Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Review: What's Your Story, Frederick Douglass? by Jody Jensen Shaffer, Cub Reporter Series

What's Your Story, Frederick Douglass?
$26.65 LB

See that^^? I am going to try to include the cover prices (as per either Barnes and Noble or Amazon) in addition to ISBNs from now on. I don't want to add too much data, but I know when I am surfing blogs for book orders, the more information I can put on my order card right off the more likely it is to make it into the next order pile!

Our juvenile biography section has whittled down from an entire wall to about half of one in recent years. It just doesn't seem to be an area kids browse any more, but rather one they go to for school reports. I moved the sports and entertainment biographies to their respective sections in nonfiction, which has helped them circulate, and I am working on updating the "old dead dude" sets I have.

I have also noticed that kids here will not pick up the thicker biographies, regardless of how attractive the covers are. I could debate what they SHOULD be reading or using for research until the cows come home, but the fact is, if they don't check out, it really doesn't matter what I think. I recently looked at two series from Lerner, and while one is very text-heavy with small print, I think this series will be more appealing.

The basic premise is that Cub Reporter (a cartoon bear) is interviewing each person and getting them to answer questions about themselves. The result is a more informal tone that students might find easier to relate to. The obvious issues of slavery are presented sparingly (slave families separated, risk of recapture). The book is written around a 4th grade reading level, and has the appropriate factual information; however, I'm concerned the cartoon bear may put off a child of that age as seeming too babyish. That puts me on the fence about it, but I do plan to order more in the series and see how they do.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: Healthy eating series from Lerner, by Jennifer Boothroyd

Next up from the TBR pile: two titles from the Healthy Eating series from Lerner.

Taste Something New!

Caution in the Kitchen!

As we have come to expect from our Lerner junior readers, these are filled with bright photographs and large, lively print, making them instantly engaging for the target audience. 

Getting some kids to try new foods can be a struggle, so an eye-catching book is a good start! In addition to making everything from eggplant to cauliflower visually attractive, the first book also talks about needing a variety of nutrients to have the energy to play. It then takes a turn I wouldn't have thought of, comparing fresh, frozen and canned foods. That is a good point, though - perhaps a child doesn't like canned green beans because they are mushy, whereas crispier frozen or fresh ones would be gobbled up. 

Especially if the child helps prepare them himself! The book also talks about different ways to cook foods. How many ways can you find to cook a potato? (Many kids are surprised to learn that's where french fries come from!) Other suggestions include trying foods from different countries, or visiting a Farmer's Market to see what they have. Many states have Bountiful Baskets sites available. While ours is waiting to be re-added after a recent reorganization, I have found many new flavors that way!

Of course, before you start experimenting together, you'll want to go over some food safety tips. Or, maybe not - I was roundly scolded by my 5yo for licking raw cookie dough off the spatula the other day! Germs are covered in this second title, as well as allergies. Safe storage (who labels their leftovers, "leftovers"? How does that help?) Rinsing vegetables. Thawing meat in the fridge instead of on the counter. Come to think of it, this book is trying to ruin my life. One part I have to argue with: a food's "best by" date is not the same thing as an expiration date, and it is important to know the difference!

Other than that, this series seems to have good, if basic, factual information, with web sites at the back for further exploration. Read with little ones who are interested in getting involved with the shopping and cooking!

Other titles in the series include Why Doesn't Everyone Eat Meat? and What's On My Plate?, exploring alternative diets and the basic food groups, respectively.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Recipe: Jalapeno Jam with Canned Jalapenos

A friend who gets food once a month from a local food bank mentioned a while back that they always get a few jars of jalapenos, and she can't do spicy foods. My kids don't do much spice either, but I said I would take them and see if I could 'do something' with them. I didn't have time just then, so I put the jars she gave me in the pantry. As well as the jars she gave me the next month. And the next month. This past weekend, I was straightening out the pantry and realized..

it was time to actually do something with them!

That's 22 jars and one stray can. That's a lot of nachos. I needed some other ideas.

Last year I made jalapeno jam with some fresh jalapenos, and gave it away for Christmas. Yummy on cream cheese and crackers! I wondered if canned jalapenos could be used the same way, so I started searching for recipes. Mostly I found recipes for jalapeno jelly, with someone in the comments asking the same question I had! Time to start experimenting.

I looked at the ingredients list, and as I thought, there was a lot of water, so I decided to drain them well first. Then I tossed them in the blender and chopped them up nice and fine.

Okay, that doesn't look terribly appetizing. But it sure smelled good!

These were labeled "hot and sweet", and a quick taste test told me they weren't lying on either part. Most recipes would call for a ton of sugar for this much pepper, but I just added a cup of sugar and a cup of honey. I also decided not to add vinegar, since that was already an ingredient in the jars. Yes, I had drained them, but they had obviously soaked a lot up. So, basically, the canned (drained) peppers, sugar, and honey. Bring to a boil, then cook and stir for ten minutes.

It really bubbled and popped at this point, so I put a lid partway over my pot, and actually put a glove on the hand I was using to stir! Before I did that, a small amount popped out and landed on my thumb, and I automatically licked it off. HOTHOTHOTHOTHOTHOTHOT!!! But yummy:)

I added three packets of low-sugar pectin, cooked for five minutes more, and then canned. It made about 12 pints, although I put most of it in half-pint jars.

It looks a lot like salsa verde, but is definitely set like jam. Of course, we have to taste test, so let's break out the Ritz...

Please ignore absolutely EVERYONE'S shoes in the picture. It was a big moment.

Yum!! Enough bite to make Daddy happy, not so much I couldn't stand it. The cream cheese really brings out the flavor, so you don't just taste hot.

Verdict: canned peppers will work just fine. If you want it to be more jelly-like, you could add juice to the peppers and reduce it a bit. Apple or cranberry might add interesting flavors. These will appear in a few Christmas baskets this December - if they last that long! This seems to be our new bedtime snack!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Review: Build, Beaver, Build! Life at the Longest Beaver dam, by Sandra Markle and Deborah Hocking

Build, Beaver, Build!

This book is going to fit several niches for me. For anyone not aware, next year's national summer reading theme revolves around building - building as in construction, building as in creating, building as in making better. Animal builders will definitely be a featured subtopic, and nobody can build quite like a beaver!

Markle's text loosely follows the life of a young beaver, from three weeks old and "softball-sized" to two years old and ready to find a mate. Most of it centers around the family's dam - the protection it provides and the way each beaver helps to maintain and build it - as well as the changing seasons and some of the predators they face. You won't find complicated engineering descriptions, but that could lead to some fun at a nearby waterway, letting your kids figure out what works and what doesn't themselves.

What I found intriguing is that this is set at the biggest beaver dam in the world - visible from satellites (although that isn't mentioned until the afterward.) Generations of the same family of beavers have been adding onto it since the 1970's. This could be a great segue into the children's own families - what have they built together, be it a business, a tradition, a way of service? Or, what could they start building together now? We are right in the middle of our county fair here, and the theme is heritage - lots to think about there, whether you have a long family history to look back on, or want to start something for future generations to build on!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Reviews: Monsters!

I recently finished planning preschool programs for the rest of the year, and of course October would not be complete without a monster-themed story time. I am always happy to add fresh new stories to my repertoire, so let's see what the TBR pile has for us:

Go to Sleep, Monster!

Getting George to sleep is a nightmare. But getting a monster to sleep? That's an adventure.

Now, this is cute! George can't sleep because there is a monster under his bed. The monster (who looks like he came off Sesame Street, actually) can't sleep, because...there's another monster under the floor! A successive chain of monsters, each slightly scarier-looking but never really awful, takes us to the center of the earth, where the final monster (a dragon) has an entirely different problem.

A quick, silly read, this one will easily fit into October's story time with no worries of causing actual nightmares. For an activity, we may create a scene with many layers and add monsters to it. So many fun ways to make monsters!

Monster Trucks

Ready, set, go! The monster truck race is on in this frightfully delightful picture book.  On a spooky speedway, Monster Trucks moan! Monster Trucks grumble! Monster Trucks groan!
Join Frankentruck, Zombie Truck, Ghost Truck, and more as they race to the finish line. But one of these trucks isn’t quite who you think.

Get your different reading voices ready for this one! If you get as far as Frankentruck, and you don't read "He's alive! HE'S ALIVE" like this, you are hereby stripped of all your librarian laurels:

You'll moan, you'll howl, and you'll have your young listeners on the edges of their seats to see who wins the race - will it be Frankentruck, Werewolf Truck, Zombie Truck, Ghost Truck, Vampire Truck, Blue Bus? Another non-scary crowd pleaser, we might have to create our own monster trucks and have a race around the room!

Finally, one I picked up at the recommendation of many other librarians:

Tickle Monster

You can't scare us, monster! Prompt your listeners to reach out and tickle the monster as you turn the pages, prompting him to lose his horns - which become the moon, his hands - which become bushes, and so forth, until nothing is left but a quiet bedtime scene. Lots to do here with seeing parts of a whole, conquering fears, looking at shapes in different ways, etc. Plus it's just plain fun! This one just screams to be made into a flannel board.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Reviews: Mighty Truck by Chris Barton and Troy Cummings

Mighty Truck

Meet Clarence, a rickety old truck who goes from average to awesome when an unexpected trip through a mysterious truck wash transforms him.

We've had superhero parents, superhero kids, and superhero dogs, but a superhero truck...well, why not?

Clarence starts off looking a bit like Mater from the movie Cars. He couldn't care less, more interested in going out for donuts with his buddy, but the boss orders him off to the car wash...during a thunderstorm...

The illustrations throughout are as eye-catching as the cover. The text is a little forced to my adult ears, (the car with a surfboard of course begins and ends sentences with "Dude"), and the plot line was pretty far-fetched (I know, I know, a superhero truck story is far-fetched? Who' a'thunk it). 

BUT, all of that is perfectly suited to the intended age group, which is probably not middle-aged grandma types. An easy one to use different voices with, this may make it into some story times both here and at home. I wouldn't be surprised to see a whole series of Mighty Truck stories in the future, if this one takes off. Hand it to the very young reader who is into cars and a lot of action.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: Never Too Late for Mother's Day Books

Yeah, so that TBR pile I mentioned dates back a bit. I was sent these books to review in time for Mother's Day, and...that obviously didn't happen. Fortunately, these are books that can happily be read all year round, and there are some sweet ones!

Silly Wonderful You

Before YOU came along, so many things were different! But now there's a giggly baby, a house full of adventures and toys, a million little surprises. . . . And so much love.

The illustrations looked familiar right away, and sure enough - this is Patrick McDonnell, who illustrated The Skunk, a book I have used in story time, and The Perfectly Messed-Up Story, one of my class visit staples. Just look at that sweet face on the cover! Did you automatically want to reach down and pick her up, like I did?

This is one of those books that is written as much for the adults as they are for the kids, which may be appreciated in story times. Both parents and children will chuckle as they recognize familiar surprises (like finding "so many things in unusual places" - Daddy has learned to be careful putting his boots on!) Choosing books children can see themselves in is a big step in promoting love for reading, and the scenarios in here are pretty universal. We never see another family member, so this could be any family that includes at least one mother and at least one child. One busy, sticky, loud, cuddly child.

You Made Me a Mother

Another familiar illustrator (Fancy Nancy, of course), the text for this one reportedly started off as an advertisement. It focuses on a mother's excitement and nervousness as she waits for her baby to arrive, and then guides him as he grows up. "I followed advice. I read twelve books. I ate lots of spinach...I wasn't sure I was ready. But then you were here." A very sweet book, but I think it will speak more to mothers than to children, who aren't going to readily identify with the mother's feelings. Both the illustrations and text would make this a perfect baby shower gift, though. Nothing like making the hormonal expectant Mommy cry!

All We Know

A seed knows how to sprout. A lamb knows how to bleat. A bee knows where the nectar is to make the honey sweet. Stars shine, seasons change, and waves rise and fall. Invoking the majestic beauty of the natural world, a mother affectionately explains that some things just come naturally—like a parent’s love. a world with postpartum depression and news of abusive parents, the description alone seems slightly guilt-producing. A nice enough book that I will put on my shelves, but nothing I would bring out in a group, especially not knowing everyone's stories. If nothing else, though, the pictures and comparisons might make this a good introduction to discussions about nature, animal instincts, etc. - provided the ending isn't a trigger for the reader!

So, one hit, one maybe, and one...meh. With lots of color in the pictures, but...a little diversity in skin tone, please, HarperCollins?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Blogger Guilt

The TBR pile, AFTER weeding it out:

So what did I just finish reading on my lunch break?

Glass Sword (Red Queen Series #2)

A book I have no intention of reviewing. But, MAN was it good (even if it did end exactly as I didn't want it to). Even better than the first (Red Queen), one of those books that leaves you feeling exhausted at the end. And now we have to wait until February for the third.

So, there's a mini review for you - more actual reviews coming soon!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Vacation - Mom Style

I have had this last week off work. In that time, I:

Went camping for three days (see previous blog post).
Started to clean up from camping for three days.
Called washer repairmen.
Bid adieu to dead washer.
I don't think this can actually be called a "wheel" any more.
Bought new-used washer.
Experienced flood when trying to attach old pipes to new-used washer.
Cleaned up from flood.
Finished cleaning up from camping.

Spent one day with Christopher in which we: 
dropped off recycling
wentto Home Depot

went to a museum
shopped for school stuff
ate Chinese
got ice cream
found more Harry Potter stuff at Hastings' going-out-of-business sale
watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
packed his backpack for school

Spent one day with Sheridan, in which we:
took zucchini muffins to the sheriff's office and got a tour
got her hair cut
cruised the thrift shops
ate pizza
got ice cream
shopped for school stuff
packed her backpack for school

Spent one day with Logan, in which we:
had donuts for breakfast
shopped for school stuff
played at Kids' Kingdom
got his hair cut
cruised another thrift shop
ate and played at McDonald's
got ice cream (with Daddy!)
bought Play-doh
went home and played with the Play-doh
packed his backpack for school

Spent one day with Shane, in which we:
had donuts for breakfast
ran errands (two-year-olds think everything is cool)
bought "mine BIG flower!"
shopped at Walmart even though we didn't need school stuff
got his hair cut
ate lunch at the zoo
ignored the animals and played in the dirt at the zoo
came home and took a NAP, which lasted up until supper (for him, anyway).

(Gracie's day will be Monday, since she only goes to school for 3 hours and we don't have her supply list yet)

I also:
finished painting in Christopher's and the girls' rooms
finished the flooring in the girls' room
finished the trim in the girls' room (almost - ran out at the closet. Don't much care.)
Put things away in both rooms
sorted and folded and put away a LOT of laundry
boxed up a LOT of things for yard sale
ran a few baths

cleaned the house from one end to the other ( is cleanER)
let the kids finger paint
cleaned again
oh never mind
and prepared 56 freezer meals.

If you should need me, I will be back at work tomorrow, where I hope to get some rest.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

JAKES 2016

For many people, the first full weekend in August means tax free weekend. For those few sane people, who have no intention of braving sale-crazed crowds for the sake of 'saving' $5 in taxes, it means JAKES! If you're not sure what that is, do a search for the word in my past blog posts, or just read on - you'll get the gist of it!

Friday was my first official day of vacation, so after cleaning up after the dog who met up with the skunk the night before, the kids and I headed out the door and up the mountain. Daddy had gone up the day before, so the camper was all set up and waiting for us.

The kids started off by decorating:

Then they found the rocks, and the flowers were quickly forgotten!

They spent HOURS all weekend jumping from boulder to boulder.

Or just sitting.

The rocks are a barrier put in since our last visit, to keep off-roaders from tearing up the field beyond.

Can you see my children? Or my dog? They are out there somewhere...

They are also home to a few horned toad lizards, both big

and tiny!

I got the littles down for about a twenty minute nap after lunch, but that was it.

We spent the afternoon exploring and hiking around, as a few more people trickled in here and there. Saturday morning was when the action really began, though.

More friends arrived, setting up tents and campers.

Game and Fish, Forest Service, the Otero County Sheriff Department, Border Patrol, and of course the Wild Turkey Federation started setting up stations.

...and...the cows arrived.

Baker wants to be a cowboy when he grows up.

Too many gopher holes to ride a horse, though.

Registration officially began at 9AM.

Then opening remarks and a brief rundown of what to expect. About 45 kids, and the limit was 50, so just about right.

Part of JAKES is teaching ethics, which started with the "Poach Coach". Game and Fish officers talked about hunting laws, and making sure you were hunting the right animal in the right season, and with the proper license. Using pelts and mounts largely confiscated from hunters who did NOT follow the law, the kids learned what animals are protected and which are not, and when it is okay (or not okay) to bring home an antler you find in the woods.

Then they got to checkout the pelts and mounts up close, asking some great questions along the way.

This was a really bright group, they remembered what they were taught and showed they were really thinking about it all with their questions and comments!

While that was going on, lunch preparations were under way.

The Montoyas come every year just to cook for 100 or more people. They are amazing! And so sweet - somehow Sheridan came home with a whole stack of tortillas wrapped in foil, because Mrs. Montoya knew she liked them. My little scam artist.

Next up, and most important: firearm safety. That is drilled into the kids from the opening remarks on. We have never had an accident - in fact, I don't think the EMTs gave out so much as a band-aid this weekend - and we want to keep it that way! If we can't teach the kids to be safe around firearms, there is no point in teaching them anything else about them.

This, by the way, is one of the few pictures I got of Christopher. Just a couple years ago, he was stuck to my side, refusing to go up and ask other kids if he could play with them, when he so clearly wanted to. This year, he was out the door of the camper first thing, and I only saw him in passing until bedtime! So cool to see him blossom!

Finally, chow time! And here we see Sheridan all by herself, with Logan already through the line. Nobody needs me any more, *sniff*.

Oh, wait, Gracie and Shane do! For now, anyway.'s easier to eat that from the side, honey.

After lunch, the kids were divided into groups of 6 or 8, and started through the different stations. New this year, we had an ATV simulator, teaching kids how to shift their weight. Harder than it looks, when you are pushing against gravity, but a lot of fun as you can see by the faces.

They also talked with parents about how to pick the right size helmet and ATV for their child (upper legs should be parallel to the ground, if you're wondering:)

Logan was a little scared by the whole thing, but Marcelino was very sweet and patient, and he finally decided he would try sitting on it as long as it wasn't moving.

Sheridan, on the other hand, took a second turn.

I was afraid we weren't going to get her off!

Fortunately, the next stop was a pretty cool distraction.

When you go to SWAT team training, do the teach you what to do when your vehicle is covered in gremlins?

They're everywhere! I'm out of here!

Even more cool toys next door, with the Border Patrol agent whose name I never got.

Apparently I look really funny in infrared.

The BB gun tent gives even the little ones a chance to try shooting. Although we may want to bring a step stool next year.

Plenty of time to play while waiting for your turn.

Or, to steal a baby! This little doll's mother used to be one of my students, now she's a pretty awesome teacher herself.

 Archery is my personal favorite, because it was the only week out of each school year I didn't completely stink in PE. It seems to be both Christopher and Logan's top choice, too.

He hit the deer target several times! Don't worry, though, deer, he shrieks so loud with excitement, you'll hear him a mile away.

Good form, Sheridan!

We met up with Daddy at the muzzle loaders. Shooting is all done one on one, with an adult by each child.

Even better when the adult is Daddy.

 Shotguns next.

Even with ear protection, those were a little loud for the younger siblings tagging along. Fortunately, Miss Ellie had goldfish crackers and some mad drawing skills to distract them.

The .22's were a little easier to handle.

Logan did pretty well with this one, judging by the pinging of the target!

That all made for a pretty full afternoon! Time for a little break before supper. And, where did half the kids head?

Hey, I even found Christopher!

Maybe some day, little man.

Now there's a team, Shane and Grace. Heck, I'd run from them!

Speaking of running from, Lana here was determined to get a hug from Shane. He was just as determined it wasn't going to happen.

Grace was obliging!

Shane...nope. Pretty girls are all fine and well to look at, but they aren't supposed to look at HIM.

This JAKES was extra special, because it was also my friend Daniel's BIRTHDAY! How cool of a party is this?! 100 people, camping, awesome activities, freedom - what more could you need?

Oh, right - cake!

100 cupcakes (give or take), frosted during the brief rain shower, then handed out just as it stopped. (Camping means you can have dessert before supper!)

Now, while I was helping to frost the cupcakes, I asked Daddy to watch the children. And he watched them. Everybody watched them. The Forest Service guys apparently were getting quite a kick out of them. I guess I neglected to put the word INTERCEDE in my instructions.

While everyone else was huddled under shelter during the rain, my kids...weren't.

That's pretty darn impressive, Gracie. And I think we all know I don't mind a little dirt. BUT, it was almost time to eat, so...

Cleaning Gracie up became a team effort.

I didn't have the heart to tell them it wouldn't last. In fact, by the time she sat down with her food, her hands were already muddy again.

Miss Independent again, got her food and sat off all by herself.

 More rock climbing,

followed by a bonfire and S'mores, then everyone pretty well crashed!

In the morning, the smell of sausage and eggs lured everyone back out.

Shane found a hip bone somewhere, and had to show it to Game and Fish. He got a sticker from Marcelino, which he carried around for the rest of the day!

The Forest Service brought in one of their fire trucks, and after talking about fire safety, they let the kids operate the fire hose AND the sirens.

It got a little loud for a while.

I think any wildlife still hanging around was effectively chased off by that point.

Except for this bear we ran into:

Oh, sure, you'll hug the big giant bear in a hat, but not poor Lana!

One last try...

That's about as close as she got. Next year, maybe!

There was also a hike led by the Forest Service, but I looked at the uphill climb and decided the littles and I would pick up trash, instead. Collecting shell casings is a great way to occupy toddlers for half an hour! I was afraid Logan would be sad about missing that - he loves collecting "boolets" - but he came back from the hike munching on a giant marshmallow and quite happy!


JAKES always ends with awards and clean-up. Everybody goes home with something, but there are a few special awards given to kids who showed perseverance, or skill, or good ethics.

A tent for the young man who conquered his fear of the ATV simulator.

A bow for the young lady who showed great promise on the .22's

Um...somebody help me out with these two? I think this was when Gracie decided she was bored and wanted to wander off...

This one I definitely tuned back in for, though: a new bow for Christopher, for being helpful and responsible. As I told him, hearing things like that make me prouder than if he had shot a hundred bulls-eyes!

As I said, everyone went home with something. I went home with this thing:

And, with that (and a snack of fruit and "gorilla bars", as Logan calls them), it was time to, in fact, go home. Grace was not the only one sad to leave,

although she was the only one who screamed "NO!", plopped down in the field, and refused to move. Her first time ever camping, I guess we can say she enjoyed it!

The rain threatened, but held out until everyone was pretty much packed up. It hit us about two miles out of camp. I was turning on the wipers and explaining to Christopher why you have to drive extra slow when you know the road has just been oiled and it's wet and...WTH is THAT?

About 200 feet of it. In August. When I just got a sunburn.

And at the end of 200 feet, no rain, no sleet, blue sky. Welcome to New Mexico!

Thanks for a fantastic weekend, everyone who helped put this on! And now...on to the laundry.