May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day! Hi Summer!

Hi friends!! Where I live, summer doesn’t really start until sometime in . . .mid-July? Maybe? So even though summer doesn’t officially begin until the end of June, I’ll go with thinking about the start of summer like movie studios do – it starts Memorial Day weekend!

So The Summer Book is the perfect way to begin your summer prep.

The work of cookbook author/illustrator Susan Branch has been around for ages and I NEVER EVER tire of her charming and lovely drawings, or her wonderfully tasty recipes! Just flipping the pages of her books makes me all kinds of Happy!

Yes please! I will have all of the above.

My friend Maura (the one who gifted us with Julia’s prairie girl hat and books!) sent me a picture of her dashingly handsome son Jameson and the book they were reading. It’s so fitting for this special day.

Check out this cool dude and his SUPER COOL HAT!

Maura wrote me this note:

“In honor of Memorial Day, my little historian and I just read ‘Red, White and Blue: The Story of the American Flag’.

Jameson enjoyed learning about the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Star Spangled Banner, the Civil War, as well as details about the flag. It was a great refresher for me! I had forgotten that the British burned the White House during the War of 1812.

We both found it interesting that for a while, there were many flags being flown - all stars and stripes, red, white and blue, but different designs. A great book for 1st graders looking for some history. The picture is of Jameson in his coon skin cap from our trip to the Lewis and Clark winter encampment.”

Doesn’t that sound like a great book? Thank you Miss Maura!

And lastly, I can’t seem to shake this image from my head. It works for spring, it works for summer . . .

(Photo via Curly

VIOLET JELLY. Is that not the coolest?? You can find the recipe and the original photo on the blog, Curly Birds, if you want to see the cutest twin girls in the universe and their super crafty mama!

Happy Memorial Day,


May 27, 2011

Tinga Tinga Tales

So if it was hard to guess, I’M the one who is the hardcore ‘Charlie & Lola’ fan. Julia’s favorite show, on the other hand, is this one:

I don’t think she has ever loved a show as much as she loves this one!

One day, it came on after something else she was watching on Disney Channel was over. I walked by and was like, Whoa, what is THAT?? Seriously, this is the best thing I have ever seen on the Disney Channel and it’s one of the best kid shows I’ve ever seen period.

Tinga Intro Song

The series is based on African folk tales. Tingatinga is a term used to describe a form of East African painting:

The art. THE ART!!

Each show (aimed at 4-6 year olds) is about eleven minutes long and when you see it you’ll understand why the short running time. You just don’t see cartoons on TV done in this kind of gloriously colored art style.

(Apparently there is some controversy regarding a contract dispute between the Tanzanian artists who did some of the animation for the show and the original studio who hired them. You can read more about it here, if you’re interested.)

There are also books! Each story and show has titles like ‘Why Elephant Has a Trunk’ and ‘Why Hen Pecks’. Every episode has a fantastical way of explaining why animals look or act the way they do.


If you and your kiddo haven’t seen ‘Tinga Tinga Tales’ yet, you are in for a TREAT! Have a great long weekend!

May 26, 2011

Sometimes Mommy Reads Too

Yes, it’s true! Although I must admit, going through law school basically destroyed my ability to read Very Long Things. Which is why I think I became so addicted to blogs – short, fast, pretty pictures!

Recently, I’ve realized that without meaning to necessarily, I pretty much only want to read Young Adult fiction. (Those of us in the club like to disguise that fact by calling it YA fiction. Tricky eh?)

Here’s what I want to know. WHERE the HECK was THIS when I was growing up???

My husband Andrew had to point this sign out to me at a recent venture to the bookstore.

First of all, Teen Paranormal Romance is now its own genre.

And second, it has its own section at the bookstore.

I dove headfirst into Harry Potter. That was a no brainer and those are books that should be read by EVERYBODY. (Hello Andrew.) But I resisted mightily the whole Twilight deal. They were for 14 year old girls right? I had better things to do. (Not really.)

Team Edward, yo.

But then my sister-in-law told me I ABSOLUTELY HAD TO go read them, and I was like alrighty, twist my arm. So I read the first one and then made Andrew go get me the second one at 9pm on a Tuesday evening because I literally could not wait ONE MILLISECOND LONGER TO READ THE NEXT ONE. Andrew’s brother calls the Twilight books the literary version of crack. I think he’s right.

And then about six months ago I moved on to The Hunger Games trilogy:

Great hallmarks of literary achievement? No. Super fun? Yes.

(Well, teens knocking off others teens for sport maybe shouldn’t be called fun per se, but they are clever, fast paced books that are as close to a cinema experience-in-a-book as you’re going to get.)

I’m super excited for the movie! And if you want to basically see the film before its ever been made, check out the Japanese movie ‘Battle Royale’.

(Jennifer Lawrence is going to kick major booty. Don’t think so? See ‘Winter’s Bone’.)

I like it when books I read become movies. I broke away from my YA fiction to read Never Let Me Go :

Really good book! Really good movie! I cried buckets. Kazuo Ishiguro has a special talent, I’ve decided, for capturing the secret thoughts (good and bad) we all have about the people in our lives. He really gets into the why of the way people behave the way they do.

P.S. While we are on the topic of books and movies – remember Andrew’s post on ‘Thor’ ? Silly goose, he was SUPPOSED to link to The Heroes of Asgard, which I think is the one I read when I was young and I loved it. GORGEOUS illustrations, great children’s book!

So there you go. Now you see how I’ve been spending some of my reading time! Oh, I just read about this YA book over at the blog, More than a Mummy. I’m going to have to check it out! Yay another trilogy to wade through. . .

(Image credits: imdb)

May 23, 2011

Andrew is Guest Posting. Be Afraid.

Hi friends! Julia and I have been in California visiting a dear friend and her little girl for a few days. J was super sad to leave Rosebud, she was concerned about who would pet her!

So I knew I would be away for today’s post, and I asked my husband Andrew if he would guest post for me. I’m pretty worried that I will come back and the blog will have been re-named and re-designed and we will now be enjoying a blog all about video games and Star Wars . . .


Ok. So for my “guest blogger” stint Melissa told me I should write a review of the new Thor movie (which we just saw). That didn’t really make any sense to me, because this is supposed to be a blog about children’s books, and Thor is not a book, nor is it for children. Oh well.

So anyway, the movie was pretty fun. If you like superhero movies, you should check it out. It’s based on Marvel Comics’ take on the Norse gods. The story is that the gods— Thor, Odin, Loki, and others—are actually powerful beings from another dimension. Occasionally they wind up on Earth, protecting the human race from frost giants and such, or (as in the present case) wooing Natalie Portman.

The movie producers found some random Australian guy to play Thor, and he does a nice job. The guy who played Thor’s brother Loki is good. And Anthony Hopkins does his Anthony Hopkins thing as Thor’s father, Odin.

Natalie Portman plays Thor’s human love interest, and she manages to avoid being insufferable, so I guess that’s a success?

(Note: Not from Thor)

Melissa said she was “cute” in the movie – but of course she’s always cute. The real problem with Natalie Portman is that she thinks she’s better than me. It’s just something in the way she carries herself. Now she’s not as bad as some other folks (I’m looking at you, Gwyneth Paltrow), but she still radiates an aura of self-satisfaction and entitlement.

Back to the movie! The action is split between middle-of-nowhere New Mexico (I think?) and the magical realm of Asgard, home of the Norse gods. Thor is in line to inherit the throne, but he’s a jerk and gets into a bunch of shenanigans and is banished to Earth (minus his superpowers). Then a bunch of stuff explodes and/or is smashed by a magical hammer. Eventually [SPOILER ALERT] Thor learns to not be a jerk [END SPOILER].

Also there is some kind of magical robot with a fiery death beam.

If that all sounds good to you, then you should go see the movie. Or wait until it’s on TV or something.

Bonus image:

The Mighty Rosebud!

(Note to Melissa: I spent too much time photoshopping the cat’s face onto Thor, and the quality of my writing for this post might have suffered as a consequence. All in all, though, I think it was a fair trade.)

May 20, 2011

Birthdays a la Donna Hay

Hey friends! Do you know about Donna Hay? She’s an Australian food editor and cookbook author and has a lovely food magazine. Her work is known for its beautiful food styling and photography -- you seriously want to dive in and eat the pages!


I don’t know about you, but I want the “warming toasties” mentioned on the cover!

Once yearly, Donna also does a children’s edition (you can order back issues), and oh how I suggest you check them out – chock full of gorgeous images and delicious-looking food!!


Now that I’ve discovered this gem, I’ll be snatching it up as soon as I see it! The newest issue should be coming this July. Her last issue devoted to kids featured tons of fabulous birthday party ideas, recipes and inspiration:

Tea party/Garden party/Party ‘o Prettiness?



(photos via Chris Court)

OK. There is a limit to how much temptation I can withstand before I cave! I AM HAVING MY OWN PARTY ‘O PRETTINESS, yes indeedy I am. I need me one (or ten) of those cupcakes with a flower on top!

Her alien adventure/robot party looks pretty darn fun as well:



(Photos via William Meppem)

For each featured party idea, recipes and instructions are fully detailed. There was also a section just on CAKES:


(Photo via William Meppem)

Be sure and check out Donna’s fantastic site – she has a ‘general store’ section, a recipe index, party and food styling ideas, as well as info about her magazines. Such fun! Have a great weekend, and if you have a birthday coming up, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

May 19, 2011

Posh Parties

I found some clever cake! Over at the Mega-Super-Blogsite that is Apartment Therapy/Ohdeedoh/The Kitchn, there was this cutie:

(Image from The Kitchn via Kiki La Ru)

Banners for cake! Love it.

Ok we need some book action! I’ve taken quite a detour into all this cake, I became a little sidetracked...I really love cake...

Consider this next book a Very Special Present, from me to you.

Ahhhh this book, I don’t know how to best describe it. It’s a little, lovely book with nine short stories all about parties and birthdays – as they relate to The Inner Meaning of Life, according to an ant, a squirrel, a seagull.

A grasshopper buys a speck of dust at a shop, for the the sole purpose of flicking it off his shoulder at a party.

I feel like The Squirrel’s Birthday is some kind of . . . secret treasure. I’d never heard of it until pretty recently and I really try to cover a lot of ground, book-wise.

It’s DEEP. But not in an annoying, college major who always wants to Engage You In Major Philosophical Discussion and thinks-they-know-everything kind of way.

It’s deep in its simplicity, in its spare prose, in its idea that gifts, cake and happy times can extend past a party event.

A gift can be . . a thought.

It reminds me a little bit of The Little Prince, except I never really liked or got all the hubbub about that book very well. (Maybe because I had to read it in French class and it was the most frustrating experience of my life!)

Let me tell you, I’m off to collect Dutch author Toon Tellegen’s other books. I can’t really give an age range for his work. Some stories I could read to Julia now, but others definitely have some language and ideas that she just won’t get. I think I’ll try this one on her in another year or so.

And this one, I am sharing a book I’ve had all of my life, it seems. It was my Most Favorite Book when I was five.

Sloth is messy. After nearly drowning his friends while they are having supper in his rickety, leaky home, Sloth worries that his buddies will refuse to celebrate his birthday with him.

Of course they don’t! Everyone shows up to give useful gifts to help him fix his home!

It’s out of print, but you know that I never let that fact slow me down -- Amazon seems to want to charge a trillion dollars for even a used copy but has several used copies for about $2. (of course you’ll pay more than that in shipping, but such is the irony of life.)

To wrap up Birthday Book Bonanza, you must know that even Eeyore Has a Birthday:

Free advice for the day: Try not to eat anyone’s birthday present!

May 18, 2011

Clever Cakes

Hey friends, check out what I made:

Show you more? Well alrighty, you don’t have to ask twice! I was soooo proud of this Chocolate Culinary Creation of Coolness! (and that was some SWEET alliteration right there.)

I made this for this past Mother’s Day gathering with my extended family and it was . . . . . . beyond imagining.

Imagine the best chocolate cake you’ve ever had. Are you imagining?

This was BETTER. I promise you, it was Chocolate Valhalla. I would show you a slice, but it was eaten almost immediately.

The recipe is from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food Cookbook and here is the recipe (with a picture of a slice!).

(photo by Ray Kachatorian)

This cake will make you Very Extremely Happy. The frosting was both fluffy AND creamy, like chocolate marshmallowy pillows of cocoa heaven. I’m running out of adjectives. If you are having a birthday this week, consider this recipe my gift to you!

And take a look at this:

Can you believe how cute these are?? Andrew’s cousin is The Most Talented Chick in the Universe and she made these clown cupcakes from a Martha Stewart recipe. So awesome! I think they were cuter than Martha’s!

The cakes in this book by Kathryn Kleinman are also Super Mega Awesome:

This Meyer Lemon Cake would be yummy for a Spring Birthday! I would make it for my husband Andrew but he 1) hates cake and 2) is Not Fond of lemon. (He is CRAY-ZAY)

Lots and lots and lots of cakes in this book!

These look especially spring-esque and florally lovely:

(photos courtesy of Kathryn Kleinman)

And lastly, look at THIS one:

(Photo via Debi Treloar)

Would any child not LOSE THEIR MIND over that cake????? You can find the recipe in this book. After seeing all these cakes, I’m thinking that I might need to throw a Half-Birthday for Julia or myself or it might be Just Because I Need Cake Day. Sometimes I genuinely NEED cake. Am I alone here? Please tell me no.