things to believe in + a holiday blog break

“My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Can’t believe Christmas is just a little over a week away and that 2017 is coming to an end.

What a year it’s been!

I think that aside from personal joys and professional accomplishments, most of us can say that in general it’s been an exhausting, tumultuous, frustrating, scary and very sad, demoralizing time for our country — and that’s probably an understatement.

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[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!

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[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.

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[spooky review + giveaway] The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen and Eliza Wheeler

Hello my pretties! Ready for a spookalicious story?

*cackles and strokes chin wart*

No matter where we grew up, most of us can remember a mean or eccentric neighbor, a creepy old house that was supposedly haunted, or a place we were afraid (or not allowed) to frequent for one reason or another.

It was the kind of thing where we were both curious and terrified at the same time. We hungered for more even as we trembled in our boots. It’s wonderful how local lore and enduring legends figured in our childhoods, how we bore witness to the dynamic process of their evolution.

In The Pomegranate Witch (Chronicle Books, 2017), Denise Doyen and Eliza Wheeler serve up a deliciously eerie and suspenseful tale of five neighborhood kids who battle a green twiggy-fingered Witch for fruit from her haunted, zealously-guarded pomegranate tree.

Beyond the edge of town,
where streetlights stopped and sidewalks ended,
A small boy spied a farmhouse in a field long untended —

And before its sagging porch, amid a weedy foxtail sea,
Found the scary, legendary, haunted pomegranate tree.

The gnarled tree loomed high and wide; its branches scraped the ground.
Beneath there was a fort, of sorts, with leafed walls all around.
Its unpruned limbs were jungle-like, dirt ripplesnaked with roots,
But glorious were the big, red, round, ripe pomegranate fruits.

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a little tale of beatrix potter and canon hardwicke rawnsley (+ a recipe for Lakeland Lemon Bread)

 

Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits —
and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter.

They lived with their Mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir-tree.

‘Now my dears,’ said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, ‘you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.’

So begins the story of Peter Rabbit, the most beloved bunny in children’s literature. It’s likely this charming tale will be enjoyed during family Easter celebrations on both sides of the pond this weekend.

Refreshments may include blackberries and milk, currant buns, lettuces, radishes, parsley and camomile tea. Other favorite Potter characters such as Benjamin Bunny, Tom Kitten, Jemima Puddle-duck, and Mrs. Tiggy-winkle may also get their fair share of attention, but what about Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley?

Who?

Well, it’s time you knew (if you don’t already). 🙂

Rawnsley wrote the “other” Tale of Peter Rabbit. Yes, there actually was another version. And it was written in verse!

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