Good Fortune Lurks Inside Tasty Treats by Marilyn Ostermiller

         

Fortune cookies are the anticipated treat at the end of a dinner in an Asian restaurant. It’s fun to slip out the slim strip of paper and read what the future holds.

fortune-cookie-pile

          Traditionally, the fortunes were based on sayings by Chinese philosopher Confucius, These days, the fortunes are crafted by writers who have a flair for brevity with a twist. The fortunes range in tone from profound to bits of common sense and even riddles. For example:

          — A feather in the hand is better than a bird in the air.

          — A friend is a present you give yourself.

          — A golden egg of opportunity falls into your lap this afternoon.

          National Fortune Day is celebrated on July 20 to recognize these crisp, folded cookies with a hint of sweetness.

          Sources say the distinctively folded cookie originated in Japan, where elaborate desserts and folding techniques are enjoyed. The cookie migrated to the United States in the late 1800s. It became increasingly popular during World War II.

          What better way to celebrate the cookie’s big day than to bake a batch at home? A recipe with photos and an instructional video can be found at the food blog, http://www.fifteenspatulas.com. The ingredients are staples in most well-stocked kitchens — eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla and almond extract, water and flour.

          Before embarking on this baking venture, it’s best to have the fortunes printed on slender paper strips. Need some ideas to get started? Visit fortunecookiemessage.com where the messages range from cryptic to optimistic

          —Your shoes will make you happy today

          — The greatest risk is not taking one.

          — Wealth awaits you.

          An alternative to baked cookies are paper fortune cookies that incorporate origami, the ancient Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures. The specifics can be found at unsophisticook.com.

Children are fascinated with fortune cookies as well. The book, “Fortune Cookie Fortunes,” written by Grace Lin, is an engaging story about two sisters who want to know if their cookie fortune will come true. It’s suitable for kids from five to eight years old.

 

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

 

 

In Celebration Of the Pretzel by Marilyn Ostermiller

There’s no need to get tied up in knots deciding how to celebrate National Pretzel Day which happens to be tomorrow, April 26. While hard pretzels are a popular snack, the pretzel celebrated this month is the soft, chewy cousin to baked bread that is enjoyed hot, often with mustard.

soft pretzels

Soft pretzels are served at restaurants, bars, sports arenas and Auntie Annie’s retail outlets. Their humble beginnings have been traced to a monastery in northern Italy about 610 A.D., according to “The History of Science and Technology,” by Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellmans.

Tradition credits the first pretzels to a young Italian monk, who was preparing unleavened bread for Lent, the 40-day period of fasting before Easter. Using a glob of leftover dough, legend has it he formed the first pretzel shape. To the priest’s eye, the shape resembled how Christians prayed, with their arms folded across their chests, each hand on the opposite shoulder. The priest treated the children he taught to a pretzel as reward for saying their prayers. Pretzels grew in popularity as they were introduced in monasteries over the Alps into Austria and Germany.

The circular pretzel may also be related to a communion bread used in Greece a thousand years ago. In the Catholic Church, pretzels had a religious significance for both ingredients and shape. The loops in pretzels may have served a practical purpose; bakers could hang them on sticks.

Soft pretzels were introduced in America by Dutch immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1800s. The Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania, traces its roots back to 1861, when Sturgis purchased a house on Main Street and opened the first commercial pretzel bakery in America. sturgis house

Factory tours are available by appointment. Visitors get a hands-on pretzel twisting lesson and can observe bakers twisting pretzels by hand. 

making pretzels

pretzel

For information visit:  juliussturgis.com. Popular flavor combos include hot cheese sauce, honey mustard, chocolate sauce, caramel and icing.

Among the children’s books that tell of the origins of the pretzel is “Pretzels by the Dozen: Truth and Inspiration with a Heart-Shaped Twist,” by Angela Hunt and William Dodge.

If you’d like to try your hand at making your own soft pretzels, here is an easy, fool-proof recipe from Darlene. She used it in her classroom every year and the results were delicious. Don’t worry about trying to shape the pretzels in the traditional way. Have the kids shape them into their initials so they are guaranteed to eat the ones they make. I doubt there will be any leftovers.

SOFT PRETZELS:

INGREDIENTS:

1 PK YEAST,  4 C FLOUR,  1 1/2 C WARM WATER,  1 EGG BEATEN FOR GLAZE,  1 T SUGAR,   1 T SALT, PARCHMENT PAPER FOR LINING COOKIE SHEETS

MIX TOGETHER YEAST, WATER, SUGAR AND SALT. STIR IN FLOUR. KNEAD DOUGH UNTIL SMOOTH. SPRINKLE FLOUR ON YOUR HANDS AND SHAPE PIECES OF DOUGH INTO DESIRED LETTER, CIRCLES, EVEN BREAD STICK SHAPES. BRUSH WITH BEATEN EGG AND SPRINKLE WITH YOUR FAVORITE TOPPING. SESAME SEEDS, POPPY SEEDS, COARSE SALT, CINNAMON/SUGAR MIX, ALL WORK WELL.

BAKE ON PARCHMENT LINED COOKIE SHEETS AT 425F FOR 15 MINUTES OR UNTIL BROWN. THEY HAVE THE CONSISTENCY OF BAGELS AND ARE ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS.

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

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.

gallery-1456171638-crayons

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.

drawing

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:

toys

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.

book mess

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.

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.

 

Author/Illustrator Mike Ciccotello Presents: Draw With Mr. Mike

Are you an author who writes picture books and would love to know how to illustrate them? Do you have or know children who love to doodle and draw? Do you want to stretch your creative muscles and learn something new? Then I’ve got a great YouTube series for you: DRAW WITH MR. MIKE starring PB Author/Illustrator Mike Ciccotello. Here’s Mike to tell you about his series in his own words:

Thanks for the invite to talk about my drawing program, Draw with Mr. Mike!

When my twins were three, I observed how they started to create art. I had an idea of showing them how to use basic lines and shapes to create complex objects. We worked on a few drawings, and I was delighted to see them follow along. They were excited to see what they were able to create. So I decided to include this in my school visits, and it was a hit. The kids enjoyed the opportunity to create art together.

Creating art between three to seven is fun for children, but it can also be problematic if they lack confidence in their abilities. Breaking down these drawings into their simplest forms makes them easier to understand. And then, step-by-step, as we fit the shapes together to build a finished piece of art, we are also building the child’s confidence.

After developing this idea, I knew I wanted to reach more children, but I didn’t know how to take my lessons and make them available to the public. Then, an old colleague from my days at CNN approached me with an idea. Her company, Identity Digital, could help me figure it all out, and that’s when the Draw with Mr. Mike show became a reality.

We started recording episodes and posting them to Vimeo, YouTube, and on my website.

Each episode demonstrates the same principle of using basic lines and shapes to create a complex character, object, or scene. Now I’m focusing on creating more episodes to reach a wider audience, improving my production every week, and doing my best to make fun and educational drawing lessons for kids.

drawing
Here is the blurb from my website:

Do you know a child who loves to draw? Or maybe a child who needs a confidence boost when it comes to making art? If so, then DRAW WITH MR. MIKE may be a great fit. In these short, easy-to-understand videos, young artists will learn how to take basic shapes and lines, and turn them into a rocket ship, a castle, a butterfly, and other kid-friendly images. The lessons are geared toward 3-7 years old—but, of course, they are open for artists of any age to join in.

So grab some favorite drawing materials, and join me in this exciting art journey. Let’s see how these shapes and lines fit together!

mike photo

Links: YouTube.com/DrawWithMrMike

DrawWithMrMike.com

Mike is the author/illustrator of BEACH TOYS vs SCHOOL SUPPLIES, Beach Toys vs. School Supplies and TWINS.

Follow him on Twitter @ciccotello

Traveling To Asian Art Museums: Merely a Click Away by Marilyn Ostermiller

(Third in a three-part series on how to accompany the children in your life on virtual visits to a variety of museums.)

Art is the universal language.

Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” speak to us through time and space.

Likewise, “The Great Wave” created by Katsushika Hokusai of Japan has cast its spell over generations of art lovers throughout the world. This is one of a series of 36 he painted of views of Mount Fuji.   Mount Fuji Photo from Wikipedia.

You don’t have to travel to expose your children to the wonders of the art world. A few Asian Museums offer virtual visits that include special features for children. Among them:

National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan

https://theme.npm.edu.tw/npmonline/en/page-kids.html#menu

The National Palace Museum’s virtual experiences for children feature video adventures in English that feature artwork from its collections.

Its permanent collection of Chinese artifacts and artworks includes almost 700,000 pieces, including some that date back 8,000 years. Its Children’s Gallery online offers online activities such a game of “I Spy” that will help youngsters to explore an original painting, “Malay Fisherman at Changi Beach” by Chua Mia Tee.

Another activity starts with a montage of a typical breakfast that introduces them to a different, but similar, cuisine, and a riddle to solve.

A gallery tour, told by kid-friendly narrator, weaves traditional stories, in English, based on art masterpieces in the museum’s collection, beginning with King Midas and his golden touch.

 Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

In the United States, the Asian Art Museum based in San Francisco offers children’s virtual visits tied to grade level.

A video tale about celebrating the new year in tells the story of Jizo, a deity whose statues are popular in Japan along the roadside.

https://education.asianart.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2021/07/Elephant-5-600x450.jpg 1x, https://education.asianart.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2021/07/Elephant-5-1200x900.jpg 2x

Caption: One of many hands-on activities on the site available for kids of all age groups.

https://education.asianart.org/regions/china/

Here’s a link to the Coloring Pages Offered by the museum: https://education.asianart.org/resources/lunar-new-year-zodiac-animals-coloring-pages/

Another way to explore the Asian Art Museum is through the book, Adventures in Asian Art: An Afternoon at the Museum,” by author Sue DiCicco. Appropriate for ages 4 to 9, this 48-page picture book travels from exhibit to exhibit inviting kids to picture themselves in a variety of Asiant countries as they ride a rhino, become a samurai or climb Mt. Fuji. It is available through at http://www.amazon.com

Adventures in Asian Art: An Afternoon at the Museum by [Sue DiCicco]

 

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

 

 

 

1, 2, 3, 5, 8…It’s Fibonacci Day! Here are Some Books to Help Celebrate.

Have you heard of the Fibonacci Sequence? It’s a number sequence that is based on adding the number that appears before it to get the next number in the sequence. 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21…You probably already knew that. Did you know that there are  numerous examples of this sequence in nature? Today is Fibonacci Day and here are some kid-friendly books that honor the boy who discovered this sequence: Leonardo Fibonacci

BLOCKHEAD by Joseph D’Agnese

blockhead fibonacci cover

As a young boy in medieval Italy, Leonardo Fibonacci thought about numbers day and night. He was such a daydreamer that people called him a blockhead.

When Leonardo grew up and traveled the world, he was inspired by the numbers used in different countries. Then he realized that many things in nature, from the number of petals on a flower to the spiral of a nautilus shell, seem to follow a certain pattern. 

The boy who was once teased for being a blockhead had discovered what came to be known as the Fibonacci Sequence!
Blockhead is a 2011 Bank Street College — Best Children’s Book of the Year.

Blockhead has been translated into Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Catalan.  

 WILD FIBONACCI: Nature’s Secret Code Revealed: by Joy N Hulme illustrated by Carol Schwartz

wild Fibonacci cover

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34. . Look carefully. Do you see the pattern? Each number above is the sum of the two numbers before it. Though most of us are unfamiliar with it, this numerical series, called the Fibonacci sequence, is part of a code that can be found everywhere in nature. Count the petals on a flower or the peas in a peapod. The numbers are all part of the Fibonacci sequence.

In Wild Fibonacci, readers will discover this mysterious code in a special shape called an equiangular spiral. Why so special? It mysteriously appears in the natural world: a sundial shell curves to fit the spiral. So does a parrot’s beak. . . a hawk’s talon. . . a ram’s horn. . . even our own human teeth! Joy Hulme provides a clear and accessible introduction to the Fibonacci sequence and its presence in the animal world.

GROWING PATTERNS  by Sarah C Campbell (Author) Richard P Campbell (photographer)

patterns cover

An ALSC Notable Children’s Book

A wonderful introduction to one of the most beautiful connections between mathematics and the natural world–the Fibonacci sequence–through a series of stunning nature photographs.

Discover the biggest mathematical mystery in nature—Fibonacci numbers! Named after a famous mathematician, the number pattern is simple and starts with: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13. Each number in the sequence comes from adding the two numbers before it. What’s the mystery? The pattern crops up in the most unexpected places. You’ll find it in the disk of a sunflower, the skin of a pineapple, and the spiral of a nautilus shell.

This book brings math alive, celebrates science, and will inspire kids to see nature through new eyes.

You and your kids can also celebrate the day by sorting coins, buttons, cheerios, macaroni, or other small objects into piles using the sequence. How far can you go?

Pick a Peck of Pickled Peppers…It’s International Tongue Twisters Day!

Betty Battle bought some butter to make her batter better…

Theophilous Thistledown the thistle-sifter, sifted a sieve of unsifted thistles…

A tutor who tooted a flute tried to teach two young tooters to toot…

Who doesn’t love a good tongue twister?  I’m sure we all have our favorites from childhood. How about sharing some with those you love to celebrate INTERNATIONAL TONGUE TWISTER DAY...which happens to be today! Believe it or not, tongue twisters are often used as exercises for public speaking and at parties and social gatherings to break the ice and put people at ease.

Here are a couple of books to exercise your tongue twister muscles:

Three hundred and Thirty Three Twisted Tongue Twisters: A wacky twist on the modern tongue twister by Byron L Reeder

tongue twisters cover

Original and unique tongue twisters created for warming up the mouth muscles, just plain fun and overall ease of speaking. Note: This book will actually show how to use these tongue twisters in a game setting also. Parties and social gatherings are just a few of the perfect opportunities for testing your skills. So go challenge your family and friends to see who can be the first to say these fabulous tongue twisters the fastest without getting flustered!

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National Geographic Kids Just Joking: 300 Hilarious Jokes, Tricky Tongue Twisters, and Ridiculous Riddles by National Kids

Packed with the silly jokes that kids love, including knock-knocks, tongue twisters, riddles, traditional question and answer jokes, and more, Just Joking will be presented in National Geographic Kids’ colorful, photo-driven style. Laughing animals, funny people, and other colorful photos are paired with each joke, adding an extra laugh on each page. National Geographic Kids’ signature square trim size and candy-colored palette make this fun-filled book perfect for tossing into a backpack to share with friends at school or camp.

Got a favorite tongue twister you’d like to share?

 

Tour U.S. Museums Virtually With the Kids by Marilyn Ostermiller

(Second in a two-part series on how to accompany the children in your life on virtual visits to a variety of museums.)

With the advent of virtual visits to many museums across America, families can time travel throughout history without leaving home. Access is free so it won’t put a dent the budget. But, it’s important to set the stage and manage expectations for the kids before the visit begins. Preparations could begin by reading museum-related books such as these:

The Met: Lost in the Museum” is a seek-and-find adventure that takes place in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. met photo

The story follows a young girl as she moves through the museum’s galleries of Greek and Roman art, Ancient Egypt and Modern Art searching for specific treasures. Reading age: 7-9 years. It was written by Will Mabbit and illustrated by Aaron Cushley.

Seek & Find — Art Through the Ages” written by Frederic Furon and illustrated by Fabien Laurent. Youngsters will learn of a search for a medieval illuminator at a cathedral under construction and visit Impressionists as they paint by the seaside.

art museum book

Among the museums in the United States with virtual visiting options and a focus on what interests kids:

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

http://www.metmuseum.org

MetKids provides an online experience that features a time machine to uncover objects and artwork from the museum’s rooms. Virtual visitors can explore inventions, fashion and battles through videos and an interactive museum map. van gogh

For example, kids discuss famous paintings, including Washington Crossing the Delaware, with one of the museum’s curators.

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C.

https://naturalhistory.si.edu/exhibits

Virtual visitors glide through the museum led by a guide from one exhibit to another. Subject range from natural history, the ocean, and human origins. An ongoing series of live webcasts for families demonstrate topics such as how the museum’s technicians remove fossils from rock, repair broken bones, and reconstruct missing pieces to create the dinosaur skeletons on display in the museum. elephant for ostermiller post

National Children’s Museum, Washington D.C.

http://www.nationalchildrensmuseum.org

This kid-friendly museum features more than 75 STEAMwork video programs, including a detailed demonstration of how to build a zip line for toys in the house. There are monthly podcasts where children interview STEAM innovators from across the country and virtual field trips that usher them into the museum for free field trips.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, Calif.

https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams

Live web cams and prerecorded videos of penguins at feeding time, are accompanied by a chat about what they eat, how they eat it and why. Other sea creatures introduced in their natural habitat include jelly fish, leopard sharks, and sea otters.

fish for ostrrmiller blog 2one of the online exhibits at the aquarium.

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Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who seeks out family-friendly activities.