Sunday, January 25, 2015

Memory Lane - My top 10 favorite children's books

 I had to come up with a top 10 list of children's books for an exchange at, so decided to share it in a blog entry too! I'd love to hear about everyone's favorites....feel free to leave your list in the comments section! 

Counting down......

10. The Trixie Belden Series. I read the entire series as a child.
Trixie was like Nancy Drew. She and her friends solved mysteries. There were 39 books published from 1948-1986.

The books were written by Julie Campbell Tatham and Kathryn Kenny. I loved them because I could imagine my friends and I being just like Trixie and her friends. More information about the series is available at this website. The language is a bit outdated at times (they call jeans "dungarees" for example), but the books are still great reads for preteen and teen girls!

9. The Secret Garden. Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote the book as a serial in 1910. It was first published as a novel in 1911. The story centers around a spoiled but troubled little girl who discovers a hidden, overgrown garden. The garden has a profound effect on Mary Lennox and her friends. It’s a wonderful story! The cover picture I include here is the artwork I remember from my first copy of the paperback. I loved the book because I could just immerse myself in the adventure and imagine myself finding that hidden garden!

8. and 7. Harry Cat’s Pet Puppy. This book by George Selden is one of several sequels to The Cricket In Times Square. That’s why this entry gets two spots! There were seven books in all: The Cricket in Times Square, Tucker’s Countryside, Harry Cat’s Pet Puppy, Chester Cricket’s Pigeon Ride, Chester Cricket’s New Home, Harry Kitten and Tucker Mouse, and The Old Meadow. Harry Cat's Pet Puppy was my favorite book in the series. Garth Williams illustrated the books and I loved his artwork as a
child! I just learned while looking for photos of these old favorites that in 2011 Macmillan published 3 new books based on the characters of this series: Harry to the Rescue, Starring Harry and Tucker’s Beetle Band. These books were so delightful to read! I’m glad to know that they are continuing on and that Harry Cat, Tucker and Chester are still up to their old adventures! I loved these books because the characters were so charming and the stories were just a great innocent romp.

6. The Little House on the Prairie Series. I think every little girl reads this series! The books were published between 1932 and 1943 by Laura Ingalls Wilder. There are 10 books in the series and two unedited books published posthumously. I spent many hours imagining what it was like to live in a log cabin, or to ride in a covered wagon. Garth Williams also illustrated this paperback series published in the 70s. I enjoyed his pictures of Pa fiddling and the dog Jack running behind the wagon.        

5. The Sword of Shannara. I was a voracious reader as a child.
In 5th grade, I read The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. It was the first epically long book I read…small print, more than 500 pages, etc. The book was massive to me. I carried it to school and no amount of teasing made me stop reading it at every chance. It was a wonderful story and a great follow-up read to my favorite book, which will be listed at the tippy top of this list of favorite children’s books. The book was published in 1977. Brooks published several other Shannara books. This one was my favorite. I read the other 2 books in the Original Shannara Trilogy (The Elfstones of Shannara & The Wishsong of Shannara), but I didn’t enjoy them as much because the main characters from the first book (Shea and Flick) were not the main characters in subsequent books. For me, this book was just magical! It was my 2nd trip into Epic fantasy. My first is included later on in this list. I wanted to be just like Shea and Flick, running from evil with the help of the Druid Alanon. I also remember feeling very grown up because I was reading a book that was at least 3 inches thick. I remember receiving the book from my sister for my birthday. Then when the next two books came out she gave me those as well. I think I didn’t like the next two books for the same reason I didn’t like it when Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor Who morphed into the 5th Doctor Peter Davidson ….. I did not like change when it came to major characters. The second book is about Shea’s grandson Wil Ohmsford and the third was centered around Wil’s children. I wanted more about Shea and Flick! The sequels were good. I just wanted more information about what happened to the characters from the first book.

4. The Wizard of Oz Series. Most people have no idea that L. Frank Baum wrote 14 Oz books, not just the first one, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The books were published from 1900-1920. I love the movie, but the movie left out or changed much of the book. I had the entire set and read them over and over. Wonderful children’s fantasy series! L. Frank Baum (the L stands for Lyman) also wrote several Oz stage plays which were very successful. The last book Glinda of Oz was published after Baum’s death in 1919. An additional 19 Oz books were written by another author, Ruth Plumly Thompson. I have never read any of the Thompson books, but would be interested to try them and see how they compare to Baum’s books. My favorite character in the book series was Jack Pumpkinhead. Jack was made by a little boy to scare a witch. When she saw him, she thought about smashing him, but instead, sprinkled the Powder of Life on him to bring him to life. His joints (wooden pegs) were prone to problems so the little boy made him a Sawhorse to ride on. Just a delightful character!! 

3. Gus Was a Friendly Ghost. There are two young children’s books from my childhood that I bought for my son Joshua when he was little. This is one of those books. I absolutely adored this book when I was 5!! The book was first published in 1962 by Jane Thayer. It was illustrated by Seymour Fleishman. I got my copy from the Weekly Reader Book Club. The illustrations were so colorful and wonderful! I read this book over and over and over again. The story never got old. I always wondered what it
would be like to stay at a cabin for the summer that had a friendly ghost living in it. Gus loved the family that came to stay and was so angry that a mouse kept scaring the Mom. So he made the mouse behave, and they became friends. It is an absolutely joyful story and the illustrations are just awesome with all their 1970’s wild fonts and bright colors.
2. The Laughing Dragon. This is another book that I bought for my son because I loved it as a child. Published in 1970 by Kenneth Mahood, The Laughing Dragon is another book I got from the Weekly Reader Book Club. Hojo the Dragon is a member of the emperor’s court. He gets into trouble because when he laughs he can’t control his flames. The story is funny and heartwarming.  It is one of my most prized possessions. The story is just delightful because the one thing that made Hojo not fit in was also the thing that made him needed the most. 

1.  And my favorite children’s book of all time is…………
The Hobbit. I read this book for the first time in 4th grade. I was absolutely mesmerized by JRR Tolkien's tale of Hobbits, wizards and black riders. I enjoyed the recent movies, but they removed so much and changed many plot points. It
really disappointed me. The story never should have been stretched and edited into 3 movies. The 1970 animated special I enjoyed much more than the movies. This book is my absolutely, hands-down favorite children’s book. It is an epic tale of fantasy, friendship and courage!! My first copy of the book looked just like the photo here. I remember the day I started reading it for the first time. It was a bitterly cold snow day and I was stuck indoors. It was too cold to go out and play so my sister handed me the book and told me to read. Glad she did! I have loved this book ever since! 

I hope you have enjoyed my list of favorites!!  I do have to mention Runner-ups: 

The Chronicles of Narnia. I would actually most likely put this series as a tie with The Hobbit, but I only had 10 slots and had to include a couple young children’s books. So I decided to leave it off the official list.  I had a box set of the paperbacks when I was a child. They were read so often that they fell apart. 

And another classic that I adore:  Winnie The Pooh by A.A. Milne. The original book – NOT Disney! The wit and wonder of Pooh Bear is just fantastic!
What books were your favorites??


Friday, January 23, 2015

Cooking retro!

I collect cookbooks. I love experimenting with new foods, new recipes, anything different. Sometimes the results are wonderful....sometimes not. But it's fun!

I especially love old cookbooks. I troll thrift shops, junk stores, antique shops looking for ones that catch my eye. My favorites though are the small Better Homes and Gardens hardback specialty books. Published in the 60's and 70's, these books have great recipes and fun retro text to read.

After a couple months of avoiding the local thrift shops (at the holidays they are so busy and picked over that it isn't worth the trip), my son and I went on a Thrift run last week.  I'm glad I did -- Jackpot!!

I found 12 BH&G vintage cookbooks I didn't have!

My favorite has got to be this one:  Fondue and Tabletop Cooking, published in 1972. On the front cover it has one of those goblet-shaped, bright, retro-yellow fondue pots. Made me smile the minute I saw the cover! I paid $1 apiece for the books....many are in new condition and appear to have never been used. I'm going to use them!

Since the Fondue book is my fav, I'm going to review it. :)

The first section of the book is about Fondue. Because it is 42 years old, the information on fondue pots is outdated. Today they are electric with temperature controls, but 40 years ago fondue pots used canned heat or candles. Much safer to fondue these days! :) The safety information was fun to read, but very outdated.

The recipes sound amazing! Everything from dips and soup to appetizers and entrees! Just looking at this book makes me want to have a retro party!

I think it would be a hit. The book even tells me so! Experimenting with their menu plans and recipes will make me "an effervescent, day-by-day fondue hostess.'' Now what gal doesn't want to be effervescent?

The next section is about chafing dishes....a step up from a Fondue pot, chafing dishes can be used to make crepe suzettes, seafood dishes, asian cuisine, etc.The recipes show that chafing dishes are for more than flaming cherries jubilee! (although they do include a recipe for that too!)

This recipe caught my eye:

Sweet-sour surprises
2 T cornstarch
2 T sugar
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 C pineapple juice
1/3 cup vinegar
2 T soy sauce
1 T butter or margarine
1/2 lb tiny meatballs
1/2 lb shrimp, cooked, peeled, and cleaned
1/2 lb chicken livers, cooked and halved

In blazer pan of chafing dish, combine first 3 ingredients. Add pineapple juice, 1/2 c water, vinegar, soy and butter. Cook and stir over direct heat til boiling. Cover; simmer 5 minutes. Arrange meats in sauce. Heat through. Keep warm over hot water (bain-marie). Spear with cocktail picks. Makes 60-65 appetizers.

Nom nom nom!  Yes, I am definitely going to have to host a retro party!

The last section is on other tabletop cooking: griddles, waffle makers, hot plates and electric skillets. There are some pancake recipes that sound divine! And thanks to my handy-dandy George Foreman Grill I can try some of the awesome griddle sandwich ideas as well! They would taste great as panini sandwiches as well! 

I'm going to have great fun with this book!  I have a fondue pot on my wish list at Amazon now, and that retro party is going to happen!  March I think is a good time to go retro.....break out the leisure suits and white belts! Oh dear -- that means another trip to the thrift shops!! :)

Here are photos of my whole haul! :)

Peace out!  TTFN