It began as one of those dreams where the setting and events that were unfolding seemed simultaneously familiar yet unfamiliar. Instead of watching the vision like a movie, I was taking part and looking out through the woman’s own eyes toward three children gathered around a kitchen table. A snowy scene beyond the window was as well-known to me as the back of my hand.
The mood was both comforting and uncomfortable. I started to waken, but willed myself to remain in that place. Every inch of the room was recognizable to me, as were some of the occupants. As I held onto the dream, I knew without a word being uttered what had happened to these people and what their futures held.
Next, I just needed to wake up and write the story!
Several years after that writing, the resulting short fiction, “Slip of the Lip,” now appears in the 2018 edition of the UPPAA’s anthology, the U.P. Reader. That publication is an intriguing mix of fiction, non-fiction, prose, poetry, and photography, with its roots planted firmly in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I’m proud to have my writing once again included, along with so many talented contributors.
The weekend has just begun, and I’m already thinking about Meatless Monday! Temperatures here in Texas have climbed way too high for the beginning of June, so I definitely won’t want to use the oven. Simmering a covered pot on top of the stove seems like a good option.
Did you eat kale as a kid? I never did, even though my father was a prolific vegetable gardener. Maybe it doesn’t grow well in Michigan? Not sure. After buying a bag of the green stuff a while back, I then had to figure out what to do with it. I settled on a vegetable gumbo that worked with other ingredients I had on hand, and it turned out quite tasty! My kale was the curly type, but I’m sure that tender baby kale would also work well and cook even more quickly. The texture of the end result would just be a bit different.
If you don’t know much about kale or haven’t tried it lately, you might want to consider some important health implications. This NPR article (also available on the site as a podcast) tells us that people who eat leafy green vegetables every day (like spinach, kale and collard greens) appear to have slower cognitive decline rates. That’s good news, and now we just need to come up with more interesting ways to eat them! Try the following recipe, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Make it as spicy or mild as you like:
Cook on high until the mixture starts to bubble, and then turn to low and simmer until the kale is tender. Add more water or stock during cooking if needed.
Serve over cooked rice…or not!
If you’re cooking for kids and haven’t yet convinced them about the wonders of kale, you might also try making roasted kale chips as a fun family activity. There are many recipes to choose from on the Internet!
When I moved back to my home state of Michigan about fifteen years ago, I jumped at the chance to teach kindergarten at a Pre-K/K early learning center. That public school was in the Upper Peninsula and part of the state’s most northern K-12 school district. My recent teaching experiences were with upper elementary students, and it had been years since I worked in a preschool or completed a short stint in kindergarten during my student teaching. To say that I was nervous is an understatement!
Imagine my excitement when I discovered a dark cupboard full of colorful ‘big books’ the first day I visited my new classroom. Many of the titles were written by the prolific New Zealand author, Joy Cowley, whose books I hadn’t previously encountered. During that school year, I learned to love her books just as much as my students adored them!
All of Ms. Cowley’s books are great, but Mrs. Wishy-Washy was the most popular character, hands down. Here’s some background about her:
Who is Mrs. Wishy-Washy? One of Joy Cowley’s most-loved characters
What is very important to her?Cleanliness!
Where do she and Mr. Wishy-Washy live?In a rural area in the state of Washington
When does she get grouchy?When something gets in the way of her washing
Why do her animals sometimes look sad?They are tired of being washed!
Besides tales of keeping other characters and her surroundings clean, other antics involve a farm fair, birthdays, gardening, baking, and appearing on TV. The students loved chiming in during ‘shared reading’ time and then reading on their own with the small-book versions of the matching titles.
Ms. Cowley’s books are very conducive to a wide variety of literacy lessons: beginning and ending sounds, blending, rhyming, story elements, sequencing, building words, spelling patterns, sight words…the list goes on and on! Beyond that, many of them also lend themselves easily to tie-ins with other areas of the curriculum, such as science, math and social studies.
It’s no wonder that I again sought out Mrs. Wishy-Washy and friends some years later, when I found myself teaching young learners in another U.P. location. In relief, I found the school library housed many of her big books for the teachers to share, and that the smaller versions were already on the shelf in my classroom.
For those of you who write for kids, this author has a wonderful book titled Writing from the Heart that I’ve found to be a great resource for my own writing. If you’re teaching or have young children and haven’t met Mrs. Wishy-Washy and Joy Cowley’s other books, you may want to check them out. I’d love to hear about your favorite picture book characters OR about your ‘go-to’ resource books for writers!
According to the ALA (American Library Association),
“…despite the additional federal dollars for domestic programs in 2018, the 2019 budget proposed later in February 2018 by the White House again eliminates funding for libraries across the country through LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) and IAL (Innovative Approaches to Literacy), and the fight to reinstate and retain this primary source of federal support for libraries, as well as other programs affecting libraries, will continue into the next year.”
On May 7-8, nearly 500 library advocates are heading to Washington, D.C. to meet with their Senators and Representatives. You can help boost the signal! There are three “asks” for National Library Legislative Day (NLLD) this year:
House & Senate: Reauthorize the Museum and Library Services Act (S. 2271)
House & Senate: Fully Fund LSTA and IAL for FY 2019
House & Senate: Visit a library, see broadband access in action
You have plenty of ways to participate in NLLD from home! Check out the toolkit, with suggestions for spreading the word through social media and writing your elected officials an email inviting them to tour your library.
Check the LSTA and IAL letter trackers to see if your Senators and Representatives signed this year! If not, please consider contacting them! You can find your elected officialshere.
I love my library and depend on it in so many ways beyond finding books and other media! It’s also an important social hub in the city square that offers programs like book clubs and writing critique groups, along with available space for tutoring. What do you appreciate most about your library?
On the last Saturday in April (and every day!) celebrate and support those wonderful, independent bookstores. My mind floods with memories of shops I have known and loved, with many of them now being too many miles away for a quick visit. What factors are most important to you in a bookstore? I certainly have several thoughts on the matter, but also wondered what some of you look for in your “tome travels.” Leave a quick comment about what you think makes a great place to shop, or about your favorite “finds,” on your way out the door to load up on books!
TIP OF THE HAT: Among my all-time favorites is Snowbound Books in Marquette Michigan…
During much of my childhood, the public library in our little town was housed in a small area adjacent to the fire station. Each time I arrived at the library with my family, I worried that the fire alarm might sound during our visit. However, I remember a span of several years when I would hurry immediately to a certain shelf where the books by Maj Lindman were lined up, and I soon forgot all my worries.
This author/illustrator from Sweden produced several series of picture books from the 1920s through the 1960s, including those featuring the triplet boys, “Snipp, Snapp, andSnurr,” and also the set of titles built around triplet girls, “Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.” I’m happy to say that I’ve collected one from each series, which are library editions published in 1960. I see that Albert Whitman & Company has reissued many of these books (some with paper dolls, no less!); but, for me, those actually printed during my childhood mean so much more.
While looking my copies over, recently, I considered what it was that I had liked so much about them as a child. Possibly I can put some of my discoveries to use when fashioning my own books for young readers. I came up with the following factors:
Settings – The country’s name, “Sweden,” is stated in two out of the three books that I own in these series. Even when not mentioned outright, the setting depicted in the book feels very different from my neighborhood that was in the midst of a small town in Michigan.
Freedom – Since many of the stories take place on farms or in other rural areas, the children often seem quite free to roam as they please and have many adventures that often involve animals, as well.
Names – Beyond the triplets’ monikers, many of the other characters have names that were also unfamiliar and interesting to me.
Family structure – Until I was somewhat older and a nearby neighbor gave birth to triplets, I had never known any such families. (Imagine my surprise when that trio was made up of one boy and two girls!).
Visually appealing – The lovely, full-page illustrations are so pleasing to the eyes, and many of the editions use a somewhat enlarged and easy-to-see font.
Simplestories that often involve extended families – This serves as a vehicle to get the children away from their homes and broadens the story options.
Surprise endings or subtle lessons to be learned – As I remember, the resolutions seemed satisfying to me as a child.
All that being said, it appears that some of the books are rather long and run over 1200 words. My mother preferred to read shorter books for story time, especially since I also had an even younger brother. My father usually chose to tell us stories that he made up, on the rare evenings when he arrived home early enough from work. My older sister was always eager to read to me, though, for which I am forever grateful.
Although the type of stories that appeals to today’s children has evolved, I’m sure, I believe that there are still some nuggets of basic childhood yearnings to be found in the pages from our youth. I’d love to hear about your favorite childhood books and what it was that drew you to them!
A friend of mine recently expressed a preference for chicken paella over that made with seafood. You know exactly what I was thinking…and the following post is a tried and true recipe for vegetable paella!
I recall an entertaining chapter in Derek Lambert’s book, Spanish Lessons, in which the author’s wife carefully plans a dinner party while they are residing in Spain. Paella will be the main attraction, for which they rent a huge pan to cook the dish over an open fire. In a comedy of errors, two of their “friends” drop the pan and spill much of the ingredients on top of some gravel that had been brought to the yard during their remodel. Not wanting to admit their mistake, the men just scoop up what they can and pick out the obvious pieces of gravel. You can just imagine what happens at the table as the guests begin eating…
No, this recipe doesn’t contain gravel. What is paella, you might ask. It’s a traditional Spanish, or Valencian, dish that contains rice, often various meats or seafood, and a variety of legumes and vegetables. To me, the taste is dictated by the main spice: saffron. Sure, it’s expensive, but adds a deep, earthy flavor that is crucial to success.
Shopping List (amounts vary depending on your preferences)
Saffron Paprika Rosemary (if desired: sprig of fresh or dried) Salt and pepper to taste Olive oil Vegetable stock (have at least 2 cups handy, but could also use part water) Garlic (chopped) Onion (diced) Red, orange, and yellow bell peppers (long slices) Tomatoes (diced: fresh or canned) Green beans (cut: fresh) Eggplant (hefty chunks) Portabella mushrooms (large, cut into thick slices) Chickpeas (canned or pre-cooked) Rice (Arborio or other; I’ve used gluten-free with success)
Soak a healthy pinch of saffron strands in a bit of hot water. In a large, low pan, stir fry the eggplant, onion, garlic, and peppers in olive oil to soften. Add rice (at least 1 cup), stock, tomatoes, saffron, rosemary (if wanted) and a few teaspoons of paprika. Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer, uncovered, for at least 10 minutes. Stir as needed, although some cooks like to allow the rice to cake a bit on the bottom of the pan, being careful not to let it burn.
Add the chickpeas, green beans, and mushrooms. Cook about 15 minutes longer, or until the rice is softened and the mixture is thick and bubbly. If you plan to imbibe, a good Spanish red would go nicely!