Picture Books

I’ve been following along with reading the lists posted by the Bookworm and elsewhere as a part of the Take Up and Read Picture Book Challenge; but haven’t thus far dived in myself. I think I’ve been too busy trying to implement all my ideas for Bella’s homeschooling curriculum to spend much time on picture books. (I really need to write my post about my big picture plan for this first grade year. One of these days.) Of course, that doesn’t mean we aren’t up to our necks in picture books, just that for the most part I’m sitting in the passenger seat and letting the kids drive—with the exception of few books I’ve grabbed off the shelved on our library expeditions. Even Anthony is picking out books these days and demanding his share in the fun. Bella is still loving picture books too. I thought I might do a haphazard list of some of the things we’ve been enjoying from the library and our own shelves. Just what pops in my head as I sit here with no real rhyme or reason but to record a little flavor of our days.

Anthony’s absolute favorite is The Wheels on the Bus. He enjoys Goodnight Moon too and will tolerate just about any board book. Like Ben he loves both the original Otis book and the sequel Otis and the Tornado. Anything with a dog or other animals gets a huge vote. He loves to point out the animals and barks at them all, horses, cows, and cats, “Wroo wroo”

Ben’s favorites continue to be books about cars, trucks, trains, and construction equipment. But he also loves some classics like Madeline and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. He will gladly sit through books about little girls and puppy dogs and sweet babies. He may be picky about food; but when it comes to books at least, like all my kids, he’s pretty much an omnivore.

Sophie doesn’t seem to have strong tastes in books. I can’t seem to find a rhyme or reason to her library picks except that she often gravitates to the board books—especially her favorite Sandra Boynton’s like Snuggle Puppy. She often grabs a book and then pages through it while narrating a story that has absolutely nothing to do with the book at hand. She weaves in names and words and phrases from various books we’ve read, often weeks before. She has a great ear for language and a whimsical sense of humor that often veers into the absurd and just plain silly. She is also absolutely enamoured of an OOP book I found online, The Photo Album of St Therese of Lisieux. The photos are black and white and you’d never think they could captivate a four year-old; but oh Sophie loves her St Therese and will stare at blurry group photos of Carmelite nuns for an hour at a time. 

Bella loves picture books of all sorts as well. But she cherishes our time set aside for longer read alouds. Right now we’re working our way through On the Banks of Plum Creek, Five Little Peppers, Milly Molly Mandy Stories, Betsy, Tacy and Tib and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Also we just finished reading a biography of St Damian of Molokai. She continues to pick out books about penguins and other animals too. This week it was a book about tigers. Based on our reading of the first chapters of The Story of the World Vol I, and a picture book about archaeology Archaeologists Dig for Clues by Kate Duke (part of the Let’s Read and Find Out about Science series I’ve come to love), she has decided she wants to be an archaeologist. The other evening she picked up the Eyewitness Book of Archaeology and flipped through it. Even without anyone to read it to her, she was captivated by the pictures. I really need to read that to her soon.

A couple of the recent books we’ve brought home from the library that everyone has enjoyed:

The Seven Silly Eatersby Mary Ann Hoberman. Simcha recommended it recently so when I saw it on the shelf I grabbed it. Even better than I expected! She didn’t prepare me for how much I would love, love, love the pictures. The story is absurd and fun.

Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later) by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard.  A sweet story about two little girls visiting their great aunt in Baltimore and learning some of her history as she tells them about her hats. Something about this one really hit me. The language and pictures were beautiful, it really captured a feeling for the specific time and place. I loved the way food, family, memories and millinery all intertwine in a simple story.


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  • Melanie, what kind of a pan do you roast your vegetables in?  When I do that, mine come out kind of wilty.  I have a grill pan so I can do them on the stove, but that requires so much tending as opposed to just shoving a tray of them in the oven and leaving them!  Also, do you cut up your cauliflower heads before roasting them?

  • I hate washing lettuce too; but I think it really is the extras that drive me over the edge.

    I’ve had success with varying amounts of chicken bones. My stock does tend to have a darker, dingier color than the box stuff. As long as it tastes good (I sip some in a spoon with a pinch of salt to test it) I don’t worry what it looks like. Once it was reddish because I’d tossed in some beet stems. If you are using bones from roasted chickens it will definitely be darker.

    I have a couple of stoneware pans from Pampered Chef that I usually roast vegetables in. one is a deeper roasting pan and the other is more like a sheet pan with a slight rim—I think it’s technically a bar pan. The root vegetables definitely look soggy but taste heavenly. I roast them until they get brown edges and the last time they were even sticking to the bottom of the pan. For the cauliflower I cut it in half and then remove the core and break the florets into fork-sized pieces. (If you ever buy it frozen, about that size.) I spread the cauliflower in one layer on the pan, toss it with olive oil, salt and minced garlic and roast it until it’s got dark brown, crispy edges. My philosophy on roasted vegetables is that it’s when you see the dark brown that the sugars are caramelizing and that’s when they get the glorious taste. Sophie recognizes that and refuses to eat Brussels sprouts unless they are cooked until “crunchy”. The first time I made them that way I thought I’d burned them but I went ahead and dressed them with cider vinegar and tried them. Delicious! It took a leap of faith to cook them that long but so yum!

  • Also, I’d like to add as an addendum to this post that today after spending all morning at the hospital for tests (nothing wrong just making sure Lucy is doing ok—and she is) I am feeling totally and completely apathetic about dinner.

    Fortunately, I have dough in the fridge that I made last week so we will have fresh bread. I’m going to throw together some kind of soup. I’m feeling very lackluster and uninspired, though. Sigh. If I didn’t have the bread dough and broth for soup I’d probably just order pizza. How could I be so excited about the idea of cooking last night and so blah today?

  • It’s funny to see what other people’s barriers are to adding a salad to a meal.  Mine is cleaning the lettuce.  I hate cleaning lettuce, so I leave it to the last minute, and then the lettuce is still Damp so the dressings never stick properly…  I tried moving the salad spinner to a more convenient cabinet, but that didn’t help, I just hated cleaning it more.  What finally got me going was cleaning all the lettuce at once, spinning it get good and dry, and then storing it in the spinner in the fridge.  Romaine keeps very nicely for about a week this way, and somehow cleaning the salad spinner bugs me less when I know we’ve gotten half a week’s worth of salad out of one dirtying.

    I’m going to have to try this oniony vinaigrette thing though, when I can stomach it.  My go-to dressing has always been my grandmother’s sugar-vinegar dressing – I don’t even bother dressing it up by switching up the sugar and vinegar.  4 parts vinegar, 3 parts sugar, 2 parts oil.  I use it on leaf lettuce for a basic salad, or on cabbage and a little diced salad onion to make cole slaw.  My mom’s family adds about a teaspoon of dill weed and dresses cukes with it, and that’s good too.

    I take it back, I did dress Grandma’s dressing up once, for an Asian cole slaw.  I used rice wine vinegar and a blended sesame/canola oil, and added shredded carrots and ginger to the mix.

    I can never get chicken stock right, though.  It’s always green and very depressing.  Maybe I’m not using enough chicken bones?

  • This is too late, but if the bread dough is white or plain whole wheat you could make pizza.

    I got Everlasting Meals and Make the Bread, Buy the Butter last week, and because of them I’ve make ricotta (today, really easy) and roasted a ton of vegetables and two chickens. Tamar Adler’s writing and tone are very M. F. K Fisher- have you read her? If you haven’t I think you’d like her food writing.

    I want to put in a plug for, by the author of Make the Bread. It’s a good blog and the cookbook, cooking through lots of different things to see what’s better homemade and what’s better bought, is funny and realistic.  I have promised my husband I will never try to make hot dogs at home, but I might learn to make soda and wine.

  • How can you be so excited about cooking last night and apathetic today?  Because you’re tired, and cooking is still work.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  I love cooking and I’m notorious for my experiments in the kitchen, but the number of days I’m too tired and off to cook, especially right now, are hugely embarrassing.

    If you want an easy go-to pizza sauce recipe, I highly, HIGHLY recommend this one:  And don’t skip the anchovy paste!
    I love that it’s all staple ingredients and you just mix everything together and let it sit 30 minutes.  It’s so easy, I just have to make sure we have a block of mozzerella hanging around to put on top.

    My favorite food blog, though, is It’s just amazing the amount of background he provides on this stuff.  He did homemade ricotta for his series on cannoli, which is where I learned to make it, very easy.  He did candied orange peels for his series on pan forte, but I haven’t attempted these yet.

  • Oh, that tomato salad sounds so good. I’m going to have to try it. The Everlasting Meal also sounds wonderful. I need some good food inspiration right now—I feel like we eat the same five things over and over, not because I don’t like to cook, but because I don’t plan ahead.

  • “I feel like we eat the same five things over and over, not because I don’t like to cook, but because I don’t plan ahead.”

    Mrs D., Exactly. Planning ahead just seems so impossible most of the time.

    “the number of days I’m too tired and off to cook, especially right now, are hugely embarrassing.”

    GeekLady, From one pregnant lady to another, I hear you.

    Kathryn, I think it was a Dijon. Probably Grey Poupon since that’s what I usually have on hand. Forgive me but the kitchen is too far away from the couch right now. I think just about any mustard would do, though. A grainy mustard would be nice too.

  • I need to stock some cheese so I can make pizza just like that. The soup was ok and so was the bread. Not the best; but edible.

    Tonight I made poblano-sour cream enchiladas and served the roasted cauliflower and root vegetables with them. Oh my! The root vegetables might just become my standard side with enchiladas they were a great pairing.

    I haven’t read M.F.K Fisher, but you’re the second person to recommend her. Pentimento did likewise. I’ll definitely check out tipsybaker. Make the Bread is waiting on hold for me at the library.

    Oh and tonight I made a totally awesome frugal dessert: candied clementine peels. The kids and I have eaten a couple of bags of clementines in the past week and it occurred to me the other day after peeling a dozen or so in one afternoon that all those peels ought to be good for something. So I saved them in a bag and today I sliced them thin and boiled them up. They taste just like those orange slice candies I used to love as a kid and are especially awesome alongside a piece of dark chocolate. I’m never going to throw away citrus peels again. This is too easy and good.

    I also made the pulp for this clementine peel dessert. I want to dip the balls in chocolate.

  • Kathryn, use whatever mustard you like. grin I have a german potato salad recipe that called for Dijon – my sister tried it once and said it was okay, but she could still taste the Dijon, and she doesn’t like Dijon.  Then I moved to using a stone ground brown mustard instead, because the visual appearance of the salad was hugely improved by the presence of the mustard seeds in the dressing. 

    You can get all sorts of different effects on a meal just by varying the mustard.  There’s one meal we make occasionally where we pound chicken breasts flat, coat them with mustard, then with a mix of bread crumbs and chicken boullion crystals and broil them.  I use Dijon for this and it’s very tasty with a green salad and fresh bread, but you get an entirely different effect if you use honey mustard, and then it goes better with oven roasted potatoes or french fries and cole slaw.

    I’m afraid we don’t eat the same 5 meals over and over because I plan our menus entirely around what’s on a good sale that week in the markets, and this tosses things up a lot.  But there are some meals or types of meals we eat a lot, because they’re easy or cheap (or both) and I’ll list five of those.

    1.  soup (varies by week)  baked potato has been a favorite lately, but with the coming aporkalypse, I’m trying to cut back on the number of bacon-laced soups.  Makes me sad, it was an easy way to add a little meat to a soup (to placate my carnivores) without breaking the budget.
    2.  red beans and rice, which I love for its easiness and crockpotness, but it’s a bit of a struggle to get David to eat any.
    3.  chicken and asparagus risotto.  A bit luxe with meat and asparagus and fancy cheese, but David practically licks his plate clean he likes it so much, and that makes up for a lot.
    4.  pasta and various marinara-y sauces.  Sometimes I add meat.  Sometimes I add cream or cheese.  Sometimes I wilt in baby spinach or blanched kale.  Depends on what’s available, but they all have a base sauce of onion, garlic, crushed tomatoes, and tomato puree.
    5.  leftovers.  We always have at least one leftover/scrounging night, usually either Thursday or Monday because those are the days I work and am the most tired.  I look at the menu and schedule it for the day with the highest concentration of leftovers that need eating.

  • Oh yes, I love whole grain and coarse grain mustards. I’m not sure I’d like one in my dressing, though. I do love potato salad made with a coarse grain. I’m not a big fan of honey mustard, though.

    My biggest problem with the meal rotation is that I’m trying to avoid main dishes that are basically carbs like pasta or risotto or jambalaya and even too many stir fries and curries which are served on rice. Since Dom is borderline diabetic, he really shouldn’t be eating so much starchy food. But before his diagnosis they were my lazy day go-tos. I can’t seem to make the switch to brown rice, either, though I know it’s the standard suggestion. That basically means that I’m always having to think outside my comfort zone and learn a whole new way of cooking with a focus on meat and vegetables. It’s hard and I’m bad at it and we eat far too many meals that aren’t really all that friendly to diabetics. Fortunately one of his favorite meals is soup and so I could serve that a couple of times a week without too many complaints. But I don’t really love soup all that much and nor do the kids except Anthony.

    Not that I focus my meal planning on what the kids eat these days. I say let them eat sides or let them eat bread and butter. I try to make sure they each eat a vegetable at dinner and that they get protein at several points during the day but they often have very healthy pre dinner snacks because we sit down to eat very late. Honestly, the pre-dinner snacks are really their dinner meal and their “dinner” is really more of a bedtime snack to fill in the cracks and a practice at sitting down to the table as a family than a major source of nutrition for them. Once I let go of the feeling I had to serve them a complete meal for dinner, it became a much less stressful meal. I focus on what the adults eat with a secondary look at making sure the kids aren’t going to bed hungry and have basically eaten in a balanced way throughout the day.

  • It’s interesting how everything changes with the onset of some kind of illness related to food- celiac, Crohn’s, diabetes. Our four-year-old is type 1 diabetic and that has a huge influence over our whole lives, but particularly the rotation of the meals/snacks, since I’m required to feed him six times a day, and right now all he wants to eat are simple carbohydrates without fat or protein. Knowing he HAS to eat, and eat certain things, has led to far too many food battles.

    If someone would come up with a carbohydrate-free vegetable that contains protein and that picky children love, I would travel to wherever they are and hug them.

    Also, mealtimes often remind me of Simcha Fisher’s Children’s Prayer Before Meals, that God provide lots of Cheese Nips in the cupboard so they can not starve after the dinner their parents expected them to eat.

  • I have second-hand experience of exactly how bad food related illness can be. My sister, who lived with us until this summer has some kind of undiagnosed sensitivity. She can’t eat yeast, tomatoes, or nuts and is leery of beans. She also went gluten free recently and that has seemed to help her general health too. Well, I tried to make food that she could eat frequently but sometimes she just had to eat a different dinner because I couldn’t totally cook like that.

    Oh for the magical vegetable!

    We often offer cereal at bedtime to children who didn’t eat a good dinner. I know we’re reinforcing bad habits, but I need my sleep. I can’t handle waking up with a hungry toddler at 4 am.

  • I do the same five-meal thing, and our five meals are:

    Macaroni and cheese
    Korean pork or beef on rice
    Spaghetti with Bolognese sauce or aglio olio

    What are everyone else’s? Maybe we can swap or discuss.

  • Ah, Dijon! I have English mustard and a grainy mustard in the fridge. The former certainly wouldn’t work and while I use the latter to make a honey mustard dressing, I wasn’t sure about it with the tomatoes. Dijon sounds good.