"Martha was very fond of making split pea soup Sometimes she made it all day long. Pots and pots of split pea soup." - James Marshall, George and Martha
I love soup. During the winter months I make soup a minimum of once a week. I'd make soup every night if I thought I could get away with it but I suspect that would result in my family surreptitiously trying to dispose of their leftovers in their shoes. Like George does in George and Martha
, James Marshall's sweet and funny book (the first in a series) about two best friends.
In Marshall's very short chapters (or vignettes, if you will) we are introduced to George and Martha, two best friends who occasionally get on each other's nerves and aren't afraid to put each other in their proper places. They are a bit like Frog and Toad
, or Bert and Ernie. Despite misunderstandings, their friendship is what holds them together.
It doesn't hurt that the stories have a lot of kid appeal. In one story, Martha chews George out for being a peeping tom (this comes off as hilarious, not creepy). In another, George breaks his "favorite" tooth and must have it replaced with a gold tooth (I was fascinated by this when I was a kid). And then there is the infamous split pea soup story. In it, Martha repeatedly serves George her homemade split pea soup. George, too polite to tell Martha he hates split pea soup, quietly puts up with it until one day he can stand it no longer and dumps his bowl (his tenth of the day!) in his shoe. Unfortunately Martha has seen the whole thing. Instead of being offended, she gently suggests he tell her the truth next time . . . and confesses that she, too, hates split pea soup. She just likes making it.
I have to thank my friend Jess for reminding me about the split pea soup chapter in this book. I thought George and Martha were hilarious when I was growing up so I'm not sure why it took me so long to introduce them to my boys. At five and seven, my boys are just the right ages to find the stories absolutely hilarious. We have George and Martha: The Complete Storie
"Laura always wondered why bread made of corn-meal was called johnny-cake. It wasn't cake." - Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Shortly after beginning to read chapter books independently, my mother suggested I read the first of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, Little House in the Big Woods. It was the summer I turned seven and I tore through the series (with breaks in between some of the books to read various books in the Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume canons) with fervor until I finished the last book during Christmas vacation six months later. I have particularly fond memories of reading The Long Winter during an overnight stay at my grandfather's house. I always, always knew that I would read these books with my kids. One of my first thoughts upon learning my first child would be a boy--I am not kidding--was that there went my dreams of being able to bond over the Little House books. Then I heard--from teachers and other parents--that their boys loved these books. And my visions of reading them with my children were restored.
My boys and I began reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" series last summer, when I thought they were both old enough to appreciate Little House in the Big Woods as a read aloud. They didn't just love it; they clamored for more. Good thing Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote eight more books in the series. (Though I tend to dismiss the last book, The First Four Years, on the grounds that it is disturbing and has a different tone from the rest of the series. A fact I picked up on even at the age of seven, though a recent New Yorker article shed some additional light onto this topic.)
We are now in the middle of On the Banks of Plum Creek, my favorite of the Little House books. To me, this book has more action and character development than Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie (the first two titles we read), which are heavy on the long descriptive passages. It is in this book that the individual personalities of Laura and her sister Mary become more defined--Mary as the gentle, obedient daughter and Laura as the spitfire tomboy (my older son always gets upset when Laura does something wrong and gets scolded by Pa)--and we see them in the world around them instead of just at home. Who can forget that house in the ground, or mean Nellie Oleson and her town party, or the locusts, or--most disturbing to my seven-year old mind--Laura losing her beloved rag doll, Charlotte? Oh, there is action and plenty to love in the earlier books: the image of Laura and Mary playing with a pic's bladder balloon in Little House in the Big Woods is forever burned into my brain because it just seemed so weird to me the first time I read it. And my boys don't tire of hearing about Pa and his hunting escapades, or the way they built their homes, or the various animals the the Ingalls family kept as pets and working farm animals.
Food figures prominently in Wilder's descriptions of the (often harsh) pioneer life. So much so, in fact, that Barbara M. Walker collected many of the foods mentioned throughout the course of the series in The Little House Cookbook. It is in this book that we found the recipe for johnny-cake, a bread that was a staple in Laura's childhood home. Walker describes it as, "a crusty slab of cooked cornmeal that was mostly a vehicle for syrup or gravy." The name "johnny-cake" comes from New England pronunciation of "journey cake"--a staple of colonial travelers.
Johnny-cake (adapted from The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker)
"After the war Bob and Joe's colors made them rich. Day-Glo began to brighten everyday life back home. The colors made their way onto gas station signs and detergent boxes, traffic cones and magazine covers--including Joe's old favorite, Popular Science." - The Day-Glo Brothers, Chris Barton
I owe a debt of gratitude to authors like Chris Barton, who write cool non-fiction picture books. It makes my job as mom to two curious boys that much easier when I can answer their questions by picking a book off a shelf. Oh, I have my specialties, but when my boys' lines of questioning turn to how things work I turn to a book.
I knew Chris Barton's The Day-Glo Brothers
, with its true story of how brothers Bob and Joe Switzer invented Day-Glo colors, would appeal to my boys' inquisitive natures. My kids frequently scour our libraries' shelves for books about outer space, bridges and automobiles (a current favorite is Car Science
)--so I knew The Day-Glo Brothers
wouldn't be a hard sell. And as soon as they saw Tony Persiani's cool, Day-Glo infused illustrations they were hooked.
Author Barton drew on primary sources to write this biography of how two brothers invented something that most of us take for granted. It's strange for me, a child of the 80s and 90s, to think that there was a time when Day-Glo colors didn't exist. However, until the Switzer brothers began experimenting with fluorescence to enhance Joe's magic acts, nobody had ever developed glow-in-the dark paints--never mind paint that glowed in the daylight. Tony Persiani's illustrations literally (and gradually) light up the pages so readers know exactly what is meant by the term Day-Glo.
We read this book at the perfect time, just before a trip to Disneyland, so the boys were able to put their newfound knowledge of fluorescence and Day-Glo to use and point out rides and attr
"Tallulah's specialty is pancakes and she's always experimenting with new recipe varieties. Just last week she invented the chocolate chip flip with mini marshmallows and sliced bananas." - Tallulah in the Kitchen, Nancy Wolff
Part picture book, part instruction manul, Nancy Wolff's Tallulah in the Kitchen
is one of the first books I recall reading over and over to my six year old. He was a newly minted two year old who had recently stopped napping and I was very pregnant. In my desperate attempt to enforce some type of quiet time during the day we read. A lot. Tallulah in the Kitchen
was one of the books procured from our local library and during the three weeks it was in our possession it was one of our favorites.
We recently revisted this book because I remembered how much we enjoyed it the first time around. My six year old didn't remember it at all but I was happy to see that he loved it just as much, perhaps even more because he now has a better understanding of the humor. My four year old loved it too.
Tallulah is an aspiring chef whose specialty is pancakes. She enjoys creating new and unusual recipes (some are flops, like the one filled with coconut and jelly beans) and trying international pancakes (like crepes). Today, though, she is making blueberry pancakes and recruiting her friends Freddie and Roxy (and her dog, Flapjack) to help. We see Tallulah shopping for ingredients and organizing her supplies, then doing everything from mixing the batter to flipping the pancakes. Frequent asides give mini cooking tips ("oven mitts are a must when handling hot pots and pans") but feel organic to the story. It's a story but it's also a clever way of introducing young readers to the basics of preparing a meal from start to finish. In the end, Tallulah and her friends enjoy their pancakes--as pancakes should be enjoyed--together.
Beyond the appealing storyline (who doesn't love pancakes?), the illustrations perfectly complement Tallulah's quirky personality and the story's overall tone. Wolff uses a variety of techiniques (bright saturated colors, collage, newsprint, different fonts) to create unique and eye catching illustrations. I'm sure the busy illustrations and animal characters (Tallulah is a cat, Freddie a crocodile and Roxy a pig) are what initially caught my son's attention. This is a sweet and humorous book that shows just how much fun cooking can be, especially when you're cooking with friends.
It has become something of a tradition for me to make pancakes for dinner when my husband is out of town. I am of the opinion that breakfast is good at any time of the day. My boys agree. So last Friday evening, after reading Tallulah in the Kitchen
, we made:Tallulah's Amazing Blueberryalicious Pancakes
(Full disclosure: This is not the recipe included in the book. That r
By: Katie Fries,
I'm happy to announce that I am the new gluten-free living blogger for the Bay Area edition of Today's Mama, a national parenting website with local affiliates in select markets. If you are looking for information about gluten-free issues, product and restaurant reviews, recipes, parenting gluten-free kids, or gluten-free resources, please check me out at my other online home!
Direct link to my introductory post
Bay Area Mama main page
By: Katie Fries,
"When you are quiet, what do you hear?" - When I am Quiet on Maui, Judi Riley
It's been an unseasonably cool spring in the Bay Area. I am a warm weather kind of girl. I long for the warm sun. We can't control the weather but we can escape to a warmer place via our books.
A few years ago, when my boys were very young (not-quite-three and seven months), we spent a week in Maui. Although I don't necessarily recommend taking kids that young to Maui if you're expecting a restful and relaxing vacation, it is a favorite family memory of that time in our lives. When we want to remind the boys of our trip we watch videos and look at pictures or we read When I am Quiet on Maui, a book my husband and I brought back from a solo Maui trip a couple of years later.
Judi Riley's When I am Quiet on Maui is a peaceful book, a perfect reflection of the laid back island lifestyle. The first two pages, in fact, are just two questions (one per page) on a white background: "When you are quiet, what do you hear? When you are still, what do you feel?" With this we are brought into the book, which takes us through a child's day on the island of Maui. We learn about the island through sights and sounds. Each spread shows an illustration on the left with a single statement on the opposite page--a painting of koi and plumeria flowers in a pond is accompanied by, "When I am quiet in Wailea long before lunch, I hear the plumeria cascade into the koi pond." This is not a book to turn to if you're looking for excitement or a story where something happens. It is more like poetry, calm meditations just right for settling into a calm state of mind (perhaps right before naptime). It reminds us of the beauty of nature (found in a specific place) and the importance of slowing down and taking note of the world around us. It also introduces Hawaiian vocabulary, with proper pronunciations and definitions in footnotes at the bottom of the pages. (Crucial for parents who stumble over the word humuhumunukunukuapua'a.)
We made two different treats to get us into the Hawaiian spirit (they also went well with our Lost
series finale viewing after the boys were in bed).Lava Flow Smoothies
- 2 oz. coconut cream
- 2 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
- 4 large strawberries (or handful of frozen strawberries)
- 1 small, ripe banana
Additional equipment: Blender, paper umbrella (optional)
1. Puree the strawberries in blender.
2. Pour strawberry puree in glass.
3. Puree pineapple juice, coconut cream and banana in blender with crushed ice. Blend until smooth.
4. Pour pineapple/coconut/banana mixture into glass. The strawberry puree should rise to the top, like a lava flow.
By: Katie Fries,
"'There are lemonade licks
And syrupy sticks,
And pineapple pockets.
And my special flavor for today
Is Fun Valley Smash:
Oh, my they did taste good." - The Good Humor Man, Kathleen N. Daly
When I was pregnant with my oldest son a co-worker gave me a set of reissued classic Little Golden Books as part of a shower gift. One of the books in the set was The Good Humor Man
, a book I had overlooked (or perhaps it had been out of print) during my own childhood of reading and collecting Little Golden Books (perhaps someday I will write a post about the profound influence these books had on my life as a reader). I have very vivid memories of sitting on the floor in the nursery reading aloud to my infant son while he did tummy time on a blanket beside me. Later, this ended up being the book we would throw in a backpack or carryon to take on airplanes or day trips into the city. Simply put, this book with its sweet story and 60s era charm is a family favorite.
Kathleen N. Daly's story about a neighborhood ice cream man who brings treats to families in a typical 60s suburban neighborhood seems almost outdated. When is the last time you saw an ice cream man? I am pretty sure that my kids know about ice cream men only from this book, although the ice cream truck was a fixture in the California neighborhood I
grew up in. In the book we see the Good Humor man make his rounds in his white truck, selling "raspberry rockets" and "pineapple pockets" to the families on his route. One of his customers is a lonely boy named Johnny. Another customer, who lives way up on a hill outside of town, is an older woman who has a visiting grandson, Dick: he's also lonely. The next day, when the Good Humor man notices Johnny is without his puppy, he learns the dog is lost. But hooray! Dick and Granny have found the puppy! This inspires the Good Humor man to play matchmaker--Johnny gets his puppy back and, in the process, he and Dick become friends.
Tibor Gergeley's original illustrations are perfectly paired with Daly's text, perhaps more now than when the book was published in 1964. The retro look (which is, of course, "retro" only by present day 2010's standards) perfectly complements this story of a bygone era--when the highlight of a family's summer day might well have been the ice cream man's visit.
Drawing inspiration from the Good Humor man's flavors, we made some ice pops on this first weekend in June.Fun Valley Smash
"Fun Valley Smash" is the Good Humor man's special flavor of the day. He describes it as being "raspberry-strawberry-marshmallow mash."
- marshmallow creme
- vanilla yogurt
Additional equipment: Stick blender, ice pop mold (mine was $2.00 at Target)
1. Wash fruit. Chop stems off strawberries and cut into smaller pieces. Place in blender cup.
2. Use stick blender to puree fruit. Children should be supervised during this process.
Blog: Eat Their Words
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, when the moon forgot
, Oliver Jeffers
, how to catch a star
, moon and star cookies
, Add a tag
By: Katie Fries,
"Look--the moon can still shine even when the night is darkest." - When the Moon Forgot, Jimmy Liao
This week I am trying something a bit different on this blog. Instead of the typical book + recipe post, I am going to expand my theme throughout the week to include other books and projects we do that relate to our featured books (yes, two today) and recipe. With school being out we have a lot more time to spend with our books, and more hours of the day to fill with activities.
One of my boys' favorite topics--a subject we return to time and again--is outer space. They are fascinated by our solar system and space exploration. Over the years we've built up quite the collection of space books, from non-fiction to easy readers to fictional picture books. Kids are just fascinated with the moon and stars, even from a very early age.
1 Comments on ...like the moon and the stars and the sun..., last added: 6/16/2010
By: Katie Fries,
"Archie cooks his specialty: fish and coconut soup. They have a wonderful meal, with fried bananas for dessert." - Archie and the Pirates, Marc Rosenthal
I had a totally different book picked out for this week. My kids, though, found a new book in the library and fell under its spell and insisted I write about it
instead. I capitulated because, well, I was completely smitten too. The world Marc Rosenthal
creates in Archie and the Pirates
is quirky and amusing and charming. It's a world in which a monkey manages to assimilate to his new island life and, with the help of a bird and a tiger, run a ragtag bunch of pirates off their island. What's not to like?
I'll admit, on first glance I saw the Curious George-ish
monkey on the cover and I thought it might be a poorly written knockoff. DO NOT JUDGE THIS BOOK BY ITS COVER. It quickly becomes clear that while author/illustrator Rosenthal
may have been inspired by H.A. Rey, Jean de Brunhoff
fame) and other illustrators of their era, his book stands on its own. The story begins as the tale of a marooned monkey, Archie. We aren't sure how or why he washed up on the island (it happened in his sleep...he just drifted off while in his bed) but in short order he manages to find food, build a new home and make friends with an ibis named Clarice. A menacing tiger named Beatrice turns out to be another friend. The three have a party to celebrate their new friendship but, unbeknownst
to them, pirates are on their way to the island. When the pirates kidnap Beatrice, Archie and Clarice take action to rescue her, thwart the pirates and scare them away. They and the other island creatures rejoice and Archie invites everyone to build homes near his since they are now friends.
This is a fun, quirky story with subtle humor that merits more than one reading. Close observations of the pictures reveal the pirates' impending arrival (their ship is seen through Archie's window as he sleeps) long before the animals see them. In one picture, before Archie meets Beatrice, she is seen lurking below his tree (again, with the pirate ship in the background). My kids love these little details and giggle over them every time we read the book. They also love the final illustration, of all the animals in their new homes. ("Which one is your favorite, Mommy? I like...") Rosenthal's writing style is straightforward, kind of quirky, and makes me and my kids laugh. Sample: "At the pirate camp, Captain Pequod has set First Mate LaFaargh to keep watch while they sleep, partly because he likes saying his name (LA FAAAARGH!), but mainly because LaFaargh has trouble sleeping." I know this is one of those books that, if we don't buy it, will be one my kids look for every time we go to the library.
When my kids asked me to put this book on the blog I had a brief moment of panic. What should I cook to go with a book about pirates and anthropomorphic jungle animals? Then I remembered that Archie cooks his favorite meal for Clarice and Beatrice to celebrate their new friendship. The meal? Fish and coconut soup (with fried bananas for dessert).
Fish Soup with Coconut Milk
By: Katie Fries,
Posted on 7/19/2010
"It's hot today. Maisy is having a nice cold drink. Mmmm. Lemonade." - Maisy Makes Lemonade, Lucy Cousins
You may have noticed that lately the recipes on my blog have tied into the season--summer is the time for sweet, refreshing delights like fruit salad and strawberry shortcake. Another quintessential summer treat? Lemonade. What's more, it's easy to prepare. Even very young children can get involved.
Maisy Makes Lemonade was a library find. My four year old is in a stage where he still enjoys simple and comforting books like Cousins' Maisy books just as much as he enjoys more mature fare such as Batman versus the Joker. He was quite taken with both on a recent library trip and while neither would have necessarily been what I'd have chosen for him, I do think it's important to give my kids the ability to choose their own books at the library.
So I was going through the stack of library books to read one more time before our beach vacation and as I picked up Maisy Makes Lemonade I thought, Well, there's a good topic for the blog.
For those not familiar with Maisy (though if you have a toddler/preschooler, you should be), she's a mouse who--along with her various animal friends--experiences things that most kids are familiar with. In addition to making lemonade there are Maisy books about going to bed, going shopping, and going to places like the dentist or on vacation. They're told simply with a minimal amount of text on each page and cute, colorful illustrations. The storyline in Maisy Makes Lemonade is simple and predictable (to adults): Maisy shares her lemonade with her friend Eddie (an elephant) and they run out. They decide to make another pitcher. They pick lemons from Maisy's tree and make their lemonade, step by step. Then they enjoy their refreshing beverage. My kids wanted to make their own lemonade after reading it. If you have a small child, it's a good opportunity to suggest making lemonade "just like Maisy."
- 6 lemons (or, enough to yield 1 cup of lemon juice)
- 1/2 cup sugar (I used a combination of regular and raw sugar)
- 5 cups water
1. Slice lemons in half and juice them. We don't have a citrus juicer so I let the boys do it by hand. You need one cup of juice for this recipe.
3 Comments on Maisy Makes Lemonade - Lemonade, last added: 7/21/2010
Posted on 7/26/2010
"She opened the over door and the kitchen filled with a smell sweeter than summer gardenias--the smell of teacakes." - Saturdays and Teacakes, Lester L. Laminack
Saturdays and Teacakes
When I was growing up I had a very close relationship with my grandfather. Due to the early deaths of my other three grandparents he was the only one I was really knew and he was, in a way, like a third parent to me and my sister. Some of my favorite memories are of going on walks together, eating cheese and crackers in front of The Young and the Restless
and--when I was in upper elementary school--getting involved in stamp collecting together. My grandpa adored all of his grandchildren and bonded with all of us in different ways. For those of us who lived near him, he never missed a dance recital, concert, big sporting event or graduation. He also made it a priority to visit his other grandchildren who lived across the country. I miss him every day and think about him often--especially when I see my boys enjoying things he would have enjoyed, like getting excited about planting flowers in our garden or playing an instrument.(Me and Poppa, circa 1981)
by Lester Laminack is the story of a boy and his grandmother (Mammaw) and the special relationship between a child and a grandparent. Their standing Saturday date is a ritual that begins with the main character setting off on his bike and riding through town until he reaches her home. Their day includes sharing breakfast, doing yardwork, eating lunch (with fresh tomatoes from the garden) and--finally--making and eating Mammaw's special teacakes. Chris Soentpiet's lovely, Rockwell-inspired watercolor illustrations firmly place the story in a not-so-distant past and evoke feelings of nostalgia for a bygone era--a time when little kids really did ride their bikes through town (without helmets!) and gas station attendants wore spiffy uniforms. Despite the setting, the story is one all who have a special bond with a grandparent can relate to.
Laminack's publisher, Peachtree Publishers
, has a recipe for "Mammaw Thompson's Teacakes"
on their website. I adapted it to be gluten-free.Teacakes
(adapted from "Mammaw Thompson's Teacakes", Lester L. Laminack)
- 2 sticks butter (I used Smart Balance Butter Blend)
5 Comments on Saturdays and Teacakes - Teacakes, last added: 7/29/2010