Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend Recap

My, we certainly had an eventful Thanksgiving holiday weekend around here. All parts were memorable, some for good reasons and some not.

The lowlights include: a too-late night brining the turkey, running to the overcrowded grocery store 4 or 5 times for "one last thing," trying to wedge a very large bird into the pan, setting off the smoke detectors (more than once), no naps, too many naps, teething, throwing up, renting a carpet cleaner, food poisoning (not from my Thanksgiving feast, in case you were wondering), cancelling long-awaited plans, rescheduling said plans, locking the keys in the car out in the middle of the forest.

However, I cannot forget the many blessings brought about this past weekend as well:

My little kitchen helper, fresh herbs in hand-- so excited to help prepare the meal!

"Painting" the turkey with oil, prior to roasting

Getting dressed up (Yes, she's wearing sandals. And yes, they are on the wrong feet)

Cocoa moustaches

Rock climbing

Sled rides, courtesy of Grandma

The peaceful stillness of the forest

Apricot-pecan cinnamon rolls

Family naps in the pillow house

Hope you all had an enjoyable and restful weekend with your dear ones. I'll be back soon with some recipes and Christmas crafting updates!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Fall Book Basket--Fashionably Late

Oh, yes I do realize that Thanksgiving is this week and I'm just now churning out my book basket selections for autumn. But, perhaps, if you are one of those people trying to stay in the present season and not fast-forward to winter and Christmas, this list might be of interest to you. [If you happen to be in winter/Christmas mode already, very soon I'll have book basket selections to fit those categories. So, sit tight!].

Our first book basket contender is Three Pebbles and a Song by Eileen Spinelli. I first read this charming story to Roo several years ago. It's so very similar to Leo Lionni's Frederick, but worth reading for a new twist on the classic fable. The mice featured in Three Pebbles are so cute wearing their calico and lace (suspenders for the boys) and scuttling about preparing for the coming winter. The illustrations of their cozy little home makes you want to hop right into the book's pages and snuggle up! While Moses the mouse is encouraged to gather supplies to sustain the family for winter, Moses gets easily distracted by the swirling leaves and the "whistle-y" song of the wind. In the end, although Moses never did get around to gathering his share of food and warm rags to help his family stock up for the cold months ahead, he was able to contribute a few things that were just as important as the "essentials." A great message about how the sum of the parts equal the whole, just as true in families as in mathematics!

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves has been a favorite around our house for a few years running. We have a soft spot for foxes, and especially compassionate little ones like Fletcher. In this story, Fletcher becomes very concerned when his tree friend starts losing his leaves. Fletcher tries to "save" his friend by putting the leaves back on the tree's limbs. But, to no avail. However, the beautiful surprise awaiting Fletcher at the end of the book teaches him (and us) that there is beauty to be found in every season of life.

A Bear for All Seasons is not just a book about autumn. It covers all four seasons beautifully.
The illustrations are so comforting and capture all of the changes (both big and small) that accompany winter, spring, summer, and fall.

The fox (yes, another fox. I told you we love our fox friends in these parts) in the story is telling his friend Bear what he loves (and doesn't love) about each season. As he listens to Fox describing the highs and lows of each, Bear is convinced that he's decided which season is his favorite, only to change his mind again and again. While reading it, I'm always struck with the thought, "Oh, yes! I love that too!" Funny how easily you can forget what you enjoy until someone else points it and and reminds you. In the end we learn that, whatever the season, the gift of friendship helps us weather it all.

Of course, no book basket list would be complete without the works of Gerda Muller. I just had to add Autumn to our collection after having bought Spring and Summer (and last month I went ahead and ordered Winter because you can't have a proper seasonal collection of only three of the four seasons, can you?)

We enjoy this series by Muller so much. It seems a bit odd at first to "read" a book without words. But the trick is to have fun with it and make up new stories each time. These board books were some of the first books I noticed Rascal picking up and flipping through on his own. That is really saying something, because Rascal rarely sits still to look at anything.
But something about these books just drew him in. I do think they really opened his eyes to how fun books can be to just gaze at and soak up the beauty of the illustrations.

Honorable Mentions include:

Hurry, Hurry Mary Dear - My daughter enjoys this story and we read it daily during the autumn months. I'm not sure if she's drawn to it because it shows all the domestic complexities involved in readying for winter (very few of which she witnesses in our own home) or the way she gives her demanding and idle husband his due at the end of the story. Regardless, it's a quick and fun read and certainly opens the door for dialogue about fall duties around the home (like putting up jam and knitting warmies). Plus, for the littlest ones, it's fun to spot the black cat in the various scenes.

In November by Cynthia Rylant. When I first introduced this book to my family last year, I was the only one who liked it. Roo would always oblige and read it with me, but it was never the book she chose from the basket. This year, she seems better able to appreciate the gorgeous paintings and the poetic, descriptive text. I still think I enjoy it more than anyone else in the house, but that's okay. I used to often read children's books to myself, long before I ever had children of my own. So, if your children don't take to this story, maybe you can curl up on the couch and read it after they're in bed!

So that, in a nutshell (ha-ha. Couldn't resist sneaking a little autumn humor in there), is what we have sitting in our Fall Book Basket. I'm sure you'll have no problem checking them out from your local library, as it seems everyone has moved on to checking out Thanksgiving and Christmas stories (at least that's been the case at our library).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Birds of a feather...

I know I've mentioned in the past that I inherited a love of birds from my grandma. I am always scouting out the yard, hoping to catch a new bird visiting the feeder. Well, lately, the corncob feeder that I keep hung up for our squirrel friends has attracted a bluejay couple and one very large woodpecker. The squirrels, being so eager and so messy, drop more corn on the ground than they get into their mouths. All this corn littered on the ground has caused a flurry of bird activity.

Here's a blurry photo of a bluejay (I was in such a rush to capture this quick and lively new visitor!) Yes, I realize that bluejays are hardly a rare sighting for most people (my sister told me she sees a half dozen or so at a time in her yard), but they are not at all commonplace in my backyard.
One day last week, I had been snapping and spying the jays and the woodpecker just beyond our back door all morning long. So distracted I was, I realized Rascal was overdue for his nap. So, up we went.

While nestled in bed, tummy to tummy with my little man, I had birds on my mind. Ten or so minutes later, as Rascal was still nursing but definitely heading toward dreamland, I heard a bird song I had never heard before. Had the new blue jay couple brought along another new friend?? Oh, I couldn't wait to go downstairs and see!

Another 30 seconds or so later, I heard ANOTHER new bird call! "It figures!" I thought to myself. While I am away from the window and without my camera, brand new birds are visiting my feeder! And I'm missing it! I looked down at Rascal, who was taking his sweet time drifting off to deep sleep. "Come on, buddy! Please fall asleep sooooon. I want to go see these new birds before they leave. Please, little guy: go. to. sleep. Okay?? Oh, good! His eyes are closed, he's letting go of my arm...almost there!" I hoped by sending him my subliminal thoughts, I could lure him to sleep more quickly.

By the time Rascal was asleep enough for me to creep slowly away from him and head for the door, I had heard 6 or 7 new bird calls emanating from downstairs. I was more than a little skeptical that I could possibly have so many new bird visitors all of the sudden. Skeptical, but still hopeful!

As I reached the bottom of the stairs, camera in hand, I discovered the source of the plentiful tweeting. Mystery solved:
Ah ha. Some little person had found mama's bird book and had been flipping through it and pressing the bird call button again and again and again. Got to give props to The Backyard Birdsong Guide for reproducing authentic, high quality sound! Of course, I should have known when I heard the red-tailed hawk squawking that it was unlikely to be the real deal. Our tiny yard probably isn't prime hunting territory for such a bird. But it sure was fun to imagine. That's one of the best things about this bird-watching hobby-- the possibility factor is always there!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Good Morning, Mister Sun

Good morning, merry sunshine,
How did you wake so soon?
You've scared the little stars away,
And shined away the moon.
I saw you go to sleep last night,
Before I ceased my playing,
How did you get way over there,
And where have you been staying?
"I never go to sleep, dear child,
I just go round to see
My little children of the East,
Who rise and watch for me.
I waken all the birds and bees,
And flowers on my way,
And now come back to see the child
Who stayed out late to play."
-From "Eloise Wilkin's Poems to Read to the Very Young"

I feel a bit odd posting these pictures when temps around here have been in the 70's, but indulge me, if you will, in a few last photos from our recent snowstorm.

It was early one morning, last week, when I was changing Rascal's diaper on the changing table upstairs in our bedroom. He was chuckling to himself and saying, "Hi. Hi. Hi." Smiling, I glanced down at him and noticed his cherubic little face bathed in a rosy glow. He was focusing intently on the light filtering through the crack between the curtain and window shade and the window itself. His hand was outstretched as he was trying to "catch" the beam of light. I realized he wasn't saying "Hi" to me, but to the light streaming in.

The window in the bedroom nearly runs from floor to ceiling, so it wasn't long before the entire bedroom was filled with golden hues. I rolled up the shade and pulled back the curtain, and then I beheld one of the most peaceful and serene sights: a peaches-and-cream sunrise over a magical blanket of white.

The children and I just sat in the window and marveled at all the little tiny ice crystals hanging from the branches. We etched designs in the frost on the windowpane. Mere minutes later, the pinks and purples faded into bright blue sky. That little window of sunrise is so small, that to catch it before it fades to day is such a treat!
After we headed downstairs, I caught another glimpse out our patio door and couldn't believe how the sun was making such quick work of melting the snow off these tender tree top branches.
I just love the quiet that fills the air the morning after a big snow. That sort of quiet that is almost deafening, if you know what I mean. The kind that nudges the negative thoughts and weighted-down feelings out of the way and, instead, fills your head and your senses with crisp 'n' clean freshness! Other than sleeping in, starting my morning out with the rise of the sun is my favorite way to start the day.