Wednesday, July 17, 2013

news from the book nook: new favorites

There's nothing quite like the satisfaction of a well-written children's book. I admit I judge heavily when it comes to picture books. When you've spent years of your life surrounded by piles of books, you know when an author is trying to hard or when a book just misses greatness. In my humble opinion, children must be able to relate to the book's events and characters. If relatability (spell check tells me that's not a word...I disagree) is absent, then it's not a children's book. End of story. Of course, engaging plots, gorgeous illustrations, funny dialog should also be present.  Here's a few newbies that meet my criteria - check them out and let me know what you think! [Note: book links are affiliated links. Full disclosure here.]

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
The story begins with a collection of letters left on Duncan's desk. Letters from his box of crayons. A funny, imaginative read complimented by simple, yet hilarious pictures of Duncan's crayons. The perfect book to ignite children's imaginations about what their crayons would tell them if they came alive. A wonderful springboard for early grade writing topics and letter writing activities (I've already dreamed up a handful of lessons...proof that my teacher brain is still alive and well!)

Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Joy Ang
What happens when a baby is born with a mustache? More importantly, will that mustache be a good 'stache or an evil 'stache? Simple, silly, and filled with word puns. Great gift for those trendy mustache baby showers!

The Dark by Lemony Snickett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Side note: if you haven't read Klassen's I Want My Hat Backplease RUN to the nearest library and check it out!)
If you read any of Lemony Snickett's books, then you'll know what I mean when I say this book is written in "true Lemony Snickett style." Quirky and a little dark (hehehe), but nothing over the top scary. And in the end, "the dark" was just trying to be a helpful friend to Laszlo.

Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Litchenheld
Another new favorite for teachers! A lovely picture book with a fun spin on grammar from the view of the punctuation. Read this book. Read it! Will you read it? (oh the joys of grammar... :)

Take advantage of these ridiculous hot days - curl up with a book in the AC. Happy reading!

Monday, July 15, 2013

squirreling away summer's bounty

It's been a busy little squirrel weekend in our abode. We've spent yesterday chopping strawberries for freezer jam, making watermelon and strawberry popsicles, and freezing blueberries and strawberries for smoothies, muffins, yogurts, or anything else that strikes my fancy in the dead of winter. No berry or fruit is safe from my freezer stocking spree! Even now, I'm impatiently waiting for the peaches on our counter to ripen.
It may be hot and steamy now, but in a few months fall will come and we will all be wishing for a taste of summer. There's nothing quite like defrosting a jar of white peach freezer jam to cure those wintertime blues. Learn from the squirrels and take advantage of the low in-season fruit and vegetable prices and start stocking your freezer!

Here's a few freezer tips:
- Wash and freeze berries whole on a rimmed cookie sheet then transfer into air tight containers
- Puree watermelon in the blender, strain through fine mesh strainer, then freezer in ice cube trays for use in lemonades
- Bake fruity muffins then transfer to freezer bags or air tight containers when cooled
- Double blueberry or strawberry pancake recipes and store in freezer bags separated by wax or parchment paper
- Make your own popsicles!
- Make pie or cobbler fillings then freeze in air tight containers. Defrost overnight, pop it in a ready made crust (or your own :) and you have a quick summery dessert for a chilly winter evening
- Triple (or if you're my mom make 18 loaves...) zucchini, blueberry or other sweet bread recipes and save the other two loaves for later
I could keep going, but I think you get my frugalish point. Buy and freeze more now, then when stores hike blueberry prices up to $4 a pint you can calmly stroll by, go home, and open up your freezer and dig out your perfect sun-ripen local berries that you bought for $1.24 a pint!

Happy squirreling friends!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

blueberries and fireworks

Just a glimpse of the deliciousness that graced our 4th of July feast at the farm...
Happy Independence Day, friends!

Monday, July 1, 2013

diy: barn sale window transformation

I know I promised this barn sale window transformation months ago, but life happened. Days turned to weeks....weeks to months...ooops! Anyway, we absolutely love the finished product! Hope this inspires you to hit up some yard sales and rummage through someone else's junk and find a treasure of your own.

The challenge: to transform an old window by eliminating flaking paint and dirt, but still keep its original rustic beauty. Here's how we did it:
Start with an old window. If it's from the 1920s like ours then proceed with caution, the paint and window caulking most likely contain lead. Prepare a well-ventilated area with a plastic drop cloth and wear a mask and gloves. If you are claustrophobic, work as quickly as possible and try not to focus on the whole mask over your nose and mouth part...
Grab a wire brush and get working. Brush with the grain until all the peeling paint is gone. The goal is not to take off all the paint, but simply to have a smooth surface that will allow the shellac to adhere well. Use a knife and carefully remove the old caulking. I took out the window panes completely because I was worried the glass would get scraped in the wire brushing process. 
Roll up the drop cloth when you're finished and throw it out. Then grab your handy dandy shop vac and carefully vacuum any remaining dust off the window and any that might have escaped from the drop cloth. 
Wipe the frame with a damp cloth to remove any barn dust, bird poop, or any other disgusting things it might have accumulated in the course of its life.... Let the frame dry and any remaining dust particles settle. This is a great project to do outside on a nice day. Unfortunately, it was cold and windy on this Saturday, so I worked on the window in the garage and then opened the door to let the garage air out before I shellaced.
Apply a coat of shellac to seal the remaining paint and wood. Use a cheap foam brush that can be throw out when you're finished. Allow the shellac to dry then flip and coat the other side. We used the same can of shellac from our other two diy projects: the dresser and nightstand.

Decide how you would like to use your window - Do you want to hang it on the wall as is? Would you like to put the windows back in with new caulking? Will you be putting a different picture in each of the panes? Or will it be one giant picture? We opted for one giant picture without any window panes. 
I love that we wake up with a view of Frenchman's Bay each morning. If only our bedroom had this view of Bar Harbor for real!
Stay tuned: a dresser turned kitchen "island" diy project coming your way in the next few weeks.