A Good Sign from the Mailbox

Even though I no longer have a garden beyond my balcony, I still love receiving that first seed & plant catalog of the new year in the mail. Spring will return…it’s just around the corner! And I like that the pages appear to hold even more selections marked as “container friendly,” which works out well for me. Time to start planning!

And speaking of planning, if you’ve been thinking about including more plant-based foods in your meals, you might want to check out the Meatless Monday Challenge. It’s a free 12-week program that’s set up to assist you in meeting that goal, while you help the environment at the same time!

I look forward to reading all of your blogs in the coming months and wish each of you a healthy and happy 2022!

Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #12: Punch-Out Fun!

Bookstore, used bookstore, used bookstore with ephemera. Good, better, best! I love those used bookstores that carry all sorts of “doo-dads,” and I was ecstatic the day I found this “Tiny Town” punch-out book!

This one is from 1969 when I was already in my teens. But punch-out books were very popular when I was much younger. I have fond memories of pressing out and putting together a castle one time and a giant treehouse another, both on our old card table that looked a lot like the one pictured below.

Although not nearly as challenging as today’s Lego creations, these cardboard activity books offered plenty of fun to punch out the pieces, decide how they all fit together, and then play with the finished product. I’m sure that my older sister, Terri, was our “project director,” since I wasn’t overly patient. I remember lots of tape being involved!

Wikipedia says these books first appeared in the 1930s and that most were published, as this one was, by Whitman Publishing of Racine, Wisconsin. Many of them were based on televisions shows or movies. Maybe you remember these from your childhood, as well? Here are a few other examples found online. Hope you enjoy looking!

My Little Corner of the World

My Balcony in October

The daytime temperatures have finally downgraded from hot to warm, and the nights are so pleasantly cool! Flowers are still blooming but beginning to look a bit spent. I did NOT grow those little pumpkins set on the table but couldn’t resist. Back in the shadows, those are miniature yellow sweet peppers still ripening. I recently planted some garlic (thanks Alanna!) and also some late-season bush beans. I’ll soon take out most of the annuals and plant a variety of small bulb flowers, like grape hyacinths and crocus.

Halloween is almost upon us, and the other holidays follow closely behind. They’ve already started putting the holiday lights up in the Square, in fact. Seems like they just took them down from last season! Time moves much too quickly these days.

Wherever you live and whatever season you are now enjoying, I hope you’re finding pleasant times!

Zapping Manure with Lightning to Fight Pollution?

One of my recurring freelance projects is to write monthly about good news for kids. Recently, I read an article that adults could be very interested in, as well! You’ve probably read that the methane from cow poo, farts, and burps is more than 20 times as destructive for our environment than the carbon dioxide from our cars.

Short of ending or cutting back on the raising of cattle, what’s to be done? A Nordic company has come up with an idea that is now being tested in the UK. By producing artificial lightning bolts as plasma to zap manure, they are turning most of the ammonia to a usable form of natural fertilizer AND reducing almost all the methane emissions!

Truly great and promising news. Now we need to see how much governments are willing to chip in to help the farmers shoulder the costs of the electricity needed for the process. One thing is certain, we cannot just keep doing things the same.

Air pollution and climate change are real. What can you do today to help? Here are some “greener living” ideas from the EPA!

Essential Tips and Tricks for Making the Best Plant-Based Meals: from Meatless Monday

Source: Essential Tips and Tricks for Making the Best Plant-Based Meals

NOTE: If you’re “on the fence” about tofu, I know from experience that freezing it makes a world of difference with the texture! I buy the firmest type I can find and cut the block into thirds or fourths to freeze for later. After I defrost a section for cooking, I then squeeze out all the moisture. No more jiggly tofu! ~Becky

Natural Egg Dyes and Seasonal Children’s Books: Secular and Spiritual

Imperfect Foods is my new favorite source to buy produce that is less-than-perfect or in surplus at a reasonable cost, in efforts to help reduce food waste. Boxes are delivered to the door according to the schedule you choose. On the company site, I found this article about natural egg dyes. I’ve used the turmeric and red cabbage methods in the past and know they work! ~Becky

And from Publishers Weekly,

One year into the pandemic, the holidays have not yet returned to their full festive scope, but there’s still cause to celebrate the coming season. The arrival of spring brings a parade of Easter and Passover titles, as well as books on baby animals. In addition, Margaret Wise Brown’s classic Runaway Bunny, illustrated by Clement Hurd, is hopping over to HBO Max in a musical adaptation. We’ve gathered a selection of new and noteworthy springtime picture books for young readers, both secular and spiritual.

Hoping for Snow?

children playing in snow
Becky and sister Terri

Growing up in Michigan, the opportunity to play in winter snow was always a given. Many years would pass, before living in the much different climates of North Carolina and now Texas, to understand how scores of children (and even adults!) maintain such strong desires and dreams for that white stuff.

In 2019, I wrote a blog post with the happy news about the anticipated publication of my story, “Welcome to Texas, Heikki Lunta,” which revolves around two children waiting for snow. To check out the history of Heikki Lunta in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you can read that post here.

Today, I’m excited to share my full story with you, which was first published in U.P. Reader Issue #3.

frosty window

Welcome to Texas, Heikki Lunta!

Another winter holiday passed with no snow in sight. Not one flake. That glorious white stuff hadn’t fallen on Ella and Rae-Ann’s part of Texas in years. The sisters searched the sky when cold winds blew. They peered out the windows to see what was new. Nothing.  

“We had such fun playing in the snow that year,” said Ella, pointing at a framed photo.

“I only remember making snow angels when I look at that picture,” said her younger sister, Rae-Ann.

New Year’s Day came and went. The children said ‘good-bye’ to winter break and returned to their classrooms.

***

Mom shooed two dogs away as she sliced apples and spooned peanut butter onto plates for an after-school snack. Grandma sat in the kitchen finishing her coffee.

 “Y’all come to the table, girls. And don’t let the dogs get your food,” warned Mom. With a shiver, she turned the furnace up a notch before joining the others.

“It’s sure getting cold out there,” said Grandma. “I hear that Heikki Lunta might make a visit.”

“Hay-Kee who?” asked Ella, licking peanut butter from her fingers.

Rae-Ann’s eyes stole a quick look at the back door.

“His story’s rather long,” their grandmother said.

“Tell us,” the sisters begged in one voice.

“Well, you know I used to live w-a-a-a-y at the tip-top of Upper Michigan,” Grandma began.

“I sort of remember visiting you there,” said Ella.

“That was summer. You have no idea what it’s like in the winter.”

“Lots of snow?” asked Rae-Ann.

“Tons,” nodded Grandma. “The snowbanks grow taller than people. Schools sometimes close for a week at a time because of the blizzards.”

“Wow!” Ella exclaimed. The dogs cocked their heads to the side, listening.

“What does that have to do with this Heikki Lunta?” Mom asked.

“Quite a few families in Northern Michigan came from a far-away, snowy country called Finland,” said Grandma. “Many years ago, those who lived in Finland shared stories called ‘myths,’ just like most ancient people around the world.”

Scooping Snow in Finland (Pixabay)

“I learned about myths in school,” Ella said. “Those are made-up stories that explain how things work or got started. We read about how the elephant got its trunk.”

“Exactly,” said Mom. “And you’ve both seen a movie about Hercules, which is also a myth.”

“That’s right,” Grandma said. “Many of those stories include gods and goddesses. ’Heikki Lunta’ is like a snow god from Finland. People who live in Upper Michigan often talk about him in the winter when they’re hoping for snow. Hotels and restaurants looking for visitors to the area even put up signs saying, ‘Heikki Lunta, do your thing.’”

“Did you ever see him?” whispered Rae-Ann.

“He’s just pretend,” Ella reminded her younger sister. “Grandma, why did you tease us and say he’s coming here?”

Mom and Grandma exchanged knowing looks.

“The weather report says we might get a bit of snow tonight or tomorrow,” Mom answered.

Her daughters’ smiles reached from ear to ear.

Make it snow, Heikki Lunta, make it snow,” sang Grandma, when it was time for her to leave.

***

When Dad returned from work, the sisters rushed out to his red pick-up truck and told him about the forecast. After dinner, they drew pictures of their neighborhood covered in snow. At the bottom of hers, Ella wrote, “Please send snow Haykee Loonta.”

The girls welcomed bedtime that night. Ella left her blinds open in hopes of seeing some flurries. In another room down the hall, Rae-Ann was excited and just a little nervous. She peeked through long lashes at her bedroom door before falling asleep.

While she slept, Rae-Ann imagined someone like Hercules. He wore a heavy white coat with its collar turned up against the cold. Ella dreamed of a man with long gray hair and beard, who was dressed in a flowing blue robe. Wind and snow swirled around him. Heikki Lunta?  As the whole town slept, dark clouds gathered and delivered a bit of magic.

                                                                     ***

At the sound of Dad’s pick-up leaving in the morning, four eyes popped open wide. Rae-Ann and Ella ran to their windows and cheered at the sight of powdery snow on the ground and glistening flakes in the air. The time said 9:00. Why had their parents let them sleep so late?

“You’re taking a snow day,” Mom explained in the kitchen.

“School’s closed?” asked Rae-Ann.

“The roads are quite safe, according to the radio. We don’t get snow very often, so Dad and I decided to let you stay home and enjoy it.”

 “Yay!” both girls cheered, as they ran to get dressed.

“A warm breakfast comes first,” Mom yelled up the stairs. “Then we’ll hunt up our wooly hats and mittens. You’ll need to wear your snow boots and not just those ropers.”

***

dogs in the snow
Dogs Surprised by Snow

Light snow continued to fall throughout the morning. The three stomped trails in their backyard and built a small snowman. Ella and Rae-Ann lay down and flapped their arms to make snow angels. Their happy dogs rolled near them on the frosty ground. While watching their fun, Mom picked a torn section of blue fabric from a nearby bush.

“Maybe Heikki Lunta really did help us out,” Ella said with a secret grin, at the sight of the blue material. “Does Grandma know about the snow?”

“I’m sure she does,” said Mom. “Let’s pick her up for a snow ride.”

“What’s that?” asked Rae-Ann. “A car drive on the snowy streets?”

“It’s mostly melted from the roads. I’ll phone her to say that we’re coming, and then I’ll show you my idea.”

Ten minutes later, the laughing trio arrived at Grandma’s apartment building. When she slid into the front seat, she saw what was causing their excitement. Sparkling snowflakes floated into the car from the open moon roof.

Mom pulled back onto the street. People up and down the sidewalks turned in surprise. Echoes of four voices drifted through the winter air, “THANK YOU, HEIKKI LUNTA!”

snowman
Texas Snowman

Come to School with Me!

During the school year when leadership in the U.S. changed over from Dwight D. Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy, I was a 3rd-grade student on the top floor of the school pictured, above. Already outdated by standards of the day, my building held dark, steep wooden stairs leading up from the first floor and a bell rope hanging over the stairwell, for some lucky kid to pull and dangle from while announcing the start of the day. A chilly cloakroom stood at the top of the stairs, and the classroom was furnished with the old sleigh-style wooden desks, fashioned with inkwells where bottles of ink had once rested.

That same year, some changes had taken place in the leadership of our school, as well. We had a new teacher! Miss Spaude was special for many reasons, I am certain. But the most obvious difference her students noticed right away was that she was bald! This teacher is my favorite and most memorable from elementary school, and I have incorporated her into several of my written works. Happily, my rhyming story, “Miss O’Blair Has Lost Her Hair,” is now published at Storyberries! I hope you will enjoy reading it (for free) as much as I enjoyed writing it, while walking down “memory lane.”

I would like to thank Sue Clancy, writer and illustrator extraordinaire, for the information she generously shared on her blog about Storyberries.

I hope you enjoy the visit to my old school through this post and in the linked story. Just several years after my tale was set, a more “modern” brick building was erected next to this one, and my white frame school was leveled. I felt very sad about that, and I like to keep the memories alive through my writing!