Summer Party: Fairy Bread and Bubble Tea

Book: 
Summer Party  by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
2002, Aladdin Paperbacks
Poem:
Fairy Bread by Robert Louis Stevenson
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How is everyone’s Summer?  We haven’t had many nice days here.  It’s been rather cold.  But Summer is fleeting and you have to make the best of it!  We have had a couple of barbecues and similar festivities.  One Sunday we even got out the pool but it was too chilly!

Recently I read a book about making the best of things.  Summer Party is about Lily, Rosie, and Tess (a pair of sisters and their cousin, all aged nine) who live with their Aunt Lucy for a year while their parents are travelling with the ballet.  They get to live in an attic and it’s all very bohemian and charming.
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Although this is a short book, a lot of detail is put into every character.  Rosie is the most sentimental, Lily writes poems, Tess wants to be an actress, etc. Aunt Lucy has a flower shop, and her boyfriend Michael, who is from a wealthy family but is studying to be a botanist, always looks a bit shy and crumpled.

As the story opens the girls are all quite sad because when their parents get back they will have to leave their aunt and each other.  They are feeling very conflicted and weepy in the first couple of chapters.
But their aunt and Michael try to help them cheer up, not by ignoring their feelings, but by addressing them in an active way.  Their aunt says that a good way to do this is to find something to look forward to and make plans for the future.  The girls realise that they will be able to have reunions with each other and the whole family every year.  They are also encouraged to do something fun now, and so they plan a summer party.  The girls plan the food and the entertainment as well.  Lily writes a poem, Tess plans a song, and they make little funny fortunes to go at each table place.  Rosie wants to make “little vegetable people” although she eventually changes her mind, thinking they will wilt.
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Here is their menu:
Pink lemonade with colored ice
Cookie cutter sandwiches
Lemon cookies
Fudge
A punch called the Cousins’ Crayon Concoction
SPcThe girls are nervous to see their parents after so long, but when they arrive everyone is happy.  The party is a great success, and at the end Michael proposes to Lucy.  Although everyone is still sad to say goodbye, the last line of the book is “There was so much to look forward to!
SPfThis is quite a fun little book.  It is not long, but it is a chapter book and might be difficult for under sevens to read on their own.  The subject matter is interesting and could be helpful in discussing with children how to deal with sadness, particularly that of a friend moving away, or themselves moving away.  The children’s feelings are acknowledged, and they are helped to think of things that they do have control over, such as making the party and arranging meetings in the future.  Aunt Lucy’s mantra of “Be brave.  Have hope.  Make plans for the future!”  is pretty good advice for that stressful situation (and many others).  Since we are moving house in a couple of months, it was certainly helpful for me to think about.

And if it is cold outside I think it is perfectly fine to have a Summer Party inside!  I was inspired by the cousins’ menu but made a few changes.  I didn’t make the little vegetable people, although that would be fun, particularly with children.  To make the cookie cutter sandwiches even prettier, I made fairy bread.  For anyone unfamiliar, fairy bread is just bread with sprinkles on top.  I made some the usual way (as in just one slice), and some as sandwiches with the sprinkles then added to the top.
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Cookie Cutter Fairy Bread Sandwiches

Ingredients
Bread of choice (I used Schär’s gluten free seeded loaf)
Sandwich filling of choice (I used Nutella)
Sprinkles of choice (these should be small and colorful.  Too big and they won’t provide even coverage)
Whipped cream
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Method
First make the sandwiches (I figure you all know how to do that!).  Then cut out desired shapes using cookie cutters.  You may have to be very careful extracting the sandwich from the cutter if it is a complicated shape.  Don’t waste the crusts you cut off, just save them for bread pudding or something!  Then spread the whipped cream on the top of the sandwich.  Butter is traditional but I wanted something that would preserve the white color of the bread and also spread very easily, without being soggy.  You need a thin, even layer all over the top slice.  Then cover with sprinkles!

Yes I made Stegosaurus fairy bread.
Yes I made Stegosaurus fairy bread.

The second idea that I had was to attempt the Cousins’ Crayon Concoction.  Presuming this does not contain actual crayons, I wanted to create something that contained multiple bright colors, and the only way I could think to do that was bubble tea.
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Cousins’ Crayon Concoction Bubble Tea

Ingredients
3 black tea bags or equivalent in loose tea
4 cups milk, almond milk or coconut milk
3 -4 Tbsp honey to taste
1 1/2 cups colored tapioca pearls or boba, preferably multicolored.

The uncooked tapioca pearls
The uncooked tapioca pearls

Method
First make the milk tea.  Boil a cup of water and steep the tea for 5 – 10 minutes.  Remove the teabags, add honey to taste, and let the tea cool for another 15 minutes or so.  Then add the tea and the milk (I used coconut milk, but if you prefer it not to taste coconutty, then use something different) into a large container with a lid.  As you may guess this makes a very weak tea, but I did not want the color of the tea to interfere with the color of the boba, so I intentionally made it pale.  You can make it stronger by using less milk or steeping the tea longer.  Put the tea in the fridge to cool for a couple of hours.  You could add ice and have it ready right away, but I prefer it this way.  While the tea is cooling make the boba or tapioca pearls (If you can’t find multicolored ones I would recommend looking in an Asian grocer or online, but any color will do).  Boil a large pot of water, add the pearls slowly, and stir.  In a minute or so they will float to the surface of the water.  Cover the pot and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes.  Turn off the heat and simmer another 2 -3 minutes.  Strain the tapioca and rest in cold water for half a minute, then strain out and roll in a little sugar or honey.

The cooked tapioca pearls
The cooked tapioca pearls

Next, take out your cold tea and give it a good shake. You can use a cocktail shaker, froth it with a mixer or just shake it in the jar.  Put a portion of tapioca pearls in the bottom of each glass and top up with the tea.

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And if you are me, you then add whipped cream and sprinkles, just because!


And lastly, the pink lemonade.  I used this recipe from last Summer, but I added 1 1/2 cups pureed strawberries.  You can use a blender, but if the strawberries are ripe you can also use a mortar and pestle.  I personally like to have a little strawberry pulp in there.
SP_strawberriesThe only thing to remember is that you might need less sugar if the strawberries are very sweet.

The full spread!
The full spread!

Enjoy your Summer party and remember, there is so much to look forward to!

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The Days are Just Packed: Lemon & Limeade

Books:
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.

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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.”

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Mini Recipe: Lemon & Limeade

Method
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.

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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.

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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!