Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A book for gardeners, poets, and livers of life.

I have never read any of Stanley Kunitz's poetry before finding this book. This volume is a collection of essays interspersed with poems, written when Kunitz was one hundred years old, reflecting on garden life and metamorphosis. He draws parallels between tending the garden and tending the poetic spirit; Kunitz likens the cultivation and nurturing of plants to the creation and construction of a poem, all the while making the two so real, a tangible process that the mind and heart can fully understand. This is a book I am going to be buying.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sweet Potato Quesadillas!!

I just found this AMAZING recipe on http://hellonatural.com ....CHECK IT OUT!!!! (I am making my seventeen year old make this on his cooking nite!!)

Sweet Potato Quesadilla with Goat Cheese and Apples

This quesadilla is a cross between dinner and dessert. How can you go wrong there? Fall is the season of apples, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and cranberries. And if you’ve never associated quesadillas with fall, this one will surely change your mind! They certainly aren’t typical; the filling is made with lightly spiced mashed sweet potatoes, thinly sliced apples, onion and tangy goat cheese sandwiched between whole grain tortillas.
Sweet Potato Quesadillas with Goat Cheese and Apples | HelloNatural.co A couple of things to remember when you’re making this quesadilla: First, it’s not going to be ooey-gooey in the way that quesadillas made with cheddar or Monterey Jack are. That’s okay!
Sweet Potato Quesadilla with Goat Cheese and Apples | HelloNatural.co Second, the mashed sweet potato helps hold everything together, so when you mash it, only add a little bit of butter. Anything more than that, or adding milk, will make the quesadilla soggy.
Sweet Potato Quesadilla with Goat Cheese and Apples | HelloNatural.co By all means, if goat cheese isn’t your thing (I won’t hold it against you!), use your favorite cheese. Cheddar, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, fontina, whatever cheese you like should be just fine here. Oh, and don’t scrimp on the chipotle sauce or cinnamon. They add a really great, unexpected flavor that has fall written all over it.
Apple Sweet Potato Quesadilla with Goat Cheese
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Almost like a cross between dessert and dinner, this quesadilla is full of fall flavors.
  • 8 (10 inch) whole grain tortillas
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1-2 teaspoons chipotle sauce (see note)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Sea salt
  • 2 small tart apples, cored, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh goat cheese (chèvre)
  • Olive oil or butter, for cooking
  1. Place diced sweet potato in a small saucepan and add enough water to just barely cover it. Season with a little salt. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer until tender. Drain well, mash, and add 1 tablespoon butter and chipotle sauce.
  2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add a little butter or oil. Cook the onion, stirring frequently, until it starts to soften and even blacken a little on the edges. Remove from pan and set aside. (Can also briefly cook the apple slices, too, if desired.)
  3. Lay four of the tortillas out on a flat surface. Spread about ⅓ cup of the sweet potato mixture onto each of the four tortillas in a thin, even layer. Next top with a few slices of apple and onion. Sprinkle each one with a little ground cinnamon, dot the filling with ¼ cup goat cheese, and top with another tortilla.
  4. Heat a non-stick skillet again over medium-high heat and add a little oil or butter. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Carefully lift one of the quesadillas into the skillet. Let cook until lightly browned on the bottom. Carefully turn over and cook the remaining side until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining quesadillas, adding a little oil to the pan before each one.
  5. Cut into wedges and serve.
For the chipotle sauce, use either the sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo, or chipotle hot sauce. Ground chipotle pepper can also be used. Add the desired amount according to taste. Start with less because it's pretty spicy!

The apples can be chopped or diced into smaller pieces and stirred into the mashed sweet potato.

To cook the sweet potatoes, bake, microwave, or boil, then mash well. Don't add milk or butter

Read more at http://hellonatural.co/recipe-sweet-potato-quesadilla-goat-cheese-apples/#ltj1iosjSbKLR8b1.99

This month's Crayola.com lesson plans....

Bright, Bold Botany lesson plan
See flower parts through the eyes of a famous artist! Georgia O'Keeffe's florals are a young botanists' dream.

Flurry of Fall Foliage lesson plan
Poetry, stories, warm colors and wet-on-wet watercolors for fall.

Leaf Impressions lesson plan
The science of leaves, leaf parts, and why leaves change colors leaves an impression on students as they create realistic leaf impressions.

Leaf-Motif Frame lesson plan
Capture nature's spirit by creating a leaf-print picture frame. Gold Crayola® Premier™ Tempera creates a dazzling gift to hold a favorite photo or nature collage.

Haiku in Color lesson plan
Haiku is a "snapshot" of words, often related to nature or seasons. This poetry may not rhyme, but briefly captures a moment in time.

Catch some falling leaves in this simple and beautiful project! Using rubbing techniques and construction paper, students create a piece of art that echoes their natural surroundings.

Leaf Dances lesson plan
Wet-on-wet watercolor and crayon techniques help capture the motion of autumn's falling leaves.

(Sorry, no photo, but check out Lois Ehlert's book, Leaf Man! Also, Look What I Did With a Leaf, by Morteza E. Sohi.)

Painted Plant Prints lesson plan
Identify trees by their leaf shapes and structures; then capture leaf symmetry with painted leaf prints.

The books we are using in our tree lessons are:

Look What I Did With a Leaf
Leaf Man
I am a Leaf by Jean Marzollo
Fall is Not Easy  by Marty Kelley (such a fun book!)
Balloon Trees by Danna Smith
The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward
The Tree by Dana Lyons
In the Heart of the Village by Barbara Bash
Tell Me, Tree by Gail Gibbons
It's Fall! by Linda Glaser (part of a 4 season collection)
Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins
A Tree for all Seasons by Robin Bernard
Once There was a Tree by Natalia Romanova
Sky Tree by Thomas Locker (also very useful for weather lesson plans)

September Greetings!!

    I have been away for a month, spending time away from my computer and with my children...and when they haven't been around, with my first loves, pen and paper, and, of course, books. (And food, but that's probably a given.) My garden has an invasion of cucumbers, purple beans and squash plants (lots of blossoms, few actual squash...I don't quite understand that) and my house an invasion of a four year old's nature finds. It's been fun.
     It's September now, though, and the older children have returned to school (senior and sophomore!!) and my little one and I are beginning our homeschooling preschool work again. For the next couple of weeks we are going to be studying trees: different species, how they work in our environment, how they grow, what animals rely on trees, etc. I have old copies of the Teacher's Helper workbook series, and have copied many fun educational projects for my little guy and I to do. I also LOVE Crayola.com (http://www.crayola.com). That website has links for parents as well as lesson plans that parents are fully capable of doing with their children. The lesson plans also offer suggested reading, so you can continue your lesson after the project is done. This makes me happy.
     Along with learning about trees, we will be working on writing and basic math; our library is hosting a hands-on science program for all ages coming up in October, and we'll be there. And of course we'll read for fun and cook, cook, cook. I hope you'll follow along, and try some of our lesson plans with your own children. I'll be posting links and (hopefully) photos of our activities in the coming days. Happy learning!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Can I just tell you how much I love Crayola.com?

   Crayola.com is such an amazing website; eons ago when I was a teaching assistant I looked up lesson plans for my students, vacation and weekend crafts for my kids, and today I'm back at lesson plans for my four year old to keep him arting and learning until he begins kindergarten. I get their monthly newsletters, and wanted to share this month's with you, as many families are taking vacations and day-trips this time of year. My little one is especially interested in the layered book, and wants to make one the next time we go to the local Discovery Center for our weekly animal class.  Happy arting!!  http://www.crayola.com
Souvenir Suitcase craft 
Children always need places to store their travel treasures. Take a dream vacation with them as they cover their suitcase with handmade travel stickers.

  • 1.
    Choose a box for your suitcase. A one-piece sneaker box is great because the lid is attached.
  • 2.
    Cut construction or white paper into rectangles with Crayola® Scissors. Draw pictures of places you have visited or hope to visit on your travel stickers. Use Crayola Crayons and Crayola Washable Markers to create scenes of parks, picnics, famous places, cities, beaches, or mountains. You could also include vehicles such as cars or planes.
  • 3.
    Write travel words or destinations on more rectangles. Have fun! Visit the Big Apple! Customs! are some examples. Make up more words of your own.
  • 4.
    Attach stickers to your Souvenir Suitcase with Crayola Glue Sticks. Point them in different directions to cover your suitcase.
  • 5.
    To make a suitcase handle, ask an adult to poke two holes through one end of the box. Thread ribbon through the holes, and knot the ends inside the box.

Memorable Times Together craft
Make and save your memories on vacation, at camp—or wherever and whenever you go away!

  • 1.
    These three accessories are perfect for preserving your good times. Make them all, before or after your trip.
  • 2.
    Postcard Pouch. Postcards deserve a special place! To make a pouch to organize them, fold Crayola Neon Color Explosion® Paper in half. Decorate the pouch with Neon Color Explosion Markers and foam pieces. Punch holes along both sides. Lace with ribbon. Embellish with Glitter Glue. Air-dry the glue.
  • 3.
    Treasure Box. Looking for a spot to keep travel or camp treasures? Glue pieces of decorated Neon Color Explosion Paper and ribbon onto a recycled cardboard box to make a keepsake box. Air-dry the glue. Place your pictures, souvenirs, and other mementos inside.
  • 4.
    Tiny Tee. Create a vacation shirt you can’t outgrow! Cut out a thin cardboard T-shirt or use a paper maché T-shirt ornament. Color your T-shirt with Crayola True to Life™ Markers. Decorate the tee with vacation-inspired designs and foam stickers. Punch a
  • 5.
    Pack all your vacation-themed crafts into a tote bag like the one you can make in Vacation Take-Along Pack!

Layered Book craft
Use Crayola Neon Color Explosion Paper and Markers to make a book about your summer vacation, about your dreams for the new school year or all about you and your friends. Great for school projects or as a unique birthday card, this craft is fun, fast, and

  • 1.
    Directions for a Simple Layered Book: Choose one piece of Neon Color Explosion paper. Fold down the top edge (about an inch or 2cm). Press the fold so you get a firm crease.
  • 2.
    Fold a second piece of Neon Color Explosion paper. This time fold down a bigger flap (about 3 inches or 7cm). Tuck this folded piece under the flap of the first one.
  • 3.
    Glue the two pieces together. Squeeze a line of Crayola School Glue under each flap by the fold. Press down and hold.
  • 4.
    Use Neon Color Explosion Markers to write on each layer of your layered book. Draw pictures under the flaps.
  • 5.
    Directions for a Layered Book with even more layers! Start with 5 pieces of Neon Color Explosion paper, one of each color. Arrange so the short edges are all at the top.
  • 6.
    Use a ruler to measure down one inch (2cm) on the first one. Make a small mark on one side.
  • 7.
    Measure two inches (5cm) down on the next. Measure and mark three inches (7cm)down from the top on the third piece. Measure and mark four inches (10cm) down on the fourth piece of paper. Save the fifth piece for later.
  • 8.
    Now fold each one on the mark you made, lining up the edges to make folds straight! The fifth piece gets folded in half.
  • 9.
    Arrange all of the folded pieces in order with one tucked inside the other so you can see the layers.
  • 10.
    Squeeze a line of Crayola School Glue under the first flap along the fold and press down to attach. Then fold up the next flap over the first one and glue underneath. Keep doing that for each flap until they are all glued together.
  • 11.
    You’re ready to make designs!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rustic Cuisine?

     More fan-girl gushing here, my friends. This time about simple, delicious, so-called rustic cuisine that people have been eating for hundreds of years and will continue to eat for hundreds to come. That's probably the biggest disadvantage to being an American. We have no historic food culture. (That, and the fact that through our own actions {broadly speaking} we have a reputation of being pushy, loud-mouthed, arrogant bastards. If I ever get to travel, I swear I will use the very good manners I have been taught.)
     Granted, this reason is because we are a country of many different cultures, and believe me, I'm not complaining. We have access to so much amazing food, music, art, that there's plenty to 'borrow' if you're like me. (And, let's face it: being of English, Swede, Irish, Scots, Welsh and German descent, my own food cultures leave a lot to be desired. Unless you like scones. Which I do. Though I haven't had an opportunity to try any authentic or even Americanized {i.e. ruined} German food...except sauerkraut. Which I love. German readers, share recipes, I beg of you!)
     Anyway, here is what I made for dinner this evening. Probably (broadly) Italian (maybe Sicilian?), definitely delicious. Another Rachael Ray (which is why I'm thinking Sicilian): Parmesan Polenta with Mushrooms and Chard. Simple, unfussy, delicious. Comfort food at its best.

  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 cup quartered white mushrooms (I used an entire 10 ounce package) 
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan (I used grated Asiago. I don't like Parm.)

     In medium pot, boil stock. Add polenta and simmer, stirring often, until thickened, 20 minutes. In large skillet, cook garlic in EVOO over medium until golden, 2 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook 5 minutes. Add chard and cook until wilted, 3 minutes; season. Stir cheese into polenta; season. Serve topped with mushroom mixture.


     And no, I'm not going to post daily about my dinner adventures (unless they get really wild) but if I manage to make something that makes me salivate while I'm cooking (I LOVE the smell of garlic cooking in good olive oil!!) and the first bite makes me say "Oh my god, this is GOOD!" I am definitely going to share it. Because something that causes gastric happiness should be shared with the world. Or at least with the people that drop by to read my ramblings.
     Speaking of olive oil, I am currently reading Mort Rosenblum's fascinating, informative and entertaining book Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit. It's making me want to plant olive trees and make my own olive oil. I live in Massachusetts. Not going to be a success. However, one can dream.
Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit

And still more family summer fun....

     If you live in Massachusetts (or are planning to visit), the Highland Street Foundation is hosting their annual Free Fun Fridays series: 67 museums and cultural venues open for free on Fridays all summer long. As I cannot seem to copy and paste (gr) the link is below:


This Friday the choices are:

   The Freedom Trail Foundation (Boston)
   Battleship Cove (Fall River)
   The Children's  Museum in Easton (I have NO idea where Easton is, lol)
  Tower Hill Botanic Garden (Boylston)
   Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University (Boston)
  Cape Cod Museum of Art (Dennis)
  Danforth Art (Framingham)

    Admission is free to all of these places this Friday; you'll want to bring cash or credit with you for food, souvenirs, etc., not to mention a camera, and if you're going to do the Freedom Trail, very comfortable shoes. (I've done it. Great walk. Long walk.)   Enjoy your Friday!