Friday, March 30, 2012

52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Week #13 - The Midas Touch

For 52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Week #13, I chose The Midas Touch.

The Midas Touch is a very interesting story that really gets one thinking about being very careful what we wish for.

Most people are familiar with the story of The Midas Touch, I had always grown up hearing this told as a fairy tale, but in researching this story more, found it is from Greek Mythology.

In most fairy tale versions of The Midas Touch, King Midas is a King who is in love with his gold, and thinks it is the best thing in the world.  A fairy appears and grants him one wish.  The King wishes that everything he touches turns to gold.  His wish is granted.  Midas turns his castle to gold, he turns his garden to gold, and at first all seems pretty great.  Until he turns his food to gold and is unable to eat, and then worst of all when his daughter comes running up to him to give him a hug she turns to gold.  The king, who loves his daughter very much is very upset and sad, and calls to the fairy to undo his wish.  The fairy comes back, and asks if the king still thinks gold is the best thing in the world, and he says no.  Since the king realizes what is important, the fairy takes pity and reverses his wish, his daughter is restored to him, and he goes on to appreciate what is important in life.

I have also read more cautionary versions of this fairy tale, where Midas does not get the wish reversed, and dies of hunger because everything he touches turns to gold, including food and water.  

The tale of The Midas Touch comes from a Greek myth, which thankfully I was able to read, as it was a story in my copy of D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, a great book for learning about Greek Mythology.  I have included my Amazon Affiliate link for this book below.

In the Greek Myth, King Midas shows pity to a satyr who fell asleep in King Midas' favorite flower bed, and lets him go without punishment.  The satyr tells Dionysus how Midas spared him, and so Dionysus decided to grant Midas a wish.  The wish of course being the golden touch.  As in the story above, after turning his daughter into gold, he begs Dionysus to reverse the wish, and return everything back to its normal state.

I have always enjoyed Greek myths as well as fairy tales, so I thought it was interesting to find out the origin of this tale.

I am really wanting to make a new fairy tale doll, but didn't have any gold cloth that I thought would represent this story well, so I decided on another page for my fairy tale scrapbook.  I enjoyed working with my golden paint, golden glitters and gold scrapbook paper.  Here is how it turned out.

Here is a link to last weeks tale of Foolish Jack, another page in my Fairy Tale Scrapbook, as well as a link to my first scrapbook page of the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.

We are in the midst of enjoying our last few spring break days, and had a wonderful time yesterday visiting with my Grandmother, my Aunts, and two of my cousins.  One of my Aunts and cousins are visiting from out of town, and I hadn't seen them since the kids were very young.  Now that my children are older, they really enjoyed getting to visit with my relatives, we all had a great time.

Looking forward to a nice weekend! :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Carrot Bread & Easter Decorations

Easter is just around the corner, and today I spent some time putting out a few decorations.

Some wooden decorations on the coat closet door.

Some whimsical figures.

I used to buy decorations in pairs, one boy and one girl, so Sarah and Joseph would have a new fun ornament to look at each year.  So I have quite a few pairs of various Easter decorations.

I especially enjoy the little bunnies in the baskets, they bobble, and I have always enjoyed these little rabbits.

I decided to make up a couple loaves of my mother's Carrot Bread this evening.  I always like to make Carrot bread and carrot cake during the spring.

Growing up, my mother always made the most delicious quick breads, her coffee cake and carrot bread were  my favorite.

Here is Grandma Wendy's (my mom's) Carrot Bread recipe.

Preheat oven to 325 F.
Grease and flour a loaf pan

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups grated carrot ( I like mine more finely shredded)

Mix eggs and sugar, add oil, mix well, add in the rest of of the ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.  Bake for roughly 1 hour, until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  I doubled this recipe and made two loaves.

I wanted to make this recipe with whole wheat, but sadly I went to cupboard and all I had was white flour (time to go grocery shopping!) so I had to make this bread with white flour, it was still yummy, but this bread tastes wonderful with the whole wheat.

Here is how it turned out.  I love that you can see the shredded carrots, what a great way to sneak in veggies.

We are enjoying a nice spring break this week and have been having fun relaxing as well as visiting with family.  I am looking forward to planning more Easter fun this next week.  What is your traditional Easter meal?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Week # 12 - Foolish Jack

52 Weeks of Fairy Tales, post number 12, will be the tale of Foolish Jack.  This tale is also known as Lazy Jack.  This is an old tale, and one can find various versions of it in many cultures.  I first heard this story from my beloved childhood fairy tale book, and always used to get a kick out of this story.

Foolish Jack is a story about a young man who doesn't think much for himself, and as a result is always having mishaps.

One day Foolish Jack's mother sent him out to work for a farmer, after a long day of work out in the feilds, the farmer paid Jack a penny.  Jack put the penny in his handkerchief, but on the way home he lost his handkerchief along with the penny.  His mother scolded him and told Jack that he should have put the penny in his pocket.

The next day Jack went out to work at the dairy.  After his day of work, the dairyman paid him with a jug of fresh milk.  He didn't want to lose the milk, like he lost the penny, so remembering his mother's advice about putting the penny in his pocket, he decided to put the jug of milk in his pocket.   Of course in doing so, the milk spilled out of the jug.

When he arrived home his mother scolded him again, and told him he should have carried the jug of milk home on his head.

The next day jack went to work for a man who kept hens, and at the end of his work day he was given eggs as payment.  Not wanting to spill them like the milk, he remembered his mother's advice, and decided to carry the eggs home on his head.  Of course they rolled off his head and cracked on the ground.

Again his mother scolded him for losing his pay, and said that he should have carried the eggs home in his hands.

The next day Jack spent the day working at a hog farm, and was paid with a roly-poly piglet.  He remembered his mother's advice about carrying the eggs home in his hands, and not wanting to lose his piglet, he tried carrying it home.  The pig was far to wiggly, and broke free and ran away.

His mother was getting pretty angry by now, she told Jack he should have led the pig home on a string.

The next day Jack did not want to lose any more of his wages, so after his day of work with the butcher, when he was paid a nice joint of meat, he tied a string to the meat, and led it home.  Of course the whole way dogs and cats were nibbling at it, and it became ruined with dirt.

Jack's mother called him a foolish boy, and told him he should have carried the joint of meat home on his shoulder.  She was so angry at him, she sent Jack to bed with no supper.

The next day Jack's luck was about to change.  After a long day of work for a goatherd, he was given a goat as payment.  Remembering his mother's advice about the joint of meat, he hoisted the goat onto his shoulders, and made his way for home.

It happens that everyday, on his way home, Jack passed by the home of a very wealthy man, who had a daughter who never laughed.  The wealthy man always said that the first person to make his daughter laugh should marry her.  The daughter had been watching Jack on his way home every day.

Watching him carry eggs on his head, a jug of milk in his pocket, struggling with the piglet, and dragging the meat had all been very entertaining to her.  The day he came by struggling with a goat on his shoulders, with his legs buckling beneath him, finally caused her to burst out in laughter.

That is how Jack found his wife.  She was just as intelligent as she was wealthy, and taught Jack how to think for himself.  They lived happily ever after.


For my craft this week, I decided to make another page in my fairy tale scrapbook, here is how it turned out.

I just drew out simple designs for most of the items, I did find a template online for the goat and the pig, the rest I just drew and cut out with scissors and a craft knife.  

I found the perfect album to put my fairy tale pages in.  I was very delighted that there was an album with with Once Upon A Time written on the cover, and was excited to have found it.  

 Here is a link to this scrapbook at Amazon, they make it in 12 x 12 and 8 x 8, I am using 12 x 12.

I learned a few interesting facts about this fairy tale, this type of tale is often referred to as a Noodlehead tale, a tale where the main character is sort of goofy and oblivious to what is going on around him.  Also I learned that "Jack" is a common archetypal character in English folklore, and is usually a lazy or foolish character, that in the end usually ends up triumphant in some way.  The Jack most are familiar with is Jack and the Beanstalk.

Foolish Jack is a very fun story to tell children, Jack's silly antics are fun, and the story ends nicely.

Hope everyone is having a nice weekend, this weekend starts our spring break, the weather has turned from snowy to lovely blue skies just in time, it is nice to be able to open the windows for fresh air.  :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Krumkake and Cherry Blossom Straw Painting

Our spring weather has yet to be very spring like, we are still having lots of that cold rainy rain, and this morning we woke up to another dusting of snow and another two hour school delay.  It is now snowing quite a bit, and everything is covered in a blanket of snow, I am thinking we might be in for another snow day, and here spring break starts this weekend!! Apparently the weather is still getting a little winter out of its system.  None the less, spring is here, and I feel like welcoming it.

Last week, I took more pictures of the blossoms on our plum tree out front, the blossoms have opened quite a bit more, and they are beautiful.  The whole neighborhood is planted with these trees, so there are pretty pink blossoms all over.

These blossoms reminded me of a craft that I used to do in elementary school.  Making Cherry blossom branch pictures, using a fun painting technique- straw painting.  For straw painting you will need basic craft paint, thinned with water, so that it is a thin consistency that will move along the paper nicely.  You will need a nice sturdy painting paper, I used cardstock, and of course you will need a straw. Smaller straws work much better than wide straws, I used a bendy straw, and that was a good size.  You will also want to cover your surface, as the paint easily can go off the paper.

Drop a few drops of paint on the paper, I started mine in the bottom corner so the branch would branch off from one location, and use your straw to blow on the paint, it will head off in different directions, and make branches.  You can add more drops where you need it.  It is a good idea to practice on another sheet of paper before you start your final project so you can get the hang of the technique.  When you are happy with your branches, let the paint dry a bit.

Here are my straw painted branches.

Then it is time to make the pink blossoms, I found a nice pink paint, and just brushed on blossoms, adding a little brown dot in the center to make it look a little more defined as a flower.

Here is how it turned out.

Straw painting is fun, and a great project for kids (and adults), it is simple and has a nice result.  It would be fun to try multiple colors for straw painting as well, and come up with all sorts of fun designs.


I also thought I would make up a fun cookie in celebration of spring's arrival.  Usually I make these cookies at Christmas time, but this Christmas I made quite a few other cookies, and decided to save these for later in the year.  The cookie is a Norwegian recipe called Krumkake.  You do need a special Krumkake iron, somewhat like a waffle iron, but with a flat cookie design.  My grandma taught me to make these when I was in middle school and doing a report on Norway, she had a non-electric iron that you use on the stove.  When I was first married I purchased an electric one, during the pre-internet days it was more difficult to find a non electric Krumkake iron, and I was happy to find one, and have been using it ever since.  I use the recipe that was included with the Krumkake iron.

Basic Krumkake Recipe

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted and cooled butter
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cardamom

Mix all of the ingredients like you would a pancake batter, and follow instructions on your Krumkake iron to cook.  While the cookie is still hot, you have to roll it around a wooden cone, which comes with the Krumkake iron, to form it into the tube shape like shown.

I decided to give these cookies a spring twist by adding pink and green food coloring to the batter to give the cookies a nice spring color, traditionally they are not colored.

Here is a picture of Krumkake that is uncolored, and one that is green.

Here are a couple of pink Krumkake on the krumkake iron just about ready to roll up.

Here they are all lined up and ready for filling.

For the filling I whipped up real whipping cream, ( 1 cup whipping cream with 1/4 cup sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla), I made two batches and added red food coloring to one, to make pink, and green to the other.  I piped in the whipped cream by transferring it to a large Ziploc bag, and cutting off the corner to use like a decorating tip.

Here is how they turned out, a delicious spring dessert.

During Christmas I often will bake up a big batch of these cookies to bring to a family holiday meal, I transport them unfilled, and just bring canned whipping cream in chocolate and regular flavor, and fill them after dinner, the kids like to fill their own.  Of course you can also eat them unfilled, they are a delicious wafer type cookie, they are also good with a dusting of powdered sugar.

These are light and airy cookies, and would be wonderful for a spring or Easter dessert.

Here is a link to an electric Krumkake Maker from Amazon.

Hope everyone is enjoying the first week of spring. :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cake Pops and Soda Bread

We had a very nice St. Patrick's Day this last weekend, I fixed our nice big meal of Corned Beef, Cabbage, potatoes, and Soda Bread, it was delicious. Every year I splurge and buy Kerry Gold Irish butter for our meal, to go on the potatoes and the soda bread, it is very good butter, and is always a welcomed treat.

The last few years I have made Soda Bread using a recipe I found online.  This recipe is a little different than the classic Irish Soda bread, but I love it, it is very easy to make, and comes out great every time.  Here is a link to this recipe at for Irresistible Irish Soda Bread.  The only thing I add, is a nice cup full of currents, I love currents in my soda bread.  This recipe also calls for buttermilk, and I forgot to pick some up, so I used a tip that I had heard on Martha Stewart's show last week, if you don't have buttermilk, just use 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a cup of milk as a replacement for a cup of buttermilk, it did the trick, and the recipe turned out just fine.  I prefer the real buttermilk, as it does add a special something to this bread, but the replacement works just fine.

Here's our soda Bread.

I also experimented with cake pops for a St. Pat's dessert.  I got a bake pop pan set for Valentine's Day, and have been eager to try it out.  The cake cooked up nicely in the pans, but I ran into a bit of trouble with the decorating of the cake pops.  I had candy coating, but I decided to not use it because I was a little unsure of nut allergens in the product I had, so I first tried to use some canned frosting I had in the pantry, which did not work well at all, then I melted a bag of chocolate chips, which worked pretty well, but went on thicker than I liked.  They looked nice with their green sprinkles though.

Here are the cake pops before they were frosted.

Best of all I love the Cake Pop stand that my awesome hubby made up for me, when I realized I had no great way to keep them upright while they set up.  Perfect stand for any treat on a stick, and I'm sure I will get a lot of use out of it. (Thanks Gary!!)

Here is what they looked like first with the experimental canned frosting, then the melted chocolate chip coated and green sprinkles.

My daughter who is very fond of dark chocolate enjoyed the cake pops best.  I think next time I will have to experiment with more of a hardening glaze, that isn't quite as sweet.  My hats off to those who have figured out how to make such amazing cake pop creations, I do not believe I would have the patience.  But it is fun to play around with them, and I am sure I will be whipping up a second trial run of cake pops sometime soon. :)

I am looking forward to the start of spring this week, and hope the weather decides to warm up a bit.  Sunday as we were leaving church it was snowing again, which was very surprising to me since I had no idea it was even cold enough.  In the meantime, I am busy planning my garden, and look forward to getting out and planting some peas this week.

What are you getting planted in your garden this spring?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

52 Weeks of Fairy tales Week #11 - The Nightingale

For this week's 52 Weeks of Fairy tale Post, I decided on a tale that I had not heard before.  The tale was written by Hans Christian Anderson and is called The Nightingale.

The story takes place in China, and the emperor of China lives in a magnificent palace, filled with beautiful decorations.  The palace is surrounded by a beautiful garden, where the special rare flowers have little bells tied to them so that when you walk past the flowers and hear the jingle, you cannot help but notice their beauty.  The garden was so large, that even the gardener had not been beyond the garden.

Some, who did travel beyond the palace garden, knew of a noble forest that went all the way to the sea.  In the forest, in a tree, lived the nightingale bird.  The nightingale would sing so beautifully that everyone who heard its song loved it.  One day the emperor was reading about this nightingale from a book he had received from the emperor of Japan, no one else in the palace had heard this bird, because no one left the palace grounds, but the Chinese emperor knew that it must be true, and he wanted to hear the bird, so he sent his subjects out to find it.

No one knew how to find this bird, finally one of the subjects asked a young kitchen maid, and she did know of the nightingale, she brought leftover kitchen scraps to her mother who lived by the sea, and had to pass through the forest on her way to her mother's, and often heard the song of the nightingale.  So she agreed to bring them.  On the way the subjects heard a cow lowing, and asked the young kitchen maid if that was the nightingale, she said no, that it was a cow, and they were still a long way off.  Then they heard the song of the frogs, and asked if that was the nightingale, and the kitchen maid told them no, it was only frogs, and they were still a long way off.  Eventually they came to the nightingale, and heard his beautiful song, they were surprised that the bird looked so plain, and was not brightly colored, but were still amazed by his song.

The young kitchen maid told the nightingale that the emperor wanted to hear his song, so he agreed to come to the palace. The palace had been decorated for the nightingale's arrival. When he sang for the emperor, the emperor had tears in his eyes, and it greatly pleased the nightingale.  Everyone in the palace loved the song of the nightingale, and people even tried to learn his song.

One day the emperor received a box from the emperor of Japan, and inside was a beautiful golden and jeweled mechanical nightingale.  It also played a lovely song, and everyone wanted the real nightingale and the mechanical one to sing a duet, but the real nightingale sung in a natural way, and the mechanical one sang only one type of song, so the people were unhappy with the real nightingale.  The nightingale flew away, but nobody cared, they were more pleased with the new golden and jeweled mechanical bird.

( I was at a toy store a couple weeks ago and spotted this little mechanical bird, I love tin toys, 
so I decided to add to my collection. Even though it isn't golden and jeweled, I think it would make a good example of a mechanical bird when telling this story. I will have to keep my eye out 
for a musical bird which would be pretty fun also. )

After some time had passed, the emperor was listening to his mechanical bird play, and heard the mechanisms inside the bird make an awful noise, the bird broke, and no longer made music.  Shortly after this, the emperor became gravely ill, death was near for the emperor (in the story "death" is actually there in person, but this might be too scary for little children.) and the emperor was not being comforted.  The nightingale heard of the emperor being ill, and came to sing to him, forgiving him for liking the mechanical bird better.  The nightingale's songs lures death away from the emperor (young children's versions have the music just heal the emperor).

The subjects are happy to learn that their emperor is no longer dying.  The emperor asks the nightingale to live at the palace, the nightingale says he must be aloud to fly free, and live in the forest, but he will come to sing to the emperor often, and also the bird says he will be the emperors eyes and ears, and let him know what he learns about the kingdom, as long as the emperor promises not to tell anyone that he has a little bird that tells him everything.  This way the emperor would be very wise.


This tale was written by Hans Christian Anderson in 1843, you can read some interesting information about this tale and its history at the Wikipedia page about The Nightingale.  This play has been adapted for opera and ballet, as well as other shows.  

While I was working on my craft for this tale, I watched the Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theater version of The Nightingale from 1983 where Mick Jagger played the emperor.  This version was interesting, I will say that "death" was pretty creepy looking though, and I would not recommend this episode for young children. In this version the kitchen maid also plays a more prominent roll, and cares very much for the emperor, and it is she who fetches the nightingale when the emperor is dying.  I watched Faerie tale theater growing up, and loved it, I was probably in the 5th or 6th grade when we first got cable and my sister and I would enjoy this on the weekends.  I never did see the episode of The Nightingale until now though.  I do like reading and watching various versions of fairy tales to compare them all, I think comparing multiple versions of fairy tales would also be good for older students.  

Overall, I really did enjoy this fairy tale, and loved learning a new tale.  For my craft I enjoyed making a little felt nightingale, I based the colors off of nightingale pictures I found online, and tried to find the closest colors in my felt stash.  I looked at a few bird patterns, and then what should pop up on my Facebook page, but a bird pattern, shared by Living Crafts Magazine, here is the link for the bird pattern I used.  I chose this pattern for the shape, I did shrink it down to 80% of its original size, I also added wings that I just drew a quick pattern for, and added myself.  I made this out of felt rather than fabric, so I hand stitched it with a blanket stitch instead of machine sewing like the instructions suggest.  This bird pattern worked up nicely, and I think it will be fun to make more of these birds for mobiles or Christmas decorations.

I also really liked the idea of tying little bells to the flowers in the garden, and although I would not tie them on all the garden flowers, it would be fun to add a few bells to my garden this spring.

This last week I had the opportunity to share my fairy tale crafts with my young niece and nephew, who came for a visit.  They enjoyed all the stories very much, including the shadow puppet show from last weeks post about The Three Spinners.  My little niece, who is almost six years old, also had fun making up her own fairy tales, using characters from multiple tales, she had the shadow puppets playing with red riding hood and the wolf, and even red riding hood had to learn how to spin, it was pretty cute.  My nephew appreciated the story of The Brave Little Tailor, and thought that the little tailor was pretty clever.  Between St. Patrick's story books and fairy tales, we had quite a fun time with story time.

Hope everyone is having a nice weekend as well as a wonderful St. Patrick's Day, I hope to get a post up soon with our St. Patrick's desserts.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Signs of Spring and St. Patrick's Day

Last weekend we had some beautiful spring like weather.  I took the opportunity to get the whole family outside to soak up some vitamin D and get some work done in the vegetable garden.  We got all the beds cleaned up and ready to amend and  plant when the weather is warm enough.  The garden was full of signs that spring is just around the corner, so I decide to take a few pictures of the flowers that were blooming.

The plum tree out front is covered with very pretty pink buds and blossoms.

Grape Hyacinth are now popping up all around the garden.

The heather is an even deeper shade of pink than it was last month, I love pink heather blossoms, I think they are so pretty.

I have no idea what this shrub is, it was planted here when we moved in, it has pink buds that turn to a white blossom, but not quite like hydrangeas, they look similar though.

One lone tulip is starting to peek out, I love this dark orange color, all the other tulips are getting taller, but not quite ready to blossom.

Of course the crocus are in full bloom, and very pretty, I look forward to these pretty flowers every late winter.

With all that nice weather, I was looking forward to more sunny days, the rain, however, returned right away, which is to be expected in the Oregon valley.  Last night however, I was surprised when I looked out the window and saw the snow coming down in big flakes!

I tried to get a picture last night, but my camera was being uncooperative.  The snow accumulated pretty quickly.

This morning I got a couple more pictures before it melted away.  The dogs, especially my young one Zoey, had a blast running around through the snow.

We had a couple more tiny snow showers throughout the day, but it was to warm to really stick.
Although I am quite ready for the weather to warm up, snow always looks really pretty to me.  Plus the kids got a snow day, which is always fun.

We also decided to get the house ready for St. Patrick's Day, and leprechauns, shamrocks, and other touches of green have found a place on various shelves through the dining and living room.

I love my little Irish figures, and St. Patrick's Cherished Teddies.

Here is my little Harmony Pot Belly Leprechaun.

My Annalee Irish mouse with his Blarney stone.

A fun vintage reprint wooden picture for the coat closet door.

A few Irish gnomes have made themselves comfy on the craft cupboard.

And shamrocks have been tucked around the house.

Me and my daughter have been discussing our ideas for St. Patrick's Day desserts, and have come up with a few ideas that we are hoping to try.  We are hoping to give my new bake pop pan a try tonight, and make some sort of green cake pop.  We are watching my youngest niece and nephew tonight and tomorrow, so we thought we would have a little St. Patrick's Day fun while they were visiting and make a fun green dessert.

Hope everyone is having a nice week!