Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: September 2015

Taking your homekeeping to the next level

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Erica Strauss has the goal of helping men and women everywhere turn their homes into centers of production instead of places of consumption. That’s a big challenge to wrestle with, but her new book The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping shows you how.

Instead of dousing our bathrooms in chemicals, Erica gives step-by-step instructions for making “potty powder” and “acidic bathroom cleaner.” Instead of buying sugary jam from the grocery store, she teachers readers to can their own preserves without using pectin.

Well, Erica would have to pry the pectin box away from my cold, dead hands, but I’m willing to give her other ideas a try. So are her legions of fans who adore her well-known site: Northwest Edible Life.

Sasquatch Books in Seattle sent me a free, advanced copy of The Hands-On Home this summer in exchange for my honest opinions and review. For me as a homemaker, it was love at first sight. The construction of the book is everything I expect from Sasquatch: fine quality pages, beautiful illustrations, and a style that walks the fine line between folksy and hip. The Hands-On Home is also enormous. It’s almost 400 pages long and feels like Joy of Cooking’s younger, prettier sister.

But don’t let the girth put you off, because The Hands-On Home is divided into easy-to-manage sections by season. It’s really like five books in one. First comes the part about basic, year-round instructions. Next comes spring, summer, fall and winter. In each of the seasonal sections there are edible recipes as well as ideas for home and personal care.

Northwest Edible Life fans might be asking themselves, “Do I really need to buy this book? Can’t I find these recipes on Erica’s website?” For me the answer is yes, because the blog–wonderful as it is–only offers a fraction of what Erica has crafted in the book. Plus, this book would make a lovely holiday present or engagement gift.

As a gardener, I was a wee bit disappointed that there wasn’t a gardening section to The Hands-On Home. I’ve given up on the idea of ever getting chickens, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like reading plans about coop construction. Erica writing a follow-up book about gardening seems like a no-brainer to me. The Hands-On Garden perhaps?

I began reading The Hands-On Home in summer when tomatoes were abundant. I *might* have made myself sick by overindulging in oven-roasted herb confit one August afternoon. But, I’m pretty darn proud of the multiple mason jars of lacto-fermented pico de gallo in my refrigerator. Now that it’s fall, I’m eager to try the sauerkraut with apples and caraway. I’ve made homemade sauerkraut before, but have totally forgotten how. Now all I have to do is open up the book, and the instructions are right there at my fingertips.

The Hands-On Home is so rich with ideas that it will take me several years to try them all. How lovely it is to have a guidebook to aspire to.

“Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars” by Constance Lombardo

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This summer my six-year-old daughter and I got to take a sneak peek at a digital advanced review copy of Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars by Constance Lombardo that I received from Above the Treeline. Reading Mr. Puffball together made for many purrrrrrfect afternoons. Yeah, baby!

Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars tells the story of a young feline who dreams of becoming a famous movie star. He travels across the country to Hollywood, takes a side-trip through Hobowood, and finally makes it to Los Angeles. Then … nothing. Becoming a movie star isn’t as easy as Mr. Puffball hoped it would be. Luckily some friendly felines come to his rescue and give Mr. Puffball a total cat makeover. Before he knows it Mr. Puffball is onstage meeting his cinematic hero, El Gato, and that’s when things get really hairy.

I’ve seen chapter books and I’ve seen graphic novels, but I’ve never seen anything like Mr. Puffball. Word-count wise, it seems a lot longer than Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Picture wise, there are way more illustrations than a standard middle grade novel.

I used to teach Kindergarten through fourth grade and to me, Mr. Puffball is at a solid third grade reading level with enough picture clues to make it accessible for younger readers as well as English Language Learners. Older readers will also be engaged, especially by all of the puns. This is one special book!

If you’d like to find out more about Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars check out my fun interview with Constance Lombardo for The Sweet Sixteens.


Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars

“The Book of Dares For Lost Friends” by Jane Kelley

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The kids and I were super excited to win a giveaway from Darlene Beck Jacobson’s blog Gold From The Dust: Bringing Stories to Life, and receive a free copy of Jane Kelley’s latest book for middle grade readers. Thank you Darlene and Jane!

Here’s my ten-year-old son’s review of The Book of Dares for Lost Friends.

The Book of Dares for Lost Friends by Jane Kelley is a quick and easy read that explores the traits of friendship. Val and Lanora are two girls who live in The Big Apple. Their long history of friendship takes a twist in middle school when Lanora joins The A Team, which is essentially a clique of snotty popular girls. Val feels crushed, but decides to grin and bear it, until something major happens and things become even worse. This is a book boys and girls can enjoy with pleasure.

The Book of Dares for Lost Friends