Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Silent Monks Singing Halleluia

I came across this very cool video on one of the blogs that I adore and regularly follow is Smart Bitches Trashy Books.  If you smart commentary on romances, check them out, but even if you don't, you'll love the following clip.
One of

Celebrating the local talent

Sad to say that most writers and artists are under appreciated in their home towns, but here in Victoria, we like to celebrate the local talent...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holiday Season

A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...Image via Wikipedia
Wishing everyone a happy holiday season...Back soon.
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A Baking and Books Post with Adrienne Mason

This Baking and Books post comes from Adrienne Mason, who is an awesome writer as well as the editor of Know: The Science Magazine for Curious Kids

Every Christmas we read Kevin Major's House of Wooden Santas. We love the wood carvings that are unveiled throughout the book and it's fun that you read a section of the story every night in December. It is the first book that comes out of the Christmas book box! But my absolute favourite is The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, written by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by P. J. Lynch. This book is beautifully illustrated and the story is so heart-warming. It makes me weepy almost every time I read it even though I know how it's going to end. I won't tell you much more than that. Run out and find yourself a copy! (For writers, this is a book that demonstrates the "show don't tell" technique of great writing.) 

There is food in The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, including gingersnaps. Here is our family's favourite gingersnap recipe. They are very yummy and easy to make. 

Adrienne's Gingersnaps

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
granulated sugar

Cream shortening, then add sugar, egg and molasses. Mix in flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Form teaspoonfuls of doug into round balls, roll in granulated sugar and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes. 

Have a great Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A book-related gift activity for kid's to try from Kristi Bridgeman

Illustrator Kristi Bridgeman writes " Here is a fun gift recipe that would lend itself to the images that I researched for my latest book Uirapuru... set in the rainforests of Brazil."
Kristi goes on to say that " I loved that the research for my illustrations end up taking me on these fabulous adventures in books and on the internet. Part of the story is about the creatures of the night... so I set to work looking up all the nocturnal birds and bugs and animals of the Brazilian rainforest that Icould find. I ended up discovering many rare and colourful creatures, and found photos of insects that are as big as cats! I was inspired to use the photo research for illustrations in the book.  I know my kids loved the images of creepy crawly bugs.... it might be their favourite picture in the book.  
Here is my recipe for adding toy bugs to the inside of a bar of glycerine soap.  It makes a great gift, but it's not edible."
Bug Soap Bar (Parent Help required)
You'll Need:  
 *2 soap molds: clean single-serve yogurt containers work perfectly 
*Insect toys; use new or clean and dry plastic bugs that will fit into the bottom your yogurt container.
*1 bar of glycerine soap (clear or nearly clear looks best)
*Lightly oil the molds (You'll need two molds for this recipe).  
*Warm and melt the bar of soap in a small saucepan on a very low setting. 
*Once melted, let cool a bit, stirring to keep it liquid.
*Fill each mold with about 1 inch of liquid. 
*Place the toy upside down about halfway into the soap
*Fill the mold to cover it. 
*Tap to remove air bubbles and let cool overnight. 

Once cooled the soap should pop out of the plastic mold easily. Wrap it in a bit of kitchen wrap with a ribbon to make a nice gift, helps wash away those bugs! :) 

Hint: if the toy floats up, let the first inch of soap cool before adding the next layer.  You'll have to reheat the glycerine soap for the second pour.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Baking and Books Post from Helaine, Becker

A few years back I met Helaine Becker at a conference and she totally wowed me.  She's so much fun, and so are her books.  Just yesterday when I was browsing through the  bookstore with my Xmas list (yes, I'll be giving plenty of books for Xmas and I hope you will too) I came across A Porcupine in a Pine Tree which is a total hoot.   But Helaine has plenty more books to make you laugh.

When I asked her about recipes for my Baking and Books Posts, this is what Helaine had to say. "Mother Goose Unplucked is, I think, one of my “best” books – I love how all the very various ideas and activities in it all link together in a coherent, snarky way. There’s a lot of fun poked at Miss Goose, and her fairy tale friends! The recipes are a just a “Taste” of what’s in the book (I know, I’m terrible with puns, can’t resist them). Follow this link for Helaine's recipe

"My other favorite parts? The poem Smelly Smelly Cinderelly, and the comic strip, Old MacDonald’s Dog. "  As you can see, Helaine has the sure fired recipe for humor, so check her and her books out.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Savory Baking and Books post from Laura Langston

Laura Langston writes, "In my current YA 'Hannah's Touch,'  Hannah and her friends must plan a menu around a specific country in foods class. They choose Mexico.  For an appetizer, they make guacamole."  

Thanks Laura.  Guacamole is one of my all time favs.  In fact, when I was growing up a good friend of mine had an avocado orchard!  Keep a couple of avocados on hand for an easy snack to serve friends who drop by during the holiday season.  

mmmmmImage by Kate Tomlinson via Flickr

2 ripe avocados
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
1 green onion, finely chopped
fistful cilantro (about 1/4 cup) washed, squeezed dry and minced

Mash avocado. with lemon. Stir in remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust if it needs more salt or lemon. If you think it needs more, add little bits at a time until it's right.

1/4 teaspoon pureed chipolte paste
2 tomatoes, juice squeezed out/chopped

NOTE: Lemons give off more juice when they're warm.  In a hurry? Heat one lemon in the microwave for 20 seconds before you juice it.
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Don't Write the Obit for The Picture Book Yet

In October The  New York Times printed an outrageous article about how the picture book was dying.  While there has been lots of blogger activity refuting the claim, an official rebuttal has finally come out from Publisher Weekly.  Check it out "Don't Write the Obit for The Picture Book Yet".

A Baking and Books Post from Nikki Tate

Here's another Baking and Books recipe from author, Nikki Tate.  

One of my favourite authors is Polly Horvath. Her quirky sense of humour and oddball characters never fail to delight me! One of the things I most enjoyed about her novel Everything on a Waffle was the inclusion of all kinds of recipes. At this time of year, I'm always looking for cookie recipes and this one is easy and delicious. 

Aunt Tilly's Lemon Sugar Cookies

Mix together a cup of sugar and 2 sticks of butter and some salt. I don't remember how much Miss Honeycut said, so go with a pinch. Put in some grated lemon zest. Add 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Beat it all together and add 2 1/2 cups of flour. Roll it out and cut with a drinking glass into rounds and bake at 350 degrees. She didn't say how long but probably until slightly brown. That will usually do it. 

Fresh Lemon Zest, Sparkling White SugarImage via Wikipedia

Happy holidays!

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another Baking and Books post from Linda Bailey, author of The Stanley Books

Here's another delicious Baking and Books post from Linda Bailey.

Linda Bailey’s Cranberry-Oatmeal-Nutty-White-Chocolate-Chip Cookies

I'm not usually a baker, having a "salt tooth" rather than a "sweet tooth." But when Vancouver Kidsbooks invited me to launch Stanley's Beauty Contest at their store, I felt that it would be an excellent idea to contribute a batch of cookies. After all, there was a huge, delectable dog cookie prominent on the book’s cover, and much of the story revolved around Stanley's pursuit of that cookie . . .

My original thought was to make dog cookies. This faded with the recognition that most of the launch guests were likely to be human. So, passing on Stanley’s favourite ingredients, I went for my own instead, and in an orgy of personal excess, came up with cookies that were a combo of ALL my own favourite cookie ingredients in the whole wide world. The result was Cranberry-Oatmeal-Nutty-White-Chocolate-Chip cookies.

They were a hit! In fact, the next time I launched a Stanley book (Stanley’s Little Sister), requests for a cookie sequel poured in from various quarters — even though there are absolutely no cookies whatsoever, of any description, in the new book. Enjoy!

2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pistachios, almonds — or none, if allergic)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips (or white chocolate bar, broken up)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Beat in eggs.
  3. In separate bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda and salt.
  4. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Combine thoroughly.
  5. Stir in nuts, cranberries and chocolate chips.
  6. Drop heaping tablespoons of cookie dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. Pat with fingers or spoon.
  7. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, until golden.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Where are you Bear? by Frieda Wishinsky

Where are you Bear? A Canadian Alphabet Adventure is Frieda Wishinsky's latest book about a Sophie, a traveling bear.  It just so happens that Sophie is very fond of applesauce... and so is Frieda. Applesauce is yummy either hot or cold.  It's easy to make and take along and it can be served for a snack or as a delicious after meal treat.  Fortunately apples are grown in lots of places, and if you don't have time to make applesauce, you can munch on an apple while reading Where are you Bear?

Sophie's Applesauce (Bear's Favourite)

5 large apples
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon maple syrup

Peel, core and cut apples in slices or chunks (you can use a combination of local apples like Empire, Cortland or Macintosh)
Put water into a saucepan with brown sugar.
Bring to a boil.
Place apples in the saucepan.
Simmer for 20 minutes uncovered until tender.
Mash apples with a fork or potato masher to desired consistency.
Add vanilla, and maple syrup to taste.
Serve it warm or cold. 
***For an extra treat, add vanilla ice cream***

Friday, December 10, 2010

Zoe Toft and another Baking and BooksPost

In keeping with the Baking and Books theme, Zoe Toft sent me this link to her awesome post about gingerbread houses guessed it, Hansel and Gretel by the Grimm Brothers, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger and retold by Anthea Bell.  Check out her post "Museums, Wicked Witches and Calories Galore".

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A Baking and Books Post: Olivia Helps with Christmas goes perfectly with Xmas Cocoa Kisses

Here's another kid-friendly Xmas cookie recipe.  This one will require adult help, especially when using the stove top.  And if you're looking for a great story to read with impatient little ones who can't wait for Xmas, Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer is the perfect book.  And best of all, it features one of my favorite quirky characters.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Baking and Books Post: Kid-friendly Xmas Nut recipe is the perfect compliment to a Xmas story

**I've decided to spice up the holiday season with a series called Baking and Books. Watch my news blog for more baking and books posts.

 Here’s an easy kid-friendly Xmas recipe that you and your child can make together. Later you can munch on these yummy nuts while reading a favorite story during the upcoming holiday season.  The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot was one of our family's favorites...  And if nuts are a problem for your little one, watch this blog for other Xmas books and recipe options...coming soon.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Xmas cookie time

It's Xmas cookie time again! Here's our first sample. Fortunately, Cloe is taking them all home with her for her Xmas/birthday/housewarming party on Saturday. More baking today!

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Illustration of Peter Rabbit with his family, ...Image via Wikipedia
Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends down south.  Don't forget that too much turkey can be soporific.  I wonder if Beatrix Potter was the only children's author to use that delightful word.  Anyone out there know of others?
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Snowy weather

This is what it looked like out my window when I got up this morning.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dec. 4 is Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day

So many independent book stores have gone under.  It's about time that we started supporting our local booksellers.  So here's your chance.  December 4 is the first annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.  If every reader with a child celebrates this day, booksellers and bookstores won't become an endangered species!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010 GG Awards announced.

The 2010 GG's have been announced.  Check out the news release here.  And, at 2pm Canada Council for the Arts is doing a "live chat" with the winners.  If you have the time today, hustle on over.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Check out my two new reviews

I've posted new reviews of books on both my book review blogs.  Check them both out.
Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki and Salt by Maurice Gee.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Pittance of Time - Terry Kelly

Thanks Sheree Fitch and Valerie Sherrard for the link.  This is a very moving video clip done by Terry Kelly.

Lest we forget

Poppies Field in FlandersImage via Wikipedia
Today's post is a poem written by John Gillespie Magee, a young Canadian  pilot who did not survive World War II.  He wrote this at age 19 a few months before he died.

High Flight
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft thro' footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God
*Thanks to my friend Linda Granfield for the reminder.  She's one of those special people in the world who has been able to lead the way in helping us celebrate fallen soldiers without glorifying war itself.  Thanks for all your work Linda.
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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Home sweet home

Arrived home sweet home last night and my puppy was super joyful.  So nice to be loved...
Today was laundry, bill-paying, shopping, walking Ruby and catching up on my mail...writing up conference talks, updating bios & booklists, etc.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The next travel installment

Here's the next travel installment...

Weather has been fabulous...we're so lucky.  Went to Arches National Park and had a really hard time leaving.  It's one of those magical places in the world, especially with so few tourists visiting during the late fall. Having stayed in nearby Moab, Utah, we were able to get there quite early.  The sky was crystal clear, and we definitely need our toques, gloves and down jackets.  We did several short hikes which added up since the elevation was between 3900 and 5800 feet.  One of the hikes we took was led by a young volunteer and his theme was survival of the park.  This is a place whose survival is in our hands.  These parks are such a treasure.  This is a place I want to go back to...

Down the road in another canyon cut by this lovely sedate river, we discovered some amazing petroglyphs.  There were dozens of panels that stretched about 125 feet along a rock face.  I'm including one of the panels.

We left these amazing petroglyphs just as the sun was setting and drove some long hours through two mountain passes that had me white knuckling the steering wheel so that we could be close to Zion National Park the next morning.  It was worth the drive even though it was probably the most developed of the parks we'd been to, complete with shuttle busses.  See for yourself.

The road out of Zion to Bryce is seriously scary with 1000 foot drops and no rail guards and a series of tunnels blasted through the sandstone during the depression.  One of the tunnels was over a mile long.

We stayed just outside of Bryce National Park that night and it's a good thing we did.  Although we woke up to sunny clear skies, by 2 pm, the first snow storm of the season hit. The altitude made for hard hiking.  We started out at 6500 feet and topped out at 9100 feet.  The last time I was there (30 years ago) I hiked the entire way up to Rainbow Ridge, but this time, we drove most of the way.  Still, it was beautiful.

After Bryce, we did a lot of driving...and driving...and driving until we hit the Columbia River Valley.  We decided to go to the top of the ridge for the views and discovered wind, and power in the form of 500 + wind turbines (soon to be 1000) in high ranch country.  I was kind of excited about the whole renewable energy in action concept until we had lunch in the tiny town of Bickleton (population 90) where a man by the name of Bob, the County Highways Supervisor informed us that most of the power produced in the area goes to California...go figure!

At least Bickleton is getting a new school out of the deal, although not much else seems to have changed there in the last fifty years.

The last place on our list to see was Mount St. Helens National Volcano Park.  On the way there the rain was coming down so hard that we could hardly see the road.  We were almost ready to cancel the Mount St. Helens portion of the trip, but decided to hang around to see if the weather cleared.  Lucky did. The views were stunning.  I remember when this volcano blew back in 1980.  The blast snapped trees as if they were matchsticks, and ash filled the air for months.  It changed the face of the valley, and the pacific northwest.  It reminded us that nothing is permanent.  After a few hours of fog, and a climb of a few thousand feet (by car, not foot), this was our reward...

We've only a few days left before crossing the border and taking the ferry home.  It's been a wonderful adventure.  Glad to have shared a little of it with you...


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Next part of the trip

Apologies.  It's been ages since my last post, but between driving, hiking, visiting, and reading natural history material in preparation for our next stop, I have been slack with posting.  But, we've been having a wonderful time so far. 

After a few days of visit mom, we went to Bodie, California, an abandoned mining town which sits at nearly 9000 feet.  It was fascinating.

Then onto Manzanar, California, the home of a US Japanese internment camp in the middle of Owens Valley (the place where water was taken from to feed LA; it's the basis of ChinaTown, a movie about how corruption let to 95% of the Valley's water being sucked dry).  Apparently it used to boast being fertile orchard country.

After another long drive, that included a tour through Death Valley before we visited the Grand Canyon.  These photos don't come close to the grandeur...

Then onto my brother Bart's  in Phoenix.  We cruised around Canyon Lake, which I hadn't been to since I was a kid (it's one of the nearby lakes where we used to camp when I was a kid).  We also went to the Museum of Music which is world class, and so well done; it was amazing and well worth a visit if you're in the area.  

When we left Phoenix we headed for more Canyon Country.  The first stop was Monument Valley where a lot of the westerns were filmed.  We also visited Gooseneck State Park.
We've been covering a lot of miles, but every day seems to be a highlight.  We visited Mesa Verde, one of the homes of the Anasazi (a word no longer in use by the way) which totally blew me away.  The drive up and down just about did me away, with hairpin turns and steep cliffs, it sits atop the very high dessert mesa pictured here.

I thought Mesa Verde was amazing.  Then we went to Chaco, New Mexico, another home of the "Ancient Ones" ( 850-1100 AD).  It was desolate and beautiful and amazing.  It's been called the North American equivalent to Stonehenge since the building site is aligned such that light shines through corner openings at specific times of the year to capture solar and lunar cycles.  It was a major cultural centre for the Pueblo peoples and comprised the largest buildings in North America until the 19th century.  It's mainly quarried sandstone, but the Chacoans hauled wood for roofing from as far as 50 miles away... without the aid of the wheel!

Next installment in our Four Corners visit is Arches National Park and  then Bryce Canyon and points north.