so surprised when I typed that. Anyway, despite selling many copies of these books through the years, I'd never read them. Big Sis was looking something up at the library a couple weeks ago. "What are you looking for?" I asked. "I want to know if there are other books by the lady who wrote Doll Bones." "Oh," I answered. "I don't know if she has other kids' books. Most of her books are for teenagers." Then I remembered The Spiderwick Chronicles, co-written by Tony DiTerlizzi. These books are short, fast reads. I read the first book in about 45 minutes. She's working on Book 2 now, and I haven't gotten to it yet. Because of its brevity, it's hard to review The Field Guide. I want to know where the rest of the story is going. We haven't seen the movie yet, either, but I've put in a request for it, so we can watch it when we're done.

What Big Sis is Reading

The Curse of the Campfire Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales by David Lubar. Starscape, 2008.

While she's reading The Spiderwick Chronicles at home, this is Big Sis's current selection from the school library. She's reading it during silent reading time. From what I gather, it's funny and scary, and she says she really likes it. I've never seen it in person.

What Little Sis and I Read

Magic Tree House #30: Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca. Random House, 2003.

It's Little Sis's turn to tackle the Magic Tree House series. She read the first chapter on her own, then we started to alternate pages, and finally, I was cajoled into reading the rest aloud. I like these books. They deliver small doses of history, science, or mythology, and serve as a nice jumping off point for further discussion. This one wasn't my favorite, and since I've only read sporadic titles, in willy-nilly order, the Morgan/Merlin stuff confuses me.

What I Read

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Viking Press, 1962. 

My mother has been after me to read this for years! Well, Ma, I finally did. It's such a strange book. Merricat Blackwood is a fascinating narrator. I knew nothing of the plot when I opened my library copy, but as the story unfolded - how the wealthy Blackwood sisters were hated by the village, first because no one liked the high and mighty Blackwoods, then because Connie Blackwood was tried (and acquitted) for the murder of her parents, brother, and aunt - I wondered if Merricat's weirdness was a reaction to the events that took place years ago, or if she was actually a little psychotic. I read The Haunting of Hill House over a decade ago - I was playing Elinor in a community theatre production, at the time - and we were assigned "The Lottery" in my eighth grade English class. Both stayed with me for years. Shirley Jackson was masterful at creating atmosphere.

Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade by Patrick Dennis. Vanguard Press, 1955.

After We Have Always Lived in the Castle, it was refreshing to escape to the campy fun of Auntie Mame. I've only seen the Rosalind Russell film once, and I've never seen the musical, but the book was a blast. Little Patrick Dennis is sent to live with his unconventional aunt, following the death of his father. Aunt Mame is a wild, high-living sort. The book follows her exploits through Patrick's narration, from the roaring twenties to hard times, from marriage to widowhood, from scheme to scheme and so on. I need to grab a copy of Around the World with Auntie Mame soon!

We read a few other things, too, but I'll cover them separately next week!

And now, for a few of my favorite links this week:

Wow. That's a lot of links. Sorry about that!  As always...

Merry Weekend! Happy Reading!

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Skippyjon Jones Snow What

Skippyjon Jones Snow What by Judy Schachner. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014.

Oh, Skippyjon Jones, our favorite Siamese kitty-boy who pretends to be a chihuahua. We checked out the newest title over Christmas break. You know, when we had snow on the ground.

Yesterday, it hit 73 degrees. There is no snow to be found.

But Skippyjon Jones is a little bit about snow, a little bit about "Snow White," and a lot of fun. (And when I read it aloud, it's also about breath control and tripping over my own tongue.)

We love Skippyjon Jones.

In Snow What, he tumbles through his closet into a snowy forest, where his seven Chimichangos are waiting for him. It's up to Skippyjon to save Princess Nieve Que (Snow What) from her icy prison - with a kiss! 

There's also a dragon. And some teasing from his sisters, who are listening to Mama Junebug Jones read "Snow White."

As always, the illustrations are fabulous. It's as silly and nonsensical as ever, which makes it perfect when the gloomy weather has you stuck indoors.

It isn't 73 degrees today. It's twenty degrees cooler, and it's been raining on and off.

If you or someone you love is a Skippyjon Jones fan, be sure to check out the official website. There are printables, games, wallpaper for your computer, videos, and links to the books. If you're on Facebook, "like" Skippyjon Jones for more news and fun posts. I can also recommend I've ordered pajamas as gifts, and everything on the site is adorable. I would like this t-shirt, I think.

Hanging out with Skippyjon Jones during a 2011 storytime.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Shelfies and Some Link Love

Happy Friday, one and all! Normally, I try and share what we've been reading on Fridays. Alas, I don't have much to share just now. I can't believe this "Winter Reading" post is already two weeks old, but there you have it. I'm still reading Cold Comfort Farm, and loving it, but I'll share more when it's finished. Big Sis has started The Spiderwick Chronicles, and Little Sis is working on a Magic Tree House title.

Remember my giant book mess from the other day? My organization project is done, at least as far as books go. This poor cube bookcase was buckling in the middle, under the weight of everything on it. I relieved the congestion quite a bit, but it involved making more room/moving things around in the girls' rooms, as well as my bedroom bookcase. I think it turned out all right.

If you want to see some "before pictures," check out my bookshelf tour on Melissa's blog.

I thought I'd take a cue from Melissa (and Darcy, and half the other bloggers I read) and do a Friday link post. I spend way too much time on the computer, you know. It's way more fun than laundry. Stupid laundry.
  • This post, over at one of my favorite blogs, is one of the most beautiful things I've read in a long time. Read it. It's so precious.
  • I've been suffering from a bad case of wanderlust for a while. I would love to find some beautiful woods to wander through. I do love my plains, but I don't get enough hills and trees in my life.
  • I love bubble tea. Perhaps I'll try to make my own!
  • This is one of my favorite snacks right now.
  • One of our favorite fall and winter breakfasts is overnight slow cooker oatmeal, thanks to this blog. It began last year, when we made this to enjoy on Christmas morning. Since then, we've made this recipe a few times (Mr. B's favorite), as well as this one (my favorite). We made the Christmas oats with homemade oatmeal this year - yum.
  • I saw somewhere that Bonnie Christiansen passed away this week. We loved her picture book biography on Nellie Bly, posted about here.
  • Mr. B made me watch this on YouTube the other day. It's a trip!
  • Remember this post about my little Baconator? Well, Little Sis has her share of fans among my real-life friends. So many of them have posted this article on my Facebook, it's hilarious. Of course, my vegetarian self has no intention of attending this, but Mr. B might be able to take her.
  • The Academy Award nominations were announced this week. I didn't see many movies this year, as usual. I really want to see Selma, especially now with the Martin Luther King, Jr. 3 day weekend. It's rated PG-13 because of violence, some strong language and racial slurs, and a small subplot about infidelity. I'm still considering taking Big Sis to see it, though. I think she's mature enough to handle it.
  • Speaking of Oscars, what about the lack of love for The Lego Movie? We loved that movie! However, I really, really, really want to see Song of the Sea  (selkies!!!!) and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.  Living where I live, it's clear I will not get the opportunity to see either of these films on the big screen. Princess Kaguya will be out on DVD and Blu-Ray (with English voice-overs) in February, while Song of the Sea will be out in March.

My mother and brother will not be bringing us a dog today. They've caught my stepdad's sickness, and are staying put in Oklahoma. Sigh. Perhaps next weekend I'll take the girls down there. We shall see. I'm taking them to see an original kiddie production of The Wizard of Oz at the children's theatre tonight, and Little Sis has her best friend-from-school's birthday party tomorrow. We decided she should introduce her buddy to her favorite buddy books!

And of course, Sunday they shall suffer through the NFL Championships. Go Pack!

Merry Weekend! Happy Reading!

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