Archive for January, 2011
One of the first cats that DH and I had together was a handsome seal point Siamese. We adopted him from the Humane Society. Or perhaps I should say he adopted us — the moment he saw us he began to howl like a banshee (having never heard a banshee I’m guessing here, but trust me when I say it was quite dramatic!). As soon as I picked him up he settled into my arms and purred, turning the most gorgeous blue eyes up as if to say, you really wouldn’t leave with me would you? Of course we didn’t.
We named him Snickerdoodles after DH’s favorite cookie — the cookie that I baked for DH when we were first dating. He was a quirky, talkative cat who loved to snuggle and give nose kisses. Snickerdoodles liked to snurgle on blankets, sit on your lap while you were reading and hold the page of your book with a paw, and supervise every activity with those luminous blue eyes.
This photo shows him in his favorite old blue chair
We lost Snickerdoodles to cancer several years ago. Even now I miss his serene, loving presence as he kept track of our daily comings and goings. He was a special kitty and certainly one of a kind.
- What Are the Different Types of Siamese Cats? (brighthub.com)
- “12 Days of Cookies, Day 3: Spicing Things Up” and related posts (eatingbirdfood.com)
- Green Holiday Guide: Snickerdoodles (retrohousewifegoesgreen.com)
Before kids (also known in our household as BK) I had never heard of Rosemary Wells. Admittedly I didn’t read a lot of children’s literature in general at that point in my life. When Alex and Mac were young, however, I invested a lot of time and energy into finding books that they would enjoy and that I could read (repeatedly) without wanting to bash my head into the wall out of sheer frustration. You know there are kids books like that, the ones that drive you nuts at the thought of having to read them *one* more time — which ends up meaning one more time for the next three weeks!
Our first Rosemary Wells book, and yes, we still have it, was Max’s Christmas:
This is a simple book for young children about Max waiting for Santa Claus’s arrival. Although Alex and Mac are older now they still expect it to be included in our annual holiday reading list.
Once we were introduced to Max, and his big sister Ruby, we checked out several Max and Ruby books from the library. We enjoyed them so much that we eventually added them all to our collection. A couple of our favorites include Max’s Chocolate Chicken:
Max’s antics in this book, stealing the chocolate chicken and leading Ruby on a merry game of hide the chicken, always makes the kids laugh.
We also re-read Bunny Cakes on a regular basis:
Both Alex and Mac, as toddlers, would read along with me through this one as Max “helps” to make a cake for Grandma with a funny outcome.
Another one that we still enjoy is Max’s Dragon Shirt:
Max’s desire for a dragon shirt results in a fun mix of chaos and confusion, which is pretty typical for Max. This is probably why my son (Mac) identifies with Max. Not only is Max a typical little boy (bunny) who gets into all kinds of mischief and fun, but he also has a bossy older sister (Ruby). I’m sure Mac looks at his older sister some days and thinks she’s an awful lot like Ruby!
When we found that Max and Ruby was on TV and video we were all thrilled and it became one of our favorite shows. We have several of the videos and quite frequently even now I will hear the Max and Ruby theme song floating through the house as the kids watch the shows yet again in their rooms. These are the videos and books that have gotten the most use of any in our family which I think is great because of the old-fashioned feel to the characters and the emphasis on imagination and exploration.
One of Alex’s favorite Max and Ruby books is our copy of Max’s and Ruby’s Pandora’s Box (Max and Ruby’s First Greek Myth):
Alex loves Greek mythology so this, and the second one about Midas, were perfect for her when she was younger and she still has them displayed on her bookshelf.
There are quite a few other Max and Ruby books in our collection as well as other books by Rosemary Wells. For example, another Rosemary Wells’ holiday book that has become an annual read is Morris’ Disappearing Bag:
Morris feels very left out when his brothers and sisters get “cool” presents for Christmas, but he ends up with the neatest present of all in the end. Alex and Mac love to talk about what they would have done if they had a “disappearing bag” of their own.
When the kids got a bit older we added Rosemary Well’s McDuff series to our collection. This series is about a little white dog (a Westie) named McDuff who needs a home. He finds one with a kind family and subsequent books address such things as the arrival of a baby, obedience school, going on a picnic, etc. The setting is very nostalgic, the illustrations are quaint and the stories are very low key and calm. I would not have expected my son to be as drawn to the books as a result but he still requests them just as frequently as his sister.
The series starts out with McDuff Moves In:
McDuff is wandering the streets looking for a home which he finds along with a name and a lot of love. It’s such a sweet book.
There are several McDuff books and I highly recommend them all, but Mac’s personal favorite is McDuff’s Wild Romp:
Probably because McDuff causes mischief and mayhem while visiting a friend’s house for dinner. It’s a lot of fun!
A couple weeks ago we went to the bookstore to pick out some books for a friend who is expecting a baby. I asked Alex and Mac to go select out a book they thought the baby might like — among the books they brought back for consideration were several Max and Ruby board books. As Alex pointed out, “every baby should have at least one Max and Ruby book!”
So Happy Birthday to Rosemary Wells, I hope it was a great one, and we look forward to continuing to enjoy your books for many years to come.
- End-o’-the-Week Kid-Lit Roundup (omnivoracious.com)
- Picture Books I Read in 2010 (moonlitgarden.wordpress.com)
- “Childhood is the Prime Time for Picture Books” and related posts (bookmoot.com)
The barn is not nearly as cold today which is a blessing. Winter riding is a challenge, not so much for the rider who is at least moving, but for the parent who sits on the sideline teeth chattering and fingers turning blue. This despite multiple layers of clothing and old blankets. I always said that I didn’t want to sit outside in the cold watching my kids play soccer or hockey. It never occurred to me that sports like riding would also demand a certain amount of cold endurance on my part.
Mac swims and that is at the opposite temperature range. The pool is like a sauna on steroids. But I have always dealt better with heat then cold so I don’t mind that nearly as much. I can always take off layers, it’s much harder to put on any more then I already have without turning into the stable bag lady.
But it’s important to Alex that I am here watching her ride so here I stay. I watch her practice rein control, walking, posting and transitions. The classes at this barn tend to be more intense then her previous ones which is good; they challenge her and expect more from her. She loves to ride and it will be interesting to see if her commitment continues unabated. I listen to the repeated instructions that I remember so well from when I rode as a kid – heels down, eyes up, hands together, shoulders back. Over and over and over, building muscle memory through repetition. Constantly practicing the basics and then practicing them some more.
I do love being in the barn, at least when I’m not half frozen. The smell of the hay bales that I’m sitting on bring back wonderful memories. The very act of brushing Handy (Alex’s mount today), running my hands along his back and sides, enjoying the smell and feel of his winter coat, makes me feel relaxed and content for the first time today. Walking through the stable makes me want to capture that feeling of the freedom of racing through a pasture, the exhilaration (and tiny bit of trepidation) of taking a jump and the pleasant exhaustion after a lesson class well ridden.
If Alex ever decides that riding is no longer what she wants to do maybe I will go back to it. Just for fun, just to be up on a horse again. But I suspect Alex is not going to walk away from riding, she loves it with all the passion an 8 year old can muster. So I go back to watching and listening and trying, more or less successfully, to stay warm.
I tried this recipe out last night and it turned out so tasty and it’s really easy. I’m not one for fancy recipes, I like things simple, and this was perfect. I really should have taken a photo when it came out of the oven — it looked as good as it tasted. I think it would would make a lovely Valentine’s dinner — something a little different that doesn’t require a huge time commitment in terms of preparation.
Artichoke Chicken with Dill and Capers
(From The One Dish Chicken Cookbook)
4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 9-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed (Note: I used jarred, marinated artichokes instead and it worked just fine)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon dried dill weed
1/2 cup white wine
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Rinse and trim chicken breasts, then season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer in a 12″X8″ (or similar size) glass or ceramic baking pan.
Scatter the artichokes around the chicken.
Stir the cream and lemon juice together in a medium bowl; let rest 1-2 minutes to thicken.
Stir in the mustard and dried dill until well blended.
Whisk in the white wine and add the capers.
Pour the dill mixture over the chicken.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in the thickest portion.
I served it with rice and everyone enjoyed it. It is definitely going in our binder of “keeper” recipes.
Mac has been counting down the days for the last two weeks, it’s the first thing he asks about each morning and the last thing he asks about each night. How many more days to The Great Train Expo (and yes the way he savors each word makes it sound like he’s talking in capitals!)? His fascination (obsession with trains has grown in the last year and this show is rolling into town at just the right time. Even better Dad and Grandpa are going to take him so it will be a “guys day out” at the train expo — life can be very good when you’re six!
According to their website The Great Train Expo:
“. . . is America’s favorite traveling train show serving more states than any other show. Our shows feature operating model railroads, train dealers, collectors, hands-on exhibits, demonstrations, workshops, and much more!”
Kids 12 and under get in free (adults are $7) and there are special activities just for them including:
- Toy train play area
- Model railroad layouts they can operate
- Workshops on model railroading
- Lots of layouts featuring different scales
The show will be held at the St. Charles Convention Center Saturday, February 29th and Sunday, February 30th. The hours both days are 10-4.
I will post a review next week based on what Mac thinks of the show, although I suspect that anything involving trains will get two thumbs up!
My children are at an age (8 and 6) when the future is full of possibilities and anything they wish might just might come true.
My daughter is a tad more cynical, being a bit older then her brother, but even she has a laundry list of wishes that make up how she sees her future life. One of her wishes is to have a home and enough money to have a rescue center for cats (and maybe wildlife as well). She says she will rescue 52 cats and make sure they go on to happy homes and loving families. She wants to live on a farm and have a horse (or several) to ride in the fields. She wants a pond with ducks and a room full of books about animals. And she wants me to come and visit her and help groom the kitties
Mac’s wishes have a different focus of course — he wants to have a train museum (with a lot of Thomas trains), and a bug museum as well. We watched a story together on Sunday morning about a gentleman who has the largest train collection in the world. Mac found that fascinating, so many trains! But he didn’t understand why the man would collect the trains just to sell them again without ever playing with them. Completely nonsensical to a six year old train lover! Mac said anyone who wants to can come and play at his train museum — it will be open to all who love trains as much as he does.
I don’t discourage these kinds of dreams, my adult “realities” have no rightful place here. I don’t point out to Alex that being a farmer (even of a small farm) can be a hard life or that running a rescue center might be even tougher in terms of monetary survival. I don’t tell Mac that he will probably outgrow Thomas (but hopefully not trains in general). Because I could be wrong and their dreams may in fact become reality, maybe not in the exact way they envision but in some form.
I was a dreamer as a child. One of my childhood wishes was to live in a lighthouse. I wished for a house with a huge library — one so big it needed a fancy rolling ladder to reach the top shelves! I wished for an Andalusian horse — black, of course None of these wishes came true — they were forgotten, or pushed aside, or reluctantly gave way to the realities of daily life.
As an adult I know that wishes can be elusive, and yet I still wish for things, especially for my children. I wish for furry kittens for Alex and noisy train engines for Mac. I wish for them love, happiness, peace — and the ability to look back and appreciate that wishes are crucial to our hearts and our souls, even the ones that are fleeting.
And maybe someday I will get to stay in a lighthouse or visit Egypt or ride an Andalusian — or, maybe I’ll just visit my daughter and brush kitties before sending them off to good homes and talk trains with my son as we build layouts on the floor of his museum.
Being orange is very hard, much harder then being green (as that famous frog complains) any day. Just ask William the Orange, he’ll be happy to tell you all about it. Or simply view the photos below submitted as evidence that being orange is no proof against the indignities of life, especially one that involves little girls! At least there are no frilly hats in sight (yet!)
In case you’re wondering, William the Orange is actually a very patient cat and puts up with the kids hugging him, carrying him around and even dressing him up. He has a lot of personality, has a great deal to “say” and thinks the world revolves around him — which it pretty much does
Well, it was either that or Mandatory Cute Animal Photos! At least until it warms up and I can get outside to photograph something blue
In the meantime, I give you Mac and Alex showing off their blue church t-shirts at the playground before the church picnic this past summer. They had a blast at the picnic and thought it was fun to have matching shirts.
Alex holding one of her favorite beanie kitties:
Mac whose smile shows off a lot of missing teeth — the tooth fairy was working overtime for a while:
Alex being a typical “Doodle” as we call her:
And a rare photo of Mac actually sitting still — I save these to prove to myself that it does happen occasionally:
Summary from GoodReads:
The Italian Renaissance was a cultural explosion of art, architecture and learning, but it had a darker side. Two powerful families, the tyrannical Medici and their biggest rivals, the Pazzi, are tangled in a bloody struggle for ultimate power. Caught in the whirlwind is Flora, the last daughter of the Pazzi. As her beautiful older sister is being painted by the famed artist Botticelli, Flora is dreading her fate. Destined for life in a convent, Flora is determined to take matters into her own hands, even as her world crumbles around her. When Flora decides runs away, she has no idea that the decision will save her life. As her family falls to their murderous enemy, Flora must find a new life and a new identity. Inspired by actual events, Primavera is a dazzling coming of age story set during a time of beauty and wealth, ambition, rivalry and brutality. Historical art references to Botticelli and his famous painting, Primavera, give this book an appeal similar to Girl with a Pearl Earring.
I have always had a fascination with this particular period of history — the Italian Renaissance. The personages and historical events seem to be written on a stage that is breathtakingly dramatic, violent and passionate. As a result I tend to read the many books that have been published about this era, both fiction and non-fiction.
The Medici’s were, of course, an integral part of the history of the Italian Renaissance and have been viewed, through the lens of historical interpretation, in many ways — they have been reviled, they have been exalted, but they are rarely ignored.
This particular book, Primavera, focuses on Flora, a daughter of the Pazzi family, a sometimes ally, sometimes rival to the Medici family. The many families of Italy had an often convoluted and complex set of inter-relationships based, among other things, on political and financial factors. As Flora discovers the world in which she is raised is more complicated, and delicately balanced, she even she could have imagined.
Anyone familiar with the basic historical outlines of the Italian Renaissance will be familiar with some of the personalities and events that take place in Primavera. But events are put into sufficient context that such familiarity is not expected or required. The historical accuracy is not always perfect (mostly since I have read a great deal about the period), but this does not detract from the story which is interesting and from the characters who are nicely developed. I found Flora to be believable and I wanted to know what would happen to her as she navigated the treacherous path of being a member of the Pazzi family at a time when this was definitely not an advantage. I especially liked the character of Emilio, probably because he appealed to my love a romantic, devoted male character.
I actually enjoyed this book better then The Girl with a Pearl Earring because I found the characterizations to be more interesting. I would certainly recommend it with the only reservation being some of the more “gory” scenes. While such violence, particularly for those considered traitors to the ruling family, was probably accurate to the era it can be hard to read about, especially for younger readers.
There is a line at the end of the book when Flora notes that “. . . we don’t love people because they are perfect.” I find myself thinking about this line a lot since finishing the book, turning it over in my head and thinking about why it resonates with me. It serves well as a summation of the book but I think it also serves well as a summation of many of our lives — people are not perfect, love is not perfect — and that is perfectly all right.
Well, maybe not really Super Guineas!! — But they are rather cute, very sociable and quite smart. Guinea pigs are known for their spatial learning abilities and Magic and Muffin certainly demonstrate that. They can find their way back to their cage (aka food!) from anywhere in the house. Nothing keeps these guineas from their food bowl for very long. If that doesn’t qualify as Super Guineas!! then I don’t what might
Magic is the black and white guinea and Muffin is the calico one. They are about a year old now and we rescued them when they returned to the pet store shortly before Christmas last year and had no home for the holidays. They have done a great job of “training” us — especially regarding their bedtime treats. They wheek loudly and pound on the cage bars if their nightly treat is late or, horrors, forgotten!
We have all become guinea pig experts — and they have come the Super Guineas of Barnhart!!