Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mushroom Crepes and Leap Day

Happy Leap Day!

Today is leap day, and leap day always makes me think of one of my favorite musicals The Pirates of Penzance, the one starring Kevin Kline, Angela Lansbury, and Linda Ronstadt, and let us not forget Rex Smith.  I loved this show as a child and love it just as much today.

When my kids were little they went through a phase where every night before bed they would enjoy a musical, one of their all time favorites was Pirates of Penzance. Probably not the best for before bed viewing, as soon as the "I am a Pirate King" number would start they would both be up dancing along with the hilarious Kevin Kline.  In this musical the young Frederick thinks his service to the Pirates is over since he is 21 years old, however he finds out that the contract actually says his 21st birthday rather than 21st year, and since he was born on leap day, he still has many more years in the service of the Pirates.  Very funny twist in this wonderful Gilbert and Sullivan musical.  I would highly recommend this musical, perfect Leap Day movie!

Here is my Amazon link for The Pirates of Penzance DVD.

Tonight my family is off to visit Grandma, and then head on over to youth group, so I will be dining alone.  One of my favorite things to make for dinner, when it's just me, is a batch of easy Crepes.  Tonight I decided to fancy it up a bit, and top my crepes with some creamy mushrooms.  Here is my recipe.

Easy Crepes

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs

Mix all the ingredients together with a whisk, I like to mix mine right into a measuring cup so it is easy to pour.  Melt a pat of butter in the bottom of a small frying pan like 8 inch size.  Then pour in a little batter and swirl the pan until the batter has coated the bottom.  These crepes cook very quickly, when the crepe is lightly browned on one side flip it to the other side and brown until golden, then transfer to plate. Repeat the process for each crepe, making sure to add butter in between each crepe.  I quickly make up a plate then they are ready to serve with a little powered sugar and syrup.

Here is a crepe frying up in the pan.

I set aside one delicious golden crepe for dessert and dusted it with powdered sugar.

Here is a plate of crepes waiting for it's topping.

Tonight I decided to make a savory topping for my crepes.  A nice creamy mushroom topping.

Creamy Mushroom Crepe Topping:

Clean and slice about 10 mushrooms, I am using baby portobello mushrooms, but white button would work fine too.

Saute in a tablespoon or two of olive oil, season with a few dashes of Italian herbs, some dehydrated onions a little salt and pepper, and I am adding a little zing with a few crushed red peppers (season to taste) .  Saute until mushrooms are cooked down and soft you may want to add about a 1/4 cup of water to the mushrooms to help them steam a little more, cook mushrooms down until only a little liquid remains and mushrooms are tender cooked.

Here are the mushrooms seasoned and ready to get cooking.

 Then add a rounded tablespoon of sour cream, and a rounded tablespoon of cream cheese, and stir in with the mushrooms until hot and incorporated with the mushrooms, spoon over crepes.  Enjoy!

This picture here is four crepes, which could easily serve 2 people, very filling crepes!  Very nice for a quick and easy vegetarian meal as well.  Very yummy!

Happy Leap Day!

Sunshine Award

What a nice surprise this afternoon when Carrie at Craft Moms Share awarded me the Sunshine award.  Crafty Moms Share is a wonderful blog that hosts Sharing Saturday every week where all us crafty Moms can share our fun craft ideas.  Great place to get wonderful kid's craft ideas!

As a recipient of this delightful award, I have a few rules to follow:
  • Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog.  See above.
  • Answer 10 questions about yourself.  See below.
  • Nominate 10-12 other fabulous bloggers.  See my list below.
  • Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated. So happy to share the love!
  • Share the love and link the person who nominated you.
Ten Sunshine Award Questions (and answers):

Favorite Color:  This is a hard one for me because I love color, if I had to narrow it down it would be in the brown and greens category, I love earth tones.  But also I am drawn to turquoise, chartreuse green, and orange.  

Favorite Animal:  I would have to say dogs, because I just love mine so much.  I love wolves too, and hedgehogs are sure cute.  When I was a child I would have said horses. :)

Favorite Number: My favorite number has always been 5.

Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink: I love sparkling mineral water, sometimes with a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon.

Prefer Facebook or Twitter: I prefer Facebook, fun way to connect with friends, and I enjoy some of the games as well. :)

My Passion: Being a good Wife, Mom, and Homemaker.

Prefer giving or getting presents:  I love giving presents, I love trying to figure out just the right thing to give as a gift.

Favorite Pattern: I think my favorite pattern would be Plaids, I have loved plaid patterns since I was a child.

Favorite Day of the Week: Hmmm...  I think it would be Friday, I am always happy on Friday that the weekend is starting.

Favorite Flower: Another hard question, I am a gardener and I love a multitude of flowers.  I love zinnias out in the garden and plant them every year, I love fresh tulips from the supermarket in my kitchen window, and I have recently begun to really enjoy Orchids. 

And here is the list of blogs that I am passing the Sunshine Award on to:

I passed on Versatile Blogger awards about a week ago, so this week I am passing the Sunshine award on to some different blogs.  

Thanks Again Carrie at Crafty Moms Share!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Baked Turkey Wontons

I really love Wontons and Spring Rolls, but, because of my shellfish and sesame allergies I hesitate to eat them at restaurants.   Just like my tree nut allergies preventing me from eating a lot of prepared bakery products.  So I always love experimenting with making things on my own, that way I know exactly what's in what I'm eating.

This last weekend, I had fun experimenting with a package of Won ton wrappers I found in the produce section of my grocery store.  The Won ton wrappers contained very simple ingredients, and nothing I was allergic to.  I also bought a package of finely shredded cabbage to go with the recipe I was thinking of.  I decided on a baked ground turkey filled Wonton.

Here is my recipe for Easy Baked Turkey WonTons.

1 package won ton wrappers
1 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon dehydrated minced onion
1 package of finely shredded cabbage (of course you can also shred your own about 2-3 cups worth)
1 large carrot cleaned, peeled, and finely grated
1/4 cup soy sauce
salt and pepper
1 rounded tablespoon brown sugar
3-4 green onions cleaned and chopped
either a little fresh finely chopped garlic or a pinch or two of garlic powder to taste
baking spray

Brown the turkey with dehydrated minced onion in a deep pan until thoroughly cooked, season with a little salt and pepper, add a quarter cup of soy sauce and the shredded cabbage and carrot, and stir along with the turkey on medium low heat until cabbage is steamed and incorporated into the turkey, this happens pretty quickly with the finely shredded cabbage.  Then stir in chopped green onions, tablespoon of brown sugar, and a little garlic, and check for personal taste preference, add more seasoning or soy sauce if needed, thoroughly combine all seasoning, set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (best stuff ever, I use it all the time, you can find it by the aluminum foil and saran wrap), open your won ton wrappers, fill a little bowl with water.  Put a won ton in your hand, scoop a small rounded spoon of the turkey filling and put in the center of won ton, using your finger, wet two sides of the won ton edge with water, then fold in half on the diagonal and press the won ton together to form a triangle, making sure to seal the edge well.

 Continue filling won tons until you fill your tray.  Using a baking spray, spray over the top of the won tons to give them a light coating of oil so they don't dry out in the oven.

Bake at 425 F. for about 8-10 minutes until crispy and golden brown.

Serve with Soy sauce or sweet and sour sauce.  Great as an appetizer or as part of your dinner.  This recipe will make quite a few wontons, depending on how full you fill each wrapper, this recipe should fill between 40 and 45 wontons.

Great recipe, and healthier since they are baked instead of fried.  I look forward to experimenting with this recipe in the future, I think a spicy version would be very good as well, maybe a little red pepper added.
I also look forward to trying out other fillings with these Won Ton wrappers like a dessert filling. :)

Enjoying the weather today, the sun came out, and I enjoyed getting out for a nice sunny walk in the garden, I love these little tastes of spring we get in between the rainy rainy rain we've been having.  Hope everyone is having a nice Monday!

Friday, February 24, 2012

52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Week #8- The Ugly Duckling

This week, for week #8 of my 52 weeks of fairy tales, I have chosen a tale written by Hans Christian Anderson in 1843 - The Ugly Duckling.  I loved reading this story as a child, and always looked forward to the ending.

The Ugly Duckling starts off in a barnyard, where a Mother Duck has just hatched some fuzzy cute little ducklings, and one different looking little duckling.  All of the other little ducklings tease the different little duckling, and all the farmyard animals tease him, and call him The Ugly Duckling.  Even his own mother called him Ugly Duckling and teased him.

The Ugly Duckling decided it was best if he ran away from the farmyard, so he went to live down by the marsh, but even the wild ducks and geese teased the ugly little duckling.  Winter came, but the little duckling was not big enough to fly away, so he stayed in the marsh all through the winter.  The ugly little duckling had a very hard time finding food, and the weather was getting colder and colder, and he was almost stuck in the frozen marsh.

Fortunately a farmer and his son came by, and noticed the poor bird, and brought him back to their barn, where he was able to warm up, and spend the rest of the winter.  Soon spring came, and the ugly duckling was still being teased, and was so depressed.  He came upon some beautiful swans down by the water, the ugly duckling decided to throw himself at their mercy, maybe these beautiful birds would just do away with him, so he no longer had to live a life of being ugly and lonely and sad.  The beautiful swans surprised the ugly duckling, they were not mean to him, the told him he was beautiful.  He could not believe what they were saying.  The swans told him to look in the water at his reflection, when he looked he saw that he had become a beautiful swan.  He joined his new swan family, and when they flew away, he was able to stretch his now strong and beautiful wings and fly as well.  He lived happily ever after.

For my craft this week, I stitched up a little gray "Ugly Duckling" out of wool felt.

And the white swan in the picture above, also out of wool felt.  I had fun setting the different scenes for this story using my little Ostheimer ducklings, and other wooden pieces.

I found the patterns for both birds in my handy Feltcraft book that I have had for years. This book is great for anyone getting started with felt crafts, lots of cute projects.

Here is my Amazon affiliate link if you would like to learn more about this book.

This is such a nice story for reminding children not to tease people because they are different.  The Ugly Duckling in this story becomes a swan, baby swans are called cygnets.  When I was a teenager, I was a volunteer at the Oregon Zoo for two summers and spring breaks.  Teen volunteers used to work in the Children's Zoo area, and we had a lot of wonderful opportunities to work with different animals.  One of our tasks was taking the ferrets for a walk around the back of the zoo, they had little leashes and everything, the zoo keepers always told us to stay away from the swans that also lived in the back of the zoo, because they could be quite mean, and potentially hurt us quite a bit.  Apparently they are especially protective of their little cygnets. Swans sure are beautiful birds though, and I used to enjoy seeing them from a distance.

Have a great weekend! :)

The Land of Counterpane

I have enjoyed the poems from Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of verses since I was a young child, and have read through them countless times. This week when I was sick and in bed, one of my favorite Stevenson Poems came to mind.

The Land of Counterpane - by Robert Louis Stevenson

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bedclothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

This is one of his poems from A Child's Garden of Verses, I also love the poems My Shadow and The Land of Nod. This is such a great book, a must read for bedtime story time.

This week I had quite the visit to The Land of Counterpane.  It started Monday with a few small, seemingly harmless coughs, and by Tuesday I was in the grip of a full fledged flu!  Coughing away, and a fever steadily rising, eventually reaching 103.7 !  I was pretty much out of it for two days, in bed, with magazines, TLC and History Channel reruns, and of course my labs.  The dogs were great, my youngest lab, decided that the cure for my cough was that if she was nearby and I coughed, that I needed lots of lab kisses, she was a bit too exuberant with her bedside manor though, so Gary thought it best that she be put on Mailman and Cat watch, and only visit  during her nap time :) . My old faithful girl lab/shepherd did not leave my side, except a very quick bathroom break or two, after which she would immediately return to keep me company, she always makes me feel a little bit better.

Gary and the kids were very helpful, and kept up with the laundry, and I walked Gary though making Beef Stock, which we let cook overnight in the crockpot, and turned into a beef soup for Wednesday.

Thankfully Thursday morning my fever had gone, and my cough had greatly improved.  I was quite glad to get up and get dressed, and putter around the house.

When we were sick as children, my mother would always make up a bed for us on the couch in the living room, and very lovingly watch over us, bringing us cool cloths for our fevered heads, and soda crackers, 7up, and chicken noodle soup.  Another more old fashioned remedy that I remember as a child, was being served a bowl with toast with scalded milk poured over the top and salt and pepper.  Sort of a strange tasting concoction, at least to this child of the 70's and 80's who really did go "Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs".  As I am writing this though I think I may have to make up a bowl of milk toast just to remember the taste.

Anyone else remember Milk Toast?

I will be quite happy when this flu season passes us by, and the warm sunshine returns!  Hope everyone else is doing well, and is ready to have a nice weekend! :)

Here is my Amazon Affiliate link for A child's Garden of verses this one is illustrated by Tasha Tudor, what a great combination!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Catapults & School Play

This last week we have been busy with school projects and the school play.  Both of which where really fun, so I thought I would share a little bit about what we have been up to.

My daughter, for her high school physics class, had to build, along with her partner, a catapult or trebuchet or air cannon, to launch in order to measure arcs and distance and what not.  So my daughter and her project partner spent the week searching online, and planning out the best design for their catapult.

After gathering all their supplies, they spent an evening with Gary out in the garage building and then testing their catapult.  It was dark outside before it was completed and ready to be tested, and rather than go over to the park, they tested it out under the street lights on the road in front of our house.  Thankfully no cars were parked, and we have very little traffic.  It was cold and rainy, but the kids all had fun launching their catapult.  Joseph got in on the action, as well as another school friend who also stopped by.

When they all were huddling together to stay warm, I had to have Gary get a picture.

Here is how their catapult turned out, it worked very well..  They will spend more time next week, launching, and recording results for all their physics calculating.    What a fun project!

In addition to catapult building, my son was gearing up for opening night of the school play.  This is his first school play, and he plays the role of Father in the play called The Giver, based on the book The Giver by Lois Lowry.

The book is about a seemingly perfect society, where there is no pain and everything is under control, everyone is assigned a roll, and there are no choices, their world is grey.  The main character is then chosen as the new receiver of all memories, and feelings, it is then that he learns the truth about his society.  He then must make a choice as to what he will do given this new information.  Very thought provoking storyline.

I went to the play opening night, and really enjoyed it, all the kids did a wonderful job.  Here are a few pictures of the play.

Joseph is sitting at the far left of the table, he is The Father, and he is sitting here with his family.

So that is what we have been up to.  School plays are so fun to attend.  I look forward to the next interesting school project and school play next term.

Today is Presidents Day, trying to decide between making an apple pie or a cherry pie, or some other cherry themed dessert.  Anyone else make anything special for Presidents Day?

Hope you all have a nice week.

Here is my Amazon affiliate link for The Giver if anyone wants to learn more about this book.  It is often assigned as a Middle School reading choice, but has been contested as being too serious for Middle School age, however, I think it is wonderful discussion material for anyone in high school.

Friday, February 17, 2012

52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Week #7- The Bremen Town Musicians

For week #7 of my 52 weeks of fairy tales, I have chosen another tale recorded by the Grimm brothers, The Bremen Town Musicians.

The Bremen Town Musicians is a classic childhood tale, and was one that I was very familiar with as a child.

(Image from my Folio Grimm's Fairy Tale book)

The story starts out with an old donkey, whose owner is contemplating how to get rid of the donkey since he is no longer useful.  To avoid his uncertain fate, the donkey runs away, with plans to make his way to Bremen, and become a musician.

On his way, the donkey comes across a sad old dog, who is lying on the side of the road.  The donkey asks the old dog what is wrong, and the dog replies that he is so old, he can no longer keep up with his pack, and is no longer useful to his master.  The dog has run away from his home, to avoid his fate, and has no idea what he will do.  The donkey suggests that the dog follow him to the town of Bremen to become a musician along with the donkey.  So the two set off.

The donkey and the dog come upon a tired old cat, who is unable to catch mice anymore, and ran away when he heard his masters planning to get rid of him.  The donkey and dog invite the cat to join their musical group, and all three set off toward the town of Bremen.

As all three make there way down the road further, they come upon a rooster who is crowing with all his might, and who is frustrated.  Rooster explains to the donkey, dog, and cat, that he failed to wake his masters up on time, and was about to be turned into stew!  So the rooster ran away, but was unsure what to do, of course the donkey and dog, and cat invited the rooster, along with his wonderful crowing, to join their musical group, and all four set off to Bremen.

Because Bremen was more than a days journey, they needed to find a place to rest for the evening.  They spotted a house in the woods, and went to the window.  The donkey looked at the window and saw people inside, so the dog jumped up on the donkey's back, the cat jumped up on the dog's back, and the rooster, jumped up on the cat's back, and they all began to "sing" for their supper.

Inside the house was a group of robbers, counting up their loot, and preparing their evening meal, when they heard the noise coming from the donkey, dog, cat, and rooster. They thought that there was a terrible monster outside the house, so they left their loot and food, and went running off into the woods.  The donkey, dog, cat, and rooster decided to not let the food go to waste, so they went in the house for a warm meal, and went to sleep for the night.

Later that evening, the robbers decided it was silly of them to have run away from the house, and convinced themselves that they must have been hearing things, so they made there way back to the house.  When they arrived, the robbers sent in one man to investigate before they all went in.  The man spotted a yellow glow, and thought it was the embers from the fire, and bent down to light his candle. The yellow glow was really from the cats eyes.  The cat didn't like this fellow getting so close, so the cat hissed and scratched the robber, the man turned to flee and was bit in the calf by the dog, all this commotion woke the donkey, who proceeded to give the robber a swift kick, and as the robber was fleeing the home, the rooster let out a loud crow, which sounded like a scream, and chased the robber right out of the house.

The robber headed back to the other men, and told them that he was attacked by a horrible witch who scratched him with her long fingernails (the cat), a large man who had attacked him with a knife (the dog), a giant who beat him with a club (the donkey), and worst of all a creature who screamed at him on the way out (the rooster).  The robbers decide to abandon the house, and never return.  The old donkey, dog, cat, and rooster, decided that they are so comfortable in the house, that they would stay and live out their days together in the house, and they all lived happily ever after.


I am not sure who wrote or illustrated the Bremen Town Musician book that I had as a child, and I no longer have the book, but  I remember that I loved looking at the pictures of these four animals going off to start a musical group, and used to enjoy, very much, how they found the house and scared away the robbers.  Such a fun story.

For my craft this week, I decided to try my hand at a little wool felt applique.  I searched donkey, dog, cat, and rooster stencil images until I found patterns that would work, then used my printer to re-size them until they were the right size to sit upon each other.  I pinned the paper to the felt and used a sharp tiny pair of scissors to cut them out.  I am very happy to have been gifted these wonderful little scissors by my husband's great aunt, who recently thinned out some of her sewing supplies.  They work beautifully on the wool felt, and it made all the difference in cutting these animals out.  Thanks for the wonderful scissors Aunt Deloris!

I used a tiny bit of Tacky glue to hold the felt pieces in place, then stitched them down.  Here's how it turned out.

Of course I had to make the classic picture of The Bremen Town Musicians standing upon each others backs, and they are peering into the house they found in the woods.

Here is a close up of the animals.

I may put this applique in my fairy tale scrapbook, or use it in some other way, I'm not quite sure yet.  I really enjoyed this craft, and look forward to doing more wool felt applique.

Here is the Wikipedia link to The Bremen Town Musicians, where you can see the bronze statue of the Bremen Town Musicians in Bremen, Germany, and read a little more background on this tale.

Hope everyone has a nice weekend, we are busy, busy, with school spring projects and events, but its a fun busy. :)

The Versatile Blogger Award

Here are the RULES for the Versatile Blogger Award- 

1. Add the award to your blog. 

2. Thank the blogger who gave it to you.
3. Mention seven random things about yourself. (see below)
4. List the rules.
5. Award to 15 bloggers.
6. Inform each of those 15 by leaving a comment on their blog.

This morning I had a nice surprise in my comments- I have been given the Versatile Blogger Award by Corn in My Coffee Pot  - Thank You! :)

Part of the versatile blogger award rules are to list 7 random things about myself, so here goes, here are a few things you might not know about me.

#1- I enjoy my collections- I collect vintage View-Master reels, Kaleidoscopes, and also have a few other toy collections, and a rock and mineral collection.

#2- I enjoy Cryptozoology and learning about Mysterious places and creatures like Big Foot, Loch Ness, Stonehenge, Bermuda Triangle etc.  It all started with a tape cassette series my elementary school had, that I would sit and listen too, with big chunky headphones, during rainy day free time in the library.  I've been hooked since, and have fun watching shows and reading about the subject.  

#3- I fell in love with Little House on the Prairie around the fourth grade, and ever since have loved the idea of pioneer living.  This translated into my love of simple living, gardening, and crafting.  I loved this show so much as a child, if I was naughty, my punishment was to be grounded from that evening's episode, which to me was such a serious punishment, so funny!

#4- I love exploring nature, and living in Oregon is a wonderful state to explore, with its beautiful forests, and awesome coast (which I love to visit immensely), and mountains, lakes, rivers, and high dessert.  Such an awesome state!
#5- I am a true introvert (Myers- Briggs INFJ ) and love my alone time!

#6- In high school I was obsessed with astronomy, saved up bought my own telescope, and spent a couple summers, star watching every night.  Seeing Saturn's rings was amazing!  I also joined the Planetary Society and bought my own ticket to a Carl Sagan lecture when I was 16, and was probably one of the youngest ones there, all by my lonesome, downtown, I felt very scholarly.  As you can imagine I am also a bit of a sci-fi  nut, and have been watching Doctor Who ever since the Tom Baker years and love Star Trek the Next Generation and all that good stuff.  Okay, so a little geeky :)

#7- Most important for last- I am a Christian, who loves the Lord with all my heart, attends a small rural church where I have loved teaching Sunday School for the last 15 years, and have been a stay at home wife and mother for the last 17 years. 

Now to pass this award on to 15 other Versatile Bloggers that I enjoy.  Here are my picks:

Crafty Moms Share
Bending Birches
Big House in the Little Woods
Creating a Family Home
Explore and Express
Hope and Thrift
Frontier Dreams
Growing Home Blog
Handbook of Nature Study
Happy Whimsical Hearts
Harvest Moon By Hand
Life Through My Lens
My Rhythm and Rhyme in Motherhood 
That British Woman
My Simple Country Living

Fun way to spend the morning.  Thanks Again Corn in My Coffee Pot! :) 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Four Wonderful Children's Books

Yesterday was a very nice Valentine's Day, Gary surprised me with a few goodies as well as the Bakepop pan set that I have been eyeing.  I look forward to baking up some and blogging my results.  He also brought home a beautiful bouquet of red roses over the weekend, which are brightening my kitchen window.  We also decided catch a movie together while the kids were at school for a fun Valentine date.

Valentine evening my daughter had her physics project partner over to work along with Gary, on designing their Catapult - they will be having a contest on Friday to see how far everyone can get their catapult or trebuchet to launch.  Sarah really loves her physics class and is looking forward to this project.

Spring is definitely around the corner, two bulbs have just blossomed in my front yard, always nice to see the color returning to my garden.  A little dwarf iris and a clump of Narcissus.

Today I thought I would share about a four of my favorite children's books.  I just love children's literature, and can't visit the bookstore without a stop to the children's section to see what new wonderful stories are out and what old classics I can find.  Here I the four I chose to talk about today.

I'll start with my oldest favorite in this group- A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond  I have loved Paddington Bear stories since I was a child.  This story introduces the reader to Paddington Bear, who emigrated to London from Darkest Peru, where he used to live with his Aunt Lucy, but she now lives in a home for retired bears.  Paddington has a little tag around his neck that say Please Look After This Bear, and loves to eat Marmalade (so do I).  He is found by the Brown family at Paddington station, and they bring him home and name him Paddington after the station where they found him.  Paddington is a sweet little bear, but gets into all sorts of troubles and mishaps, making him, in my opinion, all the more endearing.

Paddington stories are wonderful chapter stories for children starting out with chapter books, and also make a great book to read to a younger child for story time.   I loved Paddington so much, I decorated my children's nursery in Paddington Bear when they were babies.  It would be very fun to have a Paddington Story time, then serve Marmalade on toast.

Here is my Amazon affiliate link for this book.

As I was looking up this book on Amazon just now, I came across another Paddington favorite- when my children were young, we were also fond of the old stop motion Paddington cartoons, we also enjoyed the newer Paddington Cartoon that came out in the late 90's, but no where near as much as the old stop motion series.  For years I have been carefully keeping my old VHS copies as I was unable to find the series on DVD.  They now have the entire series (56 short episodes!) on DVD for an extremely good price.  This is a wonderful cartoon for kids, much slower paced than some of the cartoons out now, which is nice for quieting down time, or if you want a nice sweet children's show for the children or grandchildren to watch.  I am looking forward to having this on DVD.

The next book I thought I would review is Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle written by Betty MacDonald.  I first read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories when my children were in grade school, and we all really enjoyed these fun stories that were written in the 1950's.  Mrs. Piggle -Wiggle is a kind old woman, who loves and understands children, whenever parents are having a struggle with their children's bad behavior they can call on Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle for a cure.  Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has an old sea chest full of magical cures for children, that was left to her by her husband, a pirate- Cures such as leadership pills, or crybaby tonic, or show off powder.  All of these cures have an interesting way of curing the behavior problem.  These are fun, read aloud stories, and a nice way to discuss behavior issues as well.  Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories are great for 1st- 3rd grade story time.

I am a big Elsa Beskow fan, and little by little am attempting to collect all of her books.  One of my very favorite stories by Elsa Beskow is Peter's Old House.  Peter is a retired sailor who lives in the village.  He speaks many languages and welcomes visitors to the village and is able to be a translator for them.  He tells the village children stories from his travels around the world, he plays musical instruments, and feeds the sea birds.  Peter makes sailing boats and gifts them to village children.  He is the village doctor and veterinarian.  If anything is broken, the villagers bring the item to Peter who can fix it.  Peter was always busy, working very hard.  But he was very poor, because no one ever thought of paying Peter.  His house was in quite a sad state.  One day an inspector came, and told Peter his house was a disgrace, and if he didn't mend it by next week, it would be torn down.  Peter had no idea what to do because he had no money to buy the items needed to repair his home. The children of the village wanted to help- so the carpenter's son, the bricklayer's son, the painter's son, the wagon driver's daughters etc. all pitched in along with their parents and other members of the village pitching in work and supplies to fix up Peter's old house.  They fixed up the house and had a nice party.  The inspector came, ready to pull the house down, and was surprised to find it all fixed up.

This is such a nice story about community effort and working together, I just love it.  The illustrations are beautiful and sweet.  A wonderful story for any children's library.

Lastly I thought I would talk about The Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall.  I first discovered this Caldecott Medal children book at the pediatrician's office when my children were babies.  I just fell in love with this simple, beautifully illustrated book.

The story starts with the Ox-Cart man loading up his wagon with all of the  bounty that him and his family have made or grown on the farm all year that was left over.  Things like extra wool, a shawl his wife made, mittens his daughter made, candles they made, linen from flax they grew, shingles he split himself, birch brooms his son carved, various produce, goose feathers, maple, honey etc.  He loads it all up in his wagon pulled by his ox, and walks with it all the way to town for ten days.  He sells all his goods, including the wagon, ox yolk and harness, and even the ox who he kisses goodbye on the nose.  He uses some of the money to buy an iron kettle, some new sewing needles for his daughter, a new knife for his son, and two pounds of wintergreen peppermint candies.  He then makes the long journey home with his new purchases and left over coins.  He returns home to his family who is eager to see him, they have a nice supper cooked in the new kettle, and a candy treat for dessert. Then they all start to work, the daughter sewing, the son whittling, the man stitching a new harness for the young ox in the barn.  The story then goes through the other things they make on the farm again in the following year.  

Wonderful illustrations of New England style country-side and towns, wonderful description of the farming year.  A nice simple story, describing the seasons and cycle of the year, wonderful book to share, just as enjoyable for the adult to read as it is for the child listening.  I just love this book.

All of these books would be great additions to a children's book collection and perfect to check out if you spot them in the library!

Hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day!  Any bulbs popping up around your yard yet?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Jane Austen Giveaway Winner

Just writing a quick post to announce the winner of my Jane Austen Giveaway.

Comment #5 is the lucky winner.

Congratulations Renee!  

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Two Valentine's Day Desserts

This weekend I was busy in the kitchen.  My son had his friend over to work on a school project, and they needed a snack, so I went to my easy, go to cookie recipe Big Fat Cookies, but gave the recipe a Valentine twist.

Cherry Chip Chocolate Chip Big Fat Cookies


1 Cherry Chip Cake Mix
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
A few drops of red food coloring
1/2 bag of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Mix Cake Mix with 1/2 cup water and two eggs until well combined, then add a few drops of red food coloring to make the cookie a nice pink for Valentine's Day.  Drop by large heaping tablespoons onto a parchment lined or greased cookie sheet.  Then sprinkle the top with chocolate chips.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until no impression remains after light touch and cookies start to be a very light golden brown on edges.  Make about 18 cookies.

I also needed to make a special Valentine snack for my Sunday school class, since I had been busy all day with other cooking, I decided to make a few more batches of these Valentine Big Fat Cookies instead of frosted sugar cookie hearts.  They were a big hit with my class, the cookie is a lighter cookie than a traditional chocolate chip cookie, and the kids always love how big they are.

I also had company today for Sunday lunch, and wanted to try out another Valentine dessert.  Again I tweaked an old favorite recipe.  I took my favorite Pudding Bundt Cake recipe that I learned from my Mother-in-law's Pistachio Bundt Cake, the same one I altered for the Vanilla Rum Pudding Bundt Cake  I made for King Cake Day, and this time turned it into a Chocolate Pudding Bundt Cake topped with Chocolate Whipped Topping and Cherry Pie Filling.  Very moist and delicious treat.

Chocolate Pudding Bundt Cake with Chocolate Whipped Topping & Cherries

Ingredients for cake:

1 Devils Food Cake Mix
2 boxes Instant Chocolate pudding
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
7 eggs

Mix all ingredients in one bowl, for five minutes on high speed.  Bake in a Bundt Pan thoroughly coated in baking pan spray at 350 F. for 45 minutes to an hour, until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Let cake cool for about 5-10 minutes in pan, then invert on cooling rack to cool.  (I made mine the night before and covered it loosely with wax paper)

Chocolate Whipped Topping

2 boxes instant chocolate pudding
2 cups whole milk
2- 8 oz. tubs regular cool whip

Mix the pudding with the milk until well combined, then fold in cool whip until combined.  Chill in fridge until you are ready to serve cake,chill for at least 15 minutes.  ( You can make half a batch if you don't think you will want too much topping, my kids love this fluffy stuff, so I like to be sure and have enough)

To serve- Slice a piece of Chocolate Pudding Bundt Cake, top with a large dollop of Chocolate Whipped Topping, and a large spoonful of canned Cherry Pie filling.  I love the cherries with this super moist cake.  Very nice Valentine dessert.

I look forward to Valentine's Day on Tuesday, and had a nice pre-Valentine weekend.  Hope everyone had a nice weekend.

Friday, February 10, 2012

52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Week #6- The Frog Prince

This week, with Valentine's Day less than a week away, I wanted to do a fairy tale that would be fun for the holiday, so I chose The Frog Prince.  I think the Frog Prince is a fun little tale, and I have always been fond of frog princes for Valentine decor. You can see my little frog prince candle holders below.

We have little frogs all through the garden, such cute little creatures. Maybe a prince in disguise?

The Frog Prince

There once was a very beautiful princess.  She spent most of her days playing down by the well with her golden ball.  One day she was playing with her golden ball, tossing it into the air and catching it, and accidentally the golden ball fell into the well.  She peered into the well, but the water was so deep she couldn't even see her golden ball.  She became very sad, and began to cry.  Just then, out of the water, appeared a frog.  The frog asked the princess why she was crying.  The princess told the frog how her favorite golden ball had fallen into the well, she asked the frog if he could get it for her.  The princess said she would give the frog her ruby ring, but the frog had no use for a ring, she offered the frog her string of pearls, or her crown, and the frog had no interest in either.  The frog told the princess that he would go to the bottom of the well and get her golden ball, if she would promise to let the frog sit with her at dinner, let him share her plate and cup, let him sleep on her pillow, and then kiss him good morning.  The princess really wanted her golden ball, so she agreed.

The Frog went to the bottom of the well, and brought up the princesses golden ball.  The princess was so happy to have her ball she ran off back to the castle, and left the little frog behind.  The frog called after her, but she was already too far, and could not hear him.  That evening at dinner, the princess was dining with her family, when there was a knock at the door.  The little frog asked to be let in, and said that the princess had promised him he could be her dinner guest.  The King asked his daughter if it was true, and she said yes, she told the king that she didn't want to have dinner with the frog, and that she thought he was disgusting.   The King reminded his daughter that she gave her word to the frog, and that the most precious possession anyone has is his good word.  He reminded her that as a princess of the kingdom, keeping her word was very important, so reluctantly the daughter obeyed her father, and let the frog dine with her, and share her plate and cup.

Soon it was time for bed, and the frog reminded the princess of her promise to let him sleep on her pillow, again she was angry, but her father insisted again that she keep her word.  So the princess brought the frog to her room.  The frog asked the princess to lift him to her pillow, but she became angry, and said she didn't want to let a gross frog sleep on her nice pillow.  She became so angry that she threw the frog across the room.  The princess felt very bad that she lost her temper, never had she hurt a creature before, she went over to see if the frog was alright, but there he lay on her floor.  She lifted the frog, and told him that she was sorry and tried to revive him.  She bent down and gave him a little kiss, and all of a sudden the frog turned into a handsome prince!  The prince explained to the princess that he had been turned into a frog by an angry fairy, and that only a kiss from a true princess could break the spell.  They soon fell in love, and became married, and lived happily ever after.

In the Grimm's version of The Frog Prince, the frog turns into a prince as soon as the princess throws him against the wall, and there is no kiss to break the spell.  Also in the Grimm's version of this story, the prince brings the princess to his Kingdom, and his faithful servant Henry, who was so sad that his master had been turned into a frog, had three iron bands put around his heart so his heart would not break.  As Henry is bringing home the Prince and his new bride, one by one the bands fall off because he is happy again.   

There isn't much back story on Henry or even how the prince came to be turned into a frog, I had never read the Grimm's version of this story, until I was preparing this post.  I had only read American adaptations that include the kiss, and no story line for the faithful servant Henry.  As a child in the 80's, I enjoyed the Fairy Tale Theater fairy tale show, one of my favorite episodes was The Frog Prince, starring Robin Williams as the Frog Prince.  

I had a hard time deciding how I would make the frog prince this week, I couldn't decide between a paper craft, or a sewn doll or needle felt.  I decided to try needle felt, and I thought I would try needle felting around a cotton pipe cleaner armature, so I could move his arms and legs.  

I decided to take a picture of the wool core wrapped around the pipe cleaner arms and legs.  I decided, after promptly breaking a needle, that I am not fond of needle felting over a wire frame, you have to be much more careful while needle felting to not hit the wire.  

Here is how he turned out, not quite what I envisioned at the beginning, but sometimes needle felting goes that, and the little fellow is growing on me. He is holding the princesses golden ball.

I gave him little froggy spots on his back as well.

My frog prince will join my growing cast of fairy tale characters on the book case.

I would love to hear what version of this story you are most familiar with, the original Grimm's version or the version with the kiss.  Anyone else remember Fairy Tale Theater?

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

There is still time to enter my Jane Austen Giveaway which ends Sunday February 12th at Midnight.

Evening of Beautiful Music

Tonight we had a real treat.  My daughter, as some of you know, is in her high school's concert choir.  This year they had the opportunity to have a song commissioned especially for their choir.  The choir, along with the community, as well as some generous local businesses, were able to raise the money to have a wonderful composer named Ola Gjeilo (pronounced Yay- Lo) write them their very own song.

Ola Gjeilo was born in Norway, and moved to New York to study at Juilliard.  He is now a full time composer based in New York.  A quick search on YouTube and you can hear some of his music.  You can read more about him at

Today Ola Gjeilo was able to spend a portion of the day working with the concert choir, and this evening the concert choir got to preform their song for the first time.  Ola Gjeilo also played an amazing improvised piano concert.  What a talented musician!  I was thrilled that Sarah and her choir have had this opportunity.  I really enjoyed the beautiful music this evening.

The song he wrote for them is called Sanctuary, and is lovely.  The song lyrics are from Psalm 33 in both English and Latin.  I believe the song was recorded, and hopefully will eventually be put on Youtube, I look forward to hearing it again, and sharing it with you.  Sarah's Choir will be preforming Santuary at their competitions, as well as spring tour.

After the event all the choir got to have their Sanctuary Music signed by Ola Gjeilo, which they all were very excited about.  My daughter, who is left-handed was even more pleased when she realized he was signing with his left hand!  Her smile says it all.

You can check out some of Ola Gjeilo's music at Amazon or itunes.

Here are my Amazon Affiliate links for some of his albums, if you would like to check them out.

I am downloading this one tonight. :)

Thanks to Ola Gjeilo for flying clear out here to our small town in Oregon clear from New York, and sharing your beautiful music.  Thanks to Mr. Friesen, Sarah's choir teacher, for putting this all together, and working so hard with the choir.  Thanks to the Molalla Concert Choir and all their beautiful voices!  What a wonderful evening!