Cook with Books: The Borrowers

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This month we’ve got a fun cooking activity that would be a great go-along if you’re reading The Borrowers!  If you’ve never read it, The Borrowers is a book about the Clock family, who are tiny people that live in the walls of a house.  They’re called Borrowers because they borrow what they need to survive from the big people who live in the house.  There are actually four sequels to The Borrowers, so you can read all about their adventures!

CupcakesThis month’s activity is tiny cupcakes–just the right size for a Borrower!

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We made our cupcakes in condiment cups, but you can use a mini muffin pan, too.  Make sure you use baking spray inside the cups so the cupcakes will come out in one piece.  I sprayed some on a plate and then we used paintbrushes to make sure the insides were covered.

CookingThen it’s time to get cooking!  You can use your favorite recipe, or you can try the one we used!

FillingFill your condiment cups with the cake batter.  As you can see, it may be difficult for small hands to do this neatly, but the point is to have some fun and not worry about it looking like a Pinterest project!

DecoratedAfter they’re done, it’s time to decorate!  We pulled out all of our sprinkles and had a great time!

Here’s the recipe we used for our cupcakes!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg

Directions:

  1. Spray your condiment cups with baking spray or use cupcake liners in a mini muffin pan.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Then add the milk, shortening, and vanilla and beat with a mixer until everything is combined.
  4. Add the egg and beat again.
  5. Fill condiment cups about half full with batter.
  6. Bake at 350 F for about half an hour.
  7. Let the cupcakes cool and then frost and decorate!

Enjoy!

Cook with Books Pinterest Board

Five Favorite Bedtime Books

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Now that Daylight Savings Time is here, have you noticed it takes a little longer each evening to get your kids in bed?  Bedtime seems to stretch later and later as the sun stays up longer and longer!  If it’s time to refresh your stack of bedtime stories, here are five favorites from our home.

Sometimes we forget about the classics, but don’t leave out Goodnight Moon!  Margaret Wise Brown’s book is wonderful for even the youngest children.  The simple text is repetitive and soothing and Clement Hurd’s illustrations will draw children in as they notice all of the details.  It won’t take long until your young child can even “read” some of it back to you!

Sandra Boynton’s The Going to Bed Book was a hit in our home when my son was about 18 months old and we read it so often I’m pretty sure I could recite it all with at least 98% accuracy even now that he’s almost nine.  The rhyming story of a boat full of animals getting ready for bed is so catchy that you can’t help but love it, and the illustrations are just plain cute.  We’ve enjoyed all of Sandra Boynton’s books, but this is our favorite.

We stumbled across The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds one day at the library and loved it so much we ordered our own copy right away.  This is the story of three little bunnies who go to bed quietly–until their mama and daddy go downstairs.  Then the party begins!  Each time the bunnies cook up a new kind of mischief their parents return to set them straight until eventually, the bunnies get their time to play.  Marisabina Russo’s story will have your kids laughing and then, like the bunnies, winding down for sleep.

In A Bedtime for Bear, Bear has to have everything just so before he can fall asleep, but Mouse, who has arrived for a sleepover, is not following Bear’s routine.  We laughed as Mouse experiments to see if Bear can hear his noises, and to Bear’s chagrin, he can hear everything.  As Bear is about to go to sleep, he hears a strange noise and in his fear, wakes Mouse.  Mouse helps Bear back to sleep, all the while pretending that Bear is the one helping him feel safe and secure.  Bonny Becker has written a funny and sweet story that even older kids can appreciate.

In Anything for You, Little Charlie would do anything to help Mama out, but his help often ends up making quite a mess of things.  At the end of a long day of Charlie’s help, Mama asks him to do just a few more things for her:  climb into bed, snuggle down, and sleep tight all night.  This is such a sweet gentle story from start to finish.  Even when Charlie is underfoot, Mama is kind and loving and patient.  The illustrations a soft and warm and you can feel yourself getting sleepier as Charlie goes through his bedtime routine.  I love this story because it reminds me to be more like Mama when my kids are being like Charlie!

I can’t guarantee that these books will make your children fall asleep faster, but they will make bedtime more enjoyable.  Happy reading!

The Elevator Family

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After kids learn to read most picture books but before they’re ready for bigger chapter books, there’s the awkward in between time when finding appropriate reading material is a challenge.  The Elevator Family by Douglas Evans is the perfect books for kids in that gap!

The Wilson family–Mr. and Mrs. Wilson and their ten year old twins, Winslow and Whitney–plans to vacation at the San Francisco Hotel, but upon their arrival they find that there aren’t any rooms available.  Not willing to have their time in town spoiled by such a minor detail, they decide to stay in one of the hotel’s elevators, which they dub the Otis Room.

During their stay in the Otis Room, the Winslows meet many guests and workers as they travel up and down.  There’s a lonely traveling salesman, grateful for the family’s company, the lovesick bellboy, seeking advice, and the busy widow, rushing from one social engagement to the next.  During their time in the elevator, each person learns to slow down a little and to look at what is most important to them.  Just in case you think this sounds a little contemplative for a book for early readers, there’s a mystery thrown in, too.  As they ride the elevator, the Winslows notice some details that lead them to solve a major crime!

The Elevator Family is ideal for kids wanting more than a picture book.  It’s just under 100 pages, so the length isn’t too intimidating or overwhelming.  They story is simple and easy to follow and there are many situations kids will find funny.

I think if you give it a try you’re going to love The Elevator Family.  If you do enjoy the antics of the Winslow family, there are also three recent sequels: The Elevator Family Hits the Road, The Elevator Family Takes a Hike, and The Elevator Family Goes Abroad!

Note: There is one dinner scene in which the adults drink champagne, so please be aware if that is a sensitive topic for your family. 

Cook with Books: Harry the Dirty Dog

Cook with Books: Harry the Dirty Dog from the Homeschool Share Blog

I’m so excited to introduce a new feature on the Homeschool Share Blog!  Cook with Books will feature a book and a recipe to go along with the story.  Sometimes there will be picture books and sometimes we’ll share chapter books–we want to spread the fun to all ages!

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This month’s Cook with Books story is Harry the Dirty Dog.  There is a great {free!} unit with printables for Harry the Dirty Dog at Homeschool Share that I recently used with my four year old daughter.  Harry is a dog who doesn’t like baths, and one day he escapes from the bath and goes on an adventure around town.  When he comes back home he is so dirty that his owners don’t even recognize him at first!  This is such a cute story and my daughter loved the book and the fun activities we did.

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One of her favorite things we did was making dog bone pretzels!  We mixed the wet and dry ingredients.  It takes a lot of flour!

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You’ve got to stir, stir, stir!

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When you’ve got all of your flour mixed in, it’s time to knead the dough on a floured surface.

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Then take a section of the dough and shape it like a dog bone.  When you have the shape you like, brush a little egg on top before baking.

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Voila!  Dog bone pretzels!

Here’s the full recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 packet of active instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 3.75-4.0 cups of all-purpose flour–If you want to mix in whole wheat flour, that will work, too.
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • coarse salt or cinnamon sugar for sprinkling

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Stir the yeast into the lukewarm water until it’s fairly well mixed.  A few clumps are okay.  Add in your salt and sugar and stir until they are mixed in.
  3. Add in your flour, a cup or so at a time.  It’s going to get really thick!  You don’t want the dough to be sticky when you’re done mixing.
  4. Knead the dough on a floured surface for about three minutes.
  5. Pull off a section of dough–the size isn’t important.  Roll the dough out like you’re making a rope and then push the ends in to make the ends of the bone.  I found that when I pinched the sides of the ends out they looked more like bones when they were done baking.  Place your finished bones on the parchment paper.
  6. Beat the egg in a bowl or cup and then brush it over the bones.
  7. Bake the bones for about 10 minutes at 425 F.
  8. Melt a little butter on the bones and sprinkle them with coarse salt or with cinnamon sugar–or they’re yummy just plain!

Enjoy!

Cook with Books Pinterest Board

Journey

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A Book Worth Reading ~ Journey by Aaron Becker

 Picture books are a wonderful teaching tool for children of all ages—and even for adults, too, sometimes.  After a certain age, though, many kids don’t read picture books much for entertainment unless it’s an old favorite brought out to enjoy again.  Aaron Becker’s Journey is a rare picture book that is entertaining and captivating for readers of all ages.

Journey is actually a wordless picture book, which some people might think would be best for younger children, but it requires a certain level of thinking skills to create the words to a story from just looking at the images.  Becker’s pen and ink and watercolor pictures are full of details that invite you to pore over them to see what you can discover.  My son (who is nine) and I enjoyed discussing the different influences we noticed in the architecture and, after reading the author’s blurb on the book jacket, seeing how his travels must have influenced his illustrations.  It is surprising how long you can “read” a book without words!

Journey is an adventure story, beginning with a bored young girl who draws a door to another world.  Once she is in this magical place, she can use her marker to create other objects, such as a boat to take her down a river, much like Harold does in his stories.  As she continues on her journey it’s fun to guess what she will do as each new situation arises; sometimes we were correct and other times we were surprised.  The story always held our attention, though.  The girl’s brave act of kindness ultimately leads her back home and on to the start of a new adventure—and the ending had us flipping back to the beginning of the book to notice details that had escaped our attention the first time!

Aaron Becker has created a story that draws you in, even without words.  He makes you a participant in the adventure and leaves you with the beginning of a new story to imagine.  If you’re looking for a book to enjoy with all of your children—even if there is a wide age range—this is it!

The Giant of Seville

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One of the things I love about Homeschool Share is that there is so much good stuff that sometimes I stumble across a book I’ve never even heard of before! This summer I was doing some planning and found The Giant of Seville: A “Tall” Tale Based on a True Story. This is such a sweet book that I had to share it with you!

The Giant of Seville, by Dan Andreasen, is based on the true story of Martin Van Buren Bates, who at 28 years old reached his full height of seven feet, eleven and a half inches and weighed 525 pounds. After serving in the Civil War, Bates joined the circus and was touted as “The World’s Tallest Man.” While traveling with the circus, Bates met his future wife, Anna, who herself was almost eight feet tall. Together they toured the world until it was time to find a place to settle down and spend their retirement, which is where the story begins.

Bates arrives in Seville, Ohio on a train, with his head and shoulders poking out of the window to make room for the rest of his body inside the car. Of course everyone notices his size, and everyone is curious to see what this giant will do. His first stop is Mrs. Crawley’s boardinghouse, where she kindly rents him a room without a single mention of his size. She and the townspeople set about making Bates feel right at home, from making a small fire outside the bedroom window to warm his feet—which are sticking outside due to his unusual length—to whipping up four gallons of pancake batter to fill him up at breakfast. They even hold a dance so Bates can meet everyone. At the dance, though, Bates’s enthusiasm has some disastrous consequences and he is sure that no one will want him to stay in town anymore. Much to his surprise, though, the townspeople decide to build a giant home for Bates and Anna to live in.

In a world where we constantly hear and read stories about people judging each other or hurting each other because of their differences, it’s so nice to read a true story where everyone is courteous and kind and willing to go out of their way to help others feel welcome. The Giant of Seville is a wonderful story to read with your children and discuss how we should treat others kindly, even when there may be a cost for us to do so. The story doesn’t come across as preachy, though; it’s just a sweet, simple story about a town coming together to make someone feel welcome—physically and emotionally.

Andreasen’s pictures are lovely, too. They have an old-fashioned feel that complements the setting wonderfully and my children wanted to look over each picture carefully when I finished reading the page. The book concludes with an author’s note about Bates and Andreasen includes a photograph of Martin and Anna Bates next to an average-sized man, so you can really see how much of a difference there was in size!

This is a book that both my nine year old son and four year old daughter enjoyed, so even if you choose not to use the unit from Homeschool Share, this would be a great read aloud for the whole family. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!