Monthly Archives: June 2011

Book Blitz for June 29

When I started this blog, I intended to post thoughtful book reviews on a regular basis. The thing about that is that after living my life and reading lots of books, I’m too tired to actually write lengthy reviews. So I’m going to see if I can sell you on a book in ten seconds.

On the quality of this photo…I must have been bleary-eyed after all that reading.

Froggy’s had so many other adventures, it’s only fitting that he’s finally on his way to paradise in Froggy Goes to Hawaii, written by Jonathan London and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. All his father asks of him is that he not behave like a nincompoop (meet Rue’s new favorite word), but if you know Froggy, then you know that might be a tall order. Recommended for preschoolers-grade 2.

On the subject of ocean life, check out what’s happening under the sea in Project Seahorse, by Pamela S. Turner and Scott Tuason. This is the latest title in an excellent nonfiction series for children called Scientists in the Field. Follow two female scientists who are trying to save dwindling seahorse populations. The photographs are stunning. Grades 4 and up.

While you’re waiting for Tom Angelberger’s Darth Paper Strikes Back, the much anticipated sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, read Horton Halfpott: Or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset. One day, Lady Luggertuck instructs the help not to cinch her corset quite so tight. But is it the stay that maintains societal order? Find out in this delicious satirical mystery. Grades 4 and up.

Speaking of corsets, I had no idea that gentlemen of certain standing wore stays back in the day. It’s one of many fascinating facts I read in The Many Faces of George Washington, by Carla Killough McClafferty. Follow the work of scientists using cutting edge technology to determine whether the iconic image of Washington that graces the dollar bill is a good likeness. Grades 4 and up.

The inkblot finally gets the attention and respect it deserves in Inkblot, by Margaret Peot. Many of us have spent time debating what we see in a Rorschach inkblot, but did you know that Victor Hugo was an inkblot artist? Peot shares practical tips for creating the unexpected with inkblots. And chances are, you already have the art supplies necessary to start creating inkblot art. That’s my kind of art and craft book. Grades 5 and up.

If I Stay and Where She Went, by Gayle Forman. If you have the option,  listen to the audiobooks. I white-knuckled my way through the first several chapters of If I Stay while I was driving, which will make perfect, horrific sense to you if you do the same. Mia’s got it all: cool, supportive parents, an adorable little brother, a musical gift that’s about to take her to Juilliard, and a beautiful relationship with her polar opposite in the music world, her rocker boyfriend, Adam. In an instant everything changes, leaving her with the monumental decision that is the book’s title. You’ll wish you had a longer commute. You’ll sit in your car even after you’ve reached your destination because you just have to know.

Finish If I Stay (and you’ll definitely want to finish it) and delve right into Where She Went to find out what happens to Adam after…I can say no more. I really want to talk about how it was a satisfying end to all the heartbreak…I have to stop. Grades 9 and up.

How far would you go to save a farm? To save your mother? In 1896, Clara Estby walked across the country with her mother as part of a publicity stunt to raise money to save the family farm and prove that women were just as brave, strong, and capable as men, and therefore deserving of the right to vote. The Year We Were Famous is historical fiction based on the life of author Carol Estby Dagg’s great aunt and great grandmother. Equally inspiring as the story the Dagg tells is her perseverance in the face of years of rejection letters from publishers. Local author and former children’s librarian. Grades 7 and up.

At a recent school visit, I asked the kids to raise their hands if they like poetry. I could practically hear the crickets chirping. So I read them a few selections from Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys, written by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, and then I couldn’t hear anything over their laughter. How can you not like a book of poetry that celebrates all the joys of being a boy and the wonderful unique qualities of each season? You can’t. You just can’t. For boys and girls, preschool-grade 3.

Seasons make me think of schedules, and no one likes his schedule better than Mister Bud, the star of Say Hello to Zorro!, by Carter Goodrich. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it by bringing a bossy little dog named Zorro into the mix. But that’s exactly what Mister Bud’s human does. Economy of words at its best. Illustrations that could turn anyone into a dog lover. Preschool-grade 1.

And finally, take one bar, one tall, quiet cowboy, and one girl who’s just passing through town on her way to bigger and better, and you’ve got:

A. something so trite it should require a warning label

B. one saucy love story.

In the case of The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, you get B. And the reason it works is because it really happened. This one’s for the grown up ladies.

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Bellingham in a Day

10 things we love about Bellingham:

1. The Farmers Market. Don’t let the No Dogs and No Bikes thing fool you. Maybe they’re not allowed in the market, but the public water fountains have troughs that help out your four-legged friends. And as for the No Bikes thing…

2. An off-the-grid blender for your smoothie.

Lupe worked for the smoothie; Rue drank it.

3. Scoring a stylish t-shirt. This is by Laurens Design and you can find her on etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/laurensdesign

4. Recycling is cool. Recycling is chic. Just as we were coming into the market, I saw a gal leaving with a pair of black cowboy boots that had been transformed into planters. Not even that smoothie could wash away the taste of my jealousy. These oxfords-cum-planters are snappy, but I was still pining after those cowboy boots.

5. Enterprising kids can set up shop at the farmers market on the last Saturday of the month. We saw duct tape crafts, handmade cards, jewelry, and more.

6. Political activists with a sense of fun. There’s a living, breathing human under all those bags, gathering signatures for a movement to eliminate single-use plastic bags in Bellingham. In our rush to get out the door, I almost forgot to grab my reusable grocery bags. Really glad I didn’t.

7. Independent bookstores. If we can’t get to the local library when we’re visitors in another town, then we try to check out a local independent bookstore. It was a stunningly sunny Saturday, we were by the water, and we could barely get the kids out of  Village Books. Got no pictures of this charming bookstore–I was too busy looking at books.

8. Larrabee State Park. Follow the trail–just try not to let the scenery distract you from keeping your eyes on it.

Here’s the view from the small crescent of beach at about 6:30 on a summer evening. This is a no swimming/no wading beach, so unless you and yours are content to sit on the warm, pebbly shore or explore the trails and rocky outcroppings, this may not be the beach for you.

9. A quiet place to sit and take it all in. I can’t tell you how many people complimented Rue’s outfit while we were in town. Let’s just say that she’s quite pleased with herself. In case you couldn’t tell.

10. All of this is less than two hours from our home.

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Gluten-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

We’re still not exactly basking in summer weather, but good strawberries are available so we can delude ourselves into thinking warmer weather is here. And fresh rhubarb can be had for $1 a pound at our local Carpinito Brothers. Seeing it reminded me of all the tangy, juicy strawberry rhubarb pies my mom used to make for us when we were growing up in rural Wyoming.

These gluten-free muffins are a spin on the bluberry muffins I recently posted. Muffins have become our go-to morning snack for Lupe, and she likes them so much the challenge is keeping her from snacking on them all hours of the day.

Wash a stalk of rhubarb and chop off the ends. Then, slice and dice into 1/2 inch cubes. I used a half cup of rhubarb and 1 cup of strawberries. You can use more rhubarb if you prefer–I just aim for 1 1/2 cups of fruit for this muffin recipe.

Slice enough strawberries to equal one cup.

Mix together 2 1/2 cups of gluten-free flour (this is the mix I use), 2 tablespoons of flaxseed meal if you’ve got it, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a mixing bowl.

Beat 3 large eggs. Add 3/4 cup milk, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1/2 cup honey, and 2 teaspoons applesauce.

Add the dry ingredients and stir.

Then, the fun begins. Add the rhubarb, strawberries, and copious, copious amounts of lemon and orange zest. Stir it up.

Divvy into a muffin tin that you’ve either coated with nonstick spray or lined with papers. I like these muffin papers by If You Care. They’re unbleached and compostable. They’re available at lots of stores but I add mine to my monthly Spud order.

If you want a little extra sweetness, sprinkle turbinado sugar on each muffin. Pop into a 325-degree oven and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

And here it is with a friend.

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal (optional)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup honey

2 teaspoons applesauce

1 cups sliced blueberries

1/2 cup rhubarb, diced

zest of half a lemon

zest of half an orange

Turbinado sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Mix flour, flaxseed meal, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.

3. Use a standing or electric mixer to beat the eggs.

4. Add the milk.

5. Add the vegetable oil, honey, and applesauce. Mix until well-blended, using a rubber spatula if necessary.

6. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until blended.

7. Add the fruit and zest.

8. Pour the batter into a greased or lined muffin pan. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

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How to Host a No Holds Barred Water Fight

My uncle started it.

Back in the 90s, he’d sneak into a room where we girls were huddled around the television and turn the super soaker on us, then take off on us before we could get our revenge.

We’ve all gotten older but haven’t outgrown our love of the water fight. If anything, age has made us wiser, craftier, and more patient in battle. And those traits are reflected in the quality of our fights. It’s also hardened us. Well, most of us. The men in our family don’t think it’s at all unmanly to hide behind a woman or child rather than get wet. If it’s human, then it can be used as a shield. The old, young, infirm, and pregnant are likely to find themselves sprayed–unless they spray first.

We’ve perfected the water fight. I don’t say that lightly. And so, as experts with decades of practice, we share the following tips:

1. Identify a target. In this water fight, it’s my cousin’s fiance. His family welcomed our family into the fold with a lovely dinner party. This is our way of reciprocating. (In our defense, we did feed him afterward.)

2. Give yourselves plenty of time to plan. Don’t procrastinate. We like a premeditated water fight. This looks like an innocent stroll toward the badminton net. Because we planned it that way.

3. Have a variety of weapons. Water balloons, buckets, super soakers, hoses–we use them all. Liberally.

4. Know your battlefield. Are there multiple exits? You don’t want the target to escape. Where are the best places to hide balloons? You want to make sure everyone on your team has ready access to them. How big is the area and how long is the water hose? It’s no fun if your target can cower in a far-off corner, smug and dry, while you try to spray him.

5. Make sure everyone knows how this is going to go down. You want this to look like a well-oiled operation, not a startup. In our family, if you’re old enough to stand up, then you’re going to hear the plan. And be expected to adhere to it and do your part.

6. Show no pity. The fiance’s stunned expression and plaintive cries of, “Why are you doing this to me?” should not worm their way into your heart. Pretend it’s white noise.

And when he’s thoroughly soaked but you still have water balloons, it would be a shame not to use them. Also, your teammates will turn on you first if you wait too long.

7. Laugh like you haven’t laughed since you were a kid. Squeal. Point and hoot.

8. Pick up all the pieces of water balloon in the yard. We play dirty, but we do clean up after ourselves.

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Feline Reality TV Shows

I want to pitch some ideas to the network execs. I may be biased, but I think these two are more entertaining than anything on television these days.

Food Network: Cat vs. Food

HGTV: Feline Design

MTV Cribs

This reminds me of something you’d see on TLC or A&E. That’s it. They’ve been busted by Dog the Bounty Hunter.

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Father’s Day

Nacho Man’s agenda:

1. Sleep in (but only after he’s acknowledged the cats’ 6:15 request for kitty num-num)

2 Wake up to homemade cards a couple of hours later

3. Inform wife that the house is quite smoky (but it smells delicious, thank you very much)

4. Kick back in the recliner that said wife detests and read the Sunday newspaper,

5. Answer summons to the table and feast on a breakfast of spicy-sweet sausage (which I confessed to Nacho Man was supposed to be homemade chorizo but I didn’t have my act together, and he informed me that he doesn’t like chorizo), skillet potatoes, and Lupe’s scrambled eggs.

Spicy-Sweet Breakfast Sausage (makes 8 patties)

A bite of this sausage starts out sweet and smoky from the brushed-on maple syrup, char, and cumin, but heats up in the back of your throat after a moment.

Ingredients:

1 pound pork sausage

1/2 teaspoon sage

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne (more if you like it extra spicy)

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup, plus more for brushing

pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

1. Mix the meat, spices, and 1 teaspoon of maple syrup in a medium-sized bowl. Shape into 8 patties.

2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties for about 4-6 minutes per side, depending on thickness.

3. Brush with maple syrup, if desired.

Skillet Potatoes (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 sweet onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon seasoned salt (or regular salt)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

1 4-ounce can diced roasted green chiles (optional)

1 bell pepper, diced (optional)

1 tomato, diced (optional)

1/4-1/2 cup queso fresco (optional)

Directions:

1. Boil potatoes for 2-3 minutes and drain.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add red pepper flakes if using. Add potatoes and stir frequently.

3. When potatoes begin to develop a brown char and crunchy coating, add diced onions and bell pepper if using. Stir frequently.

4. When potatoes are nearly done and onions are opaque, add garlic, seasoned salt, black pepper, and green chiles if using. Stir.

5. Remove from heat and serve. Top with diced tomato and queso fresco if desired.

Lupe’s Scrambled Eggs (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

8 eggs

splash of milk

Directions:

1. Crack the eggs into a large bowl. We usually only use half the yolks, but today all of our eggs had double yolks, so it seemed futile.

2. Add a splash of milk and scramble well.

3. Set a large skillet over medium heat. Add eggs and stir frequently, but not too often, so you get nice big scrambled pieces.

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Beachcombing at Seahurst Park

I could spend hours gawking at the scenery at picturesque Seahurst Park on Puget Sound.

I love that you almost can’t distinguish the clouds from the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains. Almost.

Not sure what those gray splotches in the sky are. Definitely the work of an amateur photographer, not alien invaders.

There’s more than spectacular scenery to enjoy. The beach is teeming with plant and animal life during low tide. But after awhile, I began to worry that this would be the most exotic wildlife we’d see:

Tired of seafood, this bird was hoping for a nibble of Rue’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Don’t play coy with us. We’ve got your number.

And then, we hit payload at the rocks:

Purple Sea Star and Sea Anemone

Clam–this one’s still alive.

Hermit Crab

Red Sea Cucumber

And my favorite: Acorn Barnacle.

Yes, the barnacle is my favorite. Here’s why: I’ve always thought of barnacles as nautical nuisances. Something to be scraped off, discarded. But thanks to the amazing beach naturalist from the Seattle Aquarium who was on hand, I learned that:

a. Barnacles attach their heads to hard surfaces, such as rocks.

b. Barnacles are related to crabs–that thing sticking out is kind of like a pincher.

c. Barnacles eat things like plankton.

d. And here’s the coolest thing. If you put your ear really really really close to these acorn barnacles, you can hear the sounds they make! It’s kind of a clicking-sucking sound. I think it’s more beautiful than the sound of waves in a seashell. And no, they don’t pinch.

And how cool is it that there are tiny barnacles stuck to the larger ones?

I am absolutely in awe of barnacles.

The Seattle Aquarium will have beach naturalists at beaches throughout Puget Sound during the summer, primed and prepped to talk to visitors about the remarkable things that low tide exposes. These folks are locals who volunteer their time to share their love of the Sound and increase our awareness that life is all around us.

Case in point: the barnacles. They’ll talk your ears off.

Check out this crazy animal in jeans and fleece at the beach in the middle of June.

Nacho Man couldn’t resist poking fun at my beach attire.

We’re not in Maui anymore.

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