Uncovering the Asian American Old West – YES! Magazine

I was fascinated to read how Linda Sue Park uses her childhood love of Laura Ingalls Wilder‘s “Little House” books to bring Asian American characters alive in this setting!     ~Becky

“Asian Americans were conveniently written out of history about the Old West. But they were present—and prolific.”

Source: Uncovering the Asian American Old West – YES! Magazine

What Is a Plant-Based Diet?

Source – Meatless Monday: What Is a Plant-Based Diet?

Becky’s Easy Microwave Eggplant

Sometimes I want something fast, without turning on the oven to heat up the apartment or suck all the moisture from the air. I love eggplant and have come up with this easy dish!

In a round, covered casserole, layer/arrange the following:

Portions of your favorite plant-based sauce in the bottom & then between layers

Raw spinach

Eggplant, sliced into rounds (additional option: zucchini, sliced the long way)

Portobello mushroom slices

Peppers, sweet red or green, sliced

Onion and/or garlic, chopped

Top with plant-based cheese (my current fave is Miyoko’s) or sliced tofu dusted with cayenne red pepper (I love the dry texture of Hodo tofu). Optional topping: sliced black olives, drained.

Cover and cook in the microwave for 15 minutes. So easy and yummy!

Trees are the Bee’s Knees!

Quote from Tarun Sarathe

The last Friday in April is National Arbor Day, though some states also celebrate this on various dates, depending on ideal planting times. The importance of protecting our trees and planting new trees to replace those that die or are cut down cannot be exaggerated!

Besides providing the oxygen our bodies require, trees also offer us lovely views. From childhood, I fondly remember the stately maple trees in our front yard, each autumn turning fiery shades of red, yellow, or orange. Near the edge of our property, we had an apple tree that was just the right size for a little girl who wanted to climb trees but was afraid at the same time.

Behind our house, a huge willow tree grew. In my father’s bedtime stories, the Teenie Weenies of his tales, who were based on William Donahey’s books and comic strips, lived under that tree. I suspected for many years that this was truly the case. Walking out by the willow tree by myself was exciting but a little scary. What if I were to come face to face with one of those little people?

In my last home in Michigan, we had many beautiful trees in our yard and nearby. From small to large, some blossomed, while others provided a lovely green cover in the summer. But one small, funky tree holds a special place in my heart. It was a larch I had known since its infancy.

Each winter, I felt certain and horrified that it might die. Its branches were of the “weeping” variety, and the thin trunk appeared rather weak and almost bent. In the summers, I checked it often, lugged buckets of water during dry spells, and marveled at the feathery new growth each spring.

I miss that tree and all the surrounding beauty. There it is, below, near the middle of the photo, just to the right of the house corner. The light green on the ends is the new growth. I wonder if “my” tree still grows in that yard.

Where I now live in Texas, my only gardening space is the balcony. Although some people grow small, ornamental trees in pots, I have not tried this, yet. I recently read about growing miniature citrus trees in containers, which can then be brought in during the coldest parts of the winter. It’s a thought…

WHY READING IS MORE IMPORTANT NOW THAN EVER!

FROM THE WEBSITE:

“During the last year when most countries have seen periods of confinement and people have had to limit their time spent outside, books have proved to be powerful tools to combat isolation, reinforce ties between people, expand our horizons, while stimulating our minds and creativity. In some countries the number of books read has doubled.  

During the month of April and all year round, it is critical to take the time to read on your own or with your children. It is a time to celebrate the importance of reading, foster children’s growth as readers and promote a lifelong love of literature and integration into the world of work. 

Through reading and the celebration of World Book and Copyright Day, 23 April, we can open ourselves to others despite distance, and we can travel thanks to imagination.”

Happy reading, blogging friends! ~Becky 

A Poisonous Mistake?

Staghorn Sumac in Michigan

I have very few memories of my paternal grandfather because he died when I was so young. I do quite clearly remember, however, the day he urged my sister and me to touch our tongues to sumac that grew in my grandparents’ back yard. This is probably so clear not because of its lemony flavor but because my mother was NOT pleased when she heard about it! Like many others, she may not have been sure about the difference between poison sumac and the safe variety of staghorn sumac.

I remember at the time my father assured her that he knew it was safe. I didn’t know until he told me his story years later exactly how he knew that the sumac was edible. He recounted to me that as a child he had been worried his parents were making a poisonous mistake by planning to use sumac berries in making an inexpensive, lemonade-type beverage. As the berries ripened, he took it upon himself to discover the truth about their safety. That’s the story I tell in “Sumac Summer,” which I am happy to say has just been published by Modern History Press in the U.P. Reader #5 anthology!

Reverend Ernest Ross and Family (Becky’s father, Philip, is 3rd from the left in front, wearing the dark sweater)

Because this has just been published, I won’t be posting the story here until next year. Meanwhile, I told readers of my blog last year about publication of a story regarding an early spring walk near Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A face-to-face meeting with an indeterminate species brought about a rather humorous situation, which I chronicle in my short story, “Much Different Animal.” I hope you’ll read and enjoy it!

Much Different Animal

by Becky Ross Michael

Spring in Upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula arrives late and is a whole different animal from other places I’ve lived. Harsh realities of winter recede, inch by inch, while signs of sprouting spring replace them in fits and starts. “Unpredictable” is the key word, and if the weather is pleasant for ten minutes, you should take advantage.

“Let’s go for a ride out by Sand Bay,” he suggested, as the two seasons collided on a clear Saturday afternoon.

Happy to make enjoyable use of weekend hours away from the classroom, I agreed. “Great idea. Let’s leave the dog home,” I added, glancing at our little, black Shi Tzu. “Boo Boo’s muddy from our walk this morning, and I don’t want him in the car before he’s had a bath.”

The drive along a two-lane, twisty road from Laurium toward the bay was relaxing, as always. I imagined the smell from clear, icy waters of Lake Superior greeting us as we turned northward. That day, unfortunately, the sky darkened as we neared the lake, and the view through the windshield became misty.

 We passed a small waterfall and a bakery displaying a closed sign. I looked forward to when the monks would reopen The Jampot for the tourist season. Their delectable muffins often enhanced our trips to the beach.

Spotting the driveway to a house where one of my students lived, I knew we were approaching the turnout. By the time we arrived at the graveled parking lot, the air was a thick, soupy fog.

We parked next to a lone car wearing an out-of-state license plate. Tourists didn’t usually visit so early in the spring. Donning our jackets, we headed to the path. This was in the years before the posting of erosion regulations and construction of steep wooden steps for traversing the sand dunes. Our zealous beach-dog, Boo, had helped us blaze a trail during previous summers, and it headed west at an angle to avoid the steep decline of the bank. The winter’s snow and ice were gone, but flattened grasses, bent bushes and cracked tree limbs attested to their recent occupancy.

Picking our way along the path, I envisioned warm summer days and wondered if we’d be able to see anything when we reached our goal. From the calm lake, I heard only a soft lapping when an occasional wave reached the shore. Toward the end of our descent, a male form materialized through the mist in front of us, as we gained on him. The tourist? When the figure came to an abrupt halt, we almost ran into him, standing stock-still and looking toward the beach.

“Those your dogs?” the stranger asked, with a nervous edge to his voice.

Our gaze followed where his hand pointed, through a narrow expanse of underbrush and grasses. Slinking along the sand, their ghostly forms appeared out of the haze. As their sure paws wove around piles of stones formed from the scraping of winter ice floes, the two moved past us without a sound.

I held my breath.

“I don’t think those are dogs,” answered my partner.

 Eyeballs widened, the stranger turned to face us for confirmation. Without missing a beat, he ignored the path and clawed his way straight up the steep embankment.

Relieved we hadn’t brought Boo Boo along, we also decided to use caution and cut our visit short. With a bit more decorum, we stuck to the path.

Back in my elementary classroom on Monday, a typical indoor recess was necessary due to spring rains. During that wild twenty minutes, I overheard the student who lived near Sand Bay mention “dogs” while talking with a friend.  With practiced nonchalance known to many teachers, I asked them if anything special happened over the weekend. The child then recounted a story about their “hybrids” escaping the house and how they found them across the road at Sand Bay.

To this day, I picture the stranger telling anyone who will listen about his run-in with the “pack of wolves,” in the untamed wilderness otherwise known as the Keweenaw.

END

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.

Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #10: Mixing Up Memories

I absolutely love used bookstores, especially those that house specialty sections, such as ephemera, advertising, or cookbooks. The booklet pictured above has been in my collection for years, and I don’t remember for sure in which shop it was found. Dated 1948, this was published not that many years before I was born. The black-and-white pages offer information about handy home gadgets and detailed recipes for various meals, including desserts, like cakes and other sweets.

Becky’s 1st Birthday, March 19, 1953; with Mom (Ella Ross) in the White Blouse

My mom’s kitchen arsenal didn’t include an elaborate mixer with a stand, turntable, and large bowl. The following image from the booklet is more like the mixer she would have used when making my birthday cake.

My Grandma Witzke (pictured above next to my mother) was the first person I remember who had a blender. It looked much like the one shown below.

Friend, Andrea, with Becky; outside my Grandparents’ House in Tawas City, Michigan in 1958

During my early years, Grandma and Grandpa Witzke lived nearby, and we would often visit. On lucky days, Grandma would make us malts in her blender, and vanilla was always my favorite (and still is today).

Over the years, my birthday weeks have involved many memorable activities: a horse-drawn sleigh ride in childhood, moving into “my” first house as an adult, trips to Florida, an overnight stay in a lighthouse, gorgeous flowers, delicious meals drenched in wine, thoughtful gifts, my parents singing to me over the miles, and wonderful times spent with my children and grandchildren.

This year, my big event is a much-needed haircut. Whoo-hoo! These days, I’m thankful for the smallest of favors. And it WILL be a happy birthday and a good year!

Lovely Book Arrived in the Mail!

I don’t know about you, but I rarely win anything. Imagine my surprise when I won a book for leaving a comment and being selected, through Kathy Temean’s wonderful and informative blog, Writing and Illustrating. Kathy is involved in SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), writes and illustrates, runs a consulting company, teaches, and is the editor-in-chief of Sprouts Magazine. One of her passions is to help other writers and illustrators, and her blog is one way for her to meet that goal.

Here’s the beautiful book I won! I love biographies, especially about people with whom I am unfamiliar. This story is so lovingly written by North Texas author, Nancy Churnin, who certainly has an expressive way with words. The book is illustrated by another Texan, Felicia Marshall, and I am fairly certain the subject of this book, artist Laura Wheeler Waring, would heartily approve of her work! In her blog, Kathy has done an excellent job of introducing the book, author, and illustrator, so please visit Writing and Illustrating to learn more about them!

Talking with Kids about the Holocaust

We Must Not Forget: Holocaust Remembrance Day and Books to Help Us Understand — FallenStar Stories

….if understanding were possible. Today, 27 January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. When the Red Army arrived at the gates of this most infamous of the Nazi concentration camps, they saw for the first time the horrors that it held. It stands today as a memorial; a stark reminder of what human […]

We Must Not Forget: Holocaust Remembrance Day and Books to Help Us Understand — FallenStar Stories