a midsummer night's dream

3

June 20, 2016

It's the summer solstice! And every year I ask the question, how can it also be Midsummer? I'll never understand. Thank you to the lovely friends who gave me some solstice suggestions! (cleaning? making a cake? yes and yes.)

I thought I'd show you some of my favorite fairy pictures, on this magical day. Julia and I will be scattering some cake crumbs and flower petals outside in the garden this evening....and probably our dog will have a good time with those items.....Have a lovely start to summer, or solstice party, or midsummer night dreaming!

Sources for the fairy books, from the top down:

'The Green Willow and Other Japanese Fairy Tales' - (I swear, post coming soon.)
'Peter Pan - A Classic Illustrated Edition'
'The Giant Golden Book of Elves and Fairies'
'Peter Pan and Wendy'
'Fairyopolis' (ditto the above note - an entire post on this one coming)
'Fairies - A Magical Guide to the Enchanted Realm'

And I have (of course) an entire Pinterest board devoted to fairies and fairy tales, if you'd care to see. Happy Midsummer!




cool stuff i like

6

June 17, 2016

 Happy Friday! The summer solstice is next week and I really want to do something cool for it but I don't know what. Does anyone have any inspiration for me, other than hopping a plane to Sweden? I could make this cake, (good heavens that photography. so sorry. it's actually awesome in its badness.) but I want to do something new. Maybe we'll just pour some IKEA elderflower syrup over some sparkling water and call it good....


Online finds this week:

Fascinating article on children and reading. Thanks to Michelle for putting this on my radar!

This banana bread.

Comics and graphic novels for all ages of kids.

Rest, a new kind of hibernation.

Key lime pie.

This.

Have a boring summer!

I LOVE HER SO MUCH.

I want to read this book, it's supposed to be amazing.

Sandwiches for summer.


Cool Book of the Week: 'Lulu and Pip' by Nina Gruener and Stephanie Rausser is the follow up to a darling darling DARLING book about a child and her beloved doll that I featured a couple of years ago, 'Kiki and Coco in Paris'. This one (with another magical doll creation from the wildly talented Jess Brown!) tells the story of another little girl and her dolly, who go on a camping adventure and discover the fun to be had in the great outdoors - in contrast to their everyday big city life. Both books feature vibrant, generously sized photography that perfectly matches the text of the story. I can't stress to you how cute these books are, and the camping theme of this one makes it a perfect read for summer, which officially starts next week.

Have a lovely weekend! And Father's Day weekend, if that's on the agenda for you. Andrew's plan is to play video games all weekend, and Julia wants to tackle making homemade shortbread. I'm going to be embarking upon my week-long chore of cleaning madly for days on end because gasp, we're having family photos done at the house next week. I'm soooooo nervous, I'm usually the taker of photos, not the subject! But when I realized that there were hardly any photos of Andrew and I since our wedding and that there aren't that many photos of Julia and I loving on each other, I knew I had to get on that. Andrew wants to know if he can have lots and lots of pictures taken of him and the cat.

~Melissa




coconut and guava pastelitos

2

June 14, 2016

Recently there was a thing at the kiddo's school where everyone had to be pick a country and make some food to share. I like food and I like sharing so I totally volunteered to be a parent chaperone. Julia picked Cuba for her country, and we decided to try and find a traditional Cuban dessert, and one of the first things we found were guava pastelitos. When I saw that the ingredients were basically puff pastry, guava paste and cream cheese, I was like done, we're doing that.

Turns out things were slightly more involved (guava paste?? found it at a local Hispanic grocery store. I also saw some at World Market.) and Julia wanted to make coconut, guava and pineapple. I was like, no way sister, choose TWO. So she chose to do guava and coconut. They were both delicious and this was so fun and pretty easy AND don't despair over chasing after guava paste - these would be great with any kind of jam! The coconut filling was super easy and that was actually my favorite - Julia loved the guava.

So if you're looking for something fun to do in the kitchen this summer, just remember puff pastry is your friend. You could make turnovers. You could make tiny pies. It makes whatever you do look like so much more work than it actually was.

Coconut and Guava Pastelitos - via Mario Batali

Pastelitos:

  • 1 package store-bought puff pastry (thawed)

Guava Filling:

  • 1 package guava paste
  • 4 ounces cream cheese (softened)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar (we used 3, we were making a double batch)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt 

Coconut Filling:

  • 1/4 Cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 Cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 2 eggs (plus 1 tablespoon water whisked together)
  • 1 pinch salt
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. 

Lightly roll out puff pastry on a floured surface. Cut into 2 and 1/2'' to 3" squares.

For the Guava Pastelitos
Lightly grease a mini-muffin tin (or regular muffin tin) with nonstick cooking spray. Press a square of puff pastry into each cup with the edges sticking out. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, lemon juice, sugar, milk and salt. Stir until smooth. Place a teaspoon of guava paste into the center of each puff pastry cup. Top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Remove and allow to cool before serving.

For the Coconut Pastelitos
Add the sweetened condensed milk and water to a small sauce pot and place over medium heat. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Add the coconut and cook over low heat, stirring frequently until pale golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. Place a square of puff pastry in front of you. Place 1-2 teaspoons of cooled filling into the center of each square. Fold in half to create small rectangles or triangles. Use a fork to seal edges of the pastry. Continue with remaining filling and pastry. Transfer filled pastries to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with a little salt if desired. (we sprinkled powdered sugar) Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Remove and allow to cool before serving.

~What do you think, have you ever tried pastelitos before? I had never even heard of these ever in my life. We'll definitely be making them again, especially the coconut.




cool stuff i like

4

June 10, 2016

 Happy Friday! Did you all have a chance to see my Strawberry Girl post? It's worth a look, I promise -- alligators, snakes, Florida backwoods feuding families, and...strawberries! Up there you have the last of our peonies. I can't complain about the short growing season this year, because we basically had peonies for almost a month. So it's all good. I'm going to keep the chat to a minimum because when you get to the featured book this week, I'm going to provide a link to the author's blog and her post about the book is lengthy, and I don't want to hold you up any longer than I have to, it's such a good read!


Online goodness this week:

Nana's Jam Tarts.

This made me cry. 'When to let them see you'.

Tips for a well organized pantry.

This post seriously blew my mind. Age 3? I'm so in awe. And I'm not sure I physically would have been able to do it with my kiddo without being sedated.......#helicopterparent

Oh dear. Another cookbook that caught my eye......

Doesn't this tea sound just right for summer?

Pretty colors for your walls.

Check out this camper before and after!

Tara Whitney is such a ninja photo master.

I was trying to find stuff for a friend, who was looking for book suggestions for her 14 year old niece. I steered her to my YA Fiction Pinterest board and also to Amazon's YA romantic mystery bestsellers.


Cool Book of the Week: 'How to Celebrate Everything: Recipes and Rituals for Birthdays, Holidays, Family Dinners, and Every Day In Between' by Jenny Rosentrach might be the cookbook I've waited all of my life for. I'm not being bloggery-over the top-ish - I really mean it. I'm so excited. I'm pre-ordering. Go read Jenny's post about what she's put into her book and the philosophy she had in mind when writing it. YES. I so relate to every word. I want to do this so much more than I've been doing - sometimes I talk a good game but don't put it into practice - I want to have my roster of obscure British and Chinese holidays and really do it up ha ha ha, that's my version of celebrating! I love that there's a section on birthdays at home because my kiddo has always really liked having her birthdays at the house. (whyyyyyyyyy? but ok.) ANYWAY. I'm all about recipes and rituals and holidays and and and....I wrote to Jenny and said, 'I think you just wrote the cookbook I'd always hoped that you'd write even though I didn't know I was hoping it' - how's that for being coherent. I can't WAIT for this one.


Have a lovely weekend! Andrew, who normally just bobs along floating on the waves of whatever Julia and I want to do, announced last week that he thought we should try our hands at growing real live pumpkins in our side garden area. So we went and got three pie type pumpkin plants and we're going to plant them this weekend. Last weekend it was 90 and it was too hot. This weekend is going to be cooler and we probably should have planted these a month ago but hey, we're planting pumpkins! (we're not starting from seeds, the garden store told us we were too late for that.)

~Melissa




strawberry girl

8

June 6, 2016


True confession time - I never read Lois Lenski's classic 'Strawberry Girl' when I was growing up. I think I recall picking it up and flipping through it and seeing the dialects on the page and realizing that there were no fairies in it, and that it was about some little girl in Florida doing some kind of farming and I was bitterly disappointed. I thought ugh, borrrrrrring, pass.

Flash forward to Julia's toddler years, when I bought nearly all of Lenski's books for tiny tots, like 'Policeman Small' and the hilarious 'The Little Family' (you will laugh/cry/rage at the way gender roles are described) and our special favorite, 'Cowboy Small'. I rediscovered Lenski's deceivingly simple and distinctive old fashioned illustrations and thought, maybe I should try out 'Strawberry Girl' again someday? And then forgot all about it.

Until about a month ago, when Julia came home from school, seriously yelling "MOM. I read this AWESOME book called 'Strawberry Girl'." And I was like wow, I can't believe you read that and it had nothing to do with me and I was so happy that she liked it and I was also so impressed that she got through the strong dialects written in the story - Julia calls books like that (see also 'Misty of Chincoteague') "shore books" - because in particular areas of America, people pronounced "sure" as "shore" as in "I SHORE did." Anyway, she loved the book, and was shocked and amazed that I had never read it. So I went and bought myself a copy - since it's such a classic, I thought that I should own it, and then I sat down and read.

When Julia saw me reading it, she actually made me read parts of it to her out loud, even though she had just read it and I was more than halfway through.

And now that I've finished it, I can see why she liked it, and as one of the biggest card-carrying LHOTP Laura Ingalls Wilder fans that you will ever ever ever see, I can't FATHOM how this book got away from me, along with the rest of Lenski's regional books that chronicled different parts America in the early 20th century. Lenski moved in and studied the communities she wrote about closely, and poured particular attention into detailing the children. It was important to her to accurately depict how people were actually living in various areas small areas and towns around the United States.

And while I've only read this one of Lenski's books that were written for upper elementary kids, (don't be fooled by the sweet looking cover - this is harder and grittier than the LHOTP books - the kids in the story are poor, dirty, and one father in the book is a drunken mess and that's made very clear; his drunken gambling rages are mentioned at least five or more times), I can't WAIT to get my hands on more, specifically 'Prairie School', which many consider to be their favorite Lois Lenski story - it details a 'The Long Winter'-like setting about kids trapped within their schoolhouse for two weeks during a blizzard.

By the way, check out the art in that last pic up above, fantastic no?
Ok so what's it all about? Please ignore my sweet photos of lovely strawberries (that came from a rogue strawberry bush in my garden!) and all of the pretty I tried to show you today - let me diverge wildly as I tell you that the plot reminded me of that show 'Justified' - the junior children's version. HA HA HA HA. I can't believe I just compared Lois Lenski anything to 'Justified'. But it's true. The plot centers on a feud between two neighboring families - one dirt poor and one slightly less than dirt poor. Family 1 doesn't believe in basic hygiene (too uppity) or even in feeding their farm animals, and are angered when their cow doesn't produce milk. Family 2 (Strawberry Girl's family) has their act together a bit more, and is continually having their efforts to grow produce like strawberries and oranges and cane syrup thwarted by the other family, who like to let their hogs run wild over Strawberry Girl's dad's fenced land.

(~Lenski altered things to fit her plots, but most of the actions of characters in her books were taken from real events she either witnessed or was told about.)

Family 1 has a son who likes to throw LIVE SNAKES (of the non lethal variety) at Strawberry Girl's head and feed live rabbits to rattlesnakes. He's pretty fascinating because he swings wildly in the story between acting like a punk, while also possessing an awareness of how his drunken father's actions are negatively affecting his family's fortunes.

The Florida setting is vividly described - the kids have tortoise races, there are alligators in the middle of the road and summer vacation takes place instead in the winter months, which is when the strawberry harvest ripens. You can totally FEEL the heat and the swelter and the dirt, no joke.

So have I sold you on 'Strawberry Girl'? It's definitely Not Boring. Have you read it? Have you read any of her other books? Shall we meet again to discuss 'Prairie School'? Or 'Houseboat Girl'? I think we should.




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