Welcome Spring: The Legend of the Bluebonnet

bluebonnet_legendDe Paola, Tomie.  The Legend of the Bluebonnet. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1983.

Today is the first official day of spring.  From here the days get longer and the nights get shorter until we reach the summer solstice. In my patch of Northern, Central Texas, it has felt like spring for at least a month. We have had warm days into the 70s and 80s and cool evenings down into the 50s.  It is one of my favorite seasons.  As I write, I am sitting in my backyard with a glass of iced tea and a gentle breeze blowing across me.  It is a practically, perfect day.

In Texas, a herald of spring is the Texas Bluebonnet.  As soon as the weather starts to warm up in late February or early March, they begin to bloom.  If you drive through our state during this time, you will see swaths of highway medians and roadsides covered with their bright blue flowers.  We can thank Lady Bird Johnson for their generous displays, but that is another story. As I was shuffling through my books looking for a book about spring, I found this one.  It combines my favorite time of year, with one of my favorite flowers in a book by one of my favorite authors/illustrators. Like the day, it is practically, perfect in every way.

In this version of the legend, there had been a great drought and the Comanche people were dying.  For three days, they prayed and danced and drummed begging the Great Spirits to send them healing rains.  At last their shaman spoke words from the Great Spirits.  The Comanche people had become selfish.  The people had taken and they had not given back.  Only a burnt offering of a valued possession with its ashes scattered to the winds would save the people.  The Comanche people retired to their tipis to consider the best sacrifice, each one thinking that the Great Spirits would not want their treasured items.  Only a child, She-Who-Is-Alone was wise, generous, and brave enough to find a sacrifice.  What does she have that will serve?  Through the drought and the famine, she lost all her family, the only thing she had left was a warrior doll, made by her mother with bright blue feathers from a Jay brought to her by her father.  It is precious to her.  As deep night settled and everyone slumbered, she left the village and went to the hill, where the shaman received the words from the Great Spirits.  She lit a small fire, prayed to the Spirits, and thrust her precious doll into the fire.  When the ashes cooled, she scooped them up and scattered them to the four winds.  Was her sacrifice enough?  She laid down on the hillside and fell asleep.  She woke with the morning light and to her surprise the hillside was covered in blue flowers, the same blue as the feathers on her warrior doll.  The Great Spirits had forgiven the people and sent them the healing rains.  Every year the hillsides of Texas bloom with these bright blue flowers, our Texas Bluebonnets, to remind us of the sacrifice of a brave and faithful girl.

This book is a glorious retelling of this story.  See if you can find a copy to read to someone special on a bright spring day.

Here are some pictures of bluebonnets and other wild flowers growing in or near my yard.  Happy Spring!!!

Bluebonnets from my neighbor’s yard!  Alas we have none in our yard this year.

bluebonnets2

Here is a picture of our back 40.  It is dotted with Anemones in white and purple.  They are usually the first wildflowers to bloom in our yard.  It also is sprinkled with the tiny pick flowers of the False Garlic plant. Jim waits as long as possible in the spring to mow back here.  We love the sea of small wildflowers we have.

back40

Here is one of the hardier Texas perennials.  It is Prairie Verbena.  It blooms all summer long.  It is a bright beacon on the green landscape.

verbena

And last, but not least, one of my personal favorites the Dotted Blue-Eyed Grass.  It is from the Iris family.  They have little blue heads springing up from grassy leaves and stems.

DottedBlueEyedGrass

If you don’t live in Texas, please enjoy all the blossoms.  If you do live in Texas, I hope you get a chance to get out and see our spectacular wildflower displays.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day: Paddy’s Pay Day

PaddyDay, Alexandra.  Paddy’s Pay Day. New York: Puffin Books, 1989.

Okay, this book isn’t about St. Patrick’s Day, but I think of it often on this day.  Paddy, an Irish Terrier is the subject of the book.  He is a charming character.  As you would suppose, Paddy has no words.  You can read the book and imagine what he would say, if he could.

Paddy works with Trilby O’Farrell. They do tricks and acrobatics for carnivals, parties, and benefits.  Every month, Paddy gets his pay and he goes to the nearest village to spend it.  Although Paddy has no words, the everyone in the nearby village him recognizes him and interacts with him just like he could talk.

What do you do when you get paid? Do you buy yourself a treat?  Do you take care of personal chores, like getting a haircut?  Do you spend some of your pay on donations to good causes? Do you look for some entertainment, like a going to a movie?  Do you treat yourself at a meal at your favorite restaurant?  Do you buy little gifts for your friends?  In this book, you can follow Paddy and see how he spends his day off! It really is a lovely book to share with a child.

In the story, Paddy has his usual monthly meal at Murphy’s. It must be an Irish Pub! He treats himself to a baked potato with all the fixings and Guinness beer.  While it is not Paddy’s usual meal here is a special one, he might enjoy at Murphy’s on St. Patrick’s Day.  If you want to try it with your family or friends, I have listed the recipes for the stew and the bread.  Guinness, of course, holds the recipe for the beer and I purchased the truffles at my local HEB grocery store.

StPatrickDinnerA St. Patrick’s Day Menu for Paddy

Robin’s Irish Stew
Irish Soda Bread
Guinness Extra Stout
Irish Cream and Irish Coffee Truffles

Robin’s Irish Stew

Here’s my take on Irish Stew.  I didn’t have a recipe for one so I made this one up.

  • 2 c chopped onion (about 1 large. I like sweet onions, like 10/15)
  • 1 c chopped celery (about 3 large stalks)
  • 2 c sliced carrots
  • 3 c dices potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
  • 2 large cloves finely minced
  • 1 lb. beef roast, cubed
  • ½ c flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
  • 1 bay leat
  • 1 T rosemary, crushed
  • 2 T Olive oil
  • 4 c beef broth, low sodium
  • 12 oz Guinness extra stout (1 bottle)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Dredge the meat cubes in the flour, salt, and pepper mixture.  Work in batches and remove coated cubes to a plate.

Use a large dutch oven or other large pot. Heat the olive oil in the pan on medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, add onions and sauté them for about 2 minutes until they begin to soften.  Add the meat cubes a handful at a time, stirring occasionally.  Continue to add meat until all of it is in the pot.  Cook until meat begins to brown about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan.  Add ¼ c of the beef broth and scrape the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the flour mixture stuck to the bottom.  You may need to use a metal spatula to get all the good flour mixture up from the bottom.  Add the carrots, celery, potato and garlic.  Cook for 3-4 minutes stirring often and scraping bottom of pot.  Add the remaining beef broth, scraping the bottom one more time.  Bring stew to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the bay leaf, rosemary, Guinness and then salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer stew for another 30-45 minutes.

Remove bay leaf before serving.  Serve with Irish Soda Bread or some other hearty bread.

Irish Soda Bread from Joy of Cooking. Volume 2, Page 273

Preheat oven to 375º. Have all the ingredients at room temperature about 75°. Abbreviations: c=cup, T=tablespoon, and t=teaspoon.

  • 2 c sifted all-purpose flour
  • ¾ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 6 T chilled shortening
  • ½ to 1 c raisins
  • 1 T caraway seed
  • ½ to 2/3 c buttermilk

Mix the first four ingredients together in a large bowl.  Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the chilled shortening into the flour mixture until it has the consistency of corn meal.  Stir in the raisins and caraway seeds.  Add the buttermilk gradually to the bowl.  The mixture should not be dry.  Knead the dough briefly and shape into a round loaf.  Coat a cake pan with the oil and place the dough in the pan.  Cut a cross on the top of the bread letting it go over the sides so the bread will not crack in backing.  Brush the top of the bread with some of the buttermilk or regular milk.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until the bread looks golden brown.  Tap the bottom of the loaf and if a hollow sound emerges, the bread is done.

Happy Valentine’s Day

spider_valentinesrunawaybunny

  • Kraus, Robert. How Spider Saved Valentine’s Day. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1985.
  • Brown, Margaret Wise. The Runaway Bunny.  Illustrated by Clement Hurd. New York: HarperCollins, 1942.

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!  Today I offer you two different stories for your pleasure.

The first is by Robert Kraus.  He gave us a spider for a hero.  In How Spider Saved Valentine’s Day Spider and his friends Lady Bug and Fly are excited for Valentine’s Day.  They attend Public Bug School No. 1. They have valentines for everyone in their class.  They each got one for their teacher, Miss Quito. As the Valentine’s Day festivities begin, they discover that they have forgotten valentines for the two caterpillars that sat in the back and slept all day.  Oh, No! What will they do?  Read this book and see how Spider saves the day!

Spider is brave and thoughtful.  This silly series is so much fun to read.  I think this is a terrific book to read to your young Valentine.

The second book is not specifically a Valentine’s Day, but it is a story of true and constant love.  I adore this book, The Runaway Bunny! Every time I read it I am completely charmed. This book is a verbal hide and seek between the mother bunny and her little one.  She lets her little one know that wherever, he/she roams Mama will always be there.  She will always love her little bunny. You can tell how much they care for each other.

If you become a bird and fly away from me,
said his mother, I will be a tree that you come home to.

 

Mama Bunny is loving and patient.  She is a role model that can be hard to live up to. I can remember some long, long days, when my girls were giving me grief.  My patience was in tatters.  I really wanted to sell them to the gypsies (not sure they would be taken).  Have you had one of those days?  On those days I took a deep breath and thought of this book and how much I really loved my little ones. We sat down, cuddled up and read this book.  It was good for all of us. After all as the little bunny said:

Shucks, said the bunny, I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.

To you and to all your wonderful little ones, Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

January 2017: Reading Report from North, Central Texas

Stack of BooksGreetings and Salutations!  It hard to believe that the first month of 2017 has already passed. The holidays are over and things are back to what passes for normal around here.

Jim

He has been reading at tome by Kim Stanley Robinson in paperback as opposed to his Nook.  Except for a couple of scientific inaccuracies, he has enjoyed this book.

  • Robinson, Kim Stanley. 2312. New York: Orbit, 2012.

Sarah

School has started again so Sarah has been very busy.  Here is her reading list for this month.

  • Harkness, Deborah.  A Discovery of Witches.  New York: Penguin Books, 2011.
  • Budewitz, Leslie.  Assault and Pepper.  New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2015.

Robin

For some reason I seem to have been busy as well.  I don’t feel like I have read enough this month.  Here’s my list.  You will notice a slight overlap with Alexis.  We were reading The Complete Father Brown Stories  at the same time, but different editions.  It is lovely when we can discuss the books we have both read.

  • Alexander, Lloyd. The Prydain Chronicles.  – See my January 30, 2017 blog on this series of 5 books.
  • Roberts, Nora.  The Island of Glass. New York: Berkley, 2016.  This is the last book in her Guardians Trilogy.  I reread the first two books in the series and finished this one up after the first of the year.
  • Chesterson, G.K.  The Complete Father Brown Stories.  Herefordshire, England: Wordsworth, 1992.

Alexis

She is as always a prodigious reader.  Her list regularly eclipse all others in the family.  She frequently blazes a trail that one or the other of us follows.  It is always enjoyable discussing new books with her.

  • Carson, Rae.  Walk on Earth a Stranger.  New York: Green Willow, 2015
  • Carson, Rae.  Like a River Glorious.  New York: Green Willow, 2016.
  • Elrod, P.N. The Hanged Man. Tom Doherty (TOM), 2015.  I am reading this book right now.
  • Elrod, P.N. (editor). My Big, Fat, Supernatural Wedding. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2006.
  • Koval, Mary Robinette.  Without a Summer. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2013.
  • Koval, Mary Robinette.  Valour and Vanity. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2014.
  • Marillier, Juliet.  Dreamer’s Pool.  New York: ROC, 2014.  This one is in my stack to read!
  • Marillier, Juliet.  Tower of Thorns New York: ROC, 2015.

Happy 2017!  Keep calm and read on!

2016: A Year in Review

collage1_2016Happy New Year! I am starting 2017 with a review of books from 2016. Here is the consolidated list (libraryrecap).

I have enjoyed writing this blog. I began writing to explain to my new nephew, why I chose the books he received as a birth gift. My family encouraged me to write a blog.  They seem to think that I know something about children’s books.  They are so lovely and kind!  What I know about children’s books is that I like them.  If I could, I would inspire every child with the love of reading.  I like reading books. I like paring books with ideas, events and activities.

Since they encouraged me to write, I have been writing this blog for my pleasure and practice. Sometimes, but not often, it gets me out of dinner dishes (I can’t do dishes tonight, I have to work on my blog).  If I had stopped with the volumes purchased for my new nephew,  it would have been a very short blog. When I finished his list I segued to the rest of my children’s book collection.  Many of these books are old favorites of mine. It has been a lovely walk down memory lane. As I reread and write about these books, I remember snuggling up with my girls and sharing these stories.  Reading to children is a wonderful activity. It was fun, fun, fun to read and discover these books with my girls. It was fun, fun, fun to remember that time through this blog.

My family has become accustom to keeping a list of their readings for the monthly reading report. I hope that you have enjoyed these reports.  2016 was a very enjoyable reading year!  I hope it is another good year for reading and for all other endeavors.

Happy New Year to everyone! May your year be productive, satisfying and fun! Find some good books to read. Here are some of the books that were read in Haus Reimund in 2016.collage2_2016

The Lump of Coal

lumpcoalSnicket, Lemony. The Lump of Coal. Brett Helquist, Illustrator. New York: HarperCollins, 2008.

Here is another book from my holiday collection. I was wandering through a bookstore several years ago and this little volume leapt off the shelf into my hands. What can you say to a book that has a scowling lump of coal dressed in a rumpled black suit on the front cover? How could a person resist the teaser on the back cover, “Miracles can happen even to those who are small, flammable, and dressed all in black.”

This book, of course takes place near Christmas. A lump of coal is blown out of a sack of charcoal on a blustery winter day. Mr. Snicket must live where it is cold, because there is a lament, a word used here to mean “an expression of sorrow or grief,” that “barbeques, sadly, are for summer.” He doesn’t live in Texas, a land where we barbecue all year! This would have been a very short story, if the lump of coal had lived in Texas. However, in this story, with no barbeques for the lump of coal to ignite, he rolls off to find something interesting.

In the course of his perambulations, a word used here to mean “to walk or to travel about,” he has several near miracles. It is interesting to find out what happens when he is given as a punishment to a boy, who is considered a “brat”. The lump of coal is sad and despondent as he waits in the boy’s stocking, but he considers it better than nothing. Do things get to be much better than nothing when the lump and boy meet? Read this book and discover what happens. There are miracles and they may or may not surprise you.

Mr. Snicket uses this book to remind us about the miracles in our lives. Here is how this wonderful, little book ends.

All these things are miracles. It is a miracle if you can find true friends, and it is a miracle if you have enough to eat, and it is a miracle if you get to spend your days and evenings doing whatever it is you like to do, and the holiday season—like all the other seasons—is a good time not only to tell the stories of miracles, but to think about the miracles in your own life, and to be grateful for them, and that’s the end of this particular story.

December 26: Jolabokaflod and Other Book Matters

bookflood_afterIt is the day after Christmas and there is peace in the house.  We had a delightful holiday.  We enjoyed each other’s company, delighted in each other gifts and ate until we were full (and then some).  We are fortunate to have our family home with us this year.

We enjoyed our Christmas Book Food (Jolabokaflod ) books.  If you saw my last post, you saw the wrapped books waiting for distribution on Christmas Eve.  Here is the stack after we opened them.  I love my daughters!  They put such careful thought into selecting just the right book for each of us. Sarah, with Alexis’ help, chose the books for everyone except herself.  Alexis chose the book for Sarah. I provided the chocolate, but we were too full to eat it.

Jim received Death Wave by Ben Bova. He was delighted with this selection for his reading pleasure.  Ben Bova, a master of science fiction is one of his favorite authors.

Jim’s sister, Mary received a copy of the graphic novel Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier. She has a hard time reading, but she loved this novel.  She took it to bed to read.

Alexis likes Neil Gaiman and graphic novels.  Her gift was a graphic version of Gaiman’s Coraline.  It is a beautiful book and Alexis is savoring it.

Sarah wanted a mystery, light and fun.  Alexis made a trip to the book store to discover Leslie Budewitz’s Assault and Pepper (A Spice Shop Mystery). Sarah, must be enjoying this book as she has been reading it nonstop, when she hasn’t been sleeping. I am hoping she will share it with me, when she is finished reading it.

I saved the best for last, my book!  Sarah found me The Complete Father Brown Stories by G.K. Chesterton!  We have been watching the Father Brown Mysteries on our local PBS station.  I remarked how much I liked them and that I had read a few of them in the past.  I am delighted with Father Brown!

I received one more book bonus under the tree this year.  It is a game called Bring Your Own Book, The Game of Borrowed Phrases.  You can find out more about this game on this website: http://www.bringyourownbook.com/.  Here’s what is written on the back of the box.

Your old favorite book is now your new favorite game!  Draw a category card, grab a book and then quickly skim to satisfy the chose prompt (and the judge!) with the most entertaining phrase.  Can you find a “ridiculous tabloid headline” in that latest best-selling novel? How about “dating advice” in your well-worn cookbook? Since you can use any book, you can play with any group and find limitless potential on every page!

It is a wonderful game!  We played two rounds this afternoon.  We played with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Ree Drummond’s Dinnertime, and Ray Bradbury’s The Toynbee Convector.  It was marvelous fun even if I didn’t either of the rounds.