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What’s New on My Nightstand… Tuesday Book/Movie Review: “Eat, Pray, Love,” by Elizabeth Gilbert; “Under the Tuscan Sun,” by Frances Mayes; “You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness & Start Living an Awesome Life,” by Jen Sincero; “Brave Enough,” by Cheryl Strayed

April 11th, 2017

Chick books. More, mas, more, mas, more…

“Under the Tuscan Sun” (and the Diane Lane movie), book by Frances Mayes: Now, my girlfriends say we can’t count this one as a true “getting through divorce” book, because Mayes was technically already remarried when she ran off to Italy, got a cool new (trashed) place, complete with scorpions, etc., and started over. But I’m still counting it. It’s got that sisters are doing it for themselves vibe and all, and “i get by/with a little help/from my friends” is fine with me. In the movie, her character is single and blah-blah. Whatever. The book (and the recipes) and the movie are all good.

“Eat, Pray, Love” (and the Julia Roberts/Javier Bardem movie), book by Elizabeth Gilbert: So sexy. And all that pasta. All that meditation. All that good nooky when Javier Bardem shows up. Ahhhh… Good book, good movie, good God, can we all run off somewhere for awhile?

“Brave Enough,” by Cheryl Strayed: I’m finding this little book of affirmations to be helpful.

“You Are a Badass,” by Jen Sincero: My kid gave me this book for Christmas because she loves mommy. I’m not really big on self-help books (although you’d never know it, reading this post), but this is a cool book. Helpful, not preachy; funny, but sincere.

Bon appetit, babies.

xo

wm

What’s New on My Nightstand — Monday Book Review: “Fall is For School,” by Robert Neubecker; “Poppy Louise is Not Afraid of Anything,” by Jenna McCarthy, illustrated by Molly Idle; “When God Made You,” by Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by David Catrow

March 20th, 2017

“What didn’t you do to bury me / But you forgot that I was a seed.” — Dinos Christianopoulos, poet (b. 20 Mar 1931)

This one won’t be out until end of June, but I received galleys in the mail for review, woot! (I donate the galleys to teacher friends, who use the art for bulletin boards. This works out nicely.) “Fall is For School,” written and illustrated by Robert Neubecker (Disney-Hyperion Books; June, 2017; ages 3-5; 32 pages; $17.99). This is the sequel to Neubecker’s “Winter is for Snow.” Another one to look for: “Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing,” written by Kay Haring, and illustrated by Neubecker.

Fall is time for school, and most kids (and parents :) ) look forward to it. But what do you do, sister, when your brother hates school and says he’d rather stay home? This is a sweet “New York kids” book, with loads of color. The red-headed siblings are a likable pair — the sister, already dressed in her school clothes; the brother, refusing to change out of flip-flops and shorts. How can she coax him?

“Fall is here! Come on with me! It’s time to go to school!”

He’s having none of it. But they will meet their teachers, who will help them learn about Romans, the pyramids and… (this being New York and all)… dinosaurs! (Thank you, American Museum of Natural History.) Great book. Fun story, the art is whimsical and inviting, and will give parents and teachers a good way to segue into a discussion.

Visit the artist online at neubecker.com.

“Poppy Louise is NOT Afraid of Anything,” by Jenna McCarthy, illustrated by Molly Idle (Random House Books for Young Readers; April, 2017; ages 3-7; $16.99) When students tell me their favorite colors (and ask me what mine are), I immediately say, purpleandgreen. Purple and green have been my favorite colors since I was a kid. Flowers, gardens, landscapes, clothes, jelly beans… Now comes “Poppy Louise,” with a purple-and-green theme, so you know it’s good.

She really, really, even though she should be, sometimes, is not scared of anything, much to the consternation of her friends and her big sister Petunia.

“How do we get up on your roof?” she asks her friend Finn.
“We don’t,” Finn tells her.

I love storytimes when the kids cut in, Ms. Nancy, that is not a good idea, is it? No, it’s not. Finn is right to work on his rocketship and leave the roof alone, lol.

“People call Poppy the brave sister and Petunia the careful sister. Petunia prefers to think of herself as wise.”

Is there anything Poppy is afraid of? Read on and we’ll find out.

Jenna McCarthy also wrote the Maggie Malone series. Molly Idle is a Caldecott Honor winner for “Flora and the Flamingo.”

“When God Made You,” by Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by David Catrow (WaterBrook & Multnomah, 2017, juvenile fiction, 48 pages, $11.99) Yay, more purple and green! A little girl, searching for her place in the world, is told:

“God pictured your nose and all ten of your toes. The sound of your voice? God had it composed. The lines on your hands, your hair, every strand, God knew every detail like it was all planned.”

God is there, throughout the book. He’s a hipster, wearing a beret and a scruffy white T-shirt, Capris, white tights and red ballerina slippers. Perfecto.

Mr. Turner’s website is at MatthewPaulTurner.com; David Catrow’s is here. (He has illustrated a ton of great stuff, including the Molly Lou Melon books.)

Happy Monday, everyone, happy spring! And happy reading.

xo

wm

What’s New on My Nightstand, Wednesday Edition: “The Teacher’s Pet,” by Anica Mrose Rissi, illustrated by Zachariah OHora; “I Love My Grandma,” by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Emma Dodd; “Goodnight, Numbers,” by Danica McKellar, illustrated by Alicia Padron

March 15th, 2017

This one isn’t coming out until June 20, but keep it in mind: “The Teacher’s Pet,” by Anica Mrose Rissi, illustrated by Zachariah OHora (Disney-Hyperion Books, ages 3-5, 40 pages, $17.99).

Mr. Stricter and his students are breeding tadpoles. Once they’re grown, they can keep just one for a classroom pet, he tells them. But… pets and classrooms have a way of getting interesting. Bruno, their pet, (“Isn’t he adorable?” Mr. Stricter asks) smashes, crashes, farts, has allergies and maybe isn’t the best classroom pet. And he doesn’t really look like a tadpole at all. What?!?

How can the students break it to Mr. Stricter?

Funny story, one that will be great for a classroom or library read-aloud, of course, but will be a good one, too, for parents and kids of all ages. (Not limited to ages 3-5.) The ’60s-style art is whimsical and pretty. An engaging picture book.

Speaking of pretty art… “I Love My Grandma,” written by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Emma Dodd (Disney-Hyperion Books, 2016, ages 3-5, 32 pages, $17.99) is another lovely picture book. It’s a rhyming book, with great, big vivid pictures in soft colors. “I go ’round to her house to play/And sometimes we just chat all day.” (Love.) A sweet tribute to the special relationship to grandmas and their grands.

Alicia Padron illustrated Danica McKellar’s latest math/picture book, “Goodnight Numbers” (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017, ages 2-5, 32 pages, $16.99). (Winnie Cooper from the television show, “The Wonder Years,” yes, that’s who wrote this :) She acted, and then she went off to graduate summa cum laude in mathematics from UCLA, go, go, go, Winnie!) Absolutely charming picture book, which will comfort the littles as they unwind for the night, while teaching them basic math concepts.

The art is precious, Padron did a beautiful job. The “frames” within each page are an extra nudge with the math. (The number 7 page, for example, “Goodnight, seven days. Goodnight,whole week. Goodnight, seven teeth so clean they squeak,” for the words, but you also get a cat toy with seven baubles attached, a picture on the wall with seven strawberries, seven buttons on mother’s skirt, and so on. Clever. That kind of repetition enforces the counting, the memorization, and the comprehension of math.

All for now! Enjoy your day, wherever you are.

– WM

Sunday Recipe Club: Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread; love & marriage & divorce

March 12th, 2017

Steve and I are getting divorced, did I happen to mention that? It sucks. Yeah. That’s all I got about that. I feel bad for the kids, I feel bad for us, too, but we’ll all be happier, eventually, so… So, so, so.

It still sucks. I don’t have to like it. (And please spare me the, Your marriage was so perfect! Soulmates! And “oh, nooooooo,” etc. Thanks. It wasn’t that great, apparently, our love. It wasn’t strong enough.)

Locked myself out of my blog, but here I am, back in. The breadmaker broke. Everything breaks at once (“when it rains/it pours”) — the fence, the breadmaker, our marriage, our family unit, the thermostat outside that tells us inside how cold/hot it is, the carpets are trashed, the puppy ate the entire irrigation system in the backyard, which didn’t work all that well, anyway, truth be told, and on and on.

(And I’m wondering, why did I ever nickname my husband, MEH, My Estranged Husband, Hockey God? He’s not a God. He’s not God. He’s just a dude. Anyway.)

I thought I’d use Steve’s recipe for homemade bread, couldn’t find it, then I remembered we wrote this cookbook and there it was. Only it’s too hard, I hadn’t remembered that until I saw it again.

But right next to it… my bread recipe. That I don’t even remember at all. I don’t remember baking it, writing it down, including it in the cookbook, nothing. But there it was, here it is, it’s simple and rises fast and the 2 loaves I baked turned out awesome.

So my kid, who only loves only homemade bread, and always has, is happy. I’m happy about that, and other stuff. Spring. Our crazy puppy. My other kid is happy, too. One kid is out walking the dog right now, the other is playing video games. Later, we’ll go for dinner with friends.

Things will settle down someday. In the meantime, I write, and bake bread.

Some things don’t change.

xo wm

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread

Dissolve 2 tablespoons yeast in 2 cups warm water; leave for five minutes
Stir in 1/2 cup sugar or honey
Add one cup oats
Add 3/4 cup vegetable oil
Mix in 2 eggs
Add 2 cups white flour & 3 cups whole wheat flour, stirring in as you go. Depending on the weather, you might need a little more or a little less flour
Add in 2 teaspoons salt as you stir

Turn onto floured bread board. Knead nine or ten times.

Put into greased bowl, cover with towel, put it somewhere that’s not too cold, not too hot, not too drafty, and let rise until double in size.

Grease pans or cooking sheets, form dough into 2 loaves of bread or 24 rolls.
Leave again and let rise until doubled.
Bake at 375 degrees until nice and brown and yummy. Brush with butter when done.

Bon appetit, babies!
wm

Rumi “A Night Full of Talking”

January 22nd, 2017

“A Night Full of Talking”

“A night full of talking that hurts,
my worst held-back secrets. Everything
has to do with loving and not loving.
This night will pass.
Then we have work to do.”

– Rumi

What’s New On My Nightstand? Saturday Edition: “Dormouse Dreams,” by Karma Wilson & Renata Liwska; “Bob, Not Bob!” written by Liz Garton Scanlon & Audrey Vernick, with pictures by Matthew Cordell; and “When You’re Feeling Sick,” by Coy Bowles, illustrated by Andy Elkerton

January 14th, 2017

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

– “The Summer Day,” by Mary Oliver

More books, readers. Enjoy!

* “Dormouse Dreams” (Disney/Hyperion Books, written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Renata Liwska, 2017, ages 3-5, 40 pages, $16.99) is a good one for a snowy day like today. A wee dormouse, snug in his nest, dreams and snores through winter and into spring. (Notes from the publisher say that Wilson got the idea after watching a video of a little snoring dormouse.) It’s a rhyming book, my friends.

“While the white snow glows in the bright moonbeams, in his dry leaf bed, little dormouse dreams.”

Awww… I love it. The art is beautiful (a fox, cross-country skiing; the dormouse, with his cute little feet and his stuffed bunny; a crow with his own plane) and the story is engaging. Nice.

“Bob, Not Bob!” (Disney/Hyperion Books, Valentine’s Day, 2017, written by Audrey Vernick & Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Matthew Cordell, ages 3-5, 40 pages, $17.99). The first thing you should know about this book: It is to be read as though you have the worst cold ever. Or, “I have a code! In by doze!” as we said when I was growing up.

This book is hilarious. Really wish I still taught library, because this would be so good for a read-aloud, any time of year, but especially during cold and flu season when half the class is out.

“But when Little Louie got sick, he felt littler than usual. Like maybe his mom should check on him kind of often. (Every three minutes or so.”)

He yells out, Mom! But it sounds like, Bob! And here comes Louie’s beast of a dog, “…running. And slobbering.”

Such a great concept for a story, and the illustrations are funny and sweet. Get well soon, Louie!

Good companion book: “When You’re Feeling Sick” (Random House Children’s Books, 2017, by Coy Bowles, illustrated by Andy Elkerton, ages 3-7, $12.99). This one was written by Bowles, who is the guitarist and organist for the Zac Brown Band. The back story is awfully sweet — his mom was in the hospital, and the family spent a lot of time there. He wanted to share the love and hope his mom, family and friends have experienced during hospital stays. Like I said, awesome and sweet. (The story is included at the back of the book.) The illustrations are vivid and cartoony. “Feel better” songs can be found at coybowles.com

That’s it, babies!

xo

wm

Wednesday Book Review — What’s on My Nightstand: Meditation, Contemplation, Coloring! and Yummy, Yummy Baby Books

January 11th, 2017

“the drum”

daddy says the world
is a drum tight
and hard
and i told him
i’m gonna beat out
my own rhythm”

– nikki giovanni

Well, well, well. There’s about a foot and a half of snow out there, and I’m pretty happy to be inside knitting, hanging with the kids and the pup, and checking out this HUGE stack of review copies. So here we go…

* Meditation: 2017 Engagement Calendar — I love this planner that I ordered online last month. Pretty art, pretty photography and poems, lots of space to write, and pockets for my miscellaneous stuff. “Each small task of everyday life is a part of the total harmony of the universe.” — Saint Therese of Lisieux

* You know what’s supposed to calm you down? Getting divorced. It makes it all better. Hardy-har-har. Seriously, though, folks. Coloring is the new answer for everything, and I have been indulging, and it is pretty great. My friends tell me it is as effective as meditation. My picks: “Zanimals Colouring Book” from Paperchase (can’t find a link, I’ve had this one for awhile and it might be out of print); one from my cousin!!! Thanks, babe. “Because of Bethlehem Christmas Coloring Book,” by Max Lucado, with illustrations by Lizzie Preston & Claire McElfatrick, so pretty, so much fun to explore and color; “Creative Haven: Midnight Garden Coloring Book,” so many hearts, so many flowers, all on black backgrounds, gorgeous; “Color the Pacific Northwest” (Zoe Keller, Timber Press) is a lot of fun, and a lot of work (I think I may switch to little kid coloring books — these grown-up ones require big commitment); and last but not least… “Color Your World 2017 Meditative Coloring Calendar.” For cat lovers. Purr. OK, one more: “Color Your Own Dutch Masters.”

“DK Baby Touch and Feel Puppies” (DK Publishing, 2017, board book series, 14 pages, $5.99) and “DK Really Feely Farm” (DK Publishing, 2017, board book series, 12 pages, $6.99) The tactile books are just so cool for the littles. Puppies! Kiddos can pet the soft fur, stroke the nice ears, chew on the puffy cover. Or how about a trip to the farm? Press the piggy’s snout, tickle the sheep’s wool, check out the duckling’s soft tummy. Awww… Two paws up and a couple of quacks for these books.

All for now, babies. Have a great weekend when we get there.

– wm

Saturday Book Review: “A Greyhound, A Groundhog,” by Emily Jenkins & Chris Appelhans; “Wisteria Jane: Bingo Did It!” by Amber Harris & Ard Hoyt; “I Am the Mountain Mouse,” by Gianna Marino

December 17th, 2016

“A Greyhound, A Groundhog,” written by Emily Jenkins & illustrated by Chris Appelhans (Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House Children’s Books, 2017, $17.99, ages 3-7). I was able to get an advance copy of this title, which will be released in a couple of weeks. It’s really a toss-up, isn’t it, as to who is cuter, a greyhound or a groundhog? We get both in this children’s book from Jenkins (the “Toy” series, which includes “Toy Dance Party” and “Toys Go Out”) and Appelhans (who worked on two of my favorite films, “Coraline” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox”). Jenkins gives a shout-out to author Ruth Krauss, who inspired the book. (For more of Appelhan’s work, take a look here; Jenkins’ site is here.) (PS — now I remember why I like Appelhans’ work! He illustrated that cool book, “Sparky the Sloth.”)

The illustrations are soft and pretty, and the story is sweet. The book — words and pictures, both — has a good rhythm. We have two unlikely friends, playing hard.

“A groundhog, a greyhound, a round little greyhound. A greyhound, a groundhog, a brown little groundhog.”

They’re having fun, and the kids will, too, reading it. (The page with the butterflies is my favorite.) It’s always nice to have a book about groundhogs when Feb. 2nd rolls around… I remember when I was teaching, there were never enough titles.

“Wisteria Jane: Bingo Did It!” written by Amber Harris & illustrated by Ard Hoyt (Red Leaf Lane, 2016, $16.95, ages 3 and up). Wisteria Jane Hummell has a best friend, Bingo, and that doggy gets her into a lot of trouble. There was the tea party, and all the broken cups… “Bingo did it, Momma,” I said. “He was drinking his tea like a good dog, and then he knocked everything over like a bad dog.”

Then there is Mama’s torn-up flower bed, and a bubble bath gone wrong. But does Wisteria Jane have a hand in the chaos, perhaps? This is a charming “lesson” book that isn’t preaching at all while it teaches kids about personal responsibility.

The illustrations remind me of Louis Darling, Jr.’s work on the Beverly Cleary books. Bingo reminds me of Ribsy, a bit. They’re funny and warm, and will make little readers feel like they’re in the middle of the action. You can find the author’s website at AmberBHarris.com; the illustrator’s website is ArdHoytBooks.com. Both live in Bentonville, Arkansas.

“I Am the Mountain Mouse,” written & illustrated by Gianna Marino (Penguin Random House/Penguin Young Readers/Viking, 2016, $16.99, ages 3-5). Hilarious collection of short stories about a little mouse with a big ol’ ego. The graphic novel-style layout of two panels per page is fun, and the stories clip along. (The author’s website is GiannaMarino.com)

Mountain Mouse is hungry, that is his food! Only, buddy? There’s just one thing. That’s a camel, not a mountain. He’s not scared of camels, or cats, or heights, and he doesn’t really like to heed his friends’ advice, so you know things are going to be lively.

I love books where kids can yell, Oh, no… Don’t do it! Lol. This is a great one for that.

Enjoy your holidays!

wm

Friday Recipe Club! Tortellini Soup & Pumpkin Bars

December 16th, 2016

Tortellini Soup a la Nancy

This was a crockpot recipe that I modified. It’s easy to put together in a hurry, and it stretches if needed. I cooked it on the stove.

* Celery, carrots, onion, garlic

Dice & saute in a few tablespoons of olive oil.

* Add one can (small or large) diced tomatoes. Fry them up a little with the veggies.

* Add herbs (I used oregano, basil, chives, red & black pepper & salt) & vegetable (or chicken or beef) bouillon

* Add water.

* Let simmer awhile.

* Add one or two packages of cheese tortellini, until pasta is cooked but not mushy.

* Let simmer awhile longer.

* Add one package spinach, let it wilt.

* Turn off heat, then add one or two cans evaporated milk, plus some heavy cream or regular milk.

* Add lots of parmesan cheese. Serve it up!

Pumpkin Bars a la Paula Deen

Bars:
4 eggs
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
15 -ounce can pumpkin
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Icing:
8 -ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.

To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.

Bon appetit, babies.

love,

wm

All-New Sunday Book Review — Grown-up Books: “Seventeenth Century Poetry: The Schools of Donne and Jonson”; “Phenomenal,” by Leigh Ann Henion; and “When Parents Part: How Mothers & Fathers Can Help Their Children Deal with Separation & Divorce,” by Penelope Leach

December 11th, 2016

through the fog

“Through the Fog”
Photo by Steve Rawley

* Seventeenth Century Poetry: The Schools of Donne and Jonson, edited by Hugh Kenner. This book will always, always, forever have a place on my bookshelf. One of my favorite classes at Portland State University, when I attended, with the late, brilliant John “Jack” Cooper.

* “Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer’s Search for Wonder in the Natural World,” by Leigh Ann Henion (Penguin Press, 2015, $26.95, 276 pages). Henion got a lot of grief for this book because of course she did, she’s a woman. Moms aren’t allowed to freak out, go on vision quests, leave their wee babies (children, teens, adult children) alone for a week or more at a time. Screw that, eh? Just sayin’.

It’s a cool book, well-written, funny, rich with detail, images and stories. As someone who doesn’t travel a lot, I always do appreciate the chance to be an armchair traveler. Henion was moved by visiting the site where monarch butterflies gather, in Central Mexico. Later, she had a son, then had, as many of us do, a challenging time. I loved this section, in particular:

“One night, when Matt finds me wailing in unison with our son, he tells me I should take a break because my emotions aren’t good for Archer. Only then do I understand I’ve entered a phase of my life when people seldom consider what might be good for me. Even I somehow don’t feel it’s acceptable for me to think about my own needs — physical or otherwise.

“Not long after Matt chastises me for crying, I tell him it’s time for Archer to go to his own room. I want him to feel safe and secure, but I have given so much of myself I feel hollow. An actual shell of my former being. And if I have no enthusiasm, no wonder, no want for life inside of me, how am I going to nourish my child?”

Worth asking, isn’t it?

She checks out the bioluminescence in Puerto Rico, the Great Migration in Tanzania, a total solar eclipse in Australia, the Northern Lights in Sweden, and a bunch of other cool events and places. I got a big smile from this book.

“When Parents Part: How Mothers & Fathers Can Help Their Children Deal with Separation & Divorce,” by Penelope Leach (Vintage Books, 2016, $16.00, 272 pages). Did you know that fifty percent of marriages actually don’t end in divorce? People are staying married. About two-thirds of us, currently. Hmmm. You like apples? How you like them apples? So I have a better idea. Stay married. Tough it out. Forgive each other. Love on each other. Show your kids how grown-ups navigate through fire, and come out the other side, stronger and better.

OK, unless there’s violence or sexual abuse or any of that crap going on. Then dump their ass.

That’s all for now!

xo and happy, happy holidays.

wm

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