Spring Stories & Eggs

Primroses2
Books: 
The Boy Who Didn’t Believe in Spring  by Lucille Clifton; pictures by Brinton Turkle
1973, Dutton
The Spring Rabbit by Joyce Dunbar; illustrated by Susan Varley  
1994, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.

Mustard
April is mustard growing time

Although we’re at the end of spring break, I have to say it’s still pretty chilly here, not to mention rainy.  I know a lot of you are in mud season or even still socked under a load of snow.


Here are two books about how Spring can often feel a long time coming.  The Boy Who Didn’t Believe in Spring is about a little boy called King Shabazz who didn’t believe in Spring.  One day he gets fed up of hearing about crops growing and bluebirds (which seem mythical to him), and about Spring being just around the corner.   He sets off with his best friend Tony on a big adventure: around the corner.
 


IMG_7577
Along the way they see many interesting things in their neighbourhood, and the illustrations are really fun and realistic, showing the ’70’s city scene as the kids walk through it.  The clothes and the cars alone are great.
IMG_7578IMG_7579IMG_7580IMG_7581
Of course in the end they do find Spring, and it’s as magical and wonder-inspiring as it should be, even though it’s only the tiniest of signs.  Which is a nice message and a good reminder that wherever we live, Spring is for us too…even if we don’t currently have nice weather or wildflower meadows to frolic in!


IMG_7583
This is a really fun story which has a powerful feeling of a specific time and place, but it’s also pretty timeless.  It’s very effective at getting the reader into the mindset of a child and allowing us to feel the wonderment at very little things which kids (even those who think they know it all!) feel.
IMG_7585
IMG_7587
The next book is called The Spring Rabbit and is about a rabbit named Smudge who desperately wants a sibling to play with, but everyone keeps telling him to wait until Spring.


Smudge has a very hard time waiting through the Autumn and Winter. He keeps looking and hoping, but everyone continually tells him to wait until Spring.



Finally, Spring arrives and Smudge gets two brothers and a sister!

IMG_7605
This book really conveys the frustration of waiting for something, whether it’s a new sibling or Springtime, so it would certainly be a useful read for a child who is impatient about something.  The illustrations are light and airy and have a real springy feeling.

IMG_7606

When I think of Spring food I automatically think of eggs.


When it comes to eggs, it’s best to get the highest quality ones that you can.  We are very lucky to live near a farm where we can get eggs from very happy pastured chickens.  You can tell from how orange the yolks are that they have a lot of nutrition.  Here are three ways to make eggs that are almost as enticing as Weissman’s buns and the take-out shop bar-b-q.

Eggs with Spring Greens

Ingredients
4 pastured eggs
2/3 cup milk (or coconut milk)
1 Tbsp butter or coconut oil
1 leek, chopped
2 cups sugar snap peas (mange tout), chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 handful fresh sprouts such as mustard or cress
Any other greens of choice (optional)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
Hot sauce to serve (optional)

IMG_7588
Method
Heat the butter in a pan over a medium heat until it is a little sizzly. Add the garlic, leeks, peas, most of the sprouts, and any other green things you like. Cook down until the leeks are getting soft, about five minutes. Add the eggs and milk together in a bowl with the salt and pepper and whisk them until they are frothy. Then take the vegetables out of the pan and put them aside. Add a little more butter if you need it, and still on a medium heat, add the eggs. As they are cooking, pull the eggs in from the sides with a spatula to make big curds. When the eggs are mostly cooked (which should take no more than a couple of minutes) spoon the greens on top of them and cover the pan with a lid for another couple of minutes. To serve, top with the remaining mustard sprouts and hot sauce.


IMG_7593IMG_7594
Two other nice ways to serve eggs are:
1. On toast with spinach and kombu.
2. With fried rice, green beans, carrots, peas, and sauerkraut.


Happy Spring, everyone!  I’m sure it will be here soon enough.

Go on a signs of Spring walk and see what you can find.  We saw these beauties  today by the side of the road:
IMG_7614

IMG_7586

Advertisements

12 Days of Books 2017/18: Christmas in the Country

IMG_6582Book:
Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diane Goode
2002, The Blue Sky Press

Day 12! 

Doing this series has been a lot of fun and has introduced me to some new and interesting books, many of which I will certainly revisit.  I think being the last day, however, is even more reason to finish with full festiveness, a little looking back, and a little looking forward.

 

Christmas in the Country is written by the prolific and varied Cynthia Rylant.  It is told from the point of view of someone who lived with her grandparents when she was a little girl. It basically just describes what Christmas was like for her then, from bringing home the tree to taking it down.

 

My favourite thing about this book is the extremely relatable details, such as how the mismatched and homemade ornaments remind her of her whole life, or how they always got a tree that was a little too big and so they had  to squeeze round it in the living room, but how it was the prettiest thing they had.
IMG_7001IMG_7002
Or how they put their wet boots and gloves near the stove to dry, and how the dogs all bark at the commotion of Christmas Day.IMG_7004IMG_7005 The overall impression is one of appreciation for the little details of life which we often take for granted as adults.  The natural, lively and expressive illustrations really enhance this.

IMG_7006

Another reason I wanted to recommend this book for today is that many people feel a bit gloomy after the holidays.  Even though my family will be leaving our tree up (and squeezing round it in the living room) for a while yet, and the time of “cocoa and blankets” will continue for months to come, there will be a time when we have to pack up the ornaments, and sweep up the fir needles.
IMG_7007
But this book, in the beginning and the end, reminds us of all the other things there are to look forward to in the year: “spring walks and summer tomatoes and fall apples,” and then Christmastime again!
IMG_7008
I hope your holidays were something special and your New Year continues to be so.

 

12 Days of Books 2017/18

 

12 Days of Books 2017/18: Good King Wenceslas

IMG_6582Book:
Good King Wenceslas by J. M. Neale, pictures by Arthur Gaskin, with an introduction by William Morris
1904, Village Press

It’s Day 11 and we are coming towards the end of the 12 Days.

Good King Wenceslas was written in the 19th century, and this book was made soon after, although this particular reprint is from 1904.  There is a short introduction by William Morris, and the illustrations are by Arthur Gaskin, who was part of the Arts and Crafts movement.  You can find an online version here.

This Christmas carol (if you haven’t heard it) is about a king who sees a poor peasant gathering wood in the snow on Saint Stephen’s Day.  The king is determined to personally bring the poor man  meat, wine, and wood, and so he and his page travel through the wintry weather to carry them to him.IMG_6958

IMG_6959

While the vocabulary might be a bit tricky and old-fashioned for younger readers, that doesn’t really matter as the story is quite straightforward.

IMG_6960IMG_6961
The best thing about this book is that, because it is influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, the entire design is beautiful and intentional.  Its typeface is designed to look like a medieval manuscript and has detailed illuminated letters and borders.  The pictures have a medieval quality and look to be engravings.  The simplicity and sincerity matches to tone of the song.IMG_6962IMG_6963

It’s important at this time of year to remember that caring for all those in need is not an extraneous act, but the most essential kind of justice.

With the seriously wintry and bitter weather we have been having this year, remember to look out for each other!

And bundle up if you go outside!

12 Days of Books 2017/18: The Tomten

IMG_6582Book:
The Tomten adapted by Astrid Lindgren from a poem by Viktor Rydberg, illustrated by Harald Wiberg
1990, G.P. Putnam’s Sons

It’s always difficult to go back to work or school after a holiday, especially when you have to get up in the dark. On Day 10  we have the story of the Tomten, who works all the winter night.

This version of The Tomten is another Swedish story, adapted by Astrid Lindgren from a poem by Viktor Rydberg.

Perhaps because it’s based on a poem, this is not a very plot-heavy book, but more  about mood, mystery, repetition, description, and atmosphere.

IMG_6933IMG_6934

The Tomten lives on an old farm.  Every night he goes through the farmyard and the house, speaking to the animals and looking after them.  To each animal he speaks a variation on a little poem about how Winters and Summers come and go.
IMG_6935IMG_6936
The whole mood is a little melancholy.  The Tomten seems a little lonely because he can’t speak to the humans in the house, and they will never see him, because he only comes out at night.IMG_6937IMG_6938The Tomten has seen many hundreds of  winters, so it makes sense that he would have a good perspective for the animals who are longing for summertime.  And he will carry on as long as there people at the farm for him to help.

IMG_6939

This is a lovely book with evocative prose, and especially beautiful pictures of the snowy farm lit by brilliantly bright moonlight and snowlight.

It certainly makes me feel better about getting up in the cold and dark!

Hot chocolate in my travel mug also helps.

12 Days of Books 2017/18: Merry Christmas, Strega Nona

IMG_6582Book:
Merry Christmas, Strega Nona story and pictures by Tomie dePaola
1986, Scholastic Inc.

For many people Christmas is over by now.  We are going back to work tomorrow, and daily life will resume somewhat as usual.  However, it actually is only Day 9!  

Today is Merry Christmas, Strega Nona, part of Tomie dePaola’s series about an Italian grandmother/witch.

In this story Strega Nona is getting ready for Christmas.  She loves it so much that she refuses to use magic to help with the work, much to the chagrin of her helper, Big Anthony, who is constantly being sent on errands.IMG_6899


She always makes a big feast for everyone at Christmas, but this year Big Anthony tells her that he has forgotten all the preparations for it, and since Strega Nona is determined to stick to her principles and not use magic, there will be no feast.
IMG_6907IMG_6908

There follows a quite melancholy interlude as Strega Nona goes sadly to Mass, and comes sadly home.  This section is accompanied by some of the loveliest and most minimalist of the illustrations.IMG_6910IMG_6912
In the end it turns out that this was a surprise plan by Big Anthony so that everyone else could make the feast for Strega Nona this time.  Personally, this seems like a bit of mean trick on her, but thankfully she is quite happy about it.

IMG_6913

Strega Nona’s Christmas Feast

Codfish stew

Roasted peppers

Cookies

Fried pastry

IMG_6914

One of the best things about this book is the charming illustrations, which have a lovely, timeless folk-art feel.  I don’t know how authentic it is to southern Italian Christmas traditions, but it is nice to add to our international selection.

We never find out why exactly Strega Nona doesn’t want to use magic for her preparations, but it can be more rewarding sometimes to do things yourself, by hand, and put in the work for something worthwhile.

12 Days of Books 2017/18: Henry the Explorer

IMG_6582Book:
Henry the Explorer by Mark Taylor, illustrations by Graham Booth
1966, Aladdin Books

Happy New Year all!

On Day 8 we have another boy named Henry and his dog.  This Henry (and his dog Laird Angus McAngus) read a book about explorers on the night of a blizzard.
IMG_6866

This naturally makes Henry want to go exploring too.  So he makes a bunch of flags, packs an explorer’s kit, and he and Angus head out into the snowy woods.

IMG_6871
Henry and Angus have some very exciting adventures while exploring.  They even meet a bear!  But they are gone so long that Henry’s mother sends out searchers to hunt for them.
IMG_6872


Fortunately, Henry and Angus manage to find their own way home by following the flags they had planted.


IMG_6877

IMG_6870Henry and Angus’s Explorer’s Kit

Sandwich — peanut butter

Bone for Angus

Ball of string

Apple

Orange

Flashlight

Whistle

Candy for gifts

Map

And flags

 

This is a cute little book.  The illustrations are very atmospheric and beautiful.  Henry and Angus are definitely an inspiring pair.

Winter is actually a very good time to go exploring.  There are no bugs, no undergrowth, and you won’t get too hot.  Just make sure you are dressed warmly and have an explorer’s kit.

Or if you’d rather not, you can stay in and read a book about exploring– that’s just as good.

12 Days of Books 2017/18: Henry and Mudge and the Snowman Plan

IMG_6582Book:
Henry and Mudge and the Snowman Plan by Cynthia Rylant, pictures by Suçie  Stevenson
1999, Simon & Schuster

You can’t go wrong with Henry and Mudge.  On Day 7 we have The Snowman Plan, which continues our snowy theme.  In this story, Henry and Mudge see a sign for a snowman contest.IMG_6808

IMG_6809

This is obviously very exciting!

 
IMG_6810

Henry tells his father, who is busy painting a chair green, and has gotten green paint all over himself.  But his father is as enthusiastic about the Snowman Plan as are Henry and Mudge.

IMG_6811

 

There are many interesting snowmen in the competition, but most especially Henry and his father’s, which is a depiction of the father painting a chair green.

In the end they win third place, for “most original”.

IMG_6816IMG_6817

It’s nice that Henry and his father are as excited about winning third place as if they had won first.  This is a very charming book, extremely positive and fun, with expressive illustrations, and small children will find it very funny.

For this New Year, I hope we all find something we are as excited about as Henry is about the Snowman Plan, and as Mudge is about dessert!

 

12 Days of Books 2017/18: Five Little Foxes and the Snow

IMG_6582Book:
Five Little Foxes and the Snow by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Cyndy Szekeres
1977, G.P. Putnam’s Sons

For Day 6 we have Five Little Foxes and the Snow.  While The Mitten was about a boy who wanted his grandmother to knit him snow-white mittens, this little book is about a bunch of little foxes whose grandmother won’t let them play in the snow because their paws will get cold.

IMG_6776

IMG_6777IMG_6778

For five days the snow continues to fall, and to grow deeper and deeper around little foxes’ burrow.  Each day one of the foxes asks their patient grandmother if they can play in the snow.  Each day she puts them off by saying their paws will be cold, and suggesting another activity.  Meanwhile she spends her time knitting by the fire.

Of course, when Christmas Day arrives they receive their gifts — five pairs of colourful mittens, so they can finally play in the snow!

IMG_6781

This is a very cute and cozy little book.  The main appeal comes from the illustrations, which have a very warm 70’s quality to them.  The depictions of what the little foxes got up to are very detailed and amusing, and will be familiar to anyone who has ever been snowed in as a child — or snowed in with children!

The five little foxes had gingerbread men and warm cider on their snow days, but you can enjoy them whether you have snow or not.  Just be sure to keep warm!

IMG_6427

 

12 Days of Books 2017/18: The Mitten

IMG_6582Book:
The Mitten adapted and illustrated by Jan Brett
1989, G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Day 5 moves from Sweden to Ukraine.  Jan Brett adapted a traditional tale about a boy named Nicki who wanted mittens made from wool as white as snow.IMG_6733

His grandmother, Baba, warns him that they will get lost in the snow.  But she knits them for him and sure enough, he loses one in the snow when he goes out to play.

IMG_6734IMG_6735IMG_6736

But the mitten looks so cozy and warm that a whole bunch of animals (including a mole, an owl, a badger, and a bear) that pass by decide to crawl inside.  The Mitten stretches and stretches, but the last animal (a little mouse) is one too many.   The bear sneezes and the Mitten shoots up into the sky.

IMG_6738

The story is fairly simple, but the best thing about this book is the illustrations.  All the pictures are surrounded by birchbark and embroidery in folk art patterns.  To the left of the main picture we always see a smaller picture of what Nicki is doing (inadvertently scaring the animals towards the Mitten), and to the left we see the next animal coming along.  They are very pretty illustrations, and full of fun little details.

Hopefully this story will inspire you to go play in the snow — or just seek out somewhere warm and cozy to eat something hearty and do some knitting.

 

12 Days of Books 2017/18: Peter and Lotta’s Christmas

IMG_6582Book:
Peter and Lotta’s Christmas by Elsa Beskow
2002, Floris Books

Day 4 is Peter and Lotta’s Christmas.  This book is by Swedish author Elsa Beskow.  It’s about two children named Peter and Lotta who go to live with their aunts and uncle.  While there they experience their first proper Christmas.IMG_6699

The story is actually quite long for a picture book and covers two Christmases  and the year in between.  On their first Christmas Peter and Lotta don’t know anything about the holiday or its customs, so they are very excited about the Christmas tree, getting gifts, etc.  They are, however, very frightened by the Christmas Goat!

IMG_6701IMG_6702

For anyone not familiar with the Christmas Goat or Yule Goat, you can read about it here.  It is certainly nice to have a story which examines  Christmas traditions which are somewhat different from the ones we usually see portrayed.  Because Peter and Lotta don’t know that the Christmas Goat is actually just their Uncle Blue dressed up, they are told a fairytale which causes them to go on some interesting adventures over the next year.PLCe

First Christmas

PLCf
Second Christmas

By their second Christmas the children have learned a lot.  They are no longer afraid of the Christmas Goat and learn who he is.  However, they enjoy this Christmas even more than the first, because this year they got to give gifts as well as receive them.

 

 

Peter and Lotta’s Christmas is a real treat, especially for Elsa Beskow fans.  It has her classic illustrations and lots of lovely details about rural Swedish life in this time period.  Because of this it is not a quick read, and is a bit like the Little House on the Prarie Books in that it is a detailed depiction of daily life.  The description of how the children made presents for their family is particularly nice.
IMG_6705

As you can see from the illustration, Peter and Lotta have cake, saffron buns, and pepparkakor at Christmas.  We only had some zimtsterne, which are not Swedish but have all the right spices, and really any gingerbread would do.  Yule Goat is optional.