Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer Read Aloud: Pippi Longstocking

This summer I'm reading to Mina the lovely novel, Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren. And although I started with an old paperback copy with the original translation, I've switched over to this lovely illustrated copy from the library with a new translation and illustrations by the creator of the Charlie and Lola books and cartoon. You can take a peek at the book here on Amazon.

Mina has taken to the novel so much more after seeing these punchy illustrations and fun typesetting. This is the first chapter book I have read to her, so the pictures sprinkled throughout the book help create the sense of fun that I wanted for this first experience with a novel. I want her to love books, both classic and modern. I want her to love children's literature and not give it up too early (as I did). I also want her to explore her Swedish heritage. I have high hopes that Pippi Longstocking will be a good starting place for these goals.

Pippi is zany, independent, and strong. Her adventures are wild and original. Living without any grown-ups to care for her, it is truly Pippi's world. She molds the world around her into what she wants, not letting the outside world change her or her mind. What a lovely character for Mina, and other children, to meet.

There are also many opportunities in the book for tie-in activities, from baking to exploring outdoors. Here are a few ideas I've gotten from the book so far:
  • Bake heart-shaped gingersnaps. Pippi rolls hers out on the kitchen floor!
  • Go "thing-searching" in your neighborhood for little lost items. Pippi finds an empty thread spool and a tin can. Mina found a feather and a rock that looked like a bird egg.
  • Pack a "Pippi Picnic." She makes meatball and ham sandwiches, stacked pancakes with sugar, sausages, and pineapple puddings in Chapter 6.
  • Have a Coffee Party like Pippi in Chapter 9: Pippi has Coffee with the Ladies. Serve a "big cream cake" with a piece of red candy perched on top of the fluffy cream icing. Cupcakes would be perfect as Pippi ends up with her face covered in icing!
  • Braid your little girl's hair like Pippi, or make a red yarn wig like this one:
  • Draw a picture of Pippi's horse on a large piece of cardboard, color, and cut out. Place it on your porch just like Pippi!
I hope this inspires those of you who haven't read Pippi Longstocking to pick up a copy at the library for this summer and try out some of the activities with your little ones. Reading to your children is so important, and classic books like this one have so much to offer!

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Shortcake is a classic summer dessert, but not one I get around to making terribly often. In an effort to get Mina to eat more fruit (and whipped cream?), I decided to bake up some homemade shortcakes this week for a weeknight treat. I love the traditional biscuit-style shortcake. They are buttery and only slightly sweet with a crispy, golden bottom. They should be eaten the day they are baked, as they lose a lot of integrity by the second day, but that shouldn't be a problem with all of the delicious fruit this time of year, not to mention opportunities for entertaining.

My grandma was the source of most of the kitchen magic of my childhood, and I want to share as many of her recipes with Mina as I can. I want to keep her particular brand of Iowa farm cooking alive. So I am sharing her recipe with you as well. Please make it for someone you love :)

Grandma Schantz's Shortcakes
Serves 6

2 Cups Flour
2 TBS Sugar
1 TBS Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
1/3 Cup Shortening or Butter
1 Cup of Milk

Stir the first four ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter or shortening with a pastry blender. Stir in the milk. Drop the dough in 6 mounds on an baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are lightly golden brown. Top with whipped cream, milk, fruit, or whatever toppings you prefer!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Canada Day

We have lived in Canada for nearly two years now, and the time has gone by so fast. We have learned to cook Canadian specialties like tourtiere and poutine, and eaten countless others (Nanaimo bars, butter tarts, pea soup, ice wine and more). I've even learned to understand and enjoy watching hockey and curling. I've been very excited about Canada Day finally being here and having the chance to celebrate all things Canadian. Of course, summer plans rarely turn out how we've planned them with a (nearly) three-year-old in the house. 

Last year we spent the whole of Canada Day in the emergency room. Mina had a dislocated elbow, the day was less than fun, and it was definitely not the festive day I had hoped. This year we thought we'd cook some special foods, attend a family fun festival of sorts, and watch the fireworks. I had high hopes of eating a beaver tail, a Canadian fried pastry often topped with sweet toppings like maple butter or chocolate-hazelnut spread . Mina, on the other hand, woke up on the grouchy/whiny/difficult side of the bed this morning, and has made all plans futile. But as Brian said, "It's definitely not our worst Canada Day ever." Yes, that was last year. Hopefully it will live on as the worst ever.

We filled up Mina's pool, put up her beach cabana in the backyard, and took long naps. We might not get our special foods made (especially since our trip to the grocery store did not happen as planned last night) and we might not go to any Canada Day events, but we can still listen to Rush and eat some Kraft Dinner. We're all healthy and the weather is gorgeous. Not the worst day Canada Day after all :)

Please share your plans for American Independence Day! We'll be celebrating that too, from just north of the border.
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