Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This Means War!

I love summer. I love staying outside until almost 9:00 when the last of the sun disappears, I love hot, sweaty days at the beach, and I love a glass of ice cold lemonade after spending time in the July heat. When I was a kid, my brother and and I would set up a lemonade stand in front of our house and charge a dime per cup. Back then, that was a lot of money and we would use our profits to buy a new Nintendo game. (No, not a Nintendo Wii--the original Nintendo. Yes, I'm that old.) We didn't tell anyone that it wasn't really lemonade, but Crystal Light. It was much easier not to deal with all that sugar and lemon-squeezing business. Plus, that's what my mom kept in the pantry. Ahh, childhood...

Now that you know how big of a lemonade (or lemon-flavored Crystal Light) fan I am, it will come as no surprise that I picked up The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies.
The two main characters, Evan and Jessie, are brother and sister, each with a problem. Evan is going into fourth grade and can't think of anything worse than having his baby sister in the same class next year (Jessie skipped a grade). Jessie, who loves math and numbers, doesn't even realize Evan is upset, until he starts a lemonade stand with his friend and doesn't include her. To show him up, Jessie gets Megan Moriarity (Evan's crush) to help her build a lemonade stand, with a fancy sign and free snacks. Before long, the two of them realize that they are lemonade competitors and declare war. The first sibling to earn $100 is the winner (or whoever earns the most money by Sunday), and the loser has to hand over whatever earnings he/she made to the winner.

Jessie and Evan will do anything it takes to win the war, including giving away freebies, lowering prices, franchising (opening up more businesses), and sabotaging each others' stands. The results are pretty funny and will have you rooting for either Jessie or Evan to win the war.

The book also includes Ten Tips for Turning Lemons into Loot written by Jessie and Evan and gives the definition for lots of business terms, such as joint venture, underselling, negotiation, and total loss. ***DO NOT have a lemonade stand this summer without reading this book! It could be the difference between making enough money to buy a game for your Wii or making enough money to buy a Wii!

Recipe to Read By: Zesty Lemon Squares
You don't have to squeeze any lemons for this recipe, although if you really like juicing lemons go right ahead. (Just be careful not to squeeze any lemon juice in your eye--that burns like a banshee and will ruin the whole baking experience.)

1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
1/2 cup of confectioners' sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon zest (I looove zesting lemons. They look so funny when you're done, like they're naked. Hehe.)
2 tablespoons sugar
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the confectioners' sugar.
Mix the flour and the salt together in another bowl, then add this to the butter mixture.
Add in the vanilla and the lemon zest and mix well.
Gather up the dough into a ball and wrap it in wax paper. Put the wrapped ball in the refrigerator for four hours. (Or one hour, if you're really impatient like me.)
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it sit while the oven is preheating. (Turn the oven on to 325° F.)
Press the dough into an 8-inch-square pan. Sprinkle it with the sugar.
Bake about 20 minutes, just until the edges of the dough start to turn a light brown.
Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool.
Cut into 2 x 2-inch squares.
Serve with lemon-flavored Crystal Light to balance all of that sugar.
*Recipe courtesy of http://www.lemonadewar.com/

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Mysterious Book Found in a Mysterious Location...

A few days ago, Kendall knocked her favorite toy under the bed and I found her frantically scratching and pawing at the carpet, trying desperately to reach it. Knowing that she wouldn't rest until it was in her mouth again, I got down on my stomach and peered into the dusty blackness. As I slid my arm as far underneath the bed as physically possible, my hand hit something hard and heavy: a book! Even without seeing the cover, I knew exactly which book it was: The Invention of Hugo Cabret--a favorite among my students a couple of years ago. How the book ended up under the bed, however, remains a mystery, although my literature-loving dog may have something to do with it...

Don't be intimidated by the size of this book. Although it is heavy enough to do some serious damage if you drop it on a toe, 284 of the 513 pages are original illustrations hand-drawn by the author, Brian Selznick.

The story takes place within the walls of a train station in Paris where Hugo, an orphan, lives in a secret room. Hugo has tended to the station clocks ever since his uncle disappeared, and he knows all of the secret hallways, tunnels, and rooms hidden beyond the station walls. Hugo spends his days fixing the clocks, stealing bites of food when he can, and trying to stear clear of the Station Inspector who will send him off to an orphanage if he is caught.

The only thing Hugo has left of his father is an automaton (an old-fashioned robot that writes) that was found in the rubble of the museum where he worked after it was burned down. Hugo is absolutely certain that if he can fix the automaton by reading father's notes, it will write a message from his father.

"What is it?"
"An automaton."
"What's that?"
"It's a windup figure, like a music box or a toy, except it's infinitely more complicated."
"What do you mean?"
"This one can write. At least I think it can. It's got a pen in its hand, and it's sitting at a desk. I'm sure that if it were working, you could wind it up, put a piece of paper on the desk, and all those little parts would engage and cause the arm to move in such a way that it would write out some kind of note."

Cool stuff, right? Find out more about automatons here.

Brian Selznick not only weaves a fascinating plot of mystery, history, and movie-making, but he captures the reader with his amazing illustrations that are able to tell a story on their own.

Let me know if you want to borrow this one--it will be sitting on my highest bookshelf along with all of my other prized books where the dog can't mistake it for a chew toy...

Recipe to Read By: French Sable Cookies
Sable cookies are a classic French cookie originating in Normandy. Sable is French for "sand," which refer to the sandy texture of these delicate shortbread-like cookies. I feel very sophisticated baking these and make a point to tell everyone that they are French.

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
10 tablespoons butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a medium bowl mix the flour and baking powder and set aside. In large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix in the dry ingredients until a smooth dough forms.

2. Form the dough into a disk shape or 2-inch diameter log. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour. (You can sneak bits of cookie dough while you're waiting for the time to pass.)

3. Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll out the disk of dough to ¼-inch thickness, and cut out the sables using any shaped cookie cutter. (A fluted one looks very authentic, but the only one I could find was a Christmas tree and it worked fine).

4. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 15 minutes, or until they are lightly browned around the edges. Cool the sables for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. VoilĂ !

Recipe courtesy of http://frenchfood.about.com/od/cookies/r/vansable.htm
P.S. Thank you Nick G. for donating a copy of this book to the classroom library!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Casting Call!

Huge news!!! Did you know that Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid is going to be turned into a movie? To add to the elation, Twentieth Century Fox is putting out a casting call for the role of Greg Heffley. They are looking for a regular kid--just like you!

What are you waiting for? Click here to get all of the info!

And don't forget your fourth grade teacher when you are walking the red carpet...

Take a break from auditioning by visiting these popular Wimpy Kid webpages:



Any recipe ideas???

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The London Eye Mystery

I grabbed this book for two reasons: 1.) I love a good mystery. 2.) I love people with British accents. With high expectations for a good mystery involving funky British sayings, this book did not disappoint.

Ted and Kat live a relatively normal life in London with their parents. I say "relatively" because Ted lives with a brain syndrome that makes him think differently than everyone else.

However, when Aunt Gloria and her son, Salim, come to visit Ted and Kat their lives becomes much less normal and much more interesting.

Upon their arrival, Salim declares that he would like to visit the London Eye, a ginormous Ferris-wheel type ride that allows for amazing views of the city. While their mothers wait for them to buy tickets, a man approaches the three children and offers them his ticket for free. He explains that he is claustrophobic (afraid of small spaces) and can't bring himself to ride. The children happily accept the ticket and give it to Salim, who excitedly walks onto the next pod. Kat and Ted watch Salim get onto the ride and follow his pod all the way around, with Ted timing his descent to the exact minute. When Salim's pod finally reaches the ground they watch all of the other people file out, keeping a close eye out for Salim. Minutes pass, and as the pod empties they realize that Salim is not there.

They wait patiently as the other pods empty, but still no sign of Salim. What happened to him? He couldn't have just disappeared!

So begins Kat and Ted's impressive attempts to piece together all of clues left behind and solve the mystery of Salim's disappearance. Sounds cool, huh?

Go on, you know you love a good mystery, too! You super sleuths out there may even solve it before Ted and Kat do...

"I want to ride on the Eye, mummy!"

Here is a list of some of my favorite British words. Can you guess what they mean? Keep scrolling down to see if you were correct.

Fun British Words
1. Banger
2. Bloke
3. Bobby
4. Rubbish
5. Gobsmacked
6. Higgledy-piggledy
7. Ice lolly
8. Jumper
9. Loo/Water closet
10. Nappy
11. Numpty
12. Telly
13. Trainers
14. Post
15. Queue
16. Biscuit
17. Tube

Recipe to Read By: Digestive Biscuits
Fancy a biscuit? Despite their weird names, these cookies are very popular in Britain and resemble a crumbly graham cracker. After baking a batch of these simple, yet tasty treats,
practice your British persona by raising a pinkie, dunking a biscuit in some tea, and asking in your most elegant and regal voice, "Pardon me, but could you direct me to the loo?"

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon rolled oats
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Mix in the oatmeal. Cream together the butter and the sugar and add to mixture. Stir in the milk until mixture forms a thick paste.
3. Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth. Roll out dough to approximately 1/8" thickness. Cut into rounds with cookie cutter about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Transfer to cookie sheets and prick with a fork.
4. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden. Let cool on wire rack. Store in an airtight tin.
5. In your best British accent, walk around asking people if they "fancy a biscuit."
Recipe courtesy of http://www.allrecipes.com/
American Equivalents to Fun British Words
1. Banger=Sausage 2. Bloke=Man 3. Bobby=policeman 4. Rubbish=garbage 5. Gobsmacked=utterly astounded 6. Higgledy-piggledy=in disarray 7. Ice lolly= popsicle 8. Jumper=sweater 9. Loo/Water closet= bathroom 10. Nappy=diaper 11. Numpty=stupid person 12. Telly=TV 13. Trainers=sneakers 14. Post=mail 15. Queue=a line you wait in
16. Biscuit=cookie 17. Tube=subway