Wednesday, June 27, 2012

All Our Favorites: Picture Books

Two weeks ago (this is a very lazy summer) when I took all the books off the shelf, dusted, and organized I thought I might as well make a list of 25 titles we think ought to be on everyone's shelves. As soon as there is a list, there is an exception or two (or ten). Somebody likes Five Little Monkeys or Froggy. Then I remember Eloise Wilkin and certainly she deserves a mention. Dr. Seuss goes without saying. I could go on with "but" and "what about." Instead, consider this just a starting point. After all, we have over 100 books on that shelf; we dare not mention the "school" shelves and my wish list.

I'll arrange these, very approximately, from short to long. Books for the toddler at the beginning and books for patient listeners at the end. The last books are quite long, even if they are "picture" books. Never be afraid of old books; our tastes, in books as in all else, are cultivated. Cultivate an appreciation for the best.

All our favorites:

1. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Numeroff
    Also Moose a Muffin and Pig a Pancake. The library has some of her newer books and we don't care  for those quite as well.

2.  Corduroy by Freeman

3.  Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
     At eighteen months Kara ran around demanding "nigh, nigh boon." There are so many other good books by this author: Run Away Bunny and another real favorite Big Red Barn.

4.  Baa, Baa Black Sheep or I'm a Little Teapot or How Much is That Doggie In the Window or others by Iza Trapani. Be ready to sing.

5. Harry the Dirty Dog (and all the other Harry books) by Zion. Laugh out loud fun.

6. Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Carlstrom. Here is an exception to the general rule: all the other books by this author have proved disappointing.

7.  Curious George by H.A. Rey. Please be discerning and only choose the original books by Rey. The books based on the TV series fall short of the originals.

8.  Ox Cart Man by Hall.  Barabara Cooney's illustrations are wonderful, as always.

9.  Caps For Sale by Slobokina

10.  The Story About Ping by Flack

11.  The Little Engine That Could by Piper. Yes, the original.

12.  Peter Rabbit and any others by Beatrix Potter. Buy the little green books, if you can. Accept no so-called "improvements" on the originals!

13.  Frog Went A-Courtin' by Langstaff and Rokankovsky. This is a four hundred year old folk song, fun to sing, and silly. Also look for Over In the Meadow.

14.  The Biggest Bear by Ward. You'll laugh when the bear is in the kitchen, I promise.

15.  Year at Maple Hill Farm and Our Animal Friends by the Provensens

16.  A New Coat For Anna by Ziefert

17.  Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. I admit: I love this book for the illustrations and desperately wish I could grow lupines.

18. Make Way for Ducklings by McCloskey

19.  Blueberries for Sal by McCloskey

20.  The Little House by Burton

21.  Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Burton, again

22.  Katy and the Big Snow by Burton, again. These receive three separate mentions because we have read these books more than almost any others on our shelves.

23.  Seven Silly Eaters by Hoberman. The book flows with rollicking rhyme, but the illustrations are priceless if you love kids and creative chaos. I'm convinced they are homeschoolers, though the book never mentions it.

24.  Saint George and the Dragon by Hodges

25.  The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship: A Russian Tale by Ransome

*A note on why I don't link to Amazon: Our state passed a sales tax law on internet purchases. Opposed. Amazon retaliated by ending the affiliates program here. Opposed. I never made a penny, but I loved the convenience of linking to Amazon. If another blogger is an affiliate, give them a penny by purchasing through their Amazon link. They will love you for it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Budget Pouches

For years Bryan and I have kept cash for various budget categories in paper envelopes. Envelopes are a highly functional, simple, no nonsense solution. I toyed with the idea of making something pretty, I bought zippers, but never stitched anything.

Recently we decided to try paying cash more often and not so quickly resorting to the credit card (which we have always paid in full each month). The hope is that we will stick faithfully to the budget if we are handing over actual dollar bills.

All it took was one, just one, trip to Walmart with a ratty paper envelope and coins falling out in my purse. One blush. Two hours later I was home, finishing my first zipper pouch.

Ally and I (because of course she helped) are so pleased with our work. She was inspired to make some pouches of her own. We bought out every white, seven inch zipper in the store. We used this zipper tutorial. The interior has no raw edges. After our first bag we decided to leave the opening (that you use to pull the fabric right side out) on the side rather than the bottom of the pouch. If you follow the pattern there is a little crease on the bottom, and we could easily see crud getting caught in it. After stitching three with slightly different sizes we decided to trim our square (the point when all four rectangles are stitched to the zipper - see above) to 8.25 by 8.25 inches. Then our finished product came out the same size each time. Our finishing touch was Ally's handstitched labels, made on little bits of linen and tacked on so that they'll be easy to switch.

But you know what? After all our hard work, and eye-catching colors Bryan still refuses to be seen in public with one of our fabric pouches. Carry the brown floral car repair pouch to the mechanic? Not a chance. He will carry the cash in his wallet. I won't hold it against him. He is, after all, a man.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Peter Rabbit Days: Lettuce, Parsley, and Lavender

It used to be that you would find Arden out in the sun, rabbit tobacco hanging from his mouth at a rakish angle. Rabbit tobacco is lavender in the world of Peter Rabbit, and the rabbit tobacco is flourishing this year. I had put a handful in a vase and mistakenly discovered how easy it is to dry lavender (though I can't recommend it as a godly character trait there are occasional benefits resulting from sloth), so for the first time I am harvesting my own lavender to use in sachets. Granted, it smells nothing like the lavender from France that I bought last year. Still, I was pulling it off the stalks in the living room while Bryan was reading The Hobbit and the living room did smell heavenly. I have a very earthy closet that can use a little bit of heaven.

Parsley seeds are almost ready to harvest.

The secret to gathering all those lettuce seeds is to pretend you have nothing better to do than sit in the sun and pick at your plants. I tried shaking the stalk upside down in a paper bag and was not getting much, so I moved to hand picking. I suppose my seeds could use some winnowing, but the reality is I do have better things to do. So I'll just try tossing these in the ground and see what grows, for my family and some to share. With Peter Rabbit.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Swamp

I read a guest post over at Money Saving Mom 9 Ideas for Planning a Fun Summer Vacation,  accompanied by photos of the author and her kids by the Golden Gate Bridge and at the beach. Clearly playing the tourist is more exciting when you live in the San Francisco Bay Area than in Any Small Town U.S.A. Here teens hang out in the car wash parking lot and Walmart is the biggest thing going on Friday night (outside of football season, naturally). Rating local parks won't carry us far. There are two in town; one is so small it's hardly worth mentioning. We can't all live in the same place. Thankfully. Good ideas are relevant for some, not for others. Any kind of fun you can have in SFO: not relevant for me.

After so many moves, I'm learning the lesson: love where you are, not where you aren't.

Yesterday we made a trip to the airport. Four hours driving, round trip. While we were out "in the world" we stopped at a trail,  played the tourist. Except a tourist would never have found that place. Like so many interesting places in Arkansas, there were no road signs. Only an article clipped from a newspaper, lucky turns down country roads, and a 15 minute walk out into the swamp.

But it was the Cypress-tupelo swamp that lured us there. We'd never been to a swamp before, though we'd had long discussions what they might be like as we zipped by them on the highway. We were bent on discovery.

So, tongue in cheek, I'll ask: what kind of fun can you find two hours from home?

Above and below: the Bald Cypress trees

A word on the snakes: We saw three snakes on our walk. Another couple on the trail told us they were cottonmouths. Looking at their photos on the computer, I wonder if they really are. Rumor has it cottonmouths (water moccasins) have slanty, cat-like pupils. These seem to be round. As with any nature ID I attempt, I've looked at three internet sites and have no real clarity on this issue. Perhaps my brother would like to weigh in?

Zoom lens. I make it my rule in life to never, under any circumstances, come in any contact, nor invade the space of any snake no matter how harmless it may trick you into believing it may be. That way I'm safe. Snakes = NO!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake: delicious for a birthday breakfast. Made entirely of ingredients you are likely to have on hand. This is handy when you forget to buy the key ingredient, blueberries, for the requested Blueberry Buckle Coffee Cake. We were all pleased with this light and fluffy alternative.

King Arthur Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake