[poem + recipe] “yaya’s sweets” by andrea potos

At this very moment, I’m sipping tea from a favorite mug, nibbling on baklava, and reading a fine book of poems: Yaya’s Cloth by Andrea Potos (Iris Press, 2007).

I’m loving Andrea’s family stories and the celebration of her Greek heritage. I appreciate the nod to domesticity and strong women — matriarchs who passed on their skills and knowledge to each succeeding generation.


Yaya with her Greek Easter bread.


Andrea had a very special relationship with her grandmother (Yaya). As I read Andrea’s lyrical depictions of their time together, I can picture them baking, chatting, and laughing in floured aprons, bonding over loaves of bread and batches of cookies. It is easy to feel the love.


Yaya in her kitchen with a Greek dessert called galaktoboureko (semolina custard in filo).


Today, I’m honored to feature a poem from Yaya’s Cloth that I’m sure will whet your appetite for more. Andrea has graciously shared a bit of backstory as well as Yaya’s recipe for baklava. And special thanks to her for the wonderful personal photos. Yum!


Continue reading

[review + recipe + giveaway] Can I Touch Your Hair? by Irene Latham and Charles Waters

Today we are doubly delighted to congratulate Poetry Friday friends Irene Latham and Charles Waters on their brand new poetry picture book, Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship (Carolrhoda, 2018), illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko.


Irene and Charles met in person for the first time at last November’s AASL Conference in Phoenix, AZ.


Officially released January 1st, this timely collection of 33 free verse poems explores the sensitive issues of race, racism, and identity with heart and candor.

Latham and Waters channel their fifth grade selves in alternating poems written by young “Irene,” who’s white, and young “Charles,” who’s black, two public school students working on a classroom Poetry Project together.

In the course of the narrative, we see how Irene and Charles, initially reluctant at being partners, gradually build mutual trust, sowing the seeds of a unique friendship as they discover things about each other, themselves, and the world beyond home and school.

They start out wary and hesitant; shy and quiet Irene describing Charles as “you-never-know-what-he’s-going-to-say Charles,” and gregarious Charles disappointed that he’s “stuck with Irene,” a girl who “hardly says anything . . . Plus she’s white.”

Continue reading

[review + recipe + giveaway] Blue Corn Soup by Caroline Stutson and Teri Weidner


When it’s snowy out, and the world has turned into a frosted fairyland, it’s nice to keep warm indoors and read a tasty picture book.

What could be better than cuddling up with your favorite blankie on a comfy sofa, while a pot of homemade soup gently burbles on the stove? Oh, that tempting aroma wafting through the house. Mmmmmm!

I’m definitely in the mood for Blue Corn Soup (Sleeping Bear Press, 2017), how about you? Written by the late Caroline Stutson and illustrated by Teri Weidner, this cozy rhyming picture book will warm the cockles of your heart and send you straight to the kitchen.

It all begins one snowy day when Mouse, a.k.a. Abuelita, decides to make a pot of soup.

Whiskers wiggle. Eyes grow bright.
Mouse peeks out. The canyon’s white.
Snow — she blinks. She’ll grind dried corn.
Blue corn soup will keep her warm.

Abuelita fills her pot.
She’ll make sopa — not a lot;
just enough for one small mouse,
cozy in her sagebrush house.

As her soup begins to cook, its savory aroma drifts around the canyon, making her neighbors curious and hungry. She continues to taste and add more ingredients, convinced something is missing.

Meanwhile, the good smells prompt Chipmunk to leave his woodchopping. Is it sopa? He must find out.

Rabbit, who was drawing water from the well, can’t resist either. Sniff, sniff. Is it sopa? He, too, must find out.

The delicious aroma even awakens Old Bear from his winter nap. He’s a little grumpy, but when something smells that good, he decides he must investigate.

Continue reading

[sweet review + recipe] A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman and Susan Gal

Please help yourself to a Pineapple Macadamia Bar

On Christmas Eve, millions of kids all over the world will be leaving out cookies and milk for Santa, and many will also provide a few carrots for his trusty reindeer.

Though my family did not do this when I was little, I’ve more than made up for it since. Any holiday tradition involving cookies is fine by me, and Santa deserves the very best. 🙂

Until I read A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman and Susan Gal (HMH, 2017), I didn’t know very much about Santa in the context of other cultures. As an egocentric American, my concept of “cookies and milk” was very generic — a few sugar cookies here, a gingersnap there, chocolate chip cookies everywhere. That’s understandable when you tend to think Santa belongs only to you.

Silly me, Santa belongs to everyone, and he enjoys lots of deliciously different treats (not all are cookies) as he travels hither and yon. Yes, he swigs a lot of milk, but he’s also able to wet his whistle with tea, beer, sparkling cider, eggnog, hot chocolate and wine. Lucky man!

Continue reading

[author chat + recipe + giveaway] Patricia Toht on Pick a Pine Tree

Please help yourself to milk and cookies (photo by P. Toht)

I’ll always remember the Christmas my parents visited us in Virginia and we decorated a balsam fir tree together. Unlike the artificial trees that defined my childhood in Hawai’i, this one was real — it liked to drop its needles but how we loved that woodsy, fragrant evergreen smell!

We sat around the kitchen table and strung garlands of popcorn and fresh cranberries while a cozy fire crackled in the adjoining great room. This was novel for us, but our lei-making experience served us well when it came to handling big needles and long strands of thread. Of course our tree was the best Christmas tree ever, because with shared memories, mugs of warm cider, and a nice collection of handmade ornaments, we had made it our own.

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht and Jarvis (Candlewick, 2017) celebrates all the joy, wonder, magic and anticipation of finding and decorating that special tree. Written in jaunty rhyming verse, this book is well on its way to becoming a perennial favorite with its timeless sentiment.

Continue reading