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!

sprinkles

 

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Glad Midsommar: Strawberries and Cream

Book:
Nursery songs & rhymes of England illustrated by Winifred Smith
1895, D. Nutt

Sweetpea show at the PYO farm
Sweetpea show at the PYO farm

Glad Midsommar!  Last week was Midsummer, and it might have been a very festive one for you if you live in certain countries, particularly Scandinavian ones.  It is not so much a thing in my neck of the woods, and I have had a busy couple of weeks with lots of work, but I wanted to do something to honor the festival.  Last weekend we went to our local Pick Your Own farm, and brought home a punnet of gooseberries, a punnet of raspberries, and a punnet of strawberries.

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At the PYO we bought lardy cake!
At the PYO we bought lardy cake!
THE BEST
THE BEST

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A common food at Midsummer parties is strawberries, and I thought I would make something that would be satisfying without being too much work (or involve turning on the oven — we are having a heatwave here!).
I was inspired by this nursery rhyme:

curly locksThis book

rhymes

contains most of the classic nursery rhymes, in all of their strangeness, alongside beautifully pristine black and white illustrations.  “Curly Locks” itself is fairly straightforward, although it’s not clear whether it is aspirational on the part of Curly Locks herself, or whether she is not buying her suitor’s line.  It might be a fun assignment to write her response to the proposal.  As it is, it is pretty convincing.  Of course, I can get curly locks with the help of rag curls, I already sit on cushions a lot and I definitely can’t sew a fine seam.  But strawberries, sugar and cream?  I’d sure like to try that.

flowers&punnetClearly, strawberries, sugar and cream are the ultimate in luxury.  Now, there are two ways to have strawberries and cream.  The best way is to come home with some strawberries freshly picked by yourself, immediately douse them in cream, and tuck in.  But you might want to be a little fancier, maybe for an occasion such as the 4th of July this weekend.
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Strawberries, Sugar & Cream

Ingredients
1 cup of the nicest-looking strawberries, topped and halved
Sugar to taste (I used 1 tsp)
1 cup extra-thick (or whipped or clotted) cream
Fresh mint to garnish

Method
Place the strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle sugar to taste on the cut halves. While I like the strawberries tart, the sugar helps draw out the juice.  Leave for 5 minutes to let the sugar work and then cover the lot with cream.  This dish is best left to marinate, so put it in the fridge for 2 – 6 hours, stirring a couple of times to incorporate the juice.  Serve in a glass with mint leaves.

addingthecream
Eat in the garden and feel very luxurious since you are not currently washing dishes or feeding swine!
strawberiiesandcreamTo make further use of the strawberries, I also made some Pimm’s.  This is for grownups only!  Pimm’s is very popular in this part of England, and people do end up drinking a fair bit of it in the Summer, both the real stuff and knockoff versions.  There’s lots you can do with Pimm’s, but the usual is (fizzy English) lemonade with additions as various as strawberries, mint & cucumber, sometimes with apples, lemons and/or oranges as well.

pimms1
Pimm’s Cup

Ingredients
Pimm’s (no substitute for non-UK people, I’m afraid.  Apparently it is gin-based but it does not taste like gin to me.  You could try a dash of rum or brandy)
Fizzy lemonade or other lemony soda
Sliced strawberries
Fresh mint leaves, torn
Other garnishes as desired

Method
Pour the Pimm’s and add the lemonade, in a ratio of one part Pimm’s to 3 parts lemonade.  Add garnishes to taste.  Pimm’s is best made in a big pitcher and put in the fridge for half an hour or so, because it improves with time, the drink absorbing the flavours of the fruit and mint, and vice versa.
pimms2It’s almost too hot to sit outside…so I might need to jump in the sprinkler setting on the garden hose before I enjoy my strawberries two ways!