Tag Archives: Children
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar
A couple months ago, I reported back about a collection of stories I’d read as a child and was revisiting with my son. Each was the story of a child in the 30th-floor classroom at Wayside School, the sideways school. I enjoyed it almost as much as a grown adult as I did as a kid. My son? He LOVED them. So imagine our delight at discovering a whole new volume of stories about the unusual children in Mrs. Jewl’s class on the 30th story. My son? He LIKES them. I think they’re okay but not as funny as the first, not as original the second time around, either. Also? I find myself having to explain that although one of the children brought a hobo in for show-and-tell (it was as tastefully done as it could be, which wasn’t very) we generally don’t call people “hoboes” unless they are riding the rails, carrying a bindle, and eating beans out of a can. A couple of the stories are pretty good, like the one about the new kid Benjamin Nushmutt who everyone thinks is named Mark Miller and he can’t bring himself to correct them. After all, Mark Miller is SO much better at everything than Benjamin Nushmutt is.
Overall, I’d say toss it to your kid and have him or her read it alone. And maybe skip the one about the hobo. Ages 6+
Post by Alison Hein.
Scotland’s recent historic vote for independence has got me thinking a lot about this lovely place, its people and its traditions.
The Scots are an ingenious people. Did you know that marmalade, raincoats, tarmac, pneumatic tires, adhesive stamps, penicillin, the bicycle, and the telephone were all invented by Scottish people? I learned this from one of my well-worn and well-loved linen dishcloths gifted to me by my dear friend Anne after a visit to her native homeland many years ago. Anne brought me a second linen at that time, too – this one emblazoned with traditional Scottish recipes: haggis and clootie; cock-a-leekie soup, scones and bridies; and of course, shortbread.
Also ingenious in their simplicity, Scottish recipes require little in the way of provisions, and offer much in the way of flavor. My dishcloth shortbread recipe calls for only three ingredients – flour, sugar, and butter. I’ve modified this approach over the years, using a light brown sugar for depth and a smooth, subtle splash of vanilla for mellowing. Remember, shortbread is all about the butter, so be sure to use a high quality variety when you try this recipe. You must cut the cookies immediately after removing them from the oven, while the dough is still soft. Then, allow them to cool in the pan for a bit so they won’t crumble.
Scotland’s history is also rich with music and verse, like this lovely little snippet from the song Bonnie Scotland, I Adore Thee:
Bonnie Scotland, land of grandeur,
Where the sparkling streams meander,
Here will I delight to wander,
Bonnie, Bonnie Scotland.
So, make a quick batch of shortbread, brew some thick, dark tea the way the Scots do, hum along, and surrender – to a bonnie, Scottish breakfast in bed.
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
Preheat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla and mix well. Add flour gradually until a thick, crumbly dough has formed. Knead lightly until dough sticks together in a ball, then press evenly into a 9×9-inch pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned, but not crisp. Immediately cut dough into 3×1-inch strips and prick tops with a fork or toothpick. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on a rack until firm. Store in waxed paper-lined tin.
Makes 27 cookies.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Bunnicula by James Howe.
Well, school is in session, and since we seem incapable of experiencing any down time between holidays, all the mini fridges and Trapper Keepers are being pulled and replaced with shrieking skeleton heads and bags and bags of candy. Friends, it is officially the start of Halloween season! Personally, I couldn’t be more pleased. I love all the masks, monsters, and makeup. Pumpkins, papier–mâché skeletons, and party favors. It’s also time to bring in a new collection of spooky stories to share!
My son is now old enough to move past the cutesy Halloween picture books and tackle some heavier material. A couple of those old picture books will forever have a place in my heart, but I’m super excited to share with him the classic vampire story, Bunnicula. Narrated by the family dog, Harold, this story introduces us to the most unusual family of pets I know of. While Harold is very much a family dog, interested in snacks and naps, his companion, a cat named Chester, is a little different. He’s well-read and a little paranoid. When the family comes home one rainy night with a bunny they discovered in the movie theater, Chester is immediately wary. And as he begins to put the pieces together, wariness turns to suspicion, to fear. For it becomes clear that this is no ordinary rabbit. For one thing, he only wakes up at night. For another, he can slip in and out of his locked cage in mysterious way. And when Chester discovers that vegetables are suddenly turning bone-white, his fears are confirmed. This bunny is a VAMPIRE!
A little bit spooky, and a whole lot of fun, this book is a great family read to offer goose bumps and laughs in equal measure. Ages 6+
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Neverending Story. Classic fantasy film of the 80s. Kid alone in an attic reading a large, mysterious tome. In the story, a young man on a mission to save his world from annihilation. From the Nothing. Unwilling to go to class, he hides out in some weird darkened room full of old stuff and reads.And what an exciting book young Bastian has discovered. The magical world of Fantasia is exciting and scary! Luck Dragons! Pink furry ears and an eerie pink, scaly back. Giant rock eaters! Big naked Sphinxes with lazer beam eyes! And the most exciting/terrifying thing of all? Bastian is PART of the story! The characters feel his woes. His belief or lack thereof is all that stands between their world and obliteration.
We finally broke down and watched this with our so-close-to-six-we-should-just-call-him-six-year-old. I think the biggest worry was watching that poor horsey get sucked down into the Swamps of Sadness. Poor sad, drowned horsey! Well that didn’t seem to bother him in the least. I guess we had nothing to worry about, or we waited just the right amount of time. I’d forgotten how much I liked most of the movie. The funny pointy-eared old man and his wife. With their telescope, watching him try to best the Sphinx. And how Bastian gets to scare the pants of the bullies by chasing them down on the luck dragon.
Everyone is always crazy about retro stuff, especially stuff from the 80s. So if you are feeling ironic or whimsical, or if you have a kid or you don’t have a kid, The Neverending Story is still a fun and fantasy-filled adventure well worth revisiting.
Post by Alison Hein.
I can’t stop leafing through Janet’s retro cookbooks that we used to plan the menu of her 1960s-themed birthday bash. Some recipes, like Red Tomato Mold, are not all that appealing. And others, namely Tutti-Frutti Tortoni, and Po Po, will make you laugh. But these little party animals are sure to grab your heart.
You only need a couple of hard-boiled eggs, a carrot, a few black olives and a handful of toothpicks. If you have some kids around to help you assemble these adorable little egg penguins, even better. If you need to make more, just throw a few extra eggs in the pot.
Then, use your cute egguins to dress up a party platter, add cheer to a plate of deviled eggs, or become the centerpiece of a breakfast tray for a heart-warming, retro breakfast in bed.
WARNING!: You may come away hungry as some find these little guys too cute to eat.
4 jumbo black olives
Place eggs in small heavy saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil on high heat and cook for one minute or so. Turn off heat, and let eggs remain in hot water for 10 minutes, until hard-boiled. Immerse in cold water and carefully peel eggs. Allow to cool thoroughly before assembling.
When ready to assemble, cut a thin slice from the large end of each peeled egg, just enough so each egg can stand levelly. Peel carrot, and cut a long ¼-inch thick slice lengthwise. Cut 4 “feet,” each approximately ¾-inch wide in front and tapered to about ½-inch in the back. Use a paring knife to notch some “toes” in the front. Tuck feet under standing eggs. Whittle 2 thin “beaks” from remaining carrot and set aside.
Place an olive “head” on top of each egg and secure with a toothpick. Cut another olive into 4 slices and use as wings, and secure 2 to each penguin with a toothpick (cut toothpicks in half if necessary). Cut 2 lengthwise slivers of olive for each “necktie” and toothpick in place. Push “beaks” into “heads.”
Makes 2 Egguins
Recipe adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Meals with a Foreign Flair, 1963