Fairy Trail

Fairies in the Forest

I’d heard mention of a Fairy Trail in the South Mountain Reservation, but didn’t know much about it until recently. When my sister and her three daughters visited, we found a whole village! I went a little crazy taking pictures of the tiny houses, so I’ll share them over several posts.

Happy fairy house hunting, Hon!

My sister, nieces, daughter and dog ready to search for magic!

 

 

Add a roof to the door and the house takes shape.

Set a door against a gap in a tree and–voila–a fairy house!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moss, bark and branches create an organic structure.

Check out the tiny furniture inside this fairy home.

Homes are under trees and on top of logs.

Want to make your own fairy house? Click here to find out how on wiki How

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Nightbird by Alice Hoffman, Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Covers, One Story

I just finished listening to bestselling author Alice Hoffman’s middle grade novel, Nightbird on Audible. Layers build upon each other as characters are introduced, problems increase, and mysteries must be solved. The story is an easy read, but contains poignant reminders of how the past informs the present and how we have the power to change our path.

Summary from Goodreads:

Twig lives in Sidwell, where people whisper that fairy tales are real. After all, her town is rumored to hide a monster. And two hundred years ago, a witch placed a curse on Twig’s family that was meant to last forever. But this summer, everything will change when the red moon rises. It’s time to break the spell.

Quotes from Nightbird:

“I just stored up my hurts, as if they were a tower made of fallen stars, invisible to most people, but brightly burning inside of me.”

“Mean people are meaningless.”

“It was a miracle to live as birds do, except for one thing: anyone seen in flight would surely be captured, perhaps even shot down like a crow flying above a cornfield. It’s always dangerous to be different, to appear as a monster in most people’s eyes, even from a distance.”

Click here to read a preview of the book.

If you’ve read this book, I’d love to know your thoughts.

Happy reading (and listening), hon.

Three Berry Lovely Hostess Gifts

Chocolate-covered raspberries from Sweet Nothings.

One of the best things about summer is getting together with friends. With less carpools and craziness, it’s nice to hang out and catch up. I love that the day seems longer. Last night, we left a concert in our town’s park about 9pm and it was still light.

Summer invitations mean hostess gifts. Here are three berry-lovely ideas.

I found this adorable strawberry basket filled with chocolate-covered raspberries at Sweet Nothings, a chocolate shop in Summit, NJ. How easy is this to make yourself? All you need is a basket, filler “grass,” and candy or berries. How about making a berry mix? Wrap the mix in plastic wrap and nestle it inside the basket. Tie a bow and off you go!

Hand-thrown berry bowls filled with local berries.

Berry bowls aren’t just pretty, they’re practical since they are small colanders. I made the two ceramic bowls above, but I’ve seen them in several stores. How sweet would it be to give the hostess a berry bowl already filled? Want to make it even sweeter? Bring along whipped cream and (dare-I-say?) chocolate sauce.

Photo of Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries from bettycrocker.com.

I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture the last time I made Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries. Click here for a recipe. Know what’s fun about making these? Finishing up the leftover melted chocolate at home.

Berry-yummy!

Sources: Sweet Nothings  and bettycrocker.com

 

Snickerdoodle Cookies

Snickerdoodle Cookies

Bakers.

Summer Guests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snickerdoodles Cookies

What’s my go-to indoor activity with kids? Baking, of course! When my friend and her daughters visited recently, this easy recipe was a hit. These Snickerdoodles are cake-y, light, and so yummy, we had to limit ourselves or we could have eaten the whole batch at once!

 Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups (385 grams) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature (the Joy of Cooking recipe calls for 1 cup butter, but we thought it was too much)

1  1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated white sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Coating:

1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated white sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

3.  With an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg. Scrape down sides of bowl. Beat in vanilla extract.  Add flour mixture and beat until dough is smooth. If dough is soft, cover and refrigerate until firm enough to roll into balls.

4.  Shape dough into 1-inch (2.54 cm) round balls.

5.  Coating: In a large, shallow bowl, mix together sugar and cinnamon.

6. Roll balls of dough in the cinnamon/sugar mixture and place on prepared being sheets, about 2 inches (5 cm) apart.

7. Then, using the bottom of a glass, gently flatten each cookie to about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick.

8. Bake cookies for approx. 8 – 10 minutes, or until they are light golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.

Yield: About 6 dozen cookies

Store cookies in an airtight container, at room temperature, for about 10-14 days.

Source: www.joyofbaking.com

 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway

My daughters outside of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in Manhattan.

Looking for a show to see? Are you a Roald Dahl fan? Both?

“Unwrap a world of pure imagination.”

My youngest daughter loves Broadway shows, so what better way to celebrate her birthday than to surprise her with tickets to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The New Musical in Manhattan?  We appreciate Roald Dahl’s dark humor and twisted characters (We loved “Matilda the Musical.”), not to mention that Willy Wonka is played by Christian Borle who was excellent as Shakespeare in “Something Rotten.”

One of my favorite childhood movies was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I saw the newer version, and didn’t mind Johnny Depp playing a deeply disturbed Willy Wonka, but Gene Wilder’s Wonka stuck in my psyche.

The musical is wonderful! The set design is clever, interesting, colorful and illusional. The larger than life characters are modern, and each has his/her own “voice.” The humor is both timeless and relevant to the times, and, of course, of course, the story is evergreen. The messages that imagination is valuable, dream big, and work for your passion makes me–sniff-a little weepy.

Oh and, hon, the Oompa Loompas are hysterical!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The New Musical

I thought most people knew the story, but at the Broadway show the woman sitting behind us seemed genuinely surprised when Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregard, Mike Teavee, and Augustus Gloop met their sweet rewards, and when Charlie Bucket was the last child standing. The show’s website describes the story like this:

Willy Wonka, world famous inventor of the Everlasting Gobstopper, has just made an astonishing announcement. His marvelous—and mysterious—factory is opening its gates…to a lucky few. That includes young Charlie Bucket, whose life definitely needs sweetening. He and four other golden ticket winners will embark on a mesmerizing, life-changing journey through Wonka’s wondrous world. Get ready for chocolate waterfalls, exquisitely nutty squirrels and the great glass elevator, all to be revealed by Wonka’s army of curious Oompa-Loompas.

Birthday girl.

Have you seen a good show lately? I’m always interested in what else is on stage.

 

 

Show and Tell Ceramics II

“”Flower” small serving bowls.

This semester, my Ceramics instructor challenged us to make a set of small bowls that fit together around a center, chalice-shaped bowl, all resting on a plate. It really was a challenge! It took almost the whole ten classes to make, with a lot of mess-ups. My instructor said, “It’s all about the process.” When we’d had a particularly frustrating throwing day, the other students and I would remind each other to slow down and concentrate.

Hon, doesn’t “It’s all about the process” apply to so many things? That’s why I love my wise instructor and the patience Pottery teaches.

Closer look at bowls that fit together. Imagine them filled with different candies. You know I’m all about the sweets!

Unglazed outside of a bowl made with marbled clay.

Another marbled clay bowl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bowl with visible “throwing rings.”

 

Jekyll and Hyde Doggie

Lucy hypnotizes us with her “people eyes.”

Don’y let Lucy’s cutie cuteness fool you.

I am an accessory to aggravated assault and I blame Lucy!

My former sweet, little angel has never shown an interest in birds. Chipmunks? Yes. Squirrels? Definitely. Groundhogs? Think fatality. In the animal kingdom-also-known-as-my-backyard, she saves growling and running around the yard 30 mph for small, skittish mammals. Birds are barely worth a low huff, wet nose, or tail twitch.

Our vet thinks Lucy is a part Border Collie, part Black-Lab (aka. Labracollie), which explains why she loves to retrieve tennis balls and herd young children. When Lucy herds, she uses a “soft mouth” and wet nose, bonking and nipping as if to say, “Hey, you sheep, you cows, cluster!”

When Lucy’s outside, she surveys the meadow (umm, yard) from the porch, alerting us to cars and passersby. I’ve read that Border Collies hypnotize herds with their intense, brown eyes, and I believe it. Lucy stares at us intensely with her “people eyes,” hypnotizing us with her inner thoughts. (“Give me meat.” or “Play ball with me.”)

A few days ago, we spotted a Blue Jay fledgling on our driveway. It was all fuzzy down and short feathers. I was fascinated. (Hon, do you know me at all?) I squatted down. It stared at me. I inched closer. It squeaked. I came a little closer. It hop hop hopped down the driveway. Adorable! Lucy was indifferent. Since birds were never a cause for maniacal barking or hypnotism, how was I to know she was secretly Jekyll and Hyde?

The next day, Lucy and I spotted the fledgling on the sidewalk. “There you are,” I said. “Aren’t you cute?” I said. “We won’t hurt you,” I said. Lucy lowered her head as if to sniff the bird, so I let her get a bit closer. All of a sudden, she lunged and grabbed the bird!

After yanking Lucy’s collar while screaming, “Bad dog!”, I picked up the baby bird* who wasn’t bitten or bleeding but limp-ish. Oh no! Did Lucy break its neck or pick it up with a “soft mouth?” Was the bird was just shaken up, stunned and going to come-to later? I searched the internet to find out if birds play dead, and found that some people witnessed this phenomenon, but without confirmation by an expert, it seemed like a wish.

When I returned to the scene of the crime later that day, the baby bird was gone. Did a cat find it? Or a fox? Or–maybe, just maybe–as soon as we left, it perked its little head up and hopped away?

One can only hope.

Adorable Baby Jay.

* It’s a myth that if you touch a baby bird, the mommy won’t take care of it anymore. Click here to read more.

Source: Live Science

I’d love to hear if your “sweet little angels” are harboring killer instincts.

Book Review, The Inquisitor’s Tale Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

Box of books found at The Book Shed.

On a recent visit to my brother and his family, my daughter and I discovered a hidden gem, a great idea, and the reason we’d been receiving random gifts of books…The Book Shed. In Newton, Massachusetts’ Recycling Depot, gently used books organized by genre and author are stored in a shed, and you know what? You can take as many books as you want!

So many stories. So many worlds to explore. Not enough hours in a day!

I didn’t pick up The Inquisitor’s Tale Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog at The Book Shed, but I did listen to it on Audible. This middle grade novel, written by Adam Gidwitz and illustrated by Hatem Aly, is a 2017 Newbery Honor Book and Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

The story is outrageous, hilarious, fascinating, engrossing, and excellently written. This book may be for 8 – 12 year-olds but, hon, its a must-read for any age. I loved it!

The bestselling author of A Tale Dark and Grimm takes on medieval times in an exciting and hilarious new adventure about history, religion . . . and farting dragons.

1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children: William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne’s loyal greyhound, Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead.

As the narrator collects their tales, the story of these three unlikely allies begins to come together.

Their adventures take them on a chase through France to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned. They’re taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. And as their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints.

Beloved bestselling author Adam Gidwitz makes his long awaited return with his first new world since his hilarious and critically acclaimed Grimm series. Featuring manuscript illuminations throughout by illustrator Hatem Aly and filled with Adam’s trademark style and humor, The Inquisitor’s Tale is bold storytelling that’s richly researched and adventure-packed.

Goodreads.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

 

Herbed Celery-Potato Salad

Small purple and yellow potatoes.

Herbed Celery-Potato Salad

Herbed Celery-Potato Salad

We hosted a Memorial Day bbq and, in addition to needing dessert ideas (the search resulted in Top Ten Patriotic Desserts), I needed a side dish. The Herbed Celery-Potato salad from a Martha Stewart Living magazine was easy and delicious.

Make ahead. Serve with lunch or dinner. Pack a picnic. Hon, it tastes like summer.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds peewee potatoes, scrubbed (I used both yellow and purple potatoes.)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

5 teaspoons apple-cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups mixed fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley and basil, chopped

2 scallions, chopped

1 stalk celery, finely diced (1/4 cup)

Directions:

1. In a medium saucepan, cover potatoes with 2-inches of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and season generously with salt; cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, 10-12 minutes. Drain. (Note: the purple potatoes needed less cooking time, so next time, I’ll remove them earlier than the yellow potatoes.)

2. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, halve and transfer to a large bowl.

3.  Add oil, vinegar, herbs, scallions, and celery. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

4.  Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled.

Tip: “Make ahead to let the flavors meld, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you’re using larger potatoes, boil them longer, and quarter or cut them into one-inch pieces after cooking.”

Serves: 6 (I think it serves more than that, but I guess it depends on how big a serving  people take.)

Source: Martha Stewart Living

 

Top Ten Patriotic Desserts

In preparation for the unofficial start to summer, here are the Top Ten Patriotic Desserts. Click on dessert names under the photos for links to each recipe.

Ever wonder how Memorial Day originated?

HISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY care of History.com

Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, but in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees and declared Memorial Day a federal holiday. The change went into effect in 1971.

Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday.

Happy Holiday, hon!

Sources: insidebrucrewlife.com, tasteofhome.com, delish.commarthastewart.com, yummyhealthyeasy.com, familycircle.com, thououghlynourishedlife.com, history.com