Visit Children’s Books Heal to enter the book giveaway through February 1st! ~Becky
Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Jan. 25, 2019 Official hashtag: #ReadYourWorld A Gift from Abuela by Cecilia Ruiz, Author and Illustrator; Candlewick Press, Fiction, 2018 Suitable for Ages: 4-8 Themes: Intergenerational relationships, Love, Kindness, Change, Multicultural Book Giveaway: All you have to do is leave a comment and let me know that you would like to receive […]
Make sure to check out the book giveaway at Celebrate Picture Books through January 29! ~Becky
About the Holiday: Celebrated in schools across the country, National Reading Day was established to encourage students in PreK through 3rd grade to develop a love of reading, which is the basis for becoming a lifelong learner. Schools, libraries, organizations, bookstores, and parents provide activities to connect young readers with books they’ll love. Sterling Children’s […]
December and January are common months in which to buy a new calendar or to receive one as a gift. I’ve saved several collectible calendars that were given to me over the years, including those bearing wonderful illustrations or photos from Norman Rockwell, Dick and Jane readers, and one of my favorite television shows of all time, Castle. While digging through the sale bin at a bookstore, in 1998, I found an excellent calendar marked 50% off, probably because we were already well into spring, even by Michigan standards. Why would I buy a calendar that late in the year? Besides the price being great, this calendar pictured a style of book that I’d already been collecting for years…the Dell map back!
Map backs (or mapbacks) were published by Dell, beginning around 1943. These paperbacks are often mysteries, are numbered (over 500), and feature a map on the back that depicts a setting from the book. The three above are several favorites from my own collection. I love the cover of The Circular Staircase and the fact that it carries the price of 25 cents! Death of a Tall Man appeals to me due to the cat and because I’ve enjoyed many episodes of those campy Mr. and Mrs. North mysteries on TV. The middle book shows the map on the back of Through a Glass, Darkly, by Helen McCloy. This is a good example of how the maps sometimes show a small area, like a neighborhood or building, while others picture a larger geographic area, like a city or even country.
I’ve been collecting map backs for decades. My sister first introduced me to these often smelly old mysteries that wear such fun art work, front and back, although it can be a bit lurid, at times. As mentioned in a previous post, I had to part with many of my books when I moved from Michigan to Texas a few years ago. I kept my collection of about 50 map backs, however, and still search for additions to it whenever I visit a used bookstore or antique/collectibles shop. They’re usually quite inexpensive, and their conditions vary, of course. Until the day that I came across this map back calendar, I had never known that such a thing existed. What excitement!
Each month features the cover of a different book with a smaller inset photo of the map from the back. The map grid page then carries some interesting phrases, such as, “Wouldn’t you like to know what the window cleaner really saw?” from this Hercule Poirot mystery by Agatha Christie.
Another favorite month shows this book, below, by C.W. Grafton. That writer was also a lawyer and father of the late Sue Grafton, author of the wonderful “alphabet mysteries” written about the fictional detective, Kinsey Millhone.
This last photo shows snapshots of all the months and is taken from the back of the calendar, which was published that year by Universe Publishing and distributed in the U.S. by St. Martins Press. I’ve never seen another one like it, have you? I’d love to read your comments, if you also own some of these books and enjoy “everything map back”! ~Becky
The rear compartment of my father’s station wagon often carried mysterious cargo. During much of my childhood, he worked as a sales representative for a “sundries” company selling most things that drug stores carried, other than the actual medications…stationery, sunglasses, toys, personal care products, and many handy helpers for the household.
Dad traveled from our home in Northern Lower Michigan to client stores all over the state, taking orders. The back of his trusty station wagon was typically used to carry product samples meant to show the buyers, or sometimes he also brought “returns” with him that needed to be sent back to the company in Detroit. We often got a peek at the exciting goodies in there, and once in a while even got to keep something small, in the case of a discontinuation or some similar situation.
One very cold December, I remember that Dad ended up with a package of Noma bubble lights in his car. Christmas was quickly approaching, and he would have to hang onto them until after the holiday. They were meant to be used indoors, and he was afraid that the liquid in the bulbs might freeze and break the glass if he left them outdoors in the car. One thing led to another, and to my delight, they eventually ended up on our Christmas tree!
In my mind, they were magical, with many different colors of bubbling liquid that made the surrounding ornaments shimmer. Our tree seemed almost alive. Some of the bulbs didn’t bubble very well, and my parents were too busy with other things to fool with them and discover that they needed to be almost perfectly upright to work effectively. I didn’t care and absolutely loved them. After the holiday, those lights disappeared from our lives.
Many years and Christmases passed, and as an adult with a tree of my own, I never again came across those types of Christmas lights. The year that my mother died, the leaves were already starting to turn color near my home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I was still married at the time, and my husband was teaching at a university quite some distance from our town, which required him being gone during the week. Even with my new job as a preschool director and our home and dog to care for, I had way too much time on my hands to think and feel sad about Mom’s passing. I needed a project!
The project that I decided upon that autumn was to re-style our Christmas tree with new lights and ornaments with an overall vintage appeal. My first thought was BUBBLE LIGHTS. I searched far and wide and finally found some through Ace Hardware that needed to be ordered. My husband also surprised me by bringing some others home one weekend that he had found “downstate.” We ended up with two different types, but that worked out fine and looked lovely with the old-fashioned style of ornaments I had bought at various shops. The tree was beautiful and offered me that sense of connection with the past and my childhood just when it was most needed. Those decorations were enjoyed for many years.
One fall a few years ago my world turned upside down, and I left my home and that life behind. At the time, bubble lights or any kind of Christmas decorations weren’t exactly uppermost in my mind. They remained in the house, hidden away in the little storage space under the stairs. I honestly don’t know if those beauties ever again saw the light of day. They didn’t appear to be on the tree when “First Dog” and I made a visit (in spirit:) last Christmas, and I’m guessing that they’ve been forgotten or dumped. Kind of sad.
A small, pre-lit Christmas tree in my current home nicely shows off a few new vintage-style ornaments and several that were salvaged from my past only because they happened to be packed in with other things. I’ve recently been yearning for the look and feel of those bubble lights, again, but the size of this current model will definitely not support them. I saw an ad the other day for a single bubble night-light and was tempted, but shoved the idea aside in my mind, since I was getting ready to go out-of-town for the holiday. To my utmost surprise, one of those very lights, fashioned in red, was proudly bubbling away in the room when I reached my destination. Might be fate or life trying to tell me something? Not sure, but I think that a bubble night-light is on my shopping list for next season. Something to look forward to…small but special.
If you’re celebrating, have a safe and pleasant holiday. I hope that each and every one of you will experience a healthy, productive and happy 2019! ~Becky
Cooking vegetarian usually requires exploration of various legumes, like beans, peas, nuts and lentils. One of my absolute favorites is the fava bean, which goes by various names, including broad bean. Research says that these may be found fresh, canned, frozen, and dried and in various colors, such as those shown below.
Favas are packed with protein, fiber and iron. The texture is somewhat creamy or buttery, and the flavor is earthy and nutty, making them a great choice for eating in both warm and cold dishes!
At this point, I’ve only used the brown ones and in the dried form. Sometimes they’re challenging to find, depending on the shopping options. On occasion, I order then online, and those that have already been blanched and peeled (such as Bob’s Red Mill) save a great deal of time. I don’t cook them for nearly as long as the package suggests. If you want to peel your own, check out this video of French chef, Jacques Pepin, showing you an easy method.
Favas pair nicely with asparagus and tomatoes, and I’ve come up with a ‘recipe’ of sorts with various options. This can be eaten warm or cold, but I think that the flavors tend to intensify a bit after it has been refrigerated.
Fave Fava Salad
INGREDIENTS and METHODS:
Fava beans, blanched and peeled (optional additions: cooked or canned garbanzos/frozen green peas, simply rinsed in cool water)
Asparagus, blanched or steamed and cut into bite-sized lengths (although longer spears add visual appeal)
Tomatoes, sliced or diced; halved if using cherry tomatoes
Scallions/green onions, thinly sliced (white and green portions), chives (snipped),or garlic (minced); garlic may be cooked with the beans, if you wish
Seasonings: choose from mint, tarragon, dill, salt, pepper
Option: place the above mixture over a bed of spring mix lettuce, arugula, spinach or baby kale
Heartier version: add cooked and cooled orzo pasta or couscous
Cheese additions, such as Parmesan, Feta, Pecorino, or your favorite vegan cheese
Dressing choices: olive oil whisked with lemon juice or a balsamic vinaigrette made with balsamic vinegar, oil, and a touch of sweetener
NOTES: When preparing the beans and asparagus, be careful to avoid overcooking and letting them become too soft, especially if you plan to eat this chilled. Ingredient amounts are totally up to you, depending on the end quantity, flavors and the look desired.
If you haven’t sampled them before, I hope that you’ll give favas a try. Let me know what you think! ~Becky
Plan ahead for Monday, December 10! Meatless Monday is partnering with Slow Food to celebrate their annual Terra Madre Day with a Meatless Monday meal. Take part in an international day of celebration by cooking up a plant-based dish and sharing it on Meatless Monday with family, friends, and colleagues. Click on this link for all the details!