The Days are Just Packed: Lemon & Limeade

Lemonade sun: and other summer poems by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
1998, Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press
The Days Are Just Packed by Bill Watterson
1994, Warner Books

While sadly, the kids here in the UK are still in school, they still get to take advantage of the outdoors when they can.  I’m lucky enough to be involved in Girlguiding, so I try to provide that experience when I am able.  Last weekend I took some of the girls on a trip to do some Forest School/minibeast hunting things.  It was a bit damp (typical) but we still had a great time.

Recommended activity: staring at raindrops

One of the highlights was the giant bubbles, made with a loop of rope strung between two sticks, dipped in water mixed with dish soap (washing up liquid).  Here is a rather blurry, rainy picture of one of the girls running after one.  As you can tell, giant bubbles are super exciting!

bubbleI don’t have giant bubble wands at home, but I actually think I might have a little tube of bubbles somewhere.  So step one is the sit in the garden and blow bubbles.  Next I am taking inspiration from another poem in Lemonade Sun.

summer greetings

As you can see there’s lots to do!  I do have a jump rope, actually.  I think everyone should if they are able to skip.  It’s great exercise, and actually fun.  But if I get tuckered out from skipping rope, I think I will sit in the garden with a glass of lemon & limeade, “reading books outside at last.”


Mini Recipe: Lemon & Limeade

Follow the recipe for Old-Fashioned Lemonade, but substitute two limes for one of the lemons.  That’s all!

2Enjoy outside with a good book!
I would recommend The Days Are Just Packed.  Not only are Calvin and Hobbes suitable for kids of all ages, they are even more suitable, I would argue, for adults, because they will be attuned to some of the more poignant, philosophical and mature material which runs under the surface of many of the comic strips.  It also is a great way to remind oneself of the vivid imagination and endless energy of a childhood Summer.


3Activities: blow bubbles, jump rope, read books…maybe climb a tree.  Do I have time for all that with job interviews, paperwork, volunteering, cooking and cleaning?  Probably not.  But I will fit in one or two, and make them really worthwhile.



Homer Price: Milk and Cookies

Book: Homer Price by Robert McCloskey.
1943, Scholastic, Inc.


Well, just when I was enjoying the Summer (big, florid pink and yellow roses, sun on my skin, red maple leaves, Bakewell tarts, thinking about doing an ice cream post), English Summer strikes again.  Hard to feel Summery when it is 50 degrees Fahrenheit and you need to wear a coat!  But I am keeping up my optimism.

Homer Price is a great reread for Summer.  I have a charming copy from 1943 with yellowed pages which smell strongly of Old Book.


It’s a collection of stories about Homer Price, a little boy in a small town who has various adventures.  I thought I would start with the first, The Case of the Sensational Scent.  This is a cute story about Homer adopting a skunk which he names Aroma, who then goes on to help him capture a band of robbers.


Homer is a resourceful and cool-headed boy, who helps his parents, builds radios, and who gets up before it is light to go fishing alone (well, with his pet skunk as well). It might be more suitable for age seven and up, because there should probably be some conversations to accompany it about not adopting wild animals, not touching guns and not confronting robbers on your own!  But most children are well able to distinguish fiction from reality, and it is a very cute story, with some quite funny touches, particularly with the educated robber who refers to Aroma as a “Musteline Mammal”.

The food in Homer Price, like everything else, is wholesome and simple.  Homer’s mother makes fried chicken and hamburgers for the tourists.  But Homer himself can most often be seen eating cookies and milk, which he usually gets for himself at bedtime.


We don’t have cookies very often in our house, but when we do, they are usually these.  When I was a kid, my mother’s go-to cookie was oatmeal raisin — but not like those sugary slabs you’d buy in the stores.  They were a kitchen-sink cookie, crammed full of thick rolled oats, raisins, seeds, anything else that happened to be in the house.  Low sugar, real hippie stuff.  And so one day I went looking for a similar cookie, but even healthier.  I found this: Grain Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.  I’ve made them many times since then, and the recipe is delicious and amazing, but I keep up the attitude of the kitchen-sink cookie, so I never follow the recipe exactly.  Sometimes I’ll use apple, sometimes cooked sweet potato.  I’ll add any number of dried fruits, nuts and seeds.  I’ve even made them into jam thumbprints.  This time I was feeling really lazy, so I used a nut butter instead of the apple (I also doubled the recipe, since my husband loves these cookies and was bound to gobble them up).  So here is the variation I made this time:

“Oatmeal” Raisin Cookies

2 cups nut butter of choice
3 medium eggs
4 tablespoons honey
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup raisins (I added some mixed peel and chopped dates this time as well)
2 cups dessicated coconut
1 cup almond flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda

Mix all the ingredients together haphazardly because you are lazy and don’t mix dry and wet ingredients separately despite what your mama taught you! The mixture should be firm enough to drop in spoonfuls and not spread much. If it needs firming up, add more almond flour. Place tablespoons of the batter onto a cookie sheet, flattening out slightly. Bake at 325 degrees F (162 C) for 15 to 25 minutes until they are golden brown on top. Baking times may vary; I made mine quite big this time so they took half and hour.


Of course, as Homer knows, a cookie is best enjoyed with a big glass of milk.  I don’t often have milk, but when I do, I do it right.  This is the stuff I buy:


All that stuff on the side of the bottle is cream, because it’s whole and unhomogenized.  So good.  And because we are appreciating really good milk, here is a mini recipe.  In Winter warm vanilla milk is comforting, in Summer iced vanilla milk is refreshing:

Iced Vanilla Milk

2 cups good whole milk, preferable unhomogenized
1/2 tsp vanilla (to taste)

Chill the milk in the fridge (You might have to put it in the freezer for 10 minutes if you’re fridge isn’t very cold).  Whisk or shake in the vanilla.

calvinEnjoy with cookies and a comic book!


Starting Simply: Lemonade for Summer

Books: A child’s calendar by John Updike. 1999, Holiday House. Lemonade sun: and other summer poems by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. 1998, Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.

Summer is here!  The sun is out, the leaves are green, and today seems as good a day as any to begin.

buttercups Personally, I never was a huge fan of Summer overall.  Where I grew up in the US, it was hot, sticky, muggy and buggy.  Gross.  But living now in the UK, where we are lucky if we get a couple weeks of heat, I do miss those sticky, humid days.  So when today was a lovely sunny day, I decided to embrace it, and make the Summeriest thing I could think of: lemonade. 2And to go with the lemonade, a selection of poetry for children about Summertime. lemonade title I had not read Lemonade Sun by Rebecca Kai Dotlich before, but it is a charming collection which really harkens back to a simpler time, when Summer meant running around outside all day.  That is certainly what I did as a kid. lemonade sun The poems are very simple and suitable for young children, and could be used to introduce poetry and use of rhyme, rhythm and descriptive and action words.  I like the simplicity and brevity of the poem “Lemonade Sun”.  It reminds me of eating popsicles/fudgesicles on a boiling day.  I liked the natural popsicles with pips, and also creamsicles and push pops.  They don’t really have those here, so perhaps that is a recipe for another day.  “A Circle of Sun” is my favorite; it really captures the vibrant, alive feeling one has as a child, the boundless energy.  I used to run down the streets at breakneck speed, never minding a skinned knee or two.  That gets lost as an adult, when you don’t have that long, luscious Summer ahead of you, and you’re always tired and feel creaky even in your 20’s, if you’re me anyway. But Summer days are still long, and anybody should get out in the Sun a little bit!  The Sun is good for you!  I’m sure most of us in Northern climes are probably at least a bit deficient in vitamin D.  So, plan for tomorrow: get out in the Sun and run down the street at breakneck speed (or as fast as you can manage).  Eat a popsicle, messily.  Be “a piece of the sky in a circle of sun”. downland The second book of poems is A Child’s Calendar by John Updike, illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators, Trina Schart Hyman. title Today I looked at “June”. june This poem addresses those “long green weeks” which never end, a wonderful feeling to see them stretching before you.  Of course, it is different for the poor kids here in the UK, who have to go to school until well into July.  Sickening, I know.  But this poem captures everything that Summer could be and should be.  Little League, hopscotch, the creek.  I had a creek when I was little, and it was a big deal.  I hunted caddis fly larvae and water skippers and tadpoles.  One of the nicest feelings is the feeling of cool, smooth river pebbles under bare feet. Overall it is a lovely poem, with a fun simile at the end. bleeding hearts I don’t have a creek now, but I can make the most of a beautiful day by making old-fashioned lemonade.  Here in the UK most beverages called “lemonade” are in fact a citrusy, carbonated beverage that to me, does not qualify.  You can get “cloudy lemonade” in small amounts, but I wanted more than that.  I browsed the internet for recipes, but had to improvise a bit based on the number of lemons I had. 1 Old-Fashioned Lemonade Ingredients: 5 cups water 1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (I used 2 ½ lemons) 3/4 cup sugar Method: Juice the lemons (I used a wooden hand juicer), and mix in the sugar.  Mix and mix.  Eventually it will dissolve.  Add the water.  The proportion of water/lemon juice/sugar is something that will vary according to taste, so add ingredients until it tastes right to you.  Chill.  This recipe made enough for me to fill a large pickle jar and a small glass bottle. I can’t remember the last time I had home-made lemonade, and oh boy, is it good.  It tastes so amazingly fresh, vibrant and alive.  It’s the nectar of Summer, best enjoyed through a cute straw in a frosty glass bottle. 3 Enjoy in the Sun!