Happy Friday, Happy Weekend

Happy Friday, one and all!  Tonight begins our weekend of dance recitals, so we won't be doing much reading or anything else.  I haven't done a "What We've Been Reading" post in a while, though, so I have a lot to share!

What the Girls and I Are Reading Now:

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell.  Candlewick Press, 2013.

We're finally reading this year's Newbery Award winner!  We started it last night, and we're not too far into it, but it's definitely promising.

I'm sure many of you have read it or heard about it, of course, but I'm including the trailer, just in case.

What Big Sis and I Are Reading

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers.  Harcourt Brace, 1934.  New hardcover edition by HMH Books for Young Readers, 2006.

I have a stack of these beautiful Mary Poppins hardcovers, but I've only read the first one, and only to myself.  Big Sis and I still intend to finish Tik-Tok of Oz, but she really wanted us to read this one together, too.  We're finding quiet moments, just the two of us, for a little old-fashioned mommy-daughter reading time.  She's especially interested, remembering the musical version we saw at Music Theatre of Wichita last summer.  The stage musical is a great mix of the book and the movie, and I highly recommend it, if you have access to a good production.

What Little Sis and I Are Reading

The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm, translated by Lore Segal and Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Maurice Sendak.  Originally published as a two-volume set by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973.  Single-volume hardcover edition, 2003.

Are you familiar with this one?  Sendak picked some of his favorite creepy Grimm tales to illustrate, presented here in direct translation with no whitewashing.  Little Sis was mad about something (I forget what), so I led her to a bookcase and asked her if she wanted me to read something to her.  She chose this, because she loves her Sendak:  In the Night Kitchen, Where the Wild Things Are, The Nutshell Library...  And so, I actually read her "The Juniper Tree," one of the most disturbing fairy tales of them all.  "My mother, she butchered me/My father, he ate me..."  It's so twisted, but it's also haunting and unlike most of the Grimm stories, it has a certain literary quality to it.  She liked it.  She has informed me that my book belongs to her now, and I can't have it back unless I'm reading it to her.

What Big Sis Finished Reading Lately

The Dancing Pancake by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff.  Yearling, 2011.

She read this one at bedtime over the space of a couple weeks.  She said it was very good.


She got it at the Scholastic Book Fair.

I know no more than this.

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George.  Bloomsbury USA, 2012.

So Big Sis's school librarian wouldn't let her check this one out, earlier in the year.  She thought it would be too difficult for her.  Her daddy got it for her on an outing.  She read it at school during free reading time.  She said it was awesome.

The trailer looks great.  I might borrow it soon!

Picture Books We Especially Liked

29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Lisa Brown.  McSweeney's/McMullens, 2014.

I love this book.  Mr. B loves this book.  Big Sis loves this book.  Little Sis didn't get it, but that's funny, because she's the kind of kid this book is about.  

It's full of weird stuff a couple of kids believe/make up/tell about a neighborhood drugstore.  It's a weird book for weird kids.  I hear my own kids go off on these secretive tangents when they don't think I'm listening.  I can't explain it.  Just click the link above.  (I really did use to sell books for a living.  Really.)

Zephyr Takes Flight by Steve Light.  Candlewick, 2012.

On the other hand, Little Sis loved this one.  It is all about a little girl obsessed with airplanes and flying.  Sent to her room one day, she discovers a hidden space filled with vintage flying machines and maps and gadgets.  Zephyr takes a trip.  It's a beautiful ode to flight and imagination.


What I Read

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman.  Broadway, 2010.

After getting my Alice Hoffman fix earlier this year with The Museum of Extraordinary Things, I was excited to find a Hoffman book I had somehow missed before.  The Red Garden unfolds as a series of short stories, all taking place in a tiny New England town.  The book begins with a tale about the founding mother of the town, and ends with a modern story, with time and generations filling all the gaps in between.  It's vintage Hoffman, full of her trademark whimsy and magical realism.  I read some complaints about the jumping time frames, and keeping the characters straight - who descends from whom, and so forth - but none of that bothered me in the least.  It was a nice, light, early spring read.

And The Rest...

I've started The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I have a huge stack from the library right now.  Big Sis is reading Utterly Me, Clarice Bean and Charlotte's Web, and she has also read or is reading books from the "Dear America" and "My America" series.  

I'll admit, I haven't read much this week.  A friend of mine directed me to The Paradise on Netflix, which is a marvelous BBC costume drama that apparently aired on PBS's Masterpiece last fall, but I missed it.  I must make a confession:  we never finished watching the latest series of Downton Abbey.  We kept meaning to, but after a while, time just got away from us.  I don't watch a lot of series television anyway, unless you count re-runs of 30 Rock and Seinfeld on late-night syndication that I've seen a hundred times. We are loving The Paradise, however, and it's disappointing that we're almost through with series one and that series two won't air here in the U.S. for a while.  

Mr. B also got me hooked on Comedy Central's Drunk History, which just disappeared from Netflix. Oops!  It's on Amazon Prime Instant.  

Anyhoo, I hope you have a beautiful weekend.  It's supposed to get hot here!  I'm not ready!  

I'll leave you with a little Gene Kelly and Judy Garland.  The girls' recital is entitled "Under the Big Top," so keeping with that theme, here is Cole Porter's "Be A Clown," from the movie The Pirate.

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

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Mr. B Talks About the Fairy Playhouse

Hello, dear readers!  As promised, here is a post by Mr. B, attempting to describe how he built this fairy playhouse.  [See yesterday's post for more pictures.]  He's trying to leave for work, but he was kind enough to take a few photos and rattle off some instructions.  I begged him to do this, though, because this playhouse is kind of amazing.  We've had some major winds this spring, and this thing hasn't budged at all.  He also built it in about an hour and a half, because his supplies were already cut.  So from here, I'll let Mr. B take it!

First off, I was originally going to run to the hardware store to buy landscaping timbers, then just weave brush in where I could, to mask the timber.  Since we live in town, that seemed the most plausible idea.  I didn't really want to chop down my trees, and the neighbors get mad when you chop down theirs.

Fortunately, we live in Kansas, and we were plagued by snow and ice storms this winter, and I noticed neighbors were starting to stack broken limbs by the curb.  So, I raided the neighbors after all.  Between the ice and their pruning, I had a lot of supplies.

What was great about using their timber is it just required a few simple tools on my part:

An axe for trimming and shaping...

and wire and pliers for binding the material.

Start with a simple A-frame.  I attached one end of a long, thick branch to the fork in a standing tree (hee hee, the neighbor's tree - shh, it's practically in our yard), then braced it at the end with two more branches, crossing at the top, creating a bipod.  (It looks like an upside-down V in the front - Danzel)

This is the front of the A-frame, as taken from the inside of the fairy playhouse.

Then, to support the middle, I created another bipod off the original branch in the center, allowing the top branch to nestle into natural forks and crevices in the branches.

I bound all of this with wire.  (I used floral wire, so it would blend more.)  I also used the wire to weave it on each side, so that I could weave in the smaller branches and bind the entire structure together.  I wanted the weight and tension to help hold the fairy house up.

Then on the sides, I bound smaller branches to the bipods, so that the exterior branches could rest on them.

Keep in mind, as I built this, I had no idea my wife was going to make me blog about it.

I just laid a first layer of twigs and branches on top of the wire and larger side branches.  After getting it covered, I took greener, more flexible branches, and weaved them through the structure and wire to hold the side branches against the structure.  I did the same for both sides, looking for any natural knots, forks, etc., that I could also weave in to create more tension.

Wire binding the branches.  You can see where I rested the branches in natural forks, wherever I could.

That's really about it.  I just kept adding and weaving, until I felt I had a sufficient amount of siding on it, looking for large gaps to cover.  I used my axe to trim and create places for the pieces to rest, where there were no natural forks.  From there, it was time to decorate it!

This is what it looks like from the side.

I apologize if this is as clear as mud.  It's kind of one of those things I just started building, going off natural instinct and construction experience.  I'm glad I found a practical application for Marine Corps survival training.  I could have kept going and found greener branches to make it completely non-transparent, but I need to be able to see what the little farts are up to, too.

If anyone has questions, just let Danzel know and I'll try to describe it better.  I'm trying to make my lunch and get ready for work!

Thank you, honey!  I'm not completely sure I follow, but I know you built it without thinking you would be writing instructions for it.  The girls and I love it!

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Fairy Playhouse

It has been super-windy in our neck of the woods, and the high temperatures are back in the fifties, so we haven't spent much time outdoors this week.  Not to mention the fact that this weekend is the girls' annual dance recital, and my mother is coming to town on Saturday, and my, but it has been busy around here!

I do have some pictures of this year's fairy house to share, however!  Mr. B put it together the day after Easter, while I was dead under the covers with strep throat.

Stay tuned tomorrow, as Mr. B has promised to give us some hints about he constructed this thing.  Despite the crazy winds that managed to blow our neighbor's huge tree completely over, this fairy house hasn't budged!  I've also taken to calling it a "fairy playhouse," as it's definitely a bit large.  When I suggested to the girls that they might need to make another little house inside for any actual fairies, Little Sis scoffed and cried, "But we're the fairies, Mom!"

Some of the touches we've added include a tin can phone, a chalkboard, some LED solar-powered toadstools (that don't really work), painted and glittered rocks and pine cones, and pink fairy lights.  Our hope is that this remains an ongoing project throughout the summer and into the fall.  The girls have started begging for a Fairy Day party, like the one we held the summer before last.  Mr. B didn't seem too surprised by the request.  Perhaps...

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (A Puppet Storybook)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (A Puppet Storybook).
Grosset & Dunlap, 1985 printing.
Pictures Copyright by Tadasu Izawa and Shigami Hijikata, 1968, through
management of Dairisha, Inc.  Printed & bound in Japan by
Zokeisha Publications, Ltd.

I was so excited to find this at an antique mall this weekend.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is one of the "Puppet Storybooks," first published by Grosset & Dunlap in the 1960s and 1970s.  My edition is an oversized board book, printed in 1985.  It was cheap, as it has some staining, and the binding is tearing away in the back.  I have wanted to see one of these books in person for a while.  Besides loving fairy tales, I love illustrations consisting of photographed puppets and dolls.  The photos from these books were created in Japan, and besides some very general information on the occasional blog, or eBay or Etsy listing, I don't know much else about them.  You can find multiple versions of these books on Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, if you are interested, especially the older editions.  I just wanted to share the lovely pictures from this one!

Here are a couple of closeups.  Wouldn't you love to sit through a whole filmed short of this?

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