American Illumination


July 7, 2011

After marching in and watching a parade, eating a bag of cotton candy and getting Mommy to buy her a tri-woven chain of red, white and blue beads, Julia pronounced her Fourth of July holiday “the best day of my entire life.” Hey, if spun sugar and plastic beads make her that happy, then I’m thinking that I can lower my usual exacting and perfectionistic holiday standards a whole whopping lot and not wear myself out quite so much. . . .

My fireworks photos did not come out exactly the way I had envisioned, but I love the end result – they came out looking more like some kind of celestial outer space event – like a supernova or a nebula or like a scene from ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’.

Star clusters. (Told you I was an astronomy geek.)

Disco in the sky.

Alien squiggles are invading!

Independence Day.

I saw that film, by the way, ON the 4th of July the year it came out and I sat in the 4th row, which I normally never do, and I tell you, that was a FUN July 4th that year! My mother and I are strangely obsessed with that movie, we watch it every time it comes on television – my husband Andrew laughs himself silly at this absurd fact and tells me again and again what horrible movie taste I have. . . . I’ll defend that movie’s sheer level of awesome to anyone at any time thank you!

Radical. Exploding lightning strikes!

And before we officially put Independence Day festivities to rest for the year, let’s discuss this little gem of fabulous, ‘American Fairy Tales’.
Now, this is one for older kids, probably 8-9 plus, so Julia hasn’t read these yet. I own a copy and it was one of my absolute childhood favorites. It’s still in print!

Do you recognize the author, L. Frank Baum? He wrote that most American of classic children’s books, ‘The Wizard of Oz’! If you are unfamiliar with his fairy tale book, oh what a treat you have waiting for you. These are some FUNNY fables, I tell you what – my personal favorite is ‘The Magic Bon-Bons’ :

The back cover description gives a great summary of these silly tall tales, which are somewhat ‘Twilight Zone’-esque:
“In Chicago, an ordinary key unlocks a magical trunk packed with robbers and a pie. In Boston, five magical bon-bons make an ordinary senator, an ordinary professor, an ordinary girl and her ordinary parents do the most extraordinary things! A young cowboy lassoes Father Time; the dummy in Mr. Floman’s department store window comes to life; and a tiny beetle gives a New England farmer and his wife a pump which pumps not water, but gold!”

I’m dying to know, has anyone read this besides me? Anyone? I’m such a nerd.

July Pie


July 1, 2011

Happy July all you friends out there! There is a saying around here that real summer weather begins after July 4th . . .the weather forecast seems to be confirming this phenomenon since it calls for sunny skies to unfold upon us right on July 4 and for the days after that!

Although we’re all about children’s books around here, I am somewhat of a cookbook maniac/hoarder. Or should I say, cultivated collector of culinary tomes. That sounds so much . . . less like I have a serious cookbook buying problem, don’t you think? So from time to time, you’re going to see my collection making the occasional appearance.

And because it fits in with the Independence Day color scheme, and because it’s a true American classic, I give you the ‘Joy of Cooking’.

(Image via USAToday/Leslie Smith Jr.)

I have to tell you, I use this book more than any other cookbook I own. Its usefulness never disappoints! And I made a very Fourth of July appropriate dessert from it a day ago – fruit galette. It is so EASY! I love things that are low effort, high reward.

I had to photograph my berries outside because there is NO DARN LIGHT.

Sun? I have something to tell you. IT’S SUMMER. Just FYI.

For a berry galette, use 1 and one half to 2 cups of berries. I basically cleaned out my refrigerator and used a combo of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.

I used the pie dough recipe from the ‘Joy of Cooking’, but feel free to use the pie dough recipe of your choice, be it homemade or store-bought. Just roll it out to roughly a 13 inch round circle and place on a baking sheet.

For this recipe, just sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar right on top of the fruit, no need to mix or fold it in. Then add 1 tablespoon of chopped up butter bits. Scatter away!

Fold up the edges of the dough around the fruit. Then brush on milk or cream to lightly coat the border of dough. (I used cream. I like to gild the lily.) And then sprinkle another teaspoon or two of sugar on top of the dough border.

Then you bake this lovely in the lower third of your oven at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes. My galette needed the full 35 minutes. Doesn’t the finished result look rustic and charming? I’m telling you, this is pie without all the effort! But don’t do what I did and start picking off bits of crust – the juice will start to blob through, see up in the left top corner? That was me sticking my hands into the crust. Naughty!

And there you go! Easy peasy lemon squeezy! I highlighted the recipe above but in case you missed it, here it is again.

Have a wonderful JULY FOURTH!

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