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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How to Make Giant Bubbles


Last year we visited Nuremberg, a city in Bavaria, Germany.  The main kid attractions like zoo and the train museum were fun, but the highlight of every day was a stroll through the cobbled streets of Old Town, and not simply because our hotel was right there within the historical city walls.  The Old Town has a lot to offer: ambiguous allure of the historical buildings, the market square bursting with fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers, international outside cafes, little knick-knack shops, and of course the great churches St. Laurenz and St. Sebaldus. 

Every day we would stand in front of St. Sebaldus church looking at a street performer making giant bubbles.  For a small fee he would let children take his wand and try their hand at making giant bubbles.  When I was helping my kids I realized that his wand was just a knitting yarn threaded through two drinking straws for handles.  We had to do it!  So as soon as we got back to Chicago we made a bucket of homemade bubbles, a couple of wands and got to work.  Here is a tip: you want to be the coolest kid in your neighborhood bring the bubble solution and wands to your local park, all the kids would want to be friends with you.   Even months later those neighborhood kids will meet you on the street and exclaim, “do you still make giant bubbles?  Those were so COOL!” 

I’m offering your three Bubble Solutions.  In my opinion, all three work about the same.  I do have a slight inkling toward corn syrup solution as it produces the most colorful bubbles, but the difference isn't really that great, so make your choice based on what ingredients you have handy. 

Homemade Bubble Solution


Bubble Solution #1
Years ago I came across this recipe in a Family Fun or some other parenting magazine.  This one is my number one go to bubble solution because I always have glycerine that I buy to make my homemade beauty products.   We have a bubble machine that goes through a few gallons of bubble solution during one party, so I always make loads of this solution when we celebrate birthdays.  




Bubble Solution #2
I have just recently learned about adding corn syrup to soap to make bubbles from my friend Steph over at Signing with Miss Steph.  This solution makes bubbles that are very colorful, but you wouldn't believe how sticky everything will be.  Definitely don't try it near your home as the bees, wasps and ants will be visiting for days!  Take the party to the park.  And never try it inside the house!  You will be cleaning for days.  


Bubble Solution #3
I found this recipe at happyhooligans.ca.  This is the most labor intensive.  The bubbles will be slightly larger than with the other two.  Try it, if you like experimenting.  



Homemade wands
Wand #1
This is the wand that makes those unbelievably huge bubbles. You can use the whole straw or cut it in half.  The size of straws doesn't really matter.  I made my biggest bubbles with straws cut in half.  Straws are handles, so whatever feels better in your hands will work better for you.  I would definitely recommend smaller size for kids as their wrists get tired faster with bigger size.   


Wand #2
This wand will make big bubbles, but not the giant ones.  However, this wand will probably be your kids' favorite.  If I give my kids a bucket of bubbles and this wand, they will keep going with it easily for an hour. Another advantage of this wand is that it has a long handle so hands don't have to come in contact with the solution.  No clean up!  When we take bubble solution on picnics this is the only wand I grab with us. 


The technique
With all three solutions practice makes perfect.  The first few bubbles may pop frustratingly fast or don't come out at all.  But you will quickly develop a kind of feel down in your wrists that will tell you how much solution you need on your string and how fast you need to move to make the bubbles come out and when to flick the string to set the bubbles flying.  Even my youngest two who are 4 and 2 year old learned how to make the bubbles with the string, so it can be done.  


Submerge the wand into solution.  Pull it out.  Bounce it up and down, side to side, or walk backwards pulling the contraption in front of you.  If all fails just blow bubbles like my 2-year old.  They still will be bigger than the regular ones. 

Have you ever tried making giant bubbles?  
What is your favorite bubble solution?  
I would love to hear from you! 


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A guide to hassle-free picnic with small children


It may seem strange that even though picnics make it on every parent's free summer fun list, they rarely get executed.  If you have tried going on a picnic with small children, you know that there is nothing strange about it.  Unless you are a human octopus getting ready for a picnic is complicated.  Or so I thought when I just started.   It took a few years of training and a few blunders along the way for me to learn that picnics can be easy.  Now I frequently go on picnics with three small children and we all have lots of fun.  I encourage you to take apart your idea of a picnic and put together a new, downsized and simplified version of it.  Follow my guide for a less hectic and hopefully more enjoyable picnic with small children.

Basket

There was a time when picnic was about you and a basket was more of a sexy little accessory for your cute little summer dress.


Those days are gone for now!  You need a family basket.  It means something that can zip up everywhere, so food doesn't fall out when little feet kick it over.  You should also be able to carry it on a shoulder because you need your hands for better things like holding on to small sticky hands.  Don't forget that you also need to carry a diaper bag, a toy bag and a picnic blanket.  Or to maneuver a stroller that keeps getting stuck in grass/sand/rocks.  Or you might need to push a stroller, while carrying a child.  Or... well, you got my idea, you don't need a basket that needs to be carried in your hand.  

There are lots of different models of family bags/baskets out there.  Some even have wheels.  This durable, convenient picnic bag is what we have.  It is lined with insulation material that keeps food relatively cool.  And it's just the right size for our family of five.


Blanket
The best picnic blanket is washable, waterproof, has a handle, a shoulder strap, can easily attach to the stroller and come with a human valet.  The winner in my eyes is this One Step Ahead blanket that satisfies all of the above requirements.  Except the human valet.  

Picnic Check List
There is nothing more frenzy inducing as trying to remember everything you need for a picnic the morning of the picnic.  Sit down and make a list of everything you will need (it will improve over time) or print my list to get you started.  Laminate the list and keep it in your picnic basket.  Just cross out the items as you pack them.  


  1. Basket
  2. Blanket
  3. Wet napkins
  4. Dry napkins
  5. Food 
  6. Water and other beverages
  7. Straws
  8. Bug spray - homemade stuff is so much better than anything you can buy at the store
  9. First aid antibiotic ointment - wash the scraped knee thoroughly with water, apply the antibiotic ointment to keep infection out of the wound 
  10. Band-Aids - work for anything from keeping straw attached to the bottle to fixing cranky baby with a bandaid on his nose.  When you notice a little child sliding in a bad mood say, "Oh my!  It looks like ball needs a bandaid!"  
  11. Tweezers - can help you remove a splinter or a stinger left behind by a bee
  12. Hand sanitizer - soap and water are still the best way to remove microbes from hands, but when there is no running water a sanitizer can help.  Read the truth about hand sanitizer expiration date. 
  13. Sunscreen
  14. Diaper bag
  15. Small trash bag
Food
I like to stick to foods that don’t need refrigeration.  This means avoiding deli meats and mayo-based sandwiches and salads.  Salads are not a good choice anyway.  Salads need to be eaten with utensils.   And eating salads takes a long time.   My rules are: avoid glass jars, any foods that need utensils and ice packs.  You see!  Your basket is already much lighter.


Best picnic foods
  1. Granola bars -  Healthy and nutritious these homemade bars will fuel hours of outdoor fun.
  2. Banquette sandwiches - Made with just two ingredients - spreadable cheese and cucumbers - these sandwiches are great portable food that doesn't need ice packs.  
  3. Crackers and peanut butter - Two foods that were made for each other.  
  4. Fruit and yogurt - We go for hard fruits like apples, pears and bananas and go-yogurts or kefir.  Berries are also great, if you have a light container that will keep them from squashing. 
  5. Waffles and pancakes - Easy, no mess food that can be cut in long stripes for convenience.  Chase it with a bottle of milk. 
  6. Baby carrots and hummus - I like to transport hummus in stainless steel mini container with leak-proof lead.
  7. Fruit and Nut energy bars - 5 minutes of prep time and 1 hour of refrigeration to get those healthy and sweet energy bars that kids love.
  8. Croissant Sandwiches - Insert mini Babybel cheese inside precut croissants when you get to the destination. 
  9. Brownies (just call them energy bites) - Easy to pack up and take with you on any adventure.  
  10. Lemon Bars (gluten free) - They might not be your idea of a healthy kid food, but they are guaranteed to increase the "wow" factor.  
  11. Peach Bars (gluten free) - We love peaches when they are in season and can not get enough of them. 
  12. Homemade yogurt melts - You would think it will only work for your toddler, but older kids will be all over it as well.  You might want to freeze them overnight, so they stay cool till you are ready for it. 
  13. Leftover pizza - Need I say more? 

And if you don't think ants will take over the world, read this

Picnic Beverages
We don't drink juice, soda or lemonade, but just because I want to make picnics super special for my kids I let them make our homemade lemonade.  
  1. Water
  2. Single serve milk cartons or milk brought in stainless steel bottles.  I like to keep our milk in this stainless steel mug.  The milk stays cool for hours.  It's also great for keeping my hot tea hot.   
  3. Single serve kefir or portable yogurt bottles 
  4. Homemade lemonade.  Lemonade?!  That’s not easy!  Oh, yes it is with my method.  Put a quarter of a lemon in a plastic bag with 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Seal well (very well).  When you get to your destination open the bag and add a cup of water.  Zip it up leaving a small opening for a straw.  Voila homemade lemonade with no fuss. 

Activities
It takes five minutes for little kids to finish eating.  What's next?  If you are lucky, your kids will find something to do with sticks and stones.  And if you are extra lucky, your picnic area has lots of nice open space to run around.  If not, use the suggestions below.


  1. Bug hunt - Grab magnifying glass and a plastic jar, if you want to turn bug exploration into a full blown science activity.  
  2. Leaf detectives - Kids love looking for leaves.  Whoever can find the most number of different kinds of leaves is the winner.  Take the leaves home, press them between the pages of a thick book and you will have wonderful craft material come fall.  For the smallest kids just stuffing a bag with leaves is enough of challenge. 
  3. Ogo Disk - Great exercise for all ages and loads of fun
  4. Homemade Bubbles  - Bubbles make for great photo ops and they are always fun entertain for the little ones.  We like to use homemade wands for extra large bubbles!  
  5. Picnic Books   - You can not find a better setting for reading picnic books than a picnic!  
  6. Two Truth One Lie or other picnic games ides from Tesco Living 
  7. Balls - the smaller ones are even more fun than the bigger ones and easier to carry to the picnic.  We like rhino skin ones
  8. Balloons
  9. Toddler activity bag - a collection of small cars, lego bricks, and some of your toddler's favorite small toys. 
  10. Active Listening - lie down on the blanket, close your eyes and listen to the sounds all around you.  What do you hear?  

Extra
  1. Older siblings might like the idea of carrying their own lunch boxes, especially, if they are as cute as this one.  I always welcome the idea of older kids carrying their own lunches.   
  2. If you must bring some ice packs, those car shaped ones are our favorite.   They also have a magic power of healing boo-boos on the spot.  
  3. If you want to have a theme, how about a Teddy Bear Picnic.  Invite some friends, bring your favorite teddy bears to a picnic, and sing some teddy bear songs.  
  4. And if it's raining the day of picnic, you can always set up a fabulous indoor picnic with those ideas from Disney Entertainment. 

When and Where
Most picnics do not happen because they are not scheduled.  There are always one thousand things to do.  List the possible locations available to you and pick one today.  Put it on a calendar and commit to it.  Make sure that your location has restrooms nearby or bring a portable potty for kids.  I have one  (that we have been using for six years) that folds flat and fits inside my purse.  
  1. Park
  2. Forest
  3. Beach 
  4. Pool
  5. Zoo lawn 
  6. A patch of green grass behind your apartment building
  7. Your own backyard
  8. If all else fails, start practicing with a living room picnic.

How to get ready for a picnic in 5 minutes
Have a picnic bag ready and filled with all the essentials from the Picnic Checklist (except food and beverages).  Have a toy bag and diaper bag ready.  Prepare the food the night before.  In the morning, transfer the food from the fridge into the picnic bag.  Add beverages.  You are ready!  Or you can make your life easier and pick something up on the way to the picnic place.   Have fun!   

With a lot of practice picnics became one of my favorite things to do with my children.  It's a great way to enjoy nature, while doing something fun together.  On our last picnic my 4-year old sighed dreamily and said, "I love this picnic ... You are the best mom in the world." 

When was the last time you went on a picnic?  What are your tips for a successful picnic with small kids? 











Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lemon Bars (gluten-free)


Classical lemon bars get a makeover with a gluten free flour.  Four out of five members of my family declared them perfect.  I made two batches and we took them on a picnic with us.  I bet some very happy ants are still eating our crumbs out at the park.

Ingredients

For the crust
1 cup gluten free flour (we used Namaste)
1/2 cup stick butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar


For the lemon bar
1 cup granulated sugar
zest of one lemon
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Powdered sugar for decoration

1.  Heat oven to 350F
2.  Lay square pan with parchment paper
3.  Mix flour, butter and powdered sugar.  Press in a pan building up a bit of an edge.


4.  Bake crust for 20 minutes. 
5.  Beat remaining ingredients with electric mixer on high about 3-5 minutes until bubbly.


6.  Pour over crust.
7.  Bake 23-25 minutes.  The only way to test if it's ready it touch the top with the index finger and see how it reacts to the touch.  The indentation should disappear after your lift the finger.  Sometimes I am just not sure and since it contains raw eggs I need to be sure, so I just leave it in the oven for 5-10 minutes more with the oven turned off.  
8.  Cool in pan.  Cut into squares.  And dust with powdered sugar.


Do you like lemon desserts? 
What is your favorite lemon dessert? 

Check out our Lemon Love pinterest board
Follow Kid Minds's board LEMON LOVE on Pinterest.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thrive by Arianna Huffington


I should have written this review a month ago, but I was too busy weeping.  I picked this book up expecting informative and hopefully an entertaining read about how to be successful in America.  I was sure that Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the legendary Huffington Post, the third leading news source in the world, had a secret or two to share about the business of blogging.   I didn’t realize that this book will shatter my idea of what it means “to have it all.”

I’m the kind of person who wakes up every morning with the attitude of “life is short, we live once,” so everything I ever wanted to do, I need to do TODAY!  Have children, learn Latin, write, take painting lessons, homeschool my kids, do one hundred sit ups, open an online store, cook gourmet meals, lick the house clean, maintain a blog, practice yoga, read every book in the world, organize mom’s club, book club and neighborhood club ….  I don't just want to do these things, I manage to fit most of the things I want to do in my day.   My friends are always asking, how I find time for it all.  Easy.  I just don’t sleep.  Sleep in my house?  Ha-ha.  When we have guests coming over to stay with us they don’t even bring pajamas.   They know if it’s not one of the kids wailing through the night, then the German Sheppard will be barking his tail off at a mosquito on a front porch, and if it’s not a dog, then Daisy-Whiskers will be informing all the neighborhood tom-cats that she is still available.  And if kids, cats and dogs will be quiet, then the house alarm would go off for no reason and between the policemen stopping by to check on us and the dog barking “hello’s”, nobody needs pajamas.  Save pajamas for boring houses. 

As more things were piling up on my plate over the years, the amount of sleep in my life was decreasing.  I was patting myself on the back for my ability to disregard exhaustion and to plow on with my To Do list in hand.  7 hours?  6?  5?  5 is a good number.  Often I would go to bed at midnight, get up three times for one reason or another, and be up for the day by 6am.  If I suddenly crashed at 9, I would wake up at 2am and finish up my To do list.  Strange to say, none of it seemed odd to me in any way until I read Thrive.  And then I wept. The idea that I can “have it all” collapsed in shambles.  Research clearly and unequivocally demonstrated that people need sleep or they die.  And if they don’t die, they grow wrinkles the size of Grand Canyon.  I don’t know what is worse.   


Arianna Huffington, one of the world's 100 Most Influential People, seemed to have it all - success, kids, money, Huffington Post.  She thought so too until she collapsed from lack of sleep and exhaustion breaking her cheekbone and cutting her eye on the way down.  "Was this what success looked like," she wondered.  The result of her musings is this book.  In Thrive she outlines her new definition of success, the one that encompasses such aspects of life as taking care of oneself and taking time to be silent.  The book is divided into four sections and I’ll briefly outline each to show you what you’ve been doing wrong.  Maybe you will weep too.  

Part I Well – Being
You know why people around you are grumpy?  Too much internet and social media, and not enough sleep, exercise and relaxation.  That and perhaps their mother didn’t include them in her will.  But I bet that’s because they were grumpy to begin with. 

Don’t want to be one of those grumpy people that are not included in a will by their own mothers?  Easy. Make room for mediation, yoga, naps, deep breathing, turn off your phone and computer, take walks, and get a dog.   Don’t know how to start?  The book will help you with easy beginner steps to ease you into the new better you.


Part II Wisdom
Wisdom is what we hear when the chatter in our brain quiets down.  “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” said Blaise Pascal.

Notice a pattern?  Yes, turn off the computer (wait, finish reading my post) and then go and meditate.  Afraid to miss something important?  Repeat after this man: 


It also helps to feel grateful for things that go right, let go of grudges, trust your intuition, make time for nurturing things, let go of incomplete projects (that’s my favorite tip!) and take yourself lightly. Sounds overwhelming?  It doesn’t have to be.  The book will guide you into transformation and there are inspirational book recommendations to help you on your journey.  I liked The power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and Deep Survival: who lives, who dies, and why by Laurence Gonzales.  Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl was very inspirational as well, but kind of depressing too. 

“The more we fill our lives with time-saving devices and the time-saving strategies, the more rushed we feel.”  (James Gleick)

I thought it was kind of interesting that when people in a poll were asked what was important to them, more people picked “having free time” than “having children.” 

Part III Wonder
Lessons from this section: Never loose a sense of wonder, welcome silence, appreciate coincidences, give death a thought, and be fully present in all you do.


Part IV Giving
From making small gestures of kindness to making personal connections with strangers passing through our lives (like the checkout clerks and coffee shop baristas), it will make your happier, healthier, more fulfilled.  Science proves: love makes the brain bigger. 



Lessons Learned:
1.  Sleep is important.  It is still hard to get sleep in my house, but it’s amazing how much more sleep I am getting now that I made sleep a priority.  It helps to turn off all computers, laptops, tablets, and phones by 8 o’clock.  This way I’m not tempted to check e-mails or my blog comments one last time and get sucked in for five hours.  I cannot say getting more sleep made me feel more alive.  I still wake up in the morning, with “I can’t believe it’s morning already.  Can’t I sleep for ten more hours…”  But my sleep deficit is so large it might take years to feel normal again.  

2.  Drop incomplete projects.  I didn’t realize it before reading Thrive but incomplete projects ARE energy suckers.  Even when I don’t attend to a project, it steals some of my attention as in "I can't do it now!  I should really get on with this project!  I should be able to find time to do it." Once I made peace with letting go of some of the more ambitious projects like learning Latin and sewing baby hats for orphans in Siberia, I felt so much better.  (I hope orphans in Siberia will forgive me).

3.  Scientists found that the most effective way to work is like a sprinter.  You work as hard as you can with single-minded focus for 90 minutes, and then you take a break.  I’m happy to say that this is the method I discovered by myself and it has been working like magic for me for years now.  It works in intellectual pursuits, as well as in a kitchen.  Just try it.  Tell yourself you have 90 minutes to clean the house and start the clock.  Work as hard and as fast as you can, and after 90 minutes stop.  Now give yourself 15 minutes to have a cup of tea.  Are you impressed that you accomplished twice as much as you usually accomplish in the same amount of time? 

4.  Books.  Throughout Thrive there were multiple references to books that I read in the past or already bought but couldn’t get around to.  Some of the read books Sources of power, Shallows, Be here now, and Blink.  All great books.  The most notable book that was languishing on my shelves for years until Thrive inspired me to read it The autobiography of Yogi.  Turns out Steve Jobs asked that this book be given out to all attendees at his memorial.     

5.  Favorite quote from the book.  “There is a reason why sleep deprivation is classified as a form of torture” Arianna Huffington

Do I recommend this book?  Oh yes.  Whether you are a blogger or not, you will learn something new and inspirational.  

Looking for more information about the book?  Try here.  Curious to learn more about the author? Click here.  You can buy this book on Amazon.  


Disclaimer
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Shark Science: Bouyancy


I love having kids.  I haven't had so much fun with science in my whole life! And all thanks to them. Today I'll be sharing a wonderful experiment on buoyancy.  We found it at Connections Academy.  It's very simple, but kids who love sharks go crazy about it and want to do it all day.  You attach a photo of a shark to a toilet paper roll (you see, you always knew there was something useful you could do with it).  Now tape three pennies to the roll and throw it in the water.  Does it sink or float?  It sinks!  Now fill a balloon with 1/3 cup oil and stick it inside the toilet roll.  Now that it is even heavier does it sink or float?  It floats!  But don't tell the kids!  Let them make predictions, experiment to their hearts' content and find the answers for themselves.  Follow up with the explanation.

What you need (per child)
a toilet paper roll
1/3 cup vegetable oil
picture of a shark or coloring page and crayons
3 pennies
tape
balloon (12 inch at least)
a funnel
a bowl or a bathtub filled with water

Procedure
1.  I printed out some shark coloring pages from coloringpedia.com (if you use 3.5x5 setting you can print 4 sharks per page) and kids colored them.  You can also use photos or draw your own shark.
2.  Use tape to attach sharks to paper rolls.  Cover the shark with tape completely.
3.  Place three pennies along the bottom side of the shark and tape them in place.  Distribute the pennies evenly.
4. Now it's time to place the shark in the water, but before you do ASK kids: What do you think is going to happen?  Is your shark going to sink or float?


Yep!  Our sharks sunk...

5. Take the shark out.  Balloon time!  Slowly fill the balloon with 1/3 cup of vegetable oil and tie it up (I just twisted the neck of the balloon around itself.  If you spill the oil, it becomes very difficult to do so as balloon gets crazy slippery).

6.  Insert the balloon inside the paper roll.  It might take some good squeezing action to sneak it in.  Try to center it inside the roll.

7.  Place your noticeably heavier shark in the water the second time.  But wait!  Ask the kids: Is it going to sink or float?  Why do you think that?  Ok, ok, don't torture them any longer!  Just put the shark in the water already!


Aha!  Sharks float!!!  My kids like to swim with the sharks.  Maybe yours will be up to the challenge too.

Explanation
If you hold a toy shark in the air and let it go, would it float in the air or drop to the ground?  It drops because of the pull of gravity.  Do you know that the same pull of gravity affects fish in the water?  But do fish drop to the bottom of the ocean because of that pull of gravity?  No.  They float.  Fish developed a great adaptation to balance the pull of gravity with the upward push of buoyancy.  Have you heard the word "buoyancy" before?  Buoyancy is the upward force we need from the water to stay afloat.  Most fish have a bladder filled with gas.  This is what keeps them balanced in the water.  Sharks do not have such a bladder but they have developed different adaptations that help them achieve the same results.  These adaptations are: no bones, larger liver, and steering fins.  Sharks do not have bones, but cartilage, which is about half the density of bones.  However, the shark's body is still heavier and denser than water, so they use their fins to keep moving and propelling them forward at all times.  Lastly, sharks liver is 25-30% of their body mass (only 5% for mammals).  This liver is filled with low-density oil (similar to vegetable oil we used in the experiment) and it acts like a swim bladder of other fish by giving them neutral buoyancy.  Neutral buoyancy meals that an object within a liquid is neither rising nor sinking, but maintaining the same depth.  Unfortunately for sharks their liver is used in a number of cosmetic products from lip balms to suntan lotions.  Never buy those!  Sharks are nice!

We like sharks so much we have a Pinterest Board dedicated just to Sharks Projects, Crafts and Experiments.
Follow Kid Minds's board Shark Science on Pinterest.

You might also be interested in checking out our list of Favorite Shark Books





















Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ten Commandments of a Ferocious Reader




Every Monday I head over to maryanderingcreatively.com for Literacy Musing Mondays.  It's a great place for book lovers.  If you like to read, you will discover something new and exciting to add to your reading list.  And if you have a blog, it's a place to link up your book reviews and book lists. Today something exciting is happening over at Literacy Musing Mondays.  Exciting for me!  I'm a guest writer!  And you know what else is exciting?  Scroll down to the end of this post and you will find the Literacy Musing Mondays LIVE!  You can click on the posts to explore.  Or link up your own.  Make sure to check it out!

10 Commandments of a Ferocious Reader
by Eva

I was destined for a life of ferocious reading from an early age.  According to my grandmother, at my first birthday lineup, I picked a book over a bottle of wine, pack of cigarettes, deck of cards, yellow ducky, and microscope (my mom was biology major).  I don’t know, if my grandma would have cheerfully acknowledged my selection of a wine bottle.  I’m sorry to break it to you kid, but you are destined to the life of alcoholism because even as a baby you were attracted to a bottle.

By the time I turned 8, I was in the habit of walking home from school reading a book (I certainly needed some entertainment on a few miles walk with nothing but grey apartment buildings on both sides of the road).  I walked three quarters of the way across an intersection with my eyes inside a book when I heard screeching of tires and a rush of air.  Lifting my head I saw a bumper of a green Zhiguli that stopped an inch from me.  My further reading adventures were never as dangerous.

By the time I was 16, I was studiously working toward my goal of reading every book in the world.  One day our class teacher asked me to stay after school so that she could have a deep one-on-one with me about drugs.  Drugs? I repeated incredulously.  I didn’t have time for drugs.  Did she see how many books were in our school library?  No, my red eyes, shaking hands, and inability to stay awake during classes were caused by reading till four in the morning.  But pssh… don’t tell my parents or they will make good on the promise to get my room rid of all the books.

Over a decade later I was spending sleepless nights trying to get my little ones to sleep.  As a new mom I was not wondering, if I would ever sleep again.  I was more worried, if I would ever read again.  Without interruptions.  It has been suggested that babies wake up at night because they are hungry, wet or lonely.  Don’t you believe any of it!   A newborn wakes up for one reason only.   To keep his mother from reading.  I came up with Ten Commandments as a way to entertain myself, rocking in a squeaky reading chair unexpectedly with no book in hands, but a baby. 



As I get close to 40 I know I won’t read every book in the world.  (How would I read books in Farsi that would never be translated in any of the languages I know?)  I made peace with the fact that for the foreseeable future I will not read to pass the time for the time is not my own, but belongs to my little children.  Reading now has a ring of urgency to it and protecting reading time requires a dash of ferociousness.  But I will keep reading to quench my thirst for wisdom, to exercise my brain and to enter new worlds.  I will read to understand myself better, to meet new people, and to travel to places beyond my reach.  I will read to learn something new, to pick the brains of the greatest minds, and to immerse myself in someone else’s world.  I will follow Ten Commandments and see where my reading adventure will take me.

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                   And now Literacy Musing Mondays LIVE!
What have you read this week? What literacy activities have you participated in with your family and loved ones. Please share. All family-friendly posts are welcome. ;)

Ashley @Circling the Story
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Last Week’s Top Clicked Post!


Sharon features great books each week. I  love her blog.  She features great romances like this one:

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Dream Blueberry Pie (gluten free)


I must be dreaming.   Is it possible that nobody tried to make a traditional key lime pie with blueberries in place of key limes?  I searched and searched, but didn't find anything except for the classical key lime pie with a few blueberries on top for decoration.  I saw this blueberry pie in my dream.  I could even taste it in my mouth...  I had to try it.  But first there was a challenge to overcome - the gluten free crust.

Perfect gluten-free crust
If one particularly rainy day I happened to have a gluten-free flour, or corn starch, or millet flour or rice flour (that is all the things that recipes I found were calling for), this perfect gluten-free crust would not have been invented.  It all started when I woke up one morning determined to make a blueberry pie with a gluten free crust.  But after a breakfast spent bent over cookbooks and recipes, it became dismally clear that I lacked the right ingredients.  Since a quick run to the store ... in the rain... when you have three little kids is more of a "whole day event," I had to improvise with what I had on hand.  And I had plenty.  I just had to figure out what function each ingredient serves in a typical crust, so I could substitute it appropriately.  I arrived at the measurements by random guess.  "If I use 1/3 cup for arrowroot powder, then I can use the quarter cup for brown sugar.  Or the other way around...  Hmmm... I also have a clean 1/2 cup, so that's an option too..."  'm happy to tell you that this crust is as good as any classical graham cracker crust, if not better.  Definitely healthier!

You have a choice of 9-inch pie plate or 9-inch springform pan.  I tried both and much prefer the springform because it helps to create a pie that is visually perfect, whereas with a pie plate you might get pieces of crust that stick to the walls and create blemishes.


Ingredients for the crust
1 cup almond meal
1/3 cup arrowroot powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter (or shortening)

1. Stir together almond meal, arrowroot powder, brown sugar and salt.
2.  Using two knives or a pastry blender cut the butter (or shortening) into the dry ingredients until reduced to pea sized pieces.


3.  Using clean hands press your mixture into the pan.   Press up the sides,  if you like a little border.  (We do)  If the mixture sticks to your hands, chill the dough in the refrigerator for a bit.


4.  Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes.

Blueberry Pie

Ingredients for the filling
zest of 2 lemons (~ 1 1/2 Tbsp)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks
2/3 cup blueberry mash

1.  Heat oven to 350F
2. Grate lemon zest


3. Separate egg yolks
4. Put blueberries in a food processor and let it run until it gets to consistency of a jello.  When you shake them, they wobble but stay in one piece.  Can you see where I scratched the surface with the spoon?  The groove stayed and didn't fill up with juice.  Transfer blueberries to a new container because we will be using the processor in the next step.  You can wash it now before the next step.  Or not.  (We will be putting blueberries back in in step 7)


5.  Beat zest and egg yolks in a food processor for longer than you think you need.  About 3-5 minutes.


6.  Add sweetened condensed milk and beat until thickened.  About 3 minutes.


7.  Add blueberries and pulse until well mixed.


8.  Pour into crust and bake for 20 minutes, or until set, but not browned on top.



9.  Let pie cool completely before adding toppings.  For our topping we picked this Homemade Whipped Cream.


The result is amazing, if I can say so myself!  And what is more: it makes for a perfect company dessert.

Have you ever had a blueberry pie?





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