A Grandmother’s Guide To Toddler Books – Part Two

I love reading books to my young grandchildren. I especially like it when the toddler books are entertaining and do not make me want to poke a sharp stick in my eye.

Please let me share with you some of the books I recommend. You can find more in Part One.

(By the way, as in Part One, this post contains some affiliate links which means that if you buy something after clicking on the link, Amazon will send a few pennies my way. I will promptly send the pennies back to Amazon as I buy new books for the little ones. I thank you and they thank you.)

I will be spending lots of time reading these and other favorites to the little guys during my upcoming stint as granny nanny.

 

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Goodnight, Goodnight COnstruction Site

Even the toughest equipment on the construction site needs to tuck in at night to be rested up and ready for the new day. This story helps rambunctious four-year-old twins realize that they do, too.

 

Pom Pom Panda Gets the Grumps written and illustrated by Sophie Henn

Pom Pom Panda Gets The Grumps

We’ve all had those times when we get out on the wrong side of the bed and everything that can go wrong throughout the day does. Pom Pom Panda’s friends help him to turn his day around.

 

Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups written and illustrated by Tadgh Bentley

Little Penguin Gets The Hiccups

This sweet and silly book illustrates the pitfalls of serving chili to a penguin. Little penguin needs help to vanquish his hiccups and he calls upon the reader and the audience to help.

 

Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon

Spoon

There is something about this book that I absolutely adore. Captivating illustrations depict this creative tale about Spoon who thinks those around him (Fork, Knife, and Chopsticks) lead more interesting or, in the case of Chopsticks, more exotic lives than he does. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Spoon, help him to realize that there is something special about each of us.

 

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees

Giraffes Can't Dance

As someone who was kicked out of ballet class at age six because the teacher thought I was “too clumsy”, I feel vindicated by this book. With some encouragement and the right music in our hearts, we can ALL dance.

 

Finally, you can’t go wrong with ANYTHING by author Mo Willems. True, I might be drawn to him because of his awesome name but just look at these examples…

The Pigeon Needs a Bath! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

The Pigeon Needs A Bath

The Pigeon series (including other gems like “Don’t Let Pigeon Stay Up Late” and “Don’t Let Pigeon Drive The Bus” are silly tales about a cantankerous pigeon. He doesn’t think he needs a bath; he had one last month. Our little guys find the Pigeon books to be hilarious.

 

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

Even from the cover of the book, you can see the personality that comes out in the illustrations.

Wee, little Trixie and her beloved knuffle bunny go along on a trip to the laundromat with dad. Unfortunately, knuffle bunny gets left behind and Trixie can’t get her parents to understand baby-speak. Finally, determination wins out and Trixie speaks her first real words, “knuffle bunny”.

 

The Elephant and Piggie Series

Elaphant and Piggie boks

There are 25 books in the Elephant and Piggie series. The books tell of the adventures of best friends Gerald the Elephant and Piggie the pig. The books are entertaining for all ages – seriously, I could read these over and over and over again.

The Elephant and Piggie books are also written to be “easy readers”. No dumb “See Spot run.” nonsense for this generation. The brilliant and talented Mo Willems helps children learn to read and want to read.

We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book), in particular, engages young readers.

Here is how the New York Public Schools Library Journal describes the hilarity:

“…the best buddies star in a witty metafictional romp replete with visual gags, such as Piggie hanging from a speech bubble and Elephant blocking the author’s name on the title page. Willems revs up the fun when the friends realize that someone is watching. Who can it be? Cautious Gerald asks, “A monster?” while savvy Piggie answers, “No. It is…a reader! A reader is reading us!” Mirth ensues as the delightful creatures comprehend a newfound power: “If the reader reads out loud,” they can make the reader say words.”

 

All of these books would be great additions to any family’s library. And, without a doubt, instilling a love of books in children is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

Happy reading!

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How Do You Hygge?

Am I the last person on earth to learn about hygge?

hygge

On the Oxford Dictionary’s short list for 2016 Word of the Year, hygge is a lifestyle trend that has apparently made a splash in the last year or so in the U.S.

Hygge (pronounced something like HYOO-guh) is a Danish word with no exact translation. It is a feeling, a mood, an experience – deriving joy from life’s simple pleasures.

As best I can glean from my tiny bit of extensive research, hygge denotes coziness, contentment, simplicity, and peacefulness. A combination of the people, places, and things that make you happiest.

No electronics allowed.

Hygge is something that the Danish people take pride in elevating to an art form.

Hygge can be as simple as a cup of coffee enjoyed while wrapped in your favorite blanket, curled up in your favorite chair.

blanket and coffee

Or it can be, like feng shui, a guiding design principle for your home or office.

While previously ignorant of the concept, it seems I have had my hygge-groove on around our house for a while.

After having moved a number of times, one gets really, really tired of “stuff”. Stuff to pack and unpack, stuff to arrange, stuff to dust and stuff to move aside to make room for new stuff.

Since retuning to Chicago, we have purged our shelves of tchotchkes and are trying to create a relaxed and (without even knowing it) hygge home.

Sure we have pictures of family and friends and a few sentimental objects around the place but these are things that bring us joy – add to the hygge in our home.

Oh, wow! Now I’m really in the groove. Soon I will be a hygge expert!

Even my daily rituals suggest a bit of hygge. I have a few favorite coffee mugs which bring back great memories related to particular trips or experiences.

Cowgirl Coffee mug

And some that just amuse me.

Shhhh there's wine in here

A cup of coffee in one of these mugs starts my day off right.

All day, every day, I have one of my beloved Nest candles burning. The delicate aroma makes the house feel cozy to me.

Nest Candle

My monthly “girls’ night in” get-togethers are overflowing with hygge. They are always meant to be casual, low-key evenings spent catching up with dear friends.

Girlfriends Gather Here

Last month we had “Soup and Pajamas” night to which my pal, Mare, wore her green, full-length, fleece onsie. If that’s not a hygge outfit I don’t know what is.

My sister-in-law has an extraordinary talent for creating hygge. If I didn’t know that she was 100% Irish, I might assume that she was Danish.

This gal has an extremely stressful, high-stakes, high-power job and needs every ounce of hygge she can get.

As often as possible, she will end the day by lighting candles all over her living room, grabbing a glass of wine and a cozy throw and taking time to breathe and decompress. The hygge is at its peak when this scene includes family and friends.

Fire Pit

 

Living in California means that she can enjoy outside hygge year-round where the candles are replaced by a firepit but the wine, cozy throw and loved ones are still part of the equation.

The concept of hygge, according to the Danish Ambassador, is a type of meditation – even done in a group – during which polarizing subjects are off limits in favor of focusing on what makes us happy.

I guess we all have stress, turmoil, and angst in our lives to one degree or another from time to time…or constantly.

It seems we can all use a little more hygge in our life.

How about you? Have you heard of this lifestyle movement? How do you hygge?

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Brewer-Clifton Hapgood Chardonnay With Crab Cakes

I have such fond memories of the three-month period during which my husband, Peter, was retired.

We went on great adventures together and he cooked dinner nearly every night.

That was before he accepted a consulting gig which was to last 3 months and has turned out to be more like 14. Alas, the project will eventually end and Peter will retire again;, perhaps more successfully this time.

But bless his heart, over the weekend he rolled up his sleeves, temporarily stepped back in the kitchen, and made delicious crab cakes.

Not only is Peter a pretty darn good cook, he also takes great pride in finding just the right wine from our cellar to pair with the dish he is making.

I’m a lucky gal.

crab cakes with Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay

Peter prepared crab cakes (see recipe below) over a bed of arugula and roasted carrots seasoned with sumac and cumin. He paired this with a 2012 Brewer-Clifton Hapgood Chardonnay from the Santa Rita Hills area of Santa Barbara County.

Brewer-Clifton’s tasting room is a “must stop” place when visiting Santa Barbara County. Located in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto (really just an industrial park), the Brewer-Clifton tasting room is hip, sleek and modern. A cheese board was available at our tasting which showed that the folks at Brewer-Clifton ascribe to the adage:

Taste wine with bread

Visits to the vineyard and barrel room are available by appointment.

The vineyard sits on a relatively small, very specific part of the Santa Rita Hills, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. The impact of this location on the soil and the effect of the salt air are used to their greatest advantage in making this delicious wine.

Its deep, golden color suggests a richness that is present in every sip.

2012 Brewer-Clifton Hapgood Chardonnay

Here is what the winemaker has to say about the 2012 Brewer-Clifton Hapgood Chardonnay:

“The 2012 Hapgood Chardonnay displays bright golden color. A clonal selection from the Mount Eden vineyard, the wine supports bright and explosive aromas with hints of petrol. On the palate, the wine broadens to give full and voluptuous flavors of exotic fruits with beautiful acidity.”

For a long time, I was not much of a fan of Chardonnay. Visits to places like Brewer-Clifton, Lewis Cellars, and Sojourn have made me realize that I was just drinking the wrong Chardonnays.

Say it with me: “Life is too short to drink crappy wine.”

And now, for your dining pleasure, is the crab cake recipe (adapted from winespectator.com). Peter insists it is quite simple. I wouldn’t know since I was blissfully surfing the internet the entire time he was chopping, mixing and cooking.

Crab Cakes With Old Bay Tartar Sauce

  • 1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
  • 2 teaspoons of Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon of yellow mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs
  • Cooking oil (vegetable)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Arugula 
  • Tartar sauce
  • Another couple of teaspoons of Old Bay seasoning
  • Lemon wedges for serving

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, mayo, mustard, melted butter, lemon juice and Old Bay seasoning.

In a large bowl, combine crabmeat, parsley, panko and a pinch of pepper. Combine these ingredients by folding, rather than mixing, to keep the crabmeat in nice big chunks.

Fold the wet ingredients into the crabmeat mixture. Once combined, shape into the desired size of patties.

Heat a large frying pan to medium heat. Add oil, place patties in the pan and cook 6 minutes per side until golden brown.

Combine 2/3 cup of tartar sauce with 2 teaspoons of Old Bay seasoning. Serve alongside the crab cakes over arugula with lemon wedges on each plate.

Serves 4

Stay tuned for more of Peter’s wine pairings in the future.

Cheers!

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A Grandmother’s Guide To Toddler Books – Part One

If you have been to a baby shower recently, you may have been asked to bring a book instead of a card with your gift. Hallmark may not be happy but new parents love this idea as a way to build their family library.

But shopping for children’s books can be overwhelming. There are so many great options – and some stinkers, too.

I thought I’d share with you some of the toddler books that have become my favorites after hours of reading to my little grandchildren, ages 2 months – 4 1/2 years old.

Sure, you can’t go wrong with the classics like “Goodnight Moon” or anything by Dr. Seuss but thinking outside that box, you might consider these gems.

(By the way, this post contains some affiliate links which means that if you buy something after clicking on the link, Amazon will send a few pennies my way. Then I will promptly send these pennies back to Amazon as I buy new books for the little ones.)

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Little Blue Truck and Little Blue Truck Leads the Way by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Little Blue Truck

Little Blue Truck Leads the Way

These sweet books tell the tale of the Little Blue Truck who shows by example that kindness is best.

 

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama Red Pajama

The headliner in the Llama Llama series, this book is written in a melodic tempo which makes it a delight to read.

Caution, however, if you are reading this to a young one who is suffering from separation anxiety you might want to skip the page that says,

“Llama llama red pajama feels alone without his mama.”

Just a little word of advice. From experience.

 

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna

The Pout-Pout Fish

Featuring whimsical illustrations, The Pout-Pout Fish tells of a gloomy Gus who learns to turn his frown upside-down. The story is particularly riveting when the reader uses a different voice for each of the friends as my son does when reading to his twins.

Again, there are a number of “sequels” in the Pout-Pout series but you will want to read this one first.

 
Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin

Click, Clack Moo: Cows That Type

Farmer Brown’s cows have some demands which they present to the farmer in the form of a typed letter. Negotiations go back and forth until – spoiler alert – the animals win.

 
The Gruffalo by Julie Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler

The Gruffalo

A tiny mouse uses bravery and quick thinking to outwit those who would like to have him (as in EAT him) for lunch.

 
Digger, Dozer, Dumper by Hope Vestergaard, illustrated by David Slonim

Digger Dozer Dumper

The important jobs of each digger, dozer, and dumper are described in a rhyme. Truck-obsessed children like the ones in our family will love this.

 

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Last Stop on Market Street

This award-winning book first came to my attention when I saw it on a list of children’s books that encourage kindness to others.

CJ and his grandmother ride the bus across town together as they do every Sunday. Through their conversation along the way, Nana open’s CJ’s eyes to the goodness all around him.

The beautiful message and captivating illustrations won my heart immediately. And might have even brought a tear to my eye.

 

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Stay tuned for Part Two of my toddler book recommendations – more great stories that have earned the Momo seal of approval.

In the meantime, what are your favorite books for young children? I’m always looking for suggestions!

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