Category Archives: books to love

Pippi Moves In

Pippi Longstocking

Summer and Pippi go hand in hand, if you ask me.  What kid wouldn’t want Pippi to move in next door?  She has a suitcase full of gold, is stronger than anyone on earth, and she is an excellent thing-searcher.  Pippi books and movies {the 1970s Swedish-dubbed-in-English variety} are favorites at our house, so when we unexpectedly discovered these comic book style books at the library, of course we had to check them out!  We have since added a few to our home library because they are so funny.  I promise that if you find a copy or two for your kids, they will be laughing!  In the meantime,  here’s an abbreviated version below, featuring photos I did with my three youngest, and words by Astrid Lindgren.  Happy reading!

Tommy and Annika

PIPPI MOVES IN TO VILLA VILLEKULLA

On the outskirts of a tiny little town was a neglected garden.  In the garden stood an old house.  Many years ago, Pippi Longstocking’s father (a great sea captain) had bought the old house.  He had planned to live there with Pippi when he grew old and was no longer able to sail the seas.  Then, unfortunately, he was blown overboard.  While Pippi was waiting for him to come back, she headed straight home to Villa Villekulla.  That was what the house was called.  It stood there, all furnished and ready–just waiting for her to arrive.  Pippi took two things from the ship.  A little monkey whose name was Mr. Nilsson, and a suitcase full of gold coins.

Next to Villa Villekulla was another garden with another house.  In that house lived a father and a mother with their two sweet children, Tommy and Annika.  Tommy and Annika played nicely together in their garden, but they had often wished for a playmate.  While Pippi was still sailing the seas with her father, they would sometimes say to each other, “It’s so sad that no one has ever moved into that house!  Someone should live there, someone with children.”

Pippi Moves In

On that beautiful summer evening when Pippi stepped through the front door of Villa Villekulla for the very first time, Tommy and Annika had gone to visit their grandmother for a week.  That’s why they had no idea that someone had moved into the house next door.

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On the first day after they came home, when they were standing at their front gate and looking out at the street, they still didn’t know that a playmate was actually so close.  As they stood there, wondering what to do and whether anything fun was going to happen that day, or whether it was going to be one of those boring days when they couldn’t think of anything to do–just at that moment the gate to Villa Villekulla opened and a little girl came out.

Pippi Longstocking

Her hair was the color of a carrot and it was braided in two tight braids that stuck straight out.  Her nose was the shape of a very small potato, and it was completely covered with freckles.  Under her nose was an exceptionally wide mouth with nice white teeth.  Her dress was quite odd.  Pippi had made it herself.  There hadn’t been enough material, so Pippi had decided to sew on little patches here and there. What made Tommy and Annika really open their eyes wide was the monkey who was sitting on the strange little girl’s shoulder.

Pippi set off up the street.  She walked with one foot on the sidewalk and the other in the gutter.  Tommy and Annika fixed their eyes on her for as long as they could see her.  After a while she came back.  Now she was walking backward.  That was so she didn’t have to turn around when she came home.  As she reached the gate to Tommy and Annika’s house, she stopped.  The children looked at each other in silence.

Finally  Tommy said, “Why were you walking backward?”

“Why was I walking backward?” said Pippi.  “Don’t we live in a free country?  Can’t a person walk any way she likes?  Besides, I can tell you that in Egypt everyone walks like that, and nobody thinks there’s anything odd about it…I wonder what you would have said if I’d walked on my hands, like people do in Farthest India.”

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“Now you’re lying,” said Tommy.

Pippi thought for a moment.  “Yes, you’re right.  I was lying,” she said sadly.

“It’s bad to lie,” said Annika, finally opening her mouth.

“Yes, it’s very bad to lie,” said Pippi, sounding even sadder.  “But sometimes I forget, you see.  And how can you really expect a little girl whose mamma is an angel and whose pappa is king of the natives–a girl who has sailed the seas all her life–how can you expect her always to tell the truth?  And besides, let me tell you that in the Congo there isn’t a single person who tells the truth.  They tell lies all day long.  They start at seven o’clock in the morning and keep on going until sunset.  So if I happen to lie once in a while, you’ll have to forgive me and remember that it’s just because I’ve spent a little too much time in the Congo.  But we can still be friends, can’t we?”

“Of course,” said Tommy, and he suddenly thought that this was probably not going to be one of those boring kind of days.

“So is there anything stopping you from coming to have breakfast at my house?” said Pippi.

“No, of course not,” said Tommy.  “Come on, let’s go!”

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Afterward Pippi gave each of her new playmates a present as a souvenir.  “Now you better go home,” said Pippi, “so that you can come back tomorrow.  Because if you don’t go home, then you won’t be able to come back tomorrow.  And that would really be a shame.”

Tommy and Annika thought so too.  And so they went home.

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PIPPI IS A THING-SEARCHER

Annika woke early the next morning.  “Wake up, Tommy,” she said, shaking him by the arm.  “Let’s go over and see that funny girl.”

They threw on their clothes.  And a whole hour earlier than their mother expected, they came sliding down the banister.  They landed right at the breakfast table, where they sat down and began shouting that they wanted their hot cocoa at once.

“What’s going on?” asked their mother.  “Why are you in such a hurry?”

“We’re going over to see the new girl in the house next door,” said Tommy.

“We might stay there all day,” said Annika.

On that particular morning, Pippi was in the middle of baking gingersnaps.  She had made a huge batch of dough and rolled it out on the floor.

“Because you know what?” said Pippi, “What good is it to roll the dough on a table when you’re going to bake at least five hundred gingersnaps?”  So she lay on the floor, cutting out heart-shaped gingersnaps for dear life.

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Pippi could certainly work fast!

“Done,” said Pippi finally, as she slammed the oven door on the last baking sheets with a bang.

“What should we do now?” said Tommy.

“I don’t know what you’ve got in mind,” said Pippi, “but I’m not the sort to lie around.  I’m a thing-searcher, you see.  And that means I never have a moment to spare.”

“What did you say you were?” asked Annika.

“A thing-searcher.”

“What’s that?” asked Tommy.

“Someone who goes searching for things, of course!  The whole world is full of things, which means there’s a real need for someone to go searching for them.  And that’s exactly what a thing-searcher does.”

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All three thing-searchers set off.  Tommy and Annika watched Pippi to see how a thing-searcher was supposed to act.  Pippi ran from one side of the road to the other, shading her eyes with her hand, and she searched and searched.

“Can we really take anything that we find?” asked Annika.

“Yes, anything lying on the ground,” said Pippi.

Some distance away an old man was lying on the grass outside his house, sleeping.  “That man over there is lying on the ground,” said Pippi.  “And we found him. So let’s take him!”  Tommy and Annika were both quite startled.

“Oh, no, Pippi.  We can’t take an old man.  We just can’t,” said Tommy.  “Besides, what would we do with him?”

“We could put him in a little rabbit cage instead of a rabbit, and feed him dandelion leaves.  But if you don’t want to, that fine with me.  Even though I think it’s annoying that some other thing-searcher might come along and nab him.”

They kept on going.

Pippi gave out a roar and triumphantly held up a spool of thread.  “This seems to be my lucky day,” she said.  “Such a sweet, sweet little spool for blowing soap bubbles, or you could put it on a string and wear it like a necklace!  I’m going to go home and do that right now.”

When they reached Pippi’s garden, Tommy said that he didn’t think he and Annika were ever going to find anything.

“Tommy, why don’t you look inside that old tree?”  To please Pippi he stuck his hand into a hollow in the tree trunk.

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“Wait a minute,” he said in astonishment, and pulled out his hand.  And in it he was holding a truly splendid notebook.

“You see?” said Pippi.  “There’s nothing as great as being a thing-searcher.  It’s odd that more people don’t take up the profession.”  And then she looked at Annika. “Why don’t you go feel around inside that stump?”

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Annika stuck her hand inside and almost at once she found a necklace.  Then she and Tommy just stood there gaping for a long time, they were so surprised.  And they thought that from now on they were going to be thing-searchers every single day.

Pippi had been up half the night playing catch, and now she suddenly felt sleepy.  “I think I’d better go and lie down for a while,” she said.  “Why don’t you come along and tuck me in?”

Then she lay down to sleep.  She always slept with her feet on the pillow and her head under the covers. “They sleep like this in Guatamala,” she assured them. “I always have to sing to myself for a while, otherwise I can’t sleep a wink all night.”

Tommy and Annika listened to the humming sound coming form under the covers.  Carefully they tiptoed out of the room.  In the doorway they turned around and cast one last glance at the bed.  They could see nothing but Pippi’s feet, resting on the pillow.

Then Tommy and Annika ran home.  Annika was clutching her necklace tightly in her hand.  “Tommy, you don’t think that…you don’t think that Pippi put these things there beforehand, do you?”

“You never know,” said Tommy.  “You never really know anything when it comes to Pippi Longstocking.”

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PIPPI ORGANIZES AN EXPEDITION

“Today we’re not going to school,” Tommy told Pippi.  “Because it’s a house-cleaning holiday.”

Outside, the sun was shining in a bright blue sky. Pippi had an idea.  “What do you think about taking Mr. Nilsson with us and going on a little expedition?”

“Oh, yes,” shouted Tommy and Annika with delight.

“Run home and ask your mother then,” said Pippi.  “In the meantime I’ll make a packed lunch.”

Tommy and Annika dashed home, and it wasn’t long before they were back.  By then Pippi was already standing at the gate with Mr. Nilsson on her shoulder, a walking stick in one hand and a big basket in the other.

At first the children walked along the country road, but then they turned off into a field where a nice little path wound its way between birch tree and hazel thickets. Some distance away was a small hill that could be easily and quickly climbed.  On top of the hill was a sunny little ledge, just like a balcony.  That’s where they sat down.

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norwegian cinnamon + cardamom buns

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He gives it his thumb of approval.

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It was one of those cozy, cloudy, rainy spring days.  The kind that makes me want to do nothing but bake up something warm and sweet.  What better than cinnamon buns?  And Norwegian ones at that?

I have two favorite cinnamon bun recipes…I couldn’t decide which one to use, so I did a mash up of them both.  Here is my version of Norwegian Cinnamon Buns, based on Nigella Lawson’s recipe from her book, How to Be a Domestic Goddess, and this one from Tessa Kiros, author of Apples for Jam and Falling Cloudberries.  I love Kiros’ addition of cardamom, such a Scandinavian flavor that brings back memories of my grandparents for me.

Norwegian Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns

for the dough:

  • 5 cups white flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 3 tablespoons yeast (yes, really!  3 TABLESPOONS.)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 2/3 cups milk
  • 2 eggs

for the filling:

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar {plus additional for sprinkling over buns, optional}
  •  1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

for the glaze:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • a few spoonfuls of sugar {for sparkle effect, it’s a good thing}

OR…you can do this frosting instead of the sprinkled sugar glaze if you’re craving something extra sweet and sticky:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract {or vanilla, but almond is better in this particular recipe}

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cardamom, and yeast in a large bowl {that’s right, you don’t need to dissolve the yeast first! I know, it’s completely insane but it works, trust me!}. Melt the butter and whisk it into the milk and eggs, then stir it into the flour mixture.  Mix to combine and then knead the dough either by hand or using the dough hook of an electric mixer until it’s smooth and springy.  Add a little additional flour if the dough is too sticky.  Form into a ball, place in an oiled bowl {I usually use the one I mixed the dough in, just so I don’t have so many dishes to wash}, cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel, and leave it to rise for about 25 minutes.  I’ve heard that a slightly warm clothes dryer is a great place to let bread dough rise…I’m going to try it next time!

While the dough is rising, mix together all the filling ingredients.

Take half of the dough and roll it on a lightly floured surface into a 20×10 inch rectangle. Spread the dough with half of the filling mixture, doing your best to cover it entirely.  Roll it up from the longest side.  Now, grab your sharpest knife or a pizza cutter, and get ready to cut your dough into buns.  You can just do the traditional, slice, slice, slice straight across, but if you want to up the wow factor here is what you do.  Imagine you are cutting the letter ‘V’ right side up, then upside down, all across your rolled up dough.  The point of your ‘V’ should be about 3/4-inch across, and the base of it should be about 2 inches across. Does that make sense?  See the photo above if I’m not making sense, which most likely I’m not.

Great work!  Now do the exact same thing with the other half of your dough and filling.

Place a sheet of parchment paper over a cookie sheet, or grease the pan if you don’t have parchment paper around.  Take all those little ‘V’ shaped pieces of pudgy dough and sit them on their fat bottoms into the pan.  So it will look somewhat like an upside-down ‘V’.  Now press your thumb down into the center of each one until you almost reach the pan, but be careful not to break a hole through the bottom of your dough.  Along the sides you will see the cinnamon stripes peeking up and outward.  Leave a little bit of space between each one to allow room to rise while they bake.  Brush them with the beaten egg {and sprinkle with sugar if you’d like} and then let them rise again for about 15 minutes.

Put into the hot oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.  They should have risen and turned a golden brown.  If you are using the frosting, allow the buns to cool slightly before drizzling it over the tops.  Enjoy warm with an ice cold glass of milk.

Makes about 24.

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peach sandwich

peach sandwich

From Unplugged Kitchen by Viana La Place.

From Unplugged Kitchen by Viana La Place.

A peach tree will be a welcome addition to our backyard in the near future, but until that tree is planted and starts growing my favorite fruit, I am thankful for generous friends who share with me!  Is there anything better than a warm, sweet-smelling, juicy peach fresh from the tree?  I think not.

I found this book, Unplugged Kitchen by Viana La Place when my soon-to-be-fourteen-year-old was just a baby, and I was getting into cooking for the first time in my life.  Browsing the aisles of a small bookstore, this one seemed to jump into my hands and I knew I had to take it home with me so I could read all the stories behind the recipes and admire the pretty photographs.  I believe this book is out of print now, but if you love cookbooks like I do, snap this one up if you can get your hands on a copy. The artist in me appreciates the graphic design of the book, the wanna-be world traveler in me enjoys exploring the Italian countryside through the text, and the food-lover in me wants to try every recipe!  It’s a well-loved part of my kitchen, now with a slightly rippled cover from a spilled glass of water, torn paper bookmarks scattered throughout its pages, and an accidental smattering of watercolor paint along its spine.

Little did I know when I bought it, that inside I would discover a little treasure called “peach sandwich.”  Peach sandwich? Why hadn’t I thought of that before?  I had to try it as soon as possible.  I’m pretty sure I had a peach sandwich every day for breakfast that summer.  Here’s the recipe for you while peach season is still in full swing!

Peach Sandwich

  • 2 slices sturdy rustic bread
  • a little butter
  • 1 ripe, fragrant peach, sliced (peeling is optional)
  • sugar to taste

Toast the bread slices, and, while warm, lightly spread with butter.  Arrange peach slices on 1 slice of bread and sprinkle with desired amount of sugar.  Cover with the other bread slice and very gently press down to bind.peach sandwichunplugged kitchen

just being audrey

Just Being AudreyJust Being AudreyJust Being Audrey

On the set of Roman Holiday.

On the set of Roman Holiday.

Did you know that Audrey often cooked spaghetti dinners for the cast and crew after a long day of filming?

Did you know that Audrey often cooked spaghetti dinners for the cast and crew after a long day of filming?

LOVE her style.

LOVE her style.

So does Nina!

So does Nina!

Just Being AudreyDSC_1796Just Being Audrey

 

We’ve been super busy around here lately with end-of-year school projects.  Invention convention, research reports, mini-society and business days, art lessons for me to teach in the classroom, the dance festival, and biography book reports.  This mama is ready for summer vacation!

Both Hannah and Nina needed to do a biography book report, and I wanted to think outside of the typical Annie-Oakley-Florence-Nightingale-Marie-Curie box.  Hmmmm….how about Audrey Hepburn?  Not only is she a classic movie star, but she also (and more importantly) had a kind and giving heart.  I thought my girls could learn some good things by reading about her.  And let’s be honest, another reason I thought Audrey Hepburn would be a winner was the fact that Hannah was required to dress up like the person, and presenting to the class in first-person.  Wouldn’t she make a perfect Breakfast at Tiffany’s beauty?

Well, Hannah didn’t like my idea so much.  She still read the Audrey Hepburn books we checked out from the library and she loved them, but her Beatles obsession took over and she ended up doing her report on Paul McCartney.  So I borrowed a great Beatles wig from my mom’s crazy dress up collection and suggested she take her guitar and strum Blackbird (she can play it by heart) as she told about her Paul McCartney life in a British accent.  She looked at me with one of those “Are you kidding me?” kind of stares.  So obviously my ideas aren’t the best in her book anymore, but that’s okay.  I’ll just shed a quiet tear and move on (sniff, sniff).  She did end up wearing Ben’s black Sunday slacks with a white shirt and black tie, so it was fine.  I would’ve paid money to see her wear that wig, play the guitar and speak with an accent though!  Hannah’s friend who did J.R.R. Tolkien wore a corduroy suit jacket, brought a pipe, and strolled around the room telling about the famous novelist in a full British accent, “I smoked a pipe for years and years, became ill with a lung disease, and then I died.”  Oh my gosh!  “See Hannah?  An accent would have been SO great!” I said.  Another friend of hers did Tim Burton and of course wore black and white stripes.  How fun!

Okay, back to Audrey…at least one child still likes my ideas.  Nina absolutely loved reading this charming picture book, Just Being Audrey.  We sat on the front steps at sunset, admiring all her movie costumes and reading about all the good things Audrey did to help other people.  Such a beautifully illustrated little book, definitely one to add to the permanent collection.  Nina decided she wants to be Audrey Hepburn for Halloween this year, so I’m excited to pull that together!

Nina’s report was a small paper cube with facts written on each side, and she was supposed to put something her famous person would treasure inside of it.  Since Audrey was a ballerina when she was younger, Barbie ballet shoes seemed appropriate and they fit perfectly inside.  Ta-da!  Cross another project off the to-do list.

P.S. Another book we skimmed through just for fun was Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit, written by her son Sean.  Full of photos.  Loved it!

Just Being Audrey

rainy day library and art gallery

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clothespin man

Will made this little man all by himself!

I don’t know what the weather’s like where you live, but here it’s been a cold and often rainy (or snowy!) spring.  When we woke up to another grey morning, my first thought was to switch on a movie for the kids…but then I noticed all the library books in the basket and said, “Hey guys…why don’t you play library?” No complaints there! A couple friends joined in and pretty soon everyone was “checking out” books and putting them into their library totes.

Once the “library” was closed, it was time to open up the art studio and get ready for a seriously cool exhibit. With some watercolors and a handful of craft supplies, the kids definitely added some much needed sunshine to a rainy day!

 

great to be eight

DSC_5848DSC_5836DSC_5882DSC_5860This little lady is having her eighth birthday in a couple weeks, and that means she will also be getting baptized and confirmed a member of our church.  So exciting!  I have been wanting to put together a little baptism invitation, but with Hannah in the hospital since New Year’s, I haven’t had any time. Today before I went up to the hospital, I packed Nina’s white dress and my camera so that we could maybe squeeze in a mini-shoot at some point.

Nina and the rest of the kids had spent the day at my parents’ house, and I managed to get there from the hospital before sunset.  Quickly, we changed Nina’s clothes and put her been-playing-all-day hair up into a twist.  These photos happened in front of the house within five minutes because not only were we losing light, but we were freezing! Not a ton of photos, but just enough for the baptism and invitations.  Phew!