Yearly Archives: 2014
Post by Mark T. Locker.
So I know that just last week I was griping about how my son doesn’t bring home anything other than Star Wars books now that he gets to choose a book every week all on his own. Well, he must have read my blog post because lo and behold, the moment I make a judgement he makes an about-face and brings a picture book by one of the best-known children’s authors and illustrators of the 20th century. Some of his better-known books include Swimmy about a little fish, A Color of My Own about a chameleon trying to find his own identity, and a lot of books about mice. You’d totally recognize it if you saw it.
The one my boy chose is called The Biggest House in the World. I had never heard of this one; it turns out to be one of his first ever books. It’s a story about a little snail who wants to grow the biggest house ever on his back. His wise father replies with the story of a snail who did just that. It was a huge and beautiful house, it even had colorful spires and all the other creatures admired it. Unfortunately, the drawback was soon realized when it was time for the snails to move on to greener pastures and this poor snail couldn’t move for the sheer weight of his shell. He died. Needless to say, the little snail has some second thoughts about growing such a giant home after all. In fact, he decides to keep his shell small so he can go wherever he wants.
This story is a little bit macabre but with a happy ending. I was afraid his shell being too small would make him vulnerable so I was grateful when this was not a problem. It’s not his greatest book ever and the message is a bit obscure, but it’s got lovely images and is a fun read for little ones.
Post by Alison Hein.
Buckwheat, despite its name, is more closely related to sorrel and rhubarb than to wheat. In the usual way of confusing food etymology, the plant’s misleading name is derived from the Dutch “boecweite” or German “Buchweizen,” meaning “beech wheat.” The triangular seeds resembled the much larger seed of the beech nut, and the plant was used as a substitute for wheat in cooking and baking.
Cultivated and popularized around the globe, buckwheat was a common crop in the USduring the 18th and 19th centuries. The introduction of nitrogen fertilizer in the early 20th century led to an increase in corn and wheat production, and a sad but equal decrease in buckwheat cultivation. According to Wikipedia, more than one million acres of buckwheat were harvested in the United States in 1918, and by 1964, only 50,000 acres were grown.
Buckwheat is gluten-free and has an earthy, nut-like flavor and a deep richness. This good old-fashioned recipe for Buckwheat Pancakes calls for a cup of white flour – simply use two full cups of buckwheat flour if you want to keep it gluten-free. I like to separate the eggs and fold the beaten whites into the batter for a fluffier texture. If you’re in a hurry, simply beat the eggs into the batter. The cakes may be a little flatter but their griddled goodness will remain for an old-fashioned breakfast in bed that’s due for a revival.
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus additional butter for cooking
2 tablespoons honey
Combine buckwheat flour, white flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. In separate bowl, stir together milk and egg yolks. Pour melted butter and honey into liquid mixture and stir well. Using a wooden spoon or hand mixer, gradually add liquid mixture to dry ingredients until batter is smooth. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into batter.
Place pan or griddle on burner over medium to medium-low heat. Melt a small amount of butter in the pan for the first pancake. Ladle batter by ¼ cupfuls into pan and cook until small bubbles appear throughout pancakes. Flip once with spatula and continue cooking until rich brown, one to two minutes, adding more butter and adjusting heat as necessary. Keep warm while making the remainder of pancakes. Serve hot with real maple syrup.
Makes 8 to 10 4-inch diameter pancakes.
The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Jasper Fforde is probably best known as the author of metafiction mysteries. Which means fiction about fiction. He writes about a detective who enters the plots of stories to solve crimes. Another is DI Jack Spratt who, as you may guess, is involved in crimes related to fairy tales and nursery rhymes. It’s known as the Nursery Crime Division. Yuk yuk. Recently, and to my great delight, he has branched out into young adult literature. The Last Dragonslayer came out last summer and I have been eagerly awaiting the follow-up novel.
Jennifer Strange is a foundling in the kingdom of Snodd in the Ununited Kingdom. She is taken in by the Great Zambini, a powerful wizard who runs a company which supplies wizidrical services to the kingdom. But when he disappears (and fails to reappear) Jennifer, at sixteen, is tasked with managing a building full of absent-minded and sometimes ethereal wizards. To add to the problem, they are in the middle of a bitter rivalry with iMagic, the flashier but less effective wizard’s group across town.
Excitement mounts as her team of wizards begin disappearing. At the same time, there are signs that a Quarkbeast has come to town, a fearsome magical creature that feeds on metal and sports a mouthful of sharp granite teeth. To the few who know better, like Jennifer, these creatures are loyal and wonderful protectors. Finding the Quarkbeast could prove very useful.
Jasper Fforde is a funny and clever author who manages to blend mystery and excitement with a healthy dose of silliness which makes him perfect as a young adult author. If you have a tween in your house who enjoys magic, humor, and mystery this series is a definite must.
Post by Alison Hein.
Some know this cheerful golden breakfast dish as Eggs Beauregard. Even more know it as Eggs Goldenrod, a staple in Home Economics classes, uh, a long time ago. It makes sense for budding chefs to practice this simple recipe. Several basic cooking techniques are rolled into one dish: how to hard boil eggs to a perfect consistency; how to toast bread to a light golden brown; how to make a smooth, creamy white sauce; and how to successfully assemble and garnish a dish to an elegant finish. The finished product – warm toasty bread topped with creamy white sauce and dusted with feathery bits of cooked yolk – is lovely to look at, and lovely to eat.
I like to use a light, airy bread, such as brioche, to offset the rich and creamy egg-topped sauce. If you like, hard boil the eggs the day before, then heat them for a minute or two in the white sauce before serving. Also, feel free to use white pepper rather than black if you like to keep your white sauce white.
Let your little ones and fledgling cooks help. Go boil some eggs right now. Then, tomorrow morning, let them toast, sauce and plate for you – a cheerful, golden breakfast in bed!
2 slices of bread
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Place eggs in a small heavy saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil on high heat and continue to cook eggs for 10 minutes, until hard-boiled. Cool and peel. Separate eggs from whites. Finely chop egg whites and set aside. Push cooked egg yolks through a fine mesh sieve to form an airy powder and set aside. Toast bread to a light golden brown and arrange on 2 plates.
To make white sauce, melt butter in small heavy saucepan. Whisk in flour until smooth, thick paste forms. Whisk in milk and cook until slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in chopped egg whites.
Spoon white sauce over prepared toast. Top with fluffy egg yolk, garnish with parsley and serve immediately. Fresh sliced oranges make a nice accompaniment.
Makes 2 servings.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Star Wars: the clone wars
Boy, if it isn’t all Star Wars all the time in my house these days. I knew that when my son started having library upon entering public school that all manner of books would be coming through our door. I was intensely curious to know what we would find in his backpack when we picked him up. Well, the answer is Star Wars. Every. Single. Week. It’s fine. It’s great. He’s really enjoying them. As a librarian, my job is to encourage a love of literacy and not to judge what people read just as long as they read.
So these books basically take the cartoon of the Clone Wars (which I reviewed a couple weeks ago) and turns episodes into small chapter books. It’s pretty clever, if you think about it. All the imagery is already there, the plot is there, you just need to write some words to accompany the pictures. Last week was all about Captain Rex. This week was yet another engagement with General Grievous, the robot-y leader of the Droid Army. He always gets away but his ship is always destroyed! Honestly, I don’t see why they keep him employed, given his track record.
But, the stories are fun and keep my son happy and engaged. There has to be an end to them, and then he can move on to Ninjago and we can deal with a barrage of product placement! Happy reading!