Teresa Robeson Presents: Two Bicycles In Beijing + a Give-away.

Today I am so excited to feature my author friend TERESA ROBESON who will tell us something about her new PB Two Bicycles In Beijing (Albert Whitman & Company 2020). Here’s Teresa:

bicycles in beijing cover

 

There are times when a happy confluence of somewhat random thoughts and ideas in my brain end up creating something wonderful. Two Bicycles In Beijing was the end result of one of those circumstances.

My father took my family on a trip to China back in 2013. It was something my parents had wanted to do for a while since the last time we went was in 1987 before I was married with kids of my own. They were eager to visit our ancestral homeland again with our expanded family to share our heritage with my kids who are half-Chinese, and my white American husband who had never been.

Sadly, my mom passed away before we could take this trip, but we still had a memorable time. We toured four cities—Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, and Hong Kong. Each of those places had their own unique character and attractions. Perhaps it was because we spent the most time in Beijing, and because it’s the capital of modern China, but my mind kept going back to our time there after our vacation. So that is the first random reoccurring thought.

Great Wall

Another involves one of my favorite photos that I took in Beijing. It features a row of bicycles parked outside of a building, and flanked by colorful flowers and lanterns. I love it so much, I used it online as a header on social media for a while. 

Bicycles

At some point, I had also come across an article about all the bicycles that are in China, in particular Beijing. It really stuck with me as I think about environmental issues a lot with my husband being a climatologist who studies pollution and climate change.

With all these things flitting through my mind, it was only natural that a story involving bikes, and set in Beijing, would suggest itself. I wanted it to be a friendship story because that is a common theme in books, especially kids’ books, and I still, at the age of 55, wrestle with the concept of friendship. I think I had imagined the main characters to be human with bikes being involved, but somewhere along the way, I decided that it would be fun to have bikes take the center stage since they are so important in China.

With China being such a huge country, going from one city to another requires transportation with mechanical power. But within cities and towns, bicycles are the perfect way to travel: they don’t cost much, and you don’t need to rely on someone else’s schedule, like you would with buses or trains. Yet, despite their simple design and inexpensiveness, bikes can help you traverse distances faster and with less effort than on foot. With the addition of a basket or an attached seat, you can also carry cargo that you might not otherwise be able to on foot. It’s no wonder that bicycles are so popular and important in Beijing: what else can give you such speed and independence so inexpensively?  Passenger bike

And when you’re that reliant on your bike, you might start to see it as more than a useful tool…perhaps you might even see it as a friend? *smile*

 

Here is Darlene’s review of this unique story:

A lovely tale of friendship between two bicycles made together in a factory, side-by-side in a store until one day when they are separated. Each is bought by someone different. Will the red bicycle find her yellow friend? The story take us on a ride to the sites and sounds of the bustling city of Beijing past all the yellow that brightens the countryside. The soft and joyful illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to this story. Told from the point of view of Lunzi…the yellow bicycle who goes out in search of her red friend Huangche…this tale will delight anyone who’s ever loved a bicycle.

Darlene will be giving away a copy of this book to one lucky winner drawn at random. To enter, leave a comment about your favorite bicycle experience. If you share this post on social media, she will give you a second chance to win. The winner will be announced on this blog sometime in May.

TeresaRobeson photo

TERESA ROBESON was born in Hong Kong, raised in Canada, and now writes and creates from her mini-homestead in southern Indiana, where she lives with her scientist husband. Visit her online at:

http://www.teresarobeson.com

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My Path to Home Schooling by Teresa Robeson

The paths that different families take to homeschooling are varied and unique. Even within a single family, the decision to home school each child can be drastically dissimilar, as was the case with us.

Our older son was precocious. He knew the alphabet around the age of one and was reading by two.  

One time when Son1 was about three years old, while watching my husband garden, a strange worm wriggled out of the soil. My husband wondered aloud what it could be. Our son replied that it was a wire worm. Hubby naturally thought he was making it up and so, as adults do, nodded indulgently and said, “Oh, is that right?” After returning to the house, hubby looked it up in the “The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insects and Disease Control” book and sure enough, that’s what it was.  

Son1 had been perusing the book and we assumed he was only looking at the pictures but he was actually reading the text.                              

By the time kindergarten rolled around, he was reading proficiently and counting up to 100, doing simple adding and subtracting. We figured that he would be incredibly bored with kindergarten and decided to keep him home for the year, putting him in grade one after that. We didn’t want to skip him up to grade one at that point since, in maturity, he was more like his kindergarten peers.

My younger son, on the other hand, was at the opposite end of the spectrum. He had language delay and exhibited symptoms on the autism spectrum (he has since been tested and is determined to be not autistic though he has a learning disability). He attended a public school speech preschool program and blossomed under their tutelage, but he had sensory integration issues that made him highly sensitive to noise and chaos. Since most kindergarten classes are the epitome of noise and chaos, we decided that the best option for him was to not send him to kindergarten, but to home school him until he outgrew his aversions and to take him to occupational and speech therapy on our own.

When each of them arrived at the stage where we thought they could happily integrate into the school system–around grade two for Son1 and fifth grade for Son2–we gave them the option every year of going to public school or continuing to home school. They always chose to continue with homeschooling.

Thanks to a wonderful, large, and diverse home school support group in our town, we were able to have the kids participate in group activities–everything from music to art to language lessons–in addition to doing lessons at home on our own. The support group, by holding parties and playgroups as well as the more academic offerings, also ensured that the kids interacted with other children in multi-age gatherings rather than just a narrow subset of their same age peers.

We’re nearing the end of homeschooling. A few years ago, Son1 won a National Merit Scholarship and entered university with nearly perfect SAT scores. He is currently in his junior year and plans to go to graduate school. Son2 is finishing up the twelfth grade and plans to take a gap year to assess his interests.

We have been pleased with our homeschooling journey. It’s not an educational path suited to everyone but it worked out for us and we’re happy we could provide it for our children, both with their own special needs. 

Teresa’s family has been homeschooling since 2000. This is their last year of home-learning and she’ll have more free time to write, do art, knit, make soap, bake, and can jams and jellies in the future. She can be found online at teresarobeson.com

 

 

Got Tomatoes? Try Drying Them to Enjoy All Winter Long.

I don’t know about you, but as fall arrives, I’m still harvesting tomatoes from my garden.  If you have an abundance of tomatoes still available, why not try drying them to preserve that wonderful sweetness all winter long?  Today, artist, mom, writer, and blog follower  TERESA ROBESON gives us step by step instructions for doing just that.  Here’s Teresa:

Making your own dried tomatoes is so easy and produces a product that is tastier and far less expensive than what you can get at the store!  With a cutting board and some adult supervision, kids can help!

Some people use their ovens to dry tomatoes (directions for that method will follow), but we bought a dehydrator about 20 years ago and it has paid for itself many times over. Hubby did some research and found the Excalibur to be an excellent and reliable brand. We have not had any trouble with ours at all.                  DehydratorWhile you can dry just about any tomato, we have found that cherry or grape tomatoes are better for drying as they’re less watery and therefore dry faster. Any variety will do, but since hubby is not crazy about cloyingly sweet dried tomatoes (and the flavors intensify after all the moisture is gone), he doesn’t grow Super Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes anymore. These days, we grow a combination of less sweet cherries and grape tomatoes.

The dehydrator comes with 9 trays. We slice the cherry or grape tomatoes in half (or even quarters if they’re so large that they stick up too much and run into the tray above it) and space them out evenly on the trays.   Cuttingboard

Then we just slide the trays back into the slots…

…and set the temperature and time as advised by the instruction manual that comes with the dehydrator and let it do its thing.

Trays  Hubby likes to turn the trays around mid-way through drying as the fan is in the back, but sometimes we forget, and it’s been fine, too. Check it when it’s close to the end of the timed cycle; if it’s not at the dryness level you like, just add more time.

Here is the method by oven, shortened and adapted from “The America’s Test Kitchen D.I.Y. Cookbook”:

Adjust the oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Preheat to 425F. Spray wire racks with veggie oil spray and set them in 2 rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Toss cut up tomatoes with 1/2 cup olive oil. Place cut side down on prepared wire racks. Roast until skin is a bit wrinkly (20 minutes or so).

For dehydrating larger tomatoes, you can discard the skin and cook for 20-30 minutes more on 300 degrees before flipping over for 3-4 hours more until they’re visibly shrunken, dry and slightly dark around edges.

For smaller tomatoes, I’d just turn the oven down to 300 and cook for 3-4 hours, checking on it every half hour to an hour to make sure they don’t burn.

After removing tomatoes from oven, let them cool to room temperature. Lightly pack them into a jar with tight fitting lids. Cover completely with olive oil and seal the lid. Can be stored in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.   Or, store your dried tomatoes in baggies in the freezer until needed.

And here they are, the beauties!    To use, you can soak them in water or oil for however long it takes to get them to the softness that you want. Pretty easy, right? Beats paying $5 or more for a tiny jar with less than two ounces worth. Plus you know exactly who has handled your food and trust that it was grown and handled to your specifications.

Hope you’ll give it a try!
Dried

Teresa Robeson is a writer-artist with published illustrations and works of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction appearing in the SCBWI Bulletin, Ladybug, Babybug, and other magazines and anthologies. She lives on a small hobby homestead with her husband, two boys, and varying number of chickens. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest via the links her website: http://teresarobeson.com

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Teresa Robeson
writer, artist, illustrator
 teresarobeson@gmail.com | w:http://teresarobeson.com    photo(10)