Owlt for a walk

We are finally, finally getting some nice spring weather. What classic outdoor activity do we do first? We buckle Owl in the stroller and go for a walk.

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Dad makes sure Owl is buckled in safely.

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Lyra pushes Owl around the driveway…

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…but stops for frequent safety checks.

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Are the buckles still secure?

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Okay, we’re good to go!

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Better call for backup on this buckle. It’s a tricky one.

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What we’ve read so far, 17.5 months

Our little toddler still loves books, which is gratifying (and a huge relief to her librarian mama). She will look at board books on her own, and we read those and regular picture books together; she’s getting very good at turning the picture book pages carefully, if the adult reader separates one from the next.

Recent favorites are:

  • The Mitten by Jan Brett
  • Chu’s Day, Chu’s Day at the Beach, and Chu’s First Day of School by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex
  • I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett
  • Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  • Oliver and His Alligator by Paul Schmid
  • Foodie Babies Wear Bibs by Michelle Sinclair Colman and Nathalie Dion
  • The Spot books by Eric Hill (Spot’s First Walk, Where’s Spot?, Spot Goes to the Farm, Spot Goes to School, etc.)

As we were reading I Want My Hat Back for the fourth time this afternoon, the summary on the title page caught my eye: “A bear almost gives up his search for his missing hat until he remembers something important.” (For the real cataloging nerds: The Library of Congress Subject Headings for the book are: 1. Bears — Fiction. 2. Hats — Fiction. 3. Lost and found possessions — Fiction. There is nothing about revenge or eating your enemies…though I am certain there are LCSH for those too.)

Here are some other picture book summaries:

  • “A young elephant sees his dad is in a bad mood and tries to cheer him up, not realizing his own mischief caused the bad mood in the first place.” –How to Cheer Up Dad by Fred Koehler
  • “On the first day of school, a young panda learns about the the special things his animal classmates can do.” –Chu’s First Day of School
  • “A monster tries to chomp any reader who wants to go past the first page of the book in order to keep his cakes safe.” –I Will Chomp You by Jory John and Bob Shea

The kid isn’t interested in the summaries, of course – she’s interested in giant fake sneezes. AHHH….AHHHHH…AHHHHCHOOOOOOO!

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Reading Oliver and His Alligator

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Reading a board book version of the song “Ten in the Bed”

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Feeling the kitten’s soft fur

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Adventures in sewing, continued

“30 minute skirt” HAHAHAHAHAHA allow me to wipe away tears of laughter. NO. Unless you’re an “amateur” seamstress the way the people on The Great British Baking Show are “amateur” bakers, and then sure, 30 minutes. For me, an actual amateur (as in beginner, not as in “I could be doing this professionally and getting paid for it, I just happen not to be”), it took about three and a half hours in two separate sessions – one in September, and one in March, because in between we moved house and everything unrelated to that was  on hold.

I did take the “30 minute” part of the description with a large grain of salt, because I am so new to sewing, and I’m sure if I made a skirt from this pattern again, it would take a little less time. But between the measuring, cutting, ironing, pinning, and actual sewing (and troubleshooting the sewing machine), I can’t imagine doing one start to finish in less than an hour.

Modeling skirt with black top, leggings, and bootsThe instructions were clear and fairly easy to follow. I used a jersey fabric and a slightly wider elastic than was called for (I had it on hand for another pattern I was planning to make, but made this one instead). The skirt came out well enough – the seams and hem are even, and it more or less fits – but I let the fabric get bunched up in a couple places when I was sewing the elastic into the waistband, creating some unintentional and asymmetrical pleat-like things. However, they don’t affect the fall of the skirt too badly, and whatever top I wear with the skirt is likely to cover it up.

For a first effort, I’m calling it a success. I wore it to work and it’s very comfortable – which is the most important part!

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More tasty things in the kitchen

Tasty things we made in December

Sweet potato casserole (adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

Ingredients
8 Tbsp butter
5 sweet potatoes
Less than 1/3 cup each of brown sugar, molasses, and maple syrup*
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Pecans for topping (optional)

*The original recipe called for 1 cup of packed brown sugar, and also 5 lbs of potatoes; a few of my potatoes were probably under a pound, but even so, that seemed like a lot of sugar. I replaced some of the sugar with other sweeteners, about 1/4 cup of each – you could definitely cut back even more and this would still be a very sweet dish.

Instructions
Peel and cut sweet potatoes into chunks. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sweet potatoes, sugar/molasses/syrup, water, salt, and pepper; bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, stirring often, until the potatoes are tender, 30-45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450.

Remove the lid and bring the potato mixture to a simmer; gently mash the potatoes into the liquid with a potato masher. Chop the pecans and spread them over the top of the potato mixture, then bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool just long enough so that you don’t burn your mouth on the first bite.

Olive oil cake with lemon and ginger (adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake)

We made the blood orange olive oil cake, and it was very good, but it will be years before I “supreme” a citrus fruit again. Make the same cake using lemon zest and juice instead of orange, and add about 1/2 cup of chopped crystallized ginger, and it’s an easier and equally delicious cake.

Green casserole a.k.a. secret spinach casserole (adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

Very adapted: I actually used the ATK recipe for fettuccine alfredo sauce, added a cube of last summer’s frozen pesto and a whole bag of spinach (turned into green paste with a little bit of olive oil in the food processor), and used this green sauce mixture to coat cooked (al dente) rigatoni pasta, which I then baked in a 9×13 casserole dish at 350 for about 20 minutes. Grate some extra cheese over the top if you like (and who doesn’t like?).

Oatmeal walnut raisin cranberry cookies (from Baking With Less Sugar by Joanne Chang)

These are good if you think of them as breakfast cookies instead of dessert cookies.

A note on crystallized ginger and raisins, vis a vis toddlers: our kid is wild about these. I just heard you’re not supposed to give raisins to kids under three because they are a choking hazard, but they are very small raisins, and she’s been fine so far. And she brushes her (many, many, I think about 80 now?) teeth. As for the ginger…neither her dad nor I can handle eating a whole piece of ginger, but apparently she has a much higher spice/heat tolerance than we do!

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Written on stone

A small stone sitting on a wall. On the stone is written "Be kind. Everyone matters."

“Be kind. Everyone matters.”

Noticed this little stone resting on top of a wall on my walk back from the playground last week.

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The Book of Dust

Compass in hand, pointing north

Earlier this month – the week of my birthday, in fact – I learned that Philip Pullman is writing a new trilogy, The Book of Dust. The first of the three books will be published on October 19 – my Lyra’s birthday. Naturally I am over-the-moon excited about this.

A few friends and fellow librarians asked if I was going to write to the author (or his publicist), and I thought sure, why not, and then I remembered he was on Twitter. And then this happened:

Twitter screenshot of Philip Pullman's announcement of The Book of Dust and our exchange that followed

“Give my pre-emptive birthday greetings to Lyra!” This is definitely going in the scrapbook.

(Also, I cannot believe it didn’t occur to me to look up who else shared her birthday until she was already over a year old.)

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What we’ve read so far, 16 months

This post is long overdue! We have been reading, of course, I just haven’t documented it here (the last post was around 13 months). Now, if we ask if she wants to read a book, she’ll choose one, bring it over, turn around, and plop herself onto one of our laps, ready for storytime. It is the best.

I was very excited for Chris Haughton’s new book, Goodnight Everyone, but while I liked it very much, Lyra wasn’t nearly as interested as she was in his three previous books (Oh No, George!, Little Owl Lost, and Shh! We Have A Plan). It’s only in hardcover now, so perhaps when/if if comes out as a board book, she’ll like it more.

Cover image of Jamberry by Bruce DegenJamberry must be read at top speed; we pause only on one particular page so she can point to the bear’s hat filled with berries.

Lots of kids’ books feature animals:

Dinosaurs! We like I Dreamt I Was A Dinosaur and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?

Wombats! We’ve read my childhood copy of One Woolly Wombat so many times I have it memorized. She likes to point at the kangaroo’s necklace because Grandma has one like that.

Chickies! Our cousins sent us a copy of Bedtime for Chickies by Janee Trasler and Lyra loves it. This is another one she wants to race through, like Jamberry.

Wolves! We found a book that is exactly halfway between I Am the Wolf…And Here I Come! and Herve Tullet’s Press Here: it’s called Help! The Wolf is Coming! I read both wolf books to Lyra’s daycare class and all the kids loved them (there were many encore readings).

Dogs! Not all dogs, just Spot, from Where’s Spot? fame – she likes lifting the flaps. Although we actually have a real live dog in the house, Lyra still hasn’t said “dog”; her first animal word was “owl.”

Owls! We’ve given Wow! Said the Owl a little break, but are enjoying illustrator Tim Hopgood’s version of What A Wonderful World. We tried Olivia Loves Owl, which I think is cute but Lyra doesn’t care for (at least right now. Tastes change quickly…).

Blue Horse I, 1911, Franz Marc

Blue Horse I, Franz Marc

In the past week, she has developed an intense attachment to Eric Carle’s The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse, and will listen to it over (and over, and over) again. Baby’s first book about degenerate art!

Maurice Sendak is not a classic for nothing: she loves In the Night Kitchen and has started to ask for Where the Wild Things Are, and she still enjoys the Nutshell Library, though most of the appeal is being able to take the tiny book jackets off.

We also still like some Sandra Boynton board books, particularly the Belly Button Book and Tickle Time. Sometimes we’ll reach the end of these and she’ll immediately sign for “more” to read it again.

In addition to books, we’ve been listening to (and dancing to, and playing) lots of music: Sesame Street Platinum All-Time Favorites, some Raffi, They Might Be Giants’ Here Comes Science, and Caspar Babypants (Hot Dog!, Away We Go!, Beatles Baby and Baby Beatles!, I Found You!, etc.). Lyra will sign “please” and “more” and point to the music setup when she wants music, or will nod enthusiastically when I ask her. (It’s one big dramatic, emphatic nod: chin waaaaaay up so all you can see is cheeks…wait…wait…wait…down!) She’s also started saying “Yeah!”

What are your favorite books and music for toddlers?

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