Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Giveaway, Part 4 1/2

Carrie over at Reading to Know is also having a giveaway - a very cute version of The Twelve Days of Christmas.
I'm telling you about it even though I have entered, because that's just the kind of person I am. And, because there are two copies up for grabs, so we can both win! So, quick, click on the blog name and go leave your comment!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Holiday Giveaway - Part 4

I can't really call this a Christmas giveaway today, since the books we are giving away are all about Hanukkah. All three are from Lerner, so you know the printing and binding are all of great quality, right off the bat.
I was tempted to keep this first one:
The Count's Hanukkah Countdown
Title: The Count's Hanukkah Countdown
Author: Tilda Balsley and Ellen Fischer
Illustrator: Tom Leigh
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing (division of Lerner)
ISBN: 978-076-137-5562
HC Price: $16.95
Besides the obvious appeal of the Sesame Street characters, we are working on counting at home. The number 8, of course, features prominently, along with some subtle number skills (wait...we only have seven...we need one more!). The very basics of the celebration, from the addition of a candle each night to the story of the Maccabees, are introduced. This would be a good book for children who have not celebrated Hanukkah, probably not so much for those who do. The only issue I have with it is really a tiny one - why do Jewish children in books always have to have traditionally Jewish names? Lovely names, of course, it just seems a bit contrived that no one in the family ever has a non-traditional name.
Moving on to:
Caleb's Hanukkah
Author: Lisa Bullard
Illustrator: Constanza Basaluzzo
Publisher: Millbrook Press (division of Lerner)
ISBN: 978-076-135-0774
HC Price: $23.95
Like the Sesame Street book, this one is part of a series (watch for a review of Carter's Christmas soon). I will be ordering the whole set for the library, so I don't mind including this one in the giveaway! I really like the explanations of the various parts of a Hanukkah celebration - Bullard manages to give a little more detail and background of some parts of it (such as the purpose of the dreidel) without weighing the book down. Finding a good Hanukkah read-aloud for story times is difficult, but this one would do nicely. There are even instructions for making your own dreidel out of a milk carton.
Last, but not least:
Product Details
Title: Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue
Author: Heidi Smith Hyde
Illustrator: Jamel Akib
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
ISBN: 978-076-136-6256
HC Price: $17.95
There are very few picture books that touch upon the persecution faced by the Jewish people over the years, and this one does so very gently - seen, as it is, through the eyes of a child who doesn't understand his father's fear. Emanuel's father, and many others in their whaling town, are 'secret Jews' who emigrated from Portugal. Although they are now free to practice their religion, they continue to do so in secret - until a storm late one Hanukkah night.
If I was giving any of these three as a gift, I would pair it with this set from Constructive Playthings:
We just got it at the library a couple months ago, and I have been very impressed with the quality and durability of the pieces. This set would be excellent either for children who celebrate Hanukkah, or for a classroom situation.
If you would like to win all three of these books (but not the play set - sorry, we're keeping that!), just check out the giveaway rules here, and leave us a comment!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas Gifts for Creative Kids - Part 2

As I mentioned in a post earlier this month, this Christmas we are focusing on gifts that spark our kids' creativity, and which they can use together. This gift may also spark a migraine or two, but it's one of those things that you know they are going to enjoy, so once you get the idea, you can't let go of it.
This gift is mostly for L., although the others will enjoy it as well. He is 16 months old now, and ALL BOY. He loves NOISE, and he loves getting into things he is not supposed to.

He has a drawer in the kitchen with things he is allowed to play with, but that doesn't seem to be enough - and, quite frankly, I am tired of searching for the rolling pin or the potato masher when I need them. I decided to give the kids their own set of kitchen supplies, painted in bright colors to make it clear which things are theirs, and which are NOT.
I spent a whopping $4 at a local thrift shop for the basic materials:

Then used up the paint left over from another project:

In addition to setting them apart, the paint makes them look brand spanking new. Toss them in a basket, and you have a cheap and easy gift that any little one would absolutely love. And, hey, if it ends up becoming an "outside only" toy by New Year's Eve, it's durable enough for that, too! Remember, despite what major retailers would have you believe, gifts should not be expensive or flashy or electronic - they should be something that will make the recipient happy, preferably for more than just the moment of unwrapping.
How about you? What gift would make you happy, without costing an arm and a leg?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Christmas Giveaway Day 3

For complete instructions and rules, visit this link
Two books to give away today (both to the same winning post):
From Peanut to Peanut Butter
Okay, raise your hand if you have a child in the "Why?" stage? That's what I thought. Some questions we can answer, but sometimes we get questions like, "Why is that car blue?" "Why is that man tall?" It can be a real stretch of the creativity to find an answer ("I don't know" is usually met with "Yes, you do!"). It's nice to have books like these to take over for you sometimes.
This series includes natural cycles, such as From Tadpole to Frog, and From Shoot to Apple, as well as other food topics - Fom Cocoa Bean to Chocolate would, of course, be my favorite:) We have the peanut butter book to give away, courtesy of Lerner Publishing. Their binding is easily the best in the business, durable enough for library use, but still eye-catchingly attractive.
Also from Lerner:
Circles, Stars, and Squares: Looking for Shapes
Another series that also includes patterns, textures and colors. I LOVE the pictures in this one, beautiful bright photographs showing shapes in everything from candy to stained glass windows. The text is simple and the descriptions clear, including three-dimensional shapes such as cones and cylinders.
So, what would you pair with either of these as a gift? With the peanut butter book, I would attach a coupon for a day cookng together. Maybe make buckeyes (showing my Ohio roots), or try making peanut butter ourselves. With the shape book, quilting together comes to mind - not that I am any good at that, but I think the time together is more of a gift than the skill imparted! How about you? Share your ideas for a chance to win both of these!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Christmas Giveaway Day 2

Between now and Christmas, I will be giving away books, books, and more books! For complete rules and instructions, visit this post. (As I type, there is still time to enter that giveaway - which entry so far.)
Big Nate: In a Class by Himself

Today's entry is a bit more contemporary. Younger readers who are just discovering Big Nate tend to think author Lincoln Peirce was inspired by the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series. In actuality, Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney grew up reading Big Nate comics, so the inspiration was the other way around. Either way, if your reader likes one series, he or she is bound to love the other!

In Big Nate: In a Class by Himself, Nate gets a fortune cookie that tells him "Today you will surpass all others". Of course, if you read it in a fortune cookie, it must be true - just check out the fortunes we all got during our last movie night. The cookie isn't very specific, however, so Nate spends most of the day looking for ways he can surpass all others - with an end result that he wouldn't have predicted, but which fits him to a "T".

If you are not familiar with Big Nate, it is good, clean humor, appropriate for any age. Lots of gross-out humor, poking fun of grown-ups and siblings. If you are the type of grown-up who thinks chilren's books shouldn't make fun of grown-ups, you are probably the kind of grown-up that gets made fun of in books that make fun of grown-ups. Just sayin'. Interspersed with caricatures, lists, and illustrated factoids ("Dad handed out rice cakes for Halloween one year. That was also the year our house got egged. Connect the dots, Dad.")

The version we are giving away is actually the "Special Edition" (donated by HarperCollins), which includes an additional 16 pages of "Jolly Comix and more"! To have a chance of winning it, just leave a comment with a creative way to give this book as a gift. I am going to take the most obvious, and say, pair it with a good sketch pad and artist's pencils, maybe even a book about drawing caricatures like this one:

The Practical Guide to Drawing Caricatures

Hmm...looks familiar...

Happy commenting!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Unsung Hero

This is Maisie.
I don't normally name my small kitchen appliances, but after Daddy pointed out how much work she had done, I decided she deserved her very own blog post. And, if she was going to have her own blog post, she needed a name.
Does Maisie look tired? She should be. In the space of the last three days (one of which I was at work all day and which shouldn't really count), she mixed double batches of the following:
Graham Cracker Cookies
Vanilla Wafer Cookies
Crisp Lemon Sugar Cookies
Mocha Crackle Cookies
Chunky Drop Cookies
Soft Ginger Puffs
Mom's Molasses Cookies
Pudding Sugar Cookies
Cranberry Cashew Jumbles
Chocolate Snowballs
Vanilla Chip Cherry Cookies
Chewy German Chocolate Cookies
Lemon Oatmeal Cookies
Fruitcake Cookies
Ginger Thins
Jeweled Coconut Drops
Spice Cookies
Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
a quadruple batch of Peanut Butter Cookies
...all without overheating once. However much extra flour I added, she just kept plowing through. Pretty impressive, since this isn't the most expensive beater out there - I have killed more than my fair share, so I tend to buy those in the cheaper range. If you're looking for a hand mixer to get you through the holidays, though, I highly recommend getting one of Maisie's siblings!
P.S. If I give you cookies for Christmas, pretend you are surprised.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Christmas Giveaway Day 1!

Books make awesome gifts any time of the year. The thing is, some recipients receive them more joyfully than others. In my house of readers, specific books are at the tops of wish lists, but not all kids love to read. Sad, but true. It is the fervent belief of every librarian, however, that kids (and adults) just have to be introduced to the right book, in the right way, to turn that book-loving switch on.
This brings me to one of my favorite holiday blog offerings, Mother Reader's 150 Ways to Give a Book. Why just give a book about cars, when you can give said book with a car? Or, conversely, why give a toy car all by itself, when there are a million great books to go with it?
Mother Reader goes way beyond such pairings in her suggestion list, and my personal favorites are those that involve something other than a toy (see my earlier post on that).
I just spent a whole afternoon at work sifting through extra book covers to make a display suggesting book-and-other-gift pairings, and got so carried away, I think it's going to take up my entire 40-foot display wall. Oh, well, my usual Christmas decorations needed a break. My creative juices are still flowing, though, and I need another outlet - so, I am dragging you guys into it with a huge giveaway.
From now until Christmas, I will be reviewing or featuring books, both new and old, that have been sent to me for review. I'll give an idea or two for a gift to go with each book. Then YOU, creative readers, please fill my comment boxes with your own ideas for said books. 48 hours after I publish each post, I will select a comment at random, and that person wins the book!
Annoying little rules:
1. Each person can win up to two times.
2. US mailing addresses only, please.
3. One comment per person, per blog post (but your comment can have as many ideas as you like).
4. That's all I can think of right now.
To start us off, I have a hardcover 60th anniversary edition of a classic:
Charlotte's Web
Contributed by HarperCollins
My kids have been enjoying the movie at Grandma's, so this may be our first chapter-a-night read-aloud. Do I really need to review this treasure? It has been loved by several generations, girls and boys alike, young and old. Friendship, danger, growing up, and overcoming impossible odds. What's not to love? It wasn't until I reread it recently that I noticed the bits where Fern's mother consults the family doctor about Fern's odd behavior, and gets wonderfully sage advice each time. Yep, I'm going to have to check a copy out and start it tonight. This one can be yours, though - I promise I won't even crack the spine!
So, what would be the perfect gift to go with it? I'm thinking a stuffed pig with a little spider friend, but I KNOW you can come up with something more creative than that! Comment away, and stay tuned for the next title!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Christmas Gifts for Creative Kids - Part 1

My kids have way too many toys. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many.
We have weeded many times, and I can honestly say that the toys we still have in the house are ones that they play with regularly - the problem is that their play is so creative, it jumps from idea to idea, and everything gets used in one fashion or another. (It is a little disturbing to come into the living room and find Elmo and Bob the Builder, with backs to the dresser and arms pinned inside like they are in the stockades. Just keep walking and don't ask questions, Mom.)
This makes things like Christmas and birthdays a little difficult - you want them to be able to unwrap something that makes their eyes light up, and those little mental gears start whirring, but it is quite obvious that we really don't need any more toys.

So, two things came to mind this year: one is the aforementioned creativity, and the fact that every time they play together, there is a story of some sort.

I'm not sure I want to know the story here, either.
The other is that, generally, they do play together, which means toys they share are perfectly acceptable. With that in mind, we have put together three main gifts that I am going to share here (one each week or so), in hopes that it will spark some ideas for other parents of creative kids:
We already (obviously) have a few, and blankets can always be capes or ghost coverings or Santa's sack (sometimes within the same play period) - but, more is always better, right? I had a wicker chest sitting in the garage, which will fit perfectly next to S's bed, so I started filling it with odds and ends picked up after Halloween and at thrift shops and yard sales. I am wrapping each individually, with little notes to help them guess what is inside:
Okay, not exactly a riddle for the sphinx, but these are little ones we are talking about. I tried to focus on things that denote certain professions or characters without putting together the entire outfit - giving them a suggestion, in other words, while still letting their creativity take over (when they play firefighters, they use C.'s backpack and his Harley Davidson canteen as their oxygen packs!)

This cost me a whopping ten cents! Is it a band uniform? A general's coat? A king's formal wear? Who knows what they'll decide!
The chest is full of wrapped packages now, with two open ones sitting on top: a butterfly outfit, and a ninja. Still deciding what to set out for L., but I know those two will be snatched up instantly. After that, I am going to have them open a couple every day or two, to stretch the excitement out, and make sure everything gets played with at least a little.
The bonus on this gift is that they are used to seeing the chest in the garage, and don't look twice at it - they have no idea they have been walking past and sitting on a major Christmas present!
So, what ideas do you have for your creative kiddo? Share here so other Moms can steal borrow! And, shh, don't tell my kiddos what Santa has up his sleeve!
P.S. But WHAT, besides gift certificates, do you give the smart, nonmaterialistic 18-year-old mountain girl???

Friday, November 16, 2012

How NOT to Make Frozen Banana Bites

1. Start with firm, just-barely-ripe bananas. Peel 'em.
2. Chunk 'em.

3. Melt some chocolate chips (1 minute in the microwave, stir, another 30 seconds at a time until they are all melted). Fail to notice smudge on camera lens.

4. Dip banana chunks in chocolate, then roll in toffee pieces (or chopped nuts). Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Continue to not notice smudge on lens.

5. Decide this is way too messy, and the chocolate and toffee are getting mixed anyway, so maybe you could just dump everything together and stir.

6. Decide that was a dumb thing to do, and now you have a gloopy mess. Notice smudge on lens, finally. Take another picture.

7. Decide that's better, but you really just need a new camera. And that this gloopy mess is not going to work. Decide to freeze bananas as-is, then dip and roll them again.
***time lapse***
8. Re-melt leftover chocolate. Take cookie sheet with bananas out of freezer. Drop the entire shebang on the floor.
9. Say bad word of your choice (it's okay, the kids are napping). Consider wildly for one moment whether you can salvage them. Then consider the state of the pantry floor.
10. Repeat bad word, and throw bananas in trash. Look for cookie recipe that uses melted chocolate. Consider bright side: at least you can get a blog post out of it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New Picture Book Favorites

Ah. Dorable. The old favorite by Rose Fyleman, "I think mice are very nice..." is given new life with Ehlert's cute-as-a-button (and a piece of string and a scrap of paper) mice. They react quite personally, not to mention comically, to each line - flossing to take care of their white teeth, for example. Ehlert's signature multi-media collage illustrations offer plenty for children to examine, making this perfect for both a read-aloud and a read-alone, even if your little ones aren't actually reading yet!

If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet

This is one of those books sure to fire up your kids' creativity. I finished it and immediately wanted to go out and look for rocks with interesting shapes! Not only does it feature a rock in the shape of every letter of the alphabet, McGuirk also has a rock (or two or three) in the shape of something that starts with that letter (the one for "x" is AMAZING!)

 He Came with the Couch

Quirky is the word I will use here. This is a very quirky little book. I knew I would like it when I saw the first pages. I couldn't find an image of them online, but; picture a crazy-haired blonde child sitting in a tree, looking on as a sofa with muddy paw prints, holes, and flames shooting out of it, comes hurtling out the window of the house. The facing page says, simply, "Our family needed a new couch." YA THINK?!

I have already seen some cute classroom extensions, including having the couch critter tell why he would be a good family member. We'd take him! We already have the crazy-haired blonde child and the destructive dogs, thank-you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Quack Goes to the Ranch

A guest post from the tag team of Daddy and S.'s duck Quack. Usually, S. sends one or more of her little bears (all named Sarah) to work with Daddy, and they ride around in his pocket and keep an eye on him. Yesterday, she seemed to think he needed more watching, so she sent Quack instead. He doesn't quite fit in Daddy's pocket, so he got to take a good look around at all the cool things on the ranch. Here is his and Daddy's story of their day:
This is "Quack," S's newest favorite baby. But today she had to go with Dad to keep him company. So the story will be told along with pictures.

Dad says you have to start the work day out with a good breakfast. Hot spicy sausage with cheese on a biscuit hit the spot!

At the ranch I got to play on the ice......

And on the bronze bear.

Dad said we really needed to watch out for coyotes. Here I'm keeping watch while dad does some work.

Taking a ride on one of the ATVs. Sure is cold out here!

Time to get warm in front of the fireplace.

And then a morning nap on the bearskin rug. Dad says it will be lunchtime when I wake up. Later today he says we will see about taking a ride on a different ATV and maybe look around for some wildlife sign. Then it's off to see about some nuisance wildlife.

Up just in time for lunch. Beef with wild and white rice. Even better with red chile added. Lemonade to drink. But dad forgot the cookies.

And a quick ride on the tractor. Then it's off to see about wildlife.

Taking the big ATV this time. It has a heater and stereo. Listening to some Merle Haggard.

Learning about game cameras and how they work to track wildlife activity.

And about how elk shed their antlers every year.

And Dad says that this answers the age old question "do bears poop in the woods?" Maybe I should have kept Dad's rifle handy.

And now it's off to set some critter traps.

Home at last with a hot cup of coffee. Can't wait for S. to get home so I can tell her about my day.

S. is home. Now I can tell her all about my day!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

T-Shirt Redesign

***This is another post copied over from our old blog, Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian.

We don't usually blog about events before they happen, but we are hoping to snag a few more ideas from our brilliant readers:) Since Miss Ami is, as they used to say, in a delicate condition, and may or may not be around for the latter half of Summer Reading, we are trying to prepare as much as possible beforehand. This particular program is slated for the end of July - just don't ask us what's for supper tonight, 'kay?

The general plan is to provide ideas and supplies for teens to redecorate/redesign/repurpose old t-shirts. Because many of the regulars to Teen Cafe are also SRP Volunteers, and they have a whole stash of shirts from previous years, and because we also had a stash of SRP shirts that were never picked up last year, those are what you will see featured here. We are mostly looking for no-sew ideas, as the idea of supplying 30 or so sewing machines doesn't seem too feasible.

First, because Miss Ami was a child of the 80's, we have this one:

You can also fringe the sleeves.

Another very simple one - wear a different color tank under it. We may cut more slits around the collar. If you are better at cutting than we are (no opposable thumbs, remember!) you can try cutting shapes instead of just slits.

A necklace/scarf made by cutting horizontal stripes about 1" thick and then pulling them tight to make them roll up. We connected them with a strip cut from the bottom, but we're not sure how to describe the loop-and tuck can just hot glue the ends if you like!

These two are made from the same shirt. For the necklace (or belt) we cut off the bottom hem, then cut around and around so we had one long continuous strand about 1" thick. We cut that into thirds and braided them, then added chunky wood beads that have been sitting around forever.
We didn't want to waste the top picture, so we used fabric glue to attach it to posterboard, then added jewels and glitter. This would be fun to do with a t-shirt that had a funny saying, or a favorite rock band on it. We are trying to find our scrap cork board to make a bulletin board this way.

This is the one that started the whole project. Miss Ami (when she is not fat) and Miss Lisa both like 'skinny shirts', but the SRP shirts always come in 'boy cuts'. Just cut an inch or so off each side, make some slits, and voila! You can lace it or tie it - yes, both look kind of weird together, and the pretty ribbons don't exactly match the shark motif, but you get the idea. Wouldn't those bright yellow shirts for this year's theme look awesome with yellow and red ribbons?
We had seen ideas for shopping bags that required sewing the bottom, but then Karl from Tulsa sent us this idea - just fringe and tie the bottom. That looks even sturdier than sewing. Use strips from the sleeves as added handles. We left the hem on, but you can cut that off and add pony beads to the bottom.

That gave us an idea for a pillow we wouldn't have to sew, either. We did 'cheat' and hot glue the neckline, but that would be pretty easy to hand sew. Again, we left the hems, but you could take those off and add beads.

Most of these only took a few minutes - the braiding took forever because we kept getting tangled! (Thumbs!!!) Thanks to everyone who sent ideas and web sites to check out - now, what else have you got for us???