Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Learn More about Author Billy Lindsay

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .
Phantom of the Opera

Describe your first kiss.

Behind the school in winter, cold, fast, and tense, soft and confirmation of my masculinity.

Your favorite children's book, and why . . .
Green Eggs and Ham

A cause that's closest to your heart, and why . . .

Care for animals-love pets and animals because they depend on us
If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?
Captain Nemo

Explain the worst job that you've held.
loading turkeys

A quote that motivates you . . .
We are all actors in our own theater of life.

The title of the one song you could take with you to that deserted island . . .
Eye of the Tiger

Three Wishes
ideal mate
financial freedom
more time

Favorite game you played as a child . . .

army with neighbor kids

Billy Lindsay

Tatty Ratty "Baby" Book Club

     By being participants in the 2011 International Postcard Exchange, our United Kingdom pen pals, Sam, Rebekah, Jeremy, George, and Daniel recommended the picture book Tatty Ratty by Helen Cooper to us.  So, we immediately placed our order online and anxiously awaited an e-mail from our local library, Glen Carbon Centennial Library, stating our book was in.
     The image of a bunny eating a doughnut while taking a ride in the evening sky piqued our interest.  What follows is an imaginative tale of the whereabouts of a lost bunny enhanced by the reference of familiar characters from other children's storybooks.  Thus, not only is a new tale being told, but the backstories of other famous literary figures are introduced within Tatty Ratty.  As a parent, I found the story useful as parenting advice if ever in the unfortunate predicament of a child missing a favorite toy.  As a teacher, I appreciated the introduction of allusions in this literary work.
     As a means of experiencing Tatty Ratty, the squirts dug into their own collection of stuffed animals and found their own "Tatty Ratty."  Opting to create an adventure exclusive to our Tatty Ratty, we took turns placing Tatty Ratty in various circumstances throughout the house and then using our imaginations to explain how she arrived at each location.
Tatty Ratty taking a joy ride on the Plasma Car.

Working off some of that porridge on the treadmill.

Cleaning up after a full day's worth of adventure.

Fresh from our Farm to Table field trips, we made a trip to the local produce stand, Norma's Produce and Greenhouses, and selected items which a bunny would most likely enjoy.  Returning home with our bounty in tow, the squirts cleaned their (few) selected vegetables and (numerous) fruits and prepared them with minimal assistance ("I can do it!" was heard often during preparation) into a child-friendly salad.

Helen Cooper

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Smokin' Seventeen Book Club

     Having finished mourning over my one-night read of Janet Evanovich's Smokin' Seventeen, I feel I am ready to offer book club ideas.  A near obsessive fan of the Stephanie Plum series, I have read this series three times due to the fact I truly miss the plethora of characters (okay, specifically Morelli and Ranger . . .  ooh la la!) when I am not engaged in the series.  So, when a fellow author groupie and friend notifies me of the latest release date, sleepless nights ensue until I am able to download the book to my phone.  Thus, promptly at midnight June 20st, my phone declares "download complete."  Thrilled with the girth of this novel, 39 chapters, I take the plunge. 
     Without having to attach "spoiler alert" to this blog, I can say with all certainty that "Smokin'" is an apt description for this book's contents.  The two main male characters (my two sweeties), Morelli and Ranger, definitely make their presence known in the novel as well as in Stephanie's life.  What I do feel is lacking is the more protective side  of Morelli, more consistent with previous novels in the series.  In addition, a quote spoken by Ranger explaining his interest in Stephanie as entertainment read as near verbatim from a passage in a previous book.  However, I do admit that I have most of Ranger's quotes memorized (ask my hub who now sports a black RANGEMAN t-shirt), so others may not even think twice when reading these lines.  Perhaps foreshadowing hinting at a change in their relationship in Explosive Eighteen?  November, the month of the next  book release, will tell.  In the meantime, yes, other characters do exist in Smokin' Seventeen, and the plot takes on a familiar, yet unique spin of twists and turns.  An entertaining, engaging read which I am sure will be reread at least once before 18's release.
     As for book club, dressing as characters from the novel would be an ideal way to set the mood.  Think Grandma Mazur, Stephanie, Connie, Morelli, Ranger, Vinnie, Lula, Mooner, Alpha, and Dave.  Since Dave offers some mouthwatering dishes in the novel, book club can take his cue and together prepare a meal of salad, scalloped potatoes, and lamb chops (see chapter 29).  Lemon meringue pie for dessert would be the feasting finale along with an assortment of doughnuts in honor of Steph and Lula.
     If hosting the book club for Smokin' Seventeen and wish to dispense party favors, a grab bag of assorted granny panties from which members may choose would be a memorable giveaway.  Or, asking each guest to bring a pair of granny panties of his/her choice for a White Elephant gift exchange and/or competition to guess who brought what may add to the festive nature.

Janet Evanovich

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Farm to Table Field Trips Part 2-Day Tours Rock!*

     Coming from an entertaining, educational child-friendly cooking class centered on the farm to table ideal, I was eager to participate in the adult farm to table field trip authored by Paula Creech, Recreation Specialist for Adult Programs at the Renaud Spirit Center.  I convinced a buddy of mine, a registered nurse and dietitian, to join me who I knew had a passion for organic foods, so we registered in anticipation of learning as well as having some time to ourselves minus the squirts.  We knew we were visiting two farms and a winery, but that was the extent of our knowledge due to my misplacement of the information (I am sure the information is hidden in the stacks on my countertop somewhere).  To be honest, we really did not care what we did or where we did it;  we were just thrilled with the idea of going somewhere.  Of course, I loaded my purse with book, camera, water, cellphone, and snacks while my buddy came prepared with a backpack.  She wore sensible athletic shoes while I opted for the flip-flops ("Wrong shoes," my father-in-law warned me as I dropped the squirts at his house the morning of the trip).  Kisses, hugs, and promises of seeing them soon, we left the squirts in route for the bus.
We're going on a bus trip . . .
     At promptly 9:00 a.m., we loaded ourselves and our gear onto the air-conditioned motor coach.  We opted for a seat in the back and yapped the entire way.  Before we knew it, we were at our first stop, Vesterbrook Farm, a Certified Naturally Grown producer of vegetables, hay, tree and bramble fruit.  In addition, Vesterbrook Farm raises free-range eggs, heritage breed turkeys, and lamb.  Not quite sure what to expect, we watched as one of the most passionate (we soon came to learn) men I have ever seen wearing bib overalls approached our group- enter Mike Brabo.
Passionate Organic Farmer, Mike Brabo
He and his wife, Carol, along with their two children run this farm along with employees who earn living wages.

After offered an intriguing history of Vesterbrook Farm as well as a geology lesson of the area, which even I could follow, we were directed to the plastic bags.
Ready, Set, Grab a Bag
Not knowing until this minute we were going to participate in the farm to table process, I definitely knew I had the "wrong shoes," but didn't care.  Thus, we harvested such bounty as onions, garlic, turnips, purple carrots, lettuce, chioggia beets, and edible weeds.   Using the grass as a cleanser, Mike cut into the various vegetables with his pocket knife and allowed us to savor the crisp, earthy onion, the spicy garlic, and the sweet candy-cane-like beets.  Fierce competition ensued when Mike promised a pound of lamb to the one who picked the largest beet.
The Largest Beet Winner

The Chioggia Beet
Embarrassed to admit, this was the first beet ever to touch my palate, and now will certainly not be the last.  I was even able to persuade my girls to try the candy-looking slices which I brought home in my plastic bag, and they were sold.  Nearly two hours passed in a flash, and I could have listened and learned more.  Although Vesterbrook Farms' Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is full for 2011, there is always next year or a Saturday visit to the O'Fallon Farmers and Artists Market.
     Next stop on the bus tour, Overlook Farm, where we ate from their bounty at the Clarksville Station Restaurant.  A single piece of paper, titled Summer 2011 Menu was presented with seven or eight mouthwatering choices.  My buddy ordered the bleu cheese angus burger while I ordered the Hilty grilled chicken sandwich smothered in cheese.  Freshly-squeezed lemonade along with homemade potato chips with not too much salt and just the right amount of crunch accompanied our meals.  Since we shared sandwiches, I can say with absolute certainty (according to the buds in my mouth), both meals were juicy and straight-from-the-garden fresh.  We ate inside, but a beautiful lavender-colored courtyard complete with lilac-colored Adirondack chairs and light purple wisteria vines adjacent to the restaurant called to us for a return visit in the near future.
The courtyard framed by the windows at Clarksville Station Restaurant is calling for our return.
     With bellies full, we loaded the bus and headed for the Crown Valley Port House.  Here we were offered a warm Clarksville welcome by Mayor Jo Anne Smiley and introduced to our bubbly tour guide who ushered us inside The Port House located on the private resort Tievoli Hills ("I love it" spelled backwards).
Crown Valley Port House

Crown Valley Port House Storage
After a brief oral background on the Crown Valley Port House's history, we watched a short movie in a cool and comfortable viewing room which further told The Port House's story.  After this restful portion of the tour, wine tasting commenced upstairs.  Given a wine glass with five tokens (to yield five tastings), we studied the wine list and socialized with trip companions.  Our section of the tasting bar unanimously praised Crown Valley's Viognier perhaps due to Dionysus' influence, and, fortunately received 10% off the purchase price.
     Ready for naptime, our tour was not over yet.  On our return home, we stopped in downtown Clarksville for some perusal of handcrafted work by local Missouri artists.  We sniffed and tested various body spray and lotion combinations at the factory and retail shop Bee Naturals, tried on the beautiful glass jewelry crafted at Clarksville Glassworks, and fondled handmade leather purses and rings at The Bent Tree Gallery.
A picture at The Bent Tree Gallery after our homemade button bracelet purchase.
If you have never tried a group day trip, try.  If you tried, register for another one.  This happened to be my second day trip, and I am looking forward to number three.  Being able to learn and experience with others without the hassle of driving allows one to truly savor the moment as well as reduce our carbon footprints.

*This blog is dedicated to Cory, the Guard Donkey, a permanent member of the Vesterbrook Farm family once exiled from his previous place of residence for being quite the "ladies' man."
Cory, the Guard Donkey

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Farm to Table Field Trips Part 1- Happy Dairy Month!

     The term "author" may be defined in terms of written pieces, but also "the maker of anything;  creator;  originator"  (dictionary.com).  Although I tend to focus on the written word when blogging, I found an opportunity to discover farm to table authorship, so to speak.  Thus, the squirts and I enrolled in a cooking class at Eckert's under the guidance of guest teacher, Rebecca Collier, Nutrition Educator for the St. Louis District Dairy Council.  Of course, the squirts were looking forward to shopping with squirt-sized grocery carts (as promised) after class courtesy of Eckert's Market,
but I was eagerly anticipating the actual cooking class with my girls.
     In approximately 90 minutes, the girls completed four nutritious and aesthetically pleasing snacks:  Tuna Cheese Sailboat Sandwiches, Ring around the Rainbow Parfait, Vegetable and Cheese Kabobs, and Strawberry Milk Blender Special.  Besides the focus in each of the recipes as having dairy as a main ingredient, the farm to table ideal was also brought forth with fruit for the parfaits and smoothies being freshly picked that day.   Being introduced to the baker who baked the rolls bright and early from the adjacent kitchen for our sandwiches allowed us to literally visualize where our food originated or was authored.  Thus, if an ingredient was not produced from farm to table by Eckert's, local products were implemented for use in the recipes.

Mixing the Strawberry Milk Blender Special

Tasting the Strawberry Milk Blender Special

      The girls worked at their own stations with much intensity and determination.  My three-year-old sawed diligently through tomatoes with her plastic knife while my (picky-eater) five-year-old ate every last bite of the cantaloupe parfait she had created.  Although neither squirt dived into the tuna sandwiches (convinced they do not like tuna, but don't realize I hide it in the marinara sauce), their pride with their handiwork was evident when they demanded we take the sailboat-shaped sandwiches home for Daddy to enjoy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Molly's Magic Pencil: The Blue Genie

     Peter Davies' second book, The Blue Genie,  in the Molly's Magic Pencil series is an ideal picture book to use for dramatization.  With only four prominent characters in the story, our family of four had no problem in dealing with lack of participation.  Having short jumpers the squirts consider "genie" outfits, I figured the two girls would be taking turns playing the Blue Genie.  Instead, they both chose to play the protagonist's part, Molly.
      So, we dug in closets for red (okay, hot pink) outfits to mimic Molly's red jumper.  Then, backpacks were filled with paper and the crucial Magic Pencil.  By default, the hub played Blue Genie since he was wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans, and I was inevitably Mrs. Jones, the tearful geriatric lady (I'm being typecast already, yet still a month away from 40) whose cat, Tiddles (played by our stuffed black cat), is stranded high on a tree limb.
Tiddles stranded in the tree.

     Since each squirt wanted the spotlight to herself, we rehearsed the scene several times (more than I had planned) in our backyard (luckily, the neighbors already know we're nutty) each time alternating the actress who portrayed Molly.                           
Take 1:  Molly #1 searching in her backpack for the Magic Pencil.

Take 1:  Molly #1 drawing a teapot.
Take 21:  Molly #2 searching in her backpack for the Magic Pencil.
Take 21:  Molly #2 drawing a teapot.
The Blue Genie saves Tiddles.
      When every blank space on the paper had been filled with a drawing of a teapot,  we brought the dramatization to a close by singing the first verse of, "I'm a Little Teapot."  Bedtime was accomplished only with a sincere promise, "Yes, we will act out The Blue Genie again tomorrow."

Peter Davies