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Children’s Book Corner: June 2009

Welcome to the Neighborhood-Kids Children’s Book Corner! Each month I offer one title each for four different age groups. These recommendations are based on my experience as the parent of a bookworm, an elementary teacher, and a voracious reader of children’s literature. Happy Reading!

For Baby Bookworms (Birth to 2)
The Going-to-Bed Book by Sandra Boynton (1982, Little Simon)

"The Going-to-Bed Book" by Sandra Boynton

Sandra Boynton’s distinct books engage both the child and the adult with their rhythmic phrases and silly animal characters. I chose The Going-to-Bed Book because I have personally read it 15,982 times and still enjoy it (a very close second would be The Barnyard Dance.) The animal friends are enjoying an evening cruise when bedtime arrives. Together they splash in the tub, brush their teeth, squeeze in a little exercise, and hit the sack. “The moon is high, the sea is deep. They rock and rock and rock to sleep.” Not a bad way to drift off into dreamland.

"A Good Day" by Kevin Henkes

For Preschool Power Readers (3-5)
A Good Day by Kevin Henkes (2007, HarperCollins)

The day starts off badly; a lost feather, a tangled leash, a missing mother, and a dropped nut leave the animals feeling frustrated and sad. But when the dog is freed, the mother is found, the biggest nut ever is discovered, and the bird finds it can fly higher without its missing feather, young readers learn that there is often a silver lining behind the dark clouds. A Good Day is a sweet little story that can lead to discussions about not giving up when things are difficult.

For School-age Scholars (6-8)
The Red Book by Barbara Lehman (2004, Houghton Mifflin)

"The Red Book" by Barbara Lehman

A story told without a single word, this is a powerful tale about the wonderful magic of books. Walking to school through the gray and snowy city, a young girl discovers a red book sticking out of a snow drift. Once in her classroom, she peeks inside and finds a series of illustrations: a map, an island, a tropical beach, and a boy. She watches the progression of pictures as the boy finds a red book hidden in the sand, opens it, and discovers pictures of a map, a city, a school, and a girl reading a little red book…the magic continues from there. This clever book gives the reader the sense of observing through a porthole as events unfold, and offers children the opportunity to talk about the story they are seeing in the pictures.

For Independent Intermediates (9-12)
The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
(2000, Laurel Leaf)

"The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963" by Christopher Paul Curtis

Christopher Paul Curtis expertly weaves the fictional story of an African American family in the 1960s with factual events in the racially charged history of the United States. Narrator Kenny Watson is a hard-working, parent-pleasing kid in the family known as the Weird Watsons in their home of Flint, Michigan. Older brother Byron, in trouble for the umpteenth time, is being packed up to live with his their grandmother in the Deep South for the summer, with hopes that a different perspective on the world will get him back on the straight path. In a story that moves flawlessly from hilarity (Byron pretending to make out with a car mirror in the dead of winter leads to him getting his tongue stuck) to heart-wrenching drama (not long after they arrive in Birmingham the church is bombed with four young girls inside) young readers will be drawn into the world of this everyday family and learn a bit about what it was like to be Black in America in the 1960s.

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Visit Cupcake Heaven in Fairhaven

When another mom friend told me how much she liked the cupcakes at Katie’s Cupcakes in Fairhaven, my first response was “Let’s take the girls.” My daughter loves sweets, cake especially, and what could be more perfect, really, than a well-made cupcake?

Exterior of Katie’s Cupcakes in Fairhaven. Exterior of Katie’s Cupcakes in Fairhaven.
Photo by Joanna Nesbit

We met on a grey Saturday with our two twelve-year-olds. On any day this bakery will feel friendly, but on a grey Northwest day, it feels downright cozy. The walls are painted in butter yellow and bright green, and pastel-colored chairs are scattered among the small white tables, while pastel polka-dotted mugs hang in a row behind the bakery counter. A couple of armchairs hug the large, light window space, and artwork adds to the palette of color. The kid-friendly color scheme—pink, green, yellow, and white—feels just so right for cupcakes. My daughter was enchanted. So was I.

Owner Katie Swanson opened the bakery on March 17, 2009, adding Bellingham to the list of cupcake lovin’ cities. In New York, cupcake bakeries have around been since 1988, but on the West Coast, the cupcake craze is much more recent, with bakeries popping up post-2003 in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Some say the popularity is in the cupcake’s perfect portion size. Cupcakes are also individual, each with their own decorative topping. I think the best part—and I’ll bet any child would agree—is that no one needs to share. Go ahead, lick off the frosting first.

For me, my choice was easy—Lemon Lovin’, my favorite flavor and, conveniently, one of the Saturday specials. My daughter opted for Cookies & Cream, also a Saturday special. Katie’s offers regular dailies in chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet, as well as special flavors on a rotating schedule, such as banana, piña colada, coconut, and more.

Various flavors of cupcakes at Katie's Cupcakes. Various flavors of cupcakes at Katie’s Cupcakes.
Photo by Joanna Nesbit

The cupcakes are baked fresh every day, and the bakery uses healthy ingredients, including organic milk and butter, and eggs from cage-free chickens. And unlike those generic cupcakes with greasy toppings that leave you feeling a little ill afterwards, the old-fashioned buttercream frosting— the most important part of a cake in my opinion—is truly delicious.

For those with diet restrictions, gluten-free cupcakes can be found on Fridays, as well as a vegan variety on Wednesdays. Come summer, cupcakes with fresh fruit will be available. The bakery also accepts orders for custom cupcakes and cakes for special occasions, like birthdays and weddings.

Cupcakes come in two sizes, regular and mini, and at $2.25 and $1.50 respectively, they make for an affordable afternoon out with your kids. Katie’s is the perfect destination for a little one-on-one time with your child or for a group of friends. Or come solo for your own inner child.

A Cookies & Cream cupcake from Katie's Cupcakes. Try a yummy Cookies & Cream cupcake from Katie’s Cupcakes.
Photo by Joanna Nesbit

If you’re looking for a new party venue, Katie’s offers birthday party packages and girls’ tea parties. The birthday party package includes drinks and decorating your own cupcake and two sugar cookies. Swanson includes face painting or beading as additional activities (activity ideas are still in progress), but is happy to let parents provide their own craft. Cost is $9 per child on weekends, and $7 on weekdays. Weekend timeslots are limited to 11am-12:30pm and 3:30-5pm, while weekday timeslots are open. For girls’ tea parties, simply call head to book a couple of tables—there’s no special package. The bakery can accommodate a maximum of 8 children for either kind of party.

Katie’s Cupcakes is located at 1005 Harris Avenue, next to Rebecca’s Flower Shoppe. Hours are Tuesday to Thursday from 11 AM to 7 PM, Friday to Saturday from 11 AM to 9 PM, and Sunday from 11 AM to 4 PM.

For more information, call (360) 393-4632.

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Ideas for a Healthy Summer Barbeque

A family enjoying a summer barbeque. Have healthy choices at your summer barbeque.

One of my family’s favorite summer pastimes is barbequing. Or grilling, if you’re a BBQ-purist. No matter what you call it, nothing says summer, to me, like enjoying a tall glass of iced tea while dinner sizzles on the grill as the Mariners’ game plays on the radio. And while I’d be perfectly content to grill up steak, hamburgers, and bratwurst every night, I know that kind of diet is not a very healthy way to live. Once in a while is fine, but there are definitely ways to make your grilled dinner a little bit healthier. Take a look at some tips for tasty and healthier BBQs this summer.

Marinate the Meat
Marinating your meat before cooking can help protect your family’s health. Scientific studies have shown that the ingredients of marinades—antioxidant-rich spices, oil, and sugar—may help limit the amount of carcinogens (cancer-linked chemicals) formed when meat is grilled (“Marinades Help Keep Grilled Meat Safe”). You can purchase many kinds of marinades at the store, or make your own with salt, a variety of household spices, oil, and lemon juice. Just mix 3 parts oil and 1 part lemon juice in a glass container, add salt and spices to taste, pierce meat with a fork, and store covered in the refrigerator overnight. Remember to flip the meat at least once so it will really soak up all the flavors of the marinade.

Don’t Burn Up
Keep in mind that more carcinogens can be activated in the meat if it is cooked on high heat instead of medium. Turn meat often and avoid charring the food as much as possible, and then scrape off any charred portions before serving. It’s also a great idea to prepare meat kabobs because the smaller pieces of meat cook will cook faster than a full steak.

Throw a Garden on the Grill
If you’re in the mood to grill, but want to limit (or eliminate) the amount of meat in your meal, there are lots of summer vegetables that taste great when marinated and grilled. Zucchini, squash, peppers, portabella mushrooms, corn on the cob, potatoes, and onions are just a few great choices. You put them on a kabob, wrap them in heavy-duty aluminum foil, or lay slices them right on the grill.

BBQed Dessert
Soak slices of pineapple, apples, and bananas in cold water and lemon juice for 20 minutes and spray with cooking oil before tossing them on the grill. The grilling will bring out the natural sugars of the fruit, so it will taste great on its own or with a small bowl of ice cream. Just make sure that you’ve thoroughly cleaned the grill first; you don’t want your dessert to taste like hot dogs, do you?

Happy summer barbequing and share your own health(ier) BBQ ideas with us in the Forum!

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