The Joy and Magic of…CRAYONS.

Close your eyes and take a trip back to your childhood. No matter what age you are, wasn’t there a time when getting a brand new box of 64 colors Crayola crayons rocked your world? The smell of new crayons, fresh from the box, the array of colors begging to be used, awaiting your creativity. It is hard to find someone who hasn’t used, enjoyed, or created something special with crayons.

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Today is NATIONAL CRAYON DAY. To celebrate, I thought I’d share a few fun things about these magic wands of creativity.

THE FIRST BOX OF CRAYOLA CRAYONS MADE IN 1903 COST ONLY A NICKEL AND INCLUDED THE COLORS RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, VIOLET, BROWN, AND BLACK. When I bought my first box of crayons, this 8 Pack cost a quarter.

IT’S BEEN SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN THAT THE SMELL OF A CRAYON IS UNIVERSAL. A study done by Yale on the 20 most recognizable scents ranked crayons number 18.

THE AVERAGE CHILD WEARS DOWN 720 CRAYONS BY THEIR TENTH BIRTHDAY. Talk about creativity…I’m willing to bet many of those crayons were used to make “I LOVE YOU” cards for parents.

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CRAYOLA MAKES 3 BILLION CRAYONS A YEAR. That’s enough crayons to circle the world six times!

AMERICA’S FAVORITE CRAYON COLOR IS BLUE. We like it so much that the top ten favorites included these other shades of blue: cerulean, midnight blue, aquamarine, periwinkle, denim and blizzard blue.  

Big Blue is the world’s largest crayon.
Big Blue

Getty Images

The giant was made from 123,000 leftover blue crayons collected from kids around the nation. It weighs a whopping 1,500 pounds and is almost 16 feet long!

Crayons are so popular, books have been written about them:

For ideas on how to enjoy the magic of crayons, visit: https://www.crayolaexperience.com/

THREE CHEERS FOR CRAYONS... Long may they continue to inspire creativity.

Don’t Throw Away Orphan Toys. Do This Instead.

With summer winding down, we often want to welcome fall with a bit of cleaning and getting rid of some of the “stuff” that accumulated all summer long.  If your children are tired of their old toys and books or you just need to make some room, try donating the items to some of the following:

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http://www.stuffedanimalsforemergencies.org  delivers gently used toys to children in need. Go on the website to check for your local community chapter.       

http://www.Babybuggy.org  takes kids and baby gear along with maternity and children’s clothing that is in good condition.  They distribute it to needy families.

For books contact:  www.donationtown.org    to schedule a pick up along with others in your area.  Just enter your zip code and choose from local charities you’d like to sponsor.

Another way to re-purpose books is at: www.booksforafrica.org   You pay for shipping to the Atlanta warehouse, but it is tax-deductible.

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You can also donate unwanted items to your local GOODWILL, SALVATION ARMY, VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA   www.pickupplease.org    And, Habitat For Humanity will accept household items and furniture at their ReStore outlets to use in their building projects. Check out their needs at: www.habitat.org

Check to see if local nursery schools, childcare centers and homeless shelters would welcome toys. There are plenty of kids out there looking for toys and books to love.

Book Review: AFRICAN TOWN by Irene Latham and Charles Waters

Every now and then I come across a book that leaves me breathless and awed by its storytelling and power. AFRICAN TOWN african townby Irene Latham and Charles Waters is just such a book. Here is the blurb from the publisher:

Chronicling the story of the last Africans brought illegally to America in 1860, African Town is a powerful and stunning novel-in-verse.

In 1860, long after the United States outlawed the importation of enslaved laborers, 110 men, women and children from Benin and Nigeria were captured and brought to Mobile, Alabama aboard a ship called Clotilda. Their journey includes the savage Middle Passage and being hidden in the swamp lands along the Alabama River before being secretly parceled out to various plantations, where they made desperate attempts to maintain both their culture and also fit into the place of captivity to which they’d been delivered. At the end of the Civil War, the survivors created a community for themselves they called African Town, which still exists to this day. Told in 14 distinct voices, including that of the ship that brought them to the American shores and the founder of African Town, this powerfully affecting historical novel-in-verse recreates a pivotal moment in US and world history, the impacts of which we still feel today.

Here’s my review:

This YA novel-in-verse, inspired by the true story of the last African slave ship Clotilda, is not to be missed. Stunning in scope and breathtaking in detail, readers become part of the group of survivors who endure captivity aboard the ship, suffer brutality and deprivation as slaves in an unfamiliar country, and never forget their African roots. Told in alternating points-of-view, by characters named for the actual people who were kidnapped and brought to Alabama before the start of the Civil War, even though slavery was then illegal…on paper. At times heart-wrenching and uplifting, the spirit of survival and freedom resonates and endures in the hearts and minds of these courageous souls who create a new home away from home in a place they never chose to be. Beautifully written and respectfully told, this story will stay with you long after the reading is done.

If you haven’t read this book yet, I encourage you to do so and to pass it along to your friends and family.

Irish Soda Bread…AGAIN…Because it’s Delicious!

I first ran this recipe in 2014 but everywhere I go, people comment on the moistness and light sweetness of this bread, so here it is…in time for ST. PATRICK’S DAY.

This recipe for Soda Bread is more moist than many thanks to the buttermilk.  If you can’t find buttermilk, use regular plain yogurt (NOT Greek).

Irish Soda Bread

4 C flour (I use 1C whole wheat)       ½ C sugar       1 T baking powder

1 t salt               1 t baking soda         1 C. raisins plumped (see note)

 4 T melted butter        1 ½ C buttermilk      1 lg. egg

  1. Preheat oven to 375.  Grease and flour a round pan or cookie sheet.
  2. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, powder and salt.
  3. Pour melted butter into dry ingredients and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in raisins.
  4. In a separate bowl beat buttermilk, egg and baking soda.  Add to flour mix until blended.
  5. Turn dough onto floured surface, and knead until smooth – about 1 minute.  If dough is sticky, flour your hands as you knead.  Shape dough into two round loaves.  soda bread 1
  6. Place dough in prepared pan. With a sharp knife, make 2 crisscross slits in dough.
  7. Bake for 45-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.  Let rest for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.
  8. Serve sliced with butter or jam.  Bet you can’t eat just one piece!

soda bread 2

NOTE: Pour boiling water over the raisins and let them stand for 5 minutes to soften.  Drain and pat dry.

 

Easy and Fun Crafts For St. Patrick’s Day

Easy St Patrick’s Day Crafts for Kids

Many of you who follow this blog know how much I enjoy posting about easy, fun crafts for kids. One of my favorite sites for this is RED TED ART. Check out all the fun crafts for any holiday, season, or just for fun. Everything from paper crafting, origami, painting, clay, puppets, weaving…this site has it all.

Enjoy a bit of extra “luck of the Irish” and get busy with the kids making some easy and fun shamrocks and other decorations.

You can also get into the spirit of the holiday with some fun reading: leprecaun book

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

Almost Spring Easy and Tasty Banana Muffins.

After the dog days of winter, I am anxious to get outside and participate in the rebirth that is SPRING. Despite the calendar saying it is officially spring on 3-21, we all know it usually comes of its own accord.

And, we know March is a month where anything can happen. So, while you and your kids await the days when we can go outside with just a jacket on, why not gather them together for an easy baking session? Instead of throwing out those over-ripe bananas, make up a batch of BANANA MUFFINS or BANANA BREAD.Just mash three bananas with a fork as shown below:

muff 1

Then follow my well-worn and foolproof recipe. I used chopped walnuts, but you can try almonds also. You can even throw in some mini chocolate morsels.

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The recipe makes 2 loaves or 18 muffins. Serve them up with your favorite beverage and the wait for spring will be a delicious one.

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WHO WON A COPY OF BIRDIE’S BILLIONS?

It is with great pleasure I announce the winner of a signed copy of BIRDIE’S BILLIONS by Edith Cohn and some nifty swag to go with it. Drum roll please…

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The winner is LAURA ROETTIGER. Please email me with your address so I can send the goodies out to you.

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway, and remember…one of the best ways to show your love for a book or author, is to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and share it on your social media. I guarantee you will make an author’s day!

REST IN PEACE PAULA COHEN MARTIN…Your Memory and Books Will Live on.

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The children’s writing world has lost another champion at the recent passing of Paula Cohen Martin. As sad as that is, it is sadder still that she died before she was able to bring her first picture book out into the world. Her stories and amazing illustrations will live on.

To honor her memory and help her book reach the population of the young children she loved, It is my honor to feature the book on today’s blog.

big dreams small fish

In the new country, Shirley and her family all have big dreams. Take the family store: Shirley has great ideas about how to make it more modern! Prettier! More profitable! She even thinks she can sell the one specialty no one seems to want to try: Mama’s homemade gefilte fish.

But her parents think she’s too young to help. And anyway they didn’t come to America for their little girl to work. “Go play with the cat!” they urge.

This doesn’t stop Shirley’s ideas, of course. And one day, when the rest of the family has to rush out leaving her in the store with sleepy Mrs. Gottlieb, Shirley seizes her chance!

BIG FISH, SMALL DREAMS is a love letter to the American Ashkenazi immigrant experience in the 20th century, no small part of which entailed girls finding their voices and their power in ways they had never before been able to do. Protagonist Shirley, with a good head on her shoulders, is one of those girls. Paula was eager to include Yiddish in her text and to make sure it was as authentic and historically accurate as her images. It is a delight to read and a wonderful way to remember her.

Here is a review from PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY:

 “This Yiddish-punctuated slice-of-life story, Cohen’s picture book debut, wears its nostalgia lightly; the narrator’s voice is as crisp as the illustrations’ black outlines. What really matters here is timeless: an indomitable protagonist and the loving family who dotes on her.” -Publishers Weekly

Celebrate National Peanut Butter Day + Free Pancakes… by Marilyn Ostermiller

Today, March 1 marks the National Day for peanut butter lovers.

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Picture a regular size jar of peanut butter. Either creamy or crunchy. Now, guess how many peanuts were crushed to fill that jar. (More about that later.)

Legend has it that a doctor whipped up the first batch of peanut butter in the early 1890s for his patients who had difficulty chewing. His name has been lost to history, but that tasty spread has stuck around ever since. 

National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day was designated as March 1 in 1990 on the 100th anniversary of the day peanut butter made its commercial debut in the United States.

Subsequently, peanut butter was introduced to a broader audience at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. It caught on quickly. Entrepreneur C.H. Sumner had sales of $705 for the new treat at his concession stand. Its popularity has grown to an estimated $800 million a year in sales in the U.S. alone.

Peanut butter is best know for the company it keeps.

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Chocolate, for example. Reese’s Peanut Cup candy, chocolate covered portions of peanut butter, was introduced in 1928.

And, jelly. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are classic, but other nutty sandwich combos are limited only by imagination. Elvis Presley was known to enjoy peanut butter and banana sandwiches.  similar-image

According to the National Peanut Board, it takes 540 peanuts to make a 12 ounce jar of peanut butter. It’s also possible to make it at home in a food processor with two cups of dry roasted peanuts, a couple of tablespoons of honey or sugar and salt to taste. Visit the Pinch of Yum blog for specifics.

https://pinchofyum.com/5-minute-homemade-peanut-butter#tasty-recipes-41113-jump-target

 Here is an easy and nutritious recipe for PEANUT BUTTER DIP  that is perfect for snacks and potlucks. Kids can make it since there is no cooking required.

SAVORY PEANUT BUTTER DIP

1/4 C creamy peanut butter, 3 oz. cream cheese, 1 to 2 T of apple or orange juice, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 to 1/4 C unsweetened applesauce.

  • Combine first 4 ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth.
  • Add applesauce, little by little, to bring to the desired consistency for the dip.
  • Chill before serving with fresh fruits, veggies, graham cracker sticks, crackers.

Makes 8 servings. From: http://www.peanutbutterlovers.com

Kids love to eat peanut butter, but they also may like to read about it. Among the related children’s books, is “Peanut Butter & Cupcake!” written by Terry Border. The hero is a peanut butter-covered slice of white bread, that wanders around his new neighborhood trying to make a friend.

pb and cupcake

National Pancake Day, sponsored by IHOP, also will be celebrated on March 1 this year. Since 2006, IHOP restaurants have offered a free short stack of their Original Buttermilk Pancakes between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. on that day. Guests are asked to consider leaving a donation — and they have. Since the first annual event, nearly $30 million has been raised for charities on National Pancake Day. http://www.ihoppancakeday.com

For the ULTIMATE CELEBRATION, how about peanut butter pancakes? Makes me hungry just writing about it…

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Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who also writes stories for children.