Thursday, October 29, 2009

The A's of Autumn: Apple Cider and Awesome Awards!

OK ... awards first, then apples!

I recently received three awards from three absolutely, positively fabulous ladies whose blogs I adore!

Thank you to Sharon McPherson at Bookish Blonde for awarding me The Lemonade Stand Award! This award recognizes sites that show great attitude and/or gratitude. I am proud to be a recipient of this award.

And, thank you to both Lynnette Labelle at Chatterbox Chit Chat and Stephanie Faris at Steph in the City for awarding me the Heartfelt Award. Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when you're relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family and friends? You know the feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea, or a hot toddy? That is what the Heartfelt Award is all about, feeling warm inside. This one is often symbolized by a picture of a sweet little mouse in a teacup ... but, I thought the vivid red hearts on the black dandelion-like sketch was just too cool to pass up (apparently, this was created for any guys receiving the award who weren't interested in the whole 'cute mouse in teacup' kind of look!).

On to apple cider!

My normal Tuesday posting was preempted by a trip to the Pumpkin Patch with my son's class.

The skies were supposed to dump rain, thunder, and lightening across the region on Tuesday. It rained the night before, it rained the morning of, it rained as we drove to the pumpkin patch. And, then ... as we arrived ... the sun came out. And - with the exception of about three minutes of sprinkles - it was sunny and dry during our entire three hours at the Pumpkin Patch. It then rained on the drive back, and continued to pour for the remainder of the day. A-MA-ZING!

My favorite part was learning how Bauman Farms makes their oh-so-delicious apple cider. Here is the process in pictures:

Washing the apples, thank you very much:

Grinding them into a pile of mush (umm ... yuck!) within seconds:

Pressing out all the sweet juice:

Here comes the final product:

I love to see the behind-the-scenes workings of products like this. And, the final outcome was like drinking an apple pie (without all the extra sugar and butter!).

Happy Autumn!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I Do Not Like That Funky Dance

We noticed it when she was quite young ... an adorable ability to feel the rhythm of music.

At 18 months old, a quick glance in the rear view mirror often revealed a little head full of wispy curls bopping along to the exact beat of whatever song was playing on the radio.

Soon, her upper body joined in as her shoulders rocked to songs blaring through overhead store speakers, even as she sat, strapped securely to the shopping cart.

When riding along in shopping carts was no longer an acceptable mode of transportation, the full body jive came into play. It was subtle. She wasn't twirling in the aisles. She was just moving with the beat - from head to toe - as she walked.

This past weekend, we were in the produce section of our local grocery store. A very disco-esque song was filling the area with a lively groove and - as we would expect - the little girl walking just ahead of us started feeling it.

The beat took over her body ... legs, knees, hips, shoulders, head, and arms all coming together as she strutted to the beat in and amongst the pears and potatoes.

My husband could see that our son was feeling it too, so he attempted to give them a quick lesson in disco. "Hey ... do this!" he encouraged, as he reenacted a mini-version of the famed Travolta move involving the index finger pointing up in the air, then moving down and across the body to point at the floor.

Our son thought it was hilarious. Our daughter, however, stopped - mid-strut - and with a very serious tone looked straight up at my husband and said, "I do not like that funky dance."

She then turned and continued bopping her way down an aisle of lemons and limes.

Earlier this month, our daughter turned four with a Hello Kitty extravaganza of a party. The age of four, we are learning, brings with it loads of love, even more hugs and kisses, an enormous amount of spunk, imaginative stories, major meltdowns, serious opinions, a bit more independence, and hilarious moments. Moments that I can't wait to write down before I forget exactly what was said, so I can re-live them whenever I need to inject a smile or laughter into my day.

Hope your day is filled with wonderful moments!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This Book Is Doing Its Job!

It's a tricky thing ... keeping boys engaged in, challenged, and excited by reading as they get older and start moving away from the realm of typical picture books.

I've written along these lines before ... earlier this year in my post "Boy + Reading ...". And, recently, author PJ Hoover wrote about the subject in her post "Why Boys Aren't Reading".

For our 7-year old reader, the challenge is in finding books that have the unique ability to help him grow as a reader, but also appeal to his interests and his enjoyment of pictures and illustrations.

Just the right combination of the above equals a much less frustrated little man and a more willing and eager reader.

While he very much enjoys action/adventure and animal-related stories, his true love continues to be anything under the category of Transportation. From rescue vehicles to race cars to semi-trailers to construction machines, he is completely and utterly enamored.

This weekend, he told us that he wanted to buy another vehicle book, and he agreed to do so with his own spending money.

So, after a patience-teaching wait of three days from the time he first started chatting us up about it, we headed to Barnes & Noble. We found the section that included all the vehicle-related books within his age range, and told him to look through the books and decide which one he wanted to purchase.

In the midst of helping little sister pick out a book (because, of course, she had to bring her spending money too!), we looked back to find our son sitting on the floor, surrounded by four open books, pouring over each of them, intently trying to decide which he would be taking home. What a wonderful sight!

He settled on the above-pictured Big Book of Construction Machines, created by Parachute Press and published by the fabulous DK Publishing, Inc. The book has an age range of 7-10 years of age, which means it is perfect for helping him progress in his reading. But, the most wonderful thing is that he can't put it down. He reads it in the car and during moments of downtime; he reads it for school-required reading time; he reads it with his nighttime book-light after we've tucked him in to bed; and, today, he took it to school to show his teacher and friends.

Now that is a book that is doing its job!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Words Optional

If my count is correct, this magnificent children's picture book has exactly 28 words. Twenty-eight!

Not 1,300 ... not 1,000 ... not even 852 ... but, twenty-eight very effective words.

The illustrations carry the story and delight the reader. The talented Nancy Tafuri, who wrote and illustrated this gem, was so very clever when she crafted this Caldecott Honor and ALA Notable Book.

From the words, we know it takes place early in the morning, and that the mother duck is trying to find her missing duckling.

With each turn of the page, the child reader gets to search and point out where the little missing duckling is hiding. It has been tested repeatedly in our house, and consistently results in delightful giggles when the wayward duckling is spotted.

Oh, how I wish I could create such gorgeous pictures. This book is proof that illustrations can truly tell a wonderful story and, sometimes, words are optional.