Creative cooking with Mina

March 3, 2010

Mina in the kitchen

As everyone knows, Mina and I love to cook. Lately, that has sparked some interesting requests. A few weeks ago, Mina asked me to make Angelina Ballerina’s mother’s Cheddar Cheese Pie for dinner. Hmmm… .I googled Mrs. Mouseling’s Cheddar Cheese Pie. Hey, who knows? Maybe somewhere someone posted the recipe! No, it was not going to be that easy. I spent the weekend looking up recipes to find something that would work. Then I bought a big hunk of Cheddar at Costco. I was ready! Mina took one bite of the finished pie and informed me that she was not a mouse and could not eat the rest…sigh…Tolga and I were eating Cheddar Cheese Pie for many days after that.

Did I learn my lesson? No, no, I did not. The following week, Mina revisited her latest Skippyjon Jones book, Lost In Spice. While Skippyjon Jones is exploring Mars, his sisters are helping Mama June Bug Jones make Tuna Noodle Casserole in the kitchen. Coincidentally, I received a Bon Appetit magazine in the mail which contained—you guessed it—a recipe for Tuna Noodle Casserole with Leeks. I made the mistake of mentioning it to Mina and she was all over trying THAT recipe. OK, here we go again. Maybe, I am thinking, she will like THIS one. Ha! She took her one bite and spit it out. After eating a good portion of the casserole myself, I brought the leftovers down to The King’s English for them to enjoy the Skippyjon Jones Tuna Noodle Casserole. And I had enough of book-inspired dinners!

From now on, we will just pretend. I reorganized my cookbook shelf and placed all her children’s cookbooks on the bottom shelf for easy access. Sure enough, within minutes, she is whipping up “ice cream” from her new cookbook, The Silver Spoon for Children. It is a great book that I just HAD to buy at the last big sale at King’s English. The pictures are wonderful and easy for her to understand.

And we have actually made quite a few recipes from the Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls. Mom had gotten it for Mina last Christmas. I have Moms original up in my Cookbook section for safe keeping. The Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes were quite popular at our Valentine’s Day Workshop. Mom made me the Whiz Cinnamon Rolls for every holiday, with icing of course! Myself, I am in love with Eggs in a frame recipe. I took a cookie cutter and cut out a shape from a slice of bread, buttered one side, placed it in a pan, and then cracked an egg into it. YUM!

We have quite a few more cookbooks that I have yet to crack open, but couldn’t resist buying: Pretend Soup and Salad People. Again, the pictures inside sold me right away. They are so fun and inviting! Personally, I think the book titles would make a great name for a children’s cafe! Hmmmm…..perhaps a future business for Mina?


I can feel the love!

February 14, 2010

Love at first sight for the ice cream cone cupcakes, love at first sight for the books, and LOVE at first sight for the mountain of stickers to apply to the Valentine mailboxes!

As Fancy Nancy would say: The party was a scrumptious success! We began by eating our treats and listening to Valentine-themed books. And Fancy Nancy is always a win. At the beginning of Fancy Nancy: Heart to Heart, we find Fancy Nancy making sequined valentines for all her friends at Bree’s house. When she gets home, she finds a special secret valentine for her on her door…hmmm…I wonder who sent it. The case is on and Nancy must accessorize to find her secret admirer.

Next up we read How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? We have been IN LOVE with this series since Mina was a little one. The pictures of the dinosaurs in all the crazy colors are just wonderful and the funny things they do are the icing on the cupcake. The dinosaurs all seem to be getting into mischief, but in the end, they give the best hugs and kisses to their mama and papa. Of course, Mina would read the How Do Dinosaurs books by Jane Yolen all day long and one is just not enough. She knows exactly where they are in the bookshop and went on her own to get another one! Can you guess which one? Of course, the one with the DOCTOR in it : How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? Of course I told her we would read it, but we had valentine books to read first.

We were first fell in love with the pen and ink art of Peter McCarty (author and illustrator of the Hondo and Fabian books) with Jeremy Draws a Monster a few months ago. In it, Jeremy, a lonely little boy, draws himself a monster imaginary friend. The monster becomes very obnoxious and demanding and soon Jeremy is drawing him a hat, suitcase, and a bus ticket. After sending the Monster on his way, Jeremy goes down to join some “real” boys and girls for a game of ball. And now Peter McCarty has a little love story out just in time for Valentine’s Day: Henry in Love. I love the art in these books because they are so vivid with the colors, but also very calming with the fine use of the pen. Henry gets ready for school and has a lovely blueberry muffin for a snack. As we progress through the book, we learn that he has a crush on a little bunny named Chloe. In the end, after rearranging the desks in class, Henry and Chloe are sitting next to eat other, getting ready to eat their snack. Henry trades his beloved blueberry muffin for Chloe’s carrot so she will have the better snack…aaahhh young love!

Okay, everyone! Finished with our treats and our books, we move into the other side of the room to decorate our boxes! Stickers and kids are a match made in heaven. The process of peel-stick, peel-stick is such a loved activity. In the undecorated as-of-yet mailboxes, they found a woven heart basket made out of construction paper. It was filled with special Valentine’s Day stickers and a few blank Valentine cards to give out. There were also feathers and red construction paper hearts to glue on as well. Of course, I had a last minute crazy project addition: making herbal heart sachets. It all worked out so PERFECTLY in my head at 2 p.m. the day of the storytime! I cut out and sewed the hearts, filled little ziplock baggies with the herbs and beans, but when I went downstairs to get my glue gun—it was no where to be found. Grrr. I grabbed some needle and thread and flew out the door. After getting to the bookstore, Anne came to my rescue by going home and getting her glue gun! Implementing the filling process did not go as smoothly as I had imagined. I had thought that if I cut a hole in the corner of the ziplock bag, the child could place that in the hole of the heart sachet and everything would just slide in. Vigorous shaking of the bag was too tempting and the children’s room looked like an herbal explosion by the time it was done. Thank goodness for vacuum cleaners!!

A fun time was had by all and we hope we see you at our next Friday Fun for Kids. Ahoy there! We will be going on a treasure hunt, mateys! So, dig out your pirate attire and help us find the hidden treasure in the store. Yo HO HO and a whole lot of FUN! You won’t want to miss THIS one! Friday, March 12, 4 p.m.


Gingerbread House storytime at the bookshop

December 13, 2009

Usually I start off these blogs with all the great books we read, but the girls were so excited to make the gingerbread house that I didn’t even get through one third of The Night Before Christmas!
Gingerbread PiratesI had envisioned how it would go: we would read Gingerbread Friends and The Night Before Christmas by Jan Brett and then Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup. We would sip our hot chocolate and munch on some gingerbread cookies. Nope, not happening. The draw of the icing and gumdrops was greater than the desire to listen to favorites books! And so, we commenced the gingerbread house-making! I worked very hard at squeezing the frosting out of the tube and they worked very hard at following me and eating it, one finger lick at a time!
The main eventIt was a lovely little party. Mina’s friends Addie, Audrey, and Ella joined us. Mina had separated all the candy into individual little cups before everyone arrived and she was the perfect hostess, asking if anyone wanted hot chocolate. If they said yes, she would run through the store to the back kitchen to make it!
Audrey clearly had lots of experience with gingerbread houses. She gave me excellent directions on how and where to put the frosting. And she had the great idea of putting some frosting along the outer edge of the house. The girls had so much fun putting the candy on the house and moving all around to make sure each side was evenly decorated. I am surprised we had candy to put ON the house with everyone eating mouthfuls of gumdrops!

The gingerbread house

The gingerbread house

Once the gingerbread house was done, it was onto phase 2: the take-home felt gingerbread house project. The whole point of doing the real gingerbread house at the bookstore was because I wanted the girls to have the experience of making a gingerbread house, but not have the tempting candy actually RESIDE in their own house. Their take-home project needed to be fun, but not full of sugar.

One night, I had this idea of making a felt gingerbread house. I worked it all out in my head and hoped for the best. It worked out really well, except for the glue dots. I went back and forth about how to adhere the brown felt house shape to the milk container form: should I use Elmer’s white glue and then have them wait until it dries? Do I bring in my hot glue gun? Then I noticed that I had a box of extra strength glue dots in my craft box. Maybe they would work, or work well enough to play with for a little while. Well, they were OK. They didn’t stick well at all, but it was enough to keep the shape together until they got home.The felt gingerbread houses
They all LOVED the project. It was so nice to see them really get into decorating their felt houses with the cutout shapes. Ella really went to town decorating her house and they all concentrated very hard on which shape to put where on their own felt gingerbread houses.

Finally, stories came at the very end. Sara, Ella’s mom, sat down with Ella to read some books while I cleaned up and soon she had the crowd all around and on each knee listening.

We hope to see you at next month’s workshop Friday, January 8, at 4 p.m. We will be making sock puppets and reading Sandra Boynton’s One Shoe Blues book.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


From doctor books to the pyramids of Egypt…

October 27, 2009

Mina playing doctorFor a long time now, Mina has been devouring any sort of book that is related to doctors or medicine. Her first love is Doctor Meow, she will sit forever and “read” it to all of her friends. In Doctor Meow’s Big Emergency, Doctor Meow, the cat in the new series that takes place in Whoops-a-Daisy World, gets a call from Tom Cat who has fallen from the apple tree. Dr. Meow and Woof, the ambulance driver, rush to help and bring Tom Cat back to Kiss-It-Better Hospital.

Doctor Meow enters our  life practically every day. When we were in Turkey this summer, it was a favorite game to play while out to dinner. My uncle would take his cell phone and call my aunt on her cell phone and say “Emergency! Emergency! I have fallen and hurt my leg! Is Dr. Meow in? I need an Ambulance!” My aunt would hand the phone to Mina and Mina would respond, “This is Dr. Mina, how can I help you? Stay right there and don’t move!” And when we got back to Utah, the game continued with my husband, Tolga. He would fall down and Mina would become Dr. Meow and fix him with her doctor kit.

Then we discovered The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist and she learned about how easy it was to go to the dentist and how she should always brush her teeth so she wouldn’t get cavities. And keeping with the dentist theme, we moved onto Doctor De Soto, the little mouse dentist. Doctor De Soto and his wife help treat many of the animals in town except those who would be dangerous for mice, like cats! One day, a Fox rings the bell. He has an awful toothache and the dentist takes pity on him and lets him in. As the book continues, the Fox thinks about eating the mice, but the Doctor De Soto and his wife come up with a really interesting plan to outfox him!

One day, as Mina was looking for the The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist, she found Little Critter: My Trip to the Hospital. Little Critter has broken his leg on the soccer field and has to go to the hospital to get a cast. He says, as the doctor starts wrapping him up, “I feel like a mummy!” and Mina asks, why? What is a mummy? And this is where our path diverges into the plains of the Sahara and into Egypt.

Mina asked Sally, a bookseller, if the bookshop had any books about Egypt. Sally picked out a few nice ones, but the Dorling Kindersley Ancient Egypt book was the winner. We sat down on the floor with Little Critter, and the DK Egypt book open to the mummy page, and Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble and Mina was able to see the correlation between all the books.

Now, we can’t stop reading books about Egypt and we are learning all the different gods and goddess’ names. One day, on our way to the bookshop, Mina said “In ancient Egypt, Anubis takes care of the mummy and wraps him really tight to keep him safe and warm and then puts him to bed in his sarcophagus. Mama, what does Horus do again? I’ll ask Sally the next time!”

These days, with Halloween around the corner, there are tons of mummy books out on display. After looking at a few, Where’s My Mummy? and The Runaway Mummy, Mina makes a most observant statement: “Mama, those mummy’s need to clean their pyramids more often—look at all those cobwebs!”


What’s In Mina’s Book Bag? Gardening!

August 27, 2009

Since moving to our house last November, I have really tried to get Mina involved with her new natural surroundings. We have planned projects and activities to get her interested and loving the outside. I think that it is important to be able to give children the love of nature. She latched onto the garden bug with full force! It is wonderful!

First, we started with collecting sticks and leaves from around the yard and make a glue project out of it. Then, we progressed to making seed markers for our seedlings and planting the sprouts in the garden. I picked up a book in March called Grow it, Cook It and it gives wonderful ideas on how to a garden with a child from start to finish. The book is a bit old for her, but I liked how it explained the process of seed to sprout, following up with a recipe. I wish I had seen my most recent purchase: Roots Shoots Buckets & Boots before I planted everything this season. The author gives some really fun ideas on how to shape a children’s garden. I think my favorite was the Pizza Garden. You make a circular garden and each “wedge” is an ingredient to use later on your pizza. Once you can harvest your veggies and herbs, there is a a section on throwing a pizza party. How fun would that be!!

The other chapter that caught my eye was the Sunflower House. It gives dimensions, necessary seeds and instructions on how to “build” a house out of giant sunflowers and climbing vines. We have a section of our yard that is behind a small picket fence that would be the perfect spot for a sunflower house! I got Mina involved with her section of the yard by having her paint her little picket fence. She picked raspberry pink for the color and it looks fantastic. We converted the the old dog pen into her sandbox play area and she wanted to paint the stones pink as well. Why not! I drew the line at painting the grass pink! We decided, Mina and I, to trellis the grape arbor over her stones to her sandbox and planted blue flowered steppables in the rest of the dog pen. It is interesting the ideas, good ideas, you can get from a 2+ yr old if you ask and really listen.

She loves all the aspects of gardening now and planted the seeds in the herb box and weeds the driveway. She is so cognizant of weeds that she wants to weed the hiking trails when we go to the mountains. “Mama, someone needs to come and weed here, it is kind of messy with the weeds everywhere!”

This interest in gardening has led to many seed/garden orientated books. She couldn’t care less this winter about Eric Carle’s Tiny Seed, but now she just can’t get enough of it. Sometimes, we have to read it 5 times in a row.

One of the seed books that I have fallen in love with is A Seed Is Sleepy. The illustrations are so beautiful, you want to have them all over your wall. The author writes about each seed and its progression into a flower and the illustrator executes the pictures with the most minute detail.

The Curious Garden is a lovely book about how one person can make a difference. It starts with a gray city with no vegetation whatsoever. A little boy goes for a walk and comes upon a patch of wildflowers by the train tracks. He cultivates them and over time it spreads out over the city, transforming a lifeless bleak existence into a beautiful one. It transforms the people as well. It teaches that no matter who you are or how big/small you are, you can make a difference in people’s lives. That is an important lesson to learn, especially when you are young. It will provide a great foundation for the future.

The last book on our list that is a must if you are doing a garden with a kid is Wiggle and Waggle. It is a small book, great bang for the buck @ $5.95, with four adventures of two worms in a garden. They dig tunnels, they sing songs, they go on a picnic. It is a lot of fun. It is almost like an early introduction to chapter books. It blends perfectly with garden themed activities for young ones. They can look at the pictures of bean sprouts or corn sprouts and say “Hey! I planted those! Maybe Wiggle and Waggle are in MY yard too!” Mina took the book outside when I was prepping the veggie area and tried to identify the worms in the garden as Wiggle or Waggle. If they were more yellow, they were Wiggle. More pink meant that they were Waggle.

Gardening with children is such a wonderful thing to be able to do. We have to go out every morning when we wake up (@ 6 am–YAWN!) and say good morning to her “babies” . She was so excited when she noticed that the corn had a cob on it or as she put it: Look Mama, the corn is cobbing!

It will be fun to watch her actually pull off an ear of corn or pull up a carrot and know that SHE grew it. I wonder what kind of recipe she will come up with … hopefully not cucumbers and cinnamon again. That really wasn’t my favorite.


What’s in Mina’s Book Bag?

July 30, 2009

Our latest interest is chickens. We recently found out that there is a community garden across the street and they have a chicken coop with nine chickens. Very interesting chickens! We hadn’t read the book Tillie Lays an Egg in a while, but that book came rushing back when we saw the chickens. The chickens in the coop were almost all “named” in Tillie’s book! I felt like I should be called the golden ones Edwina!

I remember reading it and thinking it would be so nice for Mina to be able to care for a chicken. Who knew that there would be a chicken coop across the street! Tillie Lays an Egg is about a chicken named Tillie who refuses to lay her egg in the nest. She finds “other” places to lay them. It is a search and find type book. You have to look (not too hard) and find the egg in the different locations. One time she lays in the laundry room, the next in the sugar bowl, etc. In the end, Tillie decides that the nest is quite comfortable and lays her egg in the appropriate spot.

Since we are now on the subject of eggs, there are a few other books that we have like about eggs. I had had hopes of doing a blog like this around Easter time, but that didn’t happen…here’s my opportunity now!

The Odd Egg is a funny story done in pencil about a duck who sees all the other birds lay and egg and wants one as well. He finds one: a lovely green polka dotted big egg! The others make fun of his egg, but the duck will soon have the last laugh when the egg creak crack opens at the end–I won’t spoil the surprise! You will have to read it to find out :).

I am in love with the book The Egg is Silent. It is so beautifully illustrated, so realistic. The author renders exact replicas of every kind of bird egg that you can think of, perfectly. It reminds me of rummaging through antique stores and finding old illustrated books and pages from the early 20th century.

Recently we have made very good friends with a new egg book: Egg Drop. It is all about an egg who dreams of flying. “He was young… he should have listened…” it begins and you know the egg is in for some trouble!

The last egg story that we have discovered, kind of by accident, is Two Eggs, Please. The story is based in a diner. The animals get off work and head to get some breakfast. Each orders eggs cooked in a different way, scrambled, sunnyside up, fried, etc. They all think: “Hmmm. … different but the same!” It is a basic book about how people can be different in many ways, but inside we are just like everyone else and that is ok.

The chickens will be getting big enough and will be laying their eggs soon. Mina will be able to go and harvest her own and make her first fresh omelet, straight from the coop. I can’t think of anything tasting any better than that! It will really bring Tillie Lays an Egg to life in so many ways.


What’s in Mina’s Book Bag?

July 20, 2009

As most of you know, Mina and I have our little routine: around 10 a.m. we head down to Starbucks, grab a coffee and sample soymilk, head to the bookstore and plunk our bottoms down in the same corner. We are slowly making our way through most of the books on the shelves right next to us.

A few weeks ago, we came across a couple of books that actually made me “sit up and listen” to their message. We have been reading John Muth’s Zen Ties and Zen Shorts. We began with Zen Ties because it was a little less dense than Zen Shorts. Once Mina got used to the writing style, we moved into Zen Shorts.

They are stories about three children and their friendship with a Panda named Stillwater. Through his stories and example, he quietly and gently teaches them many lessons. The combination of beautiful artwork and magical lessons is seamless. The pages are done in watercolor and he executes the brush marvelously. The high contrast between some colors and shadows that he achieves with watercolor is impressive. He gets the effect of oils but with a softer edge, making it a bit more accessible for the kids.

It was in the book Zen Shorts that I felt that the author was also talking to the parents as well as the children. The books is divided into three sections, and each section has a story with a child and then shifts to a fable done in black and white Asian brushwork. These fables seem to be almost meant for the parent or for a slightly older child. The fable that really hit home for me was about releasing and letting go. It is about two monks, one younger and one older, who come upon a haughty princess in her carriage. She needs to get across a big puddle. The older monk lifts her, carries her across and puts her down and goes on his way. She doesn’t say thank you and pushes him out of the way. The younger monk, broods over this all day long and says as much to the older monk. To which the monk answers: I put her down hours ago, why are YOU still carying her?

That really hit home for me because I am a thinker and a brooder. The more I read that story the more I realized that, sometimes, I just need to let go. The watercolor version of the story with the little boy captures this fable perfectly and brings it down to a child’s level of understanding.

Zen Ties is the second book. Stillwater returns, but this time his nephew Koo comes to visit. I love that Koo only speaks in haiku! It is wonderful to have this literary technique interspersed in a children’s story. This time, Stillwater has the children help an old women in the neighborhood. In doing so, they gain a greater appreciation of how much you can learn from the older generation and vice versa. The story begins with the children being scared of the old lady who yells at them to get off her yard and play in the street. Then after becoming friends, the old lady is yelling at them again, to get out of the street and play in HER yard.

We don’t have the graphic contrast of images as in the first story, but the watercolors are still beautiful and the essence of the scene is captured in the minutest detail. I haven’t seen someone capture the soul of a character in watercolor before. When you look into the old woman’s eyes, you can see how she has changed over the course of the book. Her eyes tell the story.

I can’t wait to see the next installment of Stillwater and what he has in store for the children!