Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Poems of Alan Alexander Milne

Jonathan Jo
Has a mouth like an "O"
And a wheelbarrow full of surprises;
If you ask for a bat,
Or for something like that,
He has got it, whatever the size is.

If you're wanting a ball
It's no trouble at all;
Why, the more that you ask for, the merrier––
Like a hoop and a top,
And a watch that won't stop,
And some sweets, and an Aberdeen terrier.

Jonathan Jo has a mouth like an "O"
But this is what makes him so funny:
If you give him a smile,
Only once in a while,
Then he never expects any money!

Some of my strongest childhood memories include the poems of English writer A.A. Milne (1882-1956). I can still hear my dad's voice reciting "Lines and Squares," "Disobedience," and "Jonathan Jo" and my mom's voice in "The King's Breakfast" and "The End." I'm sure I say them to my children now with the exact intonation my parents once spoke them to me. Many other Milne poems adorned my childhood in some way or another (e.g. King's Singers albums, Muppets sketches...).

Best known for his stories about the adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood, A.A. Milne's poems are absolutely not to be missed. I never tire of them. Based on my memories of childhood and observations of my own little boys, I think he thoroughly understand the workings of a child's mind and heart (in fact, for this reason, all adults should read them). Ernest Shepard's accompanying "decorations" are equally charming. Whether or not you have children at home, the poetry books When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six are worthy additions to precious bookshelf space.

Call any nearby children to your knee right now and enjoy a few of my favorites together. If you are alone, no matter. You might be pleased to catch a glimpse of yourself in some of these words.

Market Square

I had a penny,
A bright new penny,
I took my penny
To the market square.
I wanted a rabbit,
A little brown rabbit,
And I looked for a rabbit
'Most everywhere.

For I went to the stall where they sold sweet lavender.
("Only a penny for a bunch of lavender!")
"Have you got a rabbit, 'cos I don't want lavender?"
But they hadn't got a rabbit, not anywhere there.

I had a penny,
And I had another penny,
I took my pennies
To the market square.
I did want a rabbit,
A little baby rabbit,
And I looked for rabbits
'Most everywhere.

And I went to the stall where they sold fresh mackerel.
("Now then! Tuppence for a fresh-caught mackerel!")
"Have you got a rabbit, 'cos I don't like mackerel?"
But they hadn't got a rabbit, not anywhere there.

I found a sixpence
A little white sixpence.
I took it in my hand
To the market square.
I was buying my rabbit
(I do like rabbits)
And I looked for my rabbit
'Most everywhere.

So I went to the stall where they sold fine saucepans.
("Walk up, walk up, sixpence for a saucepan!")
"Could I have a rabbit, 'cos we've got two saucepans?"
But they hadn't got a rabbit, not anywhere there.

I had nuffin',
No, I hadn't got nuffin',
So I didn't go down
To the market square;
But I walked on the common,
The old-gold common . . .
And I saw little rabbits
'Most everywhere!

So I'm sorry for the people who sell fine saucepans,
I'm sorry for the people who sell fresh mackerel,
I'm sorry for the people who sell sweet lavender,
'Cos they haven't got a rabbit, not anywhere there.


John had
Great Big
Boots on;
John had a
Great Big
John had a
Great Big
And that
(Said John)

Come Out with Me

There's sun on the river and sun on the hill . . .
You can hear the sea if you stand quite still!
There's eight new puppies at Roundabout Farm––
And I saw an old sailor with only one arm!

But every one says, "Run along!"
(Run along, run along!)
All of them say, "Run along! I'm busy as can be."
Every one says, "Run along,
There's a little darling!"
If I'm a little darling, why don't they run with me?

There's wind on the river and wind on the hill . . .
There's a dark dead water-wheel under the mill!
I saw a fly which had just been drowned––
And I know where a rabbit goes into the ground!

But every one says, "Run along!"
(Run along, run along!)
All of them say, "Yes dear," and never notice me.
Every one says, "Run along,
There's a little darling!"
If I'm a little darling, why won't they come and see?


Whenever I'm a shining Knight,
I buckle on my armor tight;
And then I look about for things,
Like Rushings-Out, and Rescuings,
And Savings from the Dragon's Lair,
And fighting all the Dragons there.
And sometimes when our fights begin,
I think I'll let the Dragons win . . .
And then I think perhaps I won't,
Because they're Dragons, and I don't.

The Engineer

Let it rain!
Who cares?
I've a train
With a brake
Which I make
From a string
Sort of thing,
Which works
In jerks,
'Cos it drops
In the spring,
Which stops
With the string
And the wheels
All stick
So quick
That it feels
Like a thing
That you make
With a brake,
Not string . . .

So that's what I make,
When the day's all wet.
It's a good sort of brake
But it hasn't worked yet.


Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

God bless Mummy. I know that's right.
Wasn't it fun in the bath tonight?
The cold's so cold, and the hot's so hot.
Oh! God bless Daddy––I quite forgot.

If I open my fingers a little bit more,
I can see Nanny's dressing-gown on the door.
It's a beautiful blue, but it hasn't a hood.
Oh! God bless Nanny and make her good.

Mine has a hood, and I lie in bed,
And I pull the hood right over my head,
And I shut my eyes, and I curl up small,
And nobody knows that I'm there at all.

Oh! Thank you, God, for a lovely day.
And what was the other I had to say?
I said, "Bless Daddy," so what can it be?
Oh! Now I remember. God bless Me.

Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

Do you have a favorite you'd like to share?
What other children's poets do you love?

Friday, July 26, 2013

For the Next Year . . .

Every once in a while I'll feel some unexpected motivation creeping up inside me.  Sometimes the motivation is towards productivity, and if I catch ahold of it, I can be unusually productive (until the motivation wears off).  Sometimes the motivation is focused on being healthy, and if I respond to the urge to be more healthy, I can often make a positive life-change.

So, here I find myself.  I'm eating some delicious dark chocolate, but I still feel driven to be more healthy.  And I'm really going to do it.  I always have some kind of health goal, but this one's more serious than most.

Starting August 1st, for a year I'm going to only have one dessert a week.  I've been having too much sugar lately, and I want to stop.  Here are my rules: I can save up desserts, or even borrow from the future, just so long as by Aug 1, 2014 the desserts add up to 52.  That way there are no excuses (I'll also give myself three free days to use whenever I want, like Christmas).

Andrew, my mom and sister are all doing the goal together.  I am putting it here so it's public and I'm accountable.  Ask me how my goal is going anytime this year :)

To give us a concrete goal to work towards, Andrew and I are working to earn me a bike.  We have a bike trailer, and Andrew and Abraham have bikes, so we'll be able to go on family bike rides and take advantage of all the great trails in the DC area!

The first four days of the goal (Aug 1-4), Andrew and I will be doing a more serious cleanse, inspired by Dr. Christopher's Mucusless Diet.  No sugar, dairy, meat or gluten.  I will also be starting every day with a green smoothie, and a cup of water with a tablespoon or two of good apple cider vinegar, a bit of raw honey, and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  What a way to wake up!  Call me strange, but I actually kind of like it.  And it does clear you out!

Most of you probably keep a stricter diet than this, but if not, want to join me?  Any health goals you're already doing or plan to do?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Preserved Lemons and Homemade Bubbies Pickles

Here is one of my favorite kitchen books (can't really call it a cookbook -- no cooking required!):

To those of you new to fermentation, this book is a great place to start! It's full of beautiful pictures and clear step-by-steps. The author, Alex Lewin, includes general information on fermentation, how to begin, how to choose ingredients, plenty of recipes, plus how to create your own! Everything I've made from this book has turned out really delicious.

Lately I've been dying to ferment some lemons as a refreshing treat during the hot months (I've been going crazy on Melissa's homemade gatorade), so I tried a recipe from this book. I hope he won't mind me sharing. In exchange, I'm happy to put in a plug for his book (buy this book!). Beautiful photos and introduction to this recipe not included.

Yield: 1 pint (475 ml)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 6 months

  • 1 1/2 pounds (675 g) lemons and/or limes (about 5 or 6 lemons or 8 to 10 limes, depending on size), at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) sea salt
  • Assorted spices of your choice: a cinnamon stick, a bay leaf, a few cloves, a few peppercorns, a handful of coriander seeds, or a shake of  "pickling spice" (optional)
  • 1 or 2 additional lemons, for juice
  • Large cutting board (wood is ideal)
  • A large knife (a chef's knife is ideal)
  • 1-pint (475-ml) mason jar with a tight-fitting lid
  1. Take the lemons and/or limes out of the refrigerator an hour ahead of time to bring them to room temperature.
  2. If they are waxed, or if you're not sure, blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then take them out and let them cool.
  3. Soften the fruit by rolling them on the counter under your palm, exerting some pressure, but not so much that the rinds split.
  4. Cut each lemon or lime along its equator. Then cut each hemisphere into four wedges; alternatively, make these cuts three-quarters of the way through but not all the way. Discard the seeds.
  5. Put some salt in the bottom of the jar, add some spices, if using, and add a fruit's worth of wedges. Pack down firmly. Repeat this, layer by layer, until everything is in the jar, or the jar is nearly full. If the released juice does not cover the fruit, juice 1 or 2 additional fruit and add their juice to the jar. Close the jar, leaving 1 inch (2.5 cm) of headroom at the top.
  6. Store the jar at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. For the first week, open the jar every day and pack it down so that the liquid rises to cover. The fruit start to change character after a week or two. Left at room temperature, they will continue to deepen in flavor for a year or so. Put them in the refrigerator at any time to slow their progress.
Lab Notes
A little white mold may grow on the top of the lemons or limes, especially if the juice is low. This is not a problem; simply skim it off, and add more juice. If, however, a lot of fuzzy mold grows, then you should probably throw away your batch and start over.

Other citrus can be fermented, too. Meyer lemons, grapefruit, kumquats, and yuzu are great candidates. Oranges, especially sweet ones, don't work quite as well because of their high sugar content. Remember to find pesticide-free citrus, if you can -- it is especially important here, because any pesticide on the rind will permeate the preserved fruit.

Serving Ideas for Preserved Citrus
  • Mince your preserved lemons and use them in cold salads: cucumber, cucumber-yogurt, tuna, potato. Or chop them fine or puree them and mix them with olive oil for a great salad dressing.
  • Slice preserved lemons very thin, and serve them with grilled fish. Or serve them with smoked fish and creme fraiche for a trio of preserved foods!
  • Finely mince preserved lemons, combine with freshly ground pepper, and rub under the skin of a whole chicken and inside the body cavity before roasting.
  • Use preserved lemon in moderation in a tagine or stew, for a deep citrus flavor.
  • In Vietnam, there is a salty drink made with ice, preserved lemon or lime, water or carbonated water, and sugar to taste. The same drink works great with limes, too, or a combination of lemons and limes, or probably with any other citrus. Once you try this, you won't want to go back to regular lemonade.

My second fermentation impulse last weekend was to make my own pickles. When I say pickles, I'm talking the ultimate, truly fermented pickle, like Bubbies (the only pickle I buy).

Everyone loves a Bubbies pickle.

I didn't want to make any old fermented cucumbers. In my quest to find a recipe just like Bubbies, I found this gem online: Make Your Own Bubbies Pickles by Lindsey at The Herbangardener (check out her post for instructions and lovely photos). I halved the recipe in a half-gallon jar with some little cucumbers I had on hand. Here's how it looks:

I can't wait to try them out in a couple weeks.

What are you fermenting lately?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Peas, Avocados & Lemon Basil Dressing


We found a great new quinoa salad. The recipe and picture come from
Feel free to substitute or add any seasonal vegetables. We enjoyed snow peas and cucumber in ours.
We recommend making a little extra dressing, if you like that sort of thing.

Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Peas, Avocados & Lemon Basil Dressing

Yield: Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
A fresh, healthy, and easy salad for spring!


For the Dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the salad:
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small bunch asparagus, about 15 spears, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup frozen peas
1 avocado, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped basil


1. In a small bowl or medium jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Whisk to combine or shake with the jar lid on tight. Set aside.
2. Add water, quinoa, and salt to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
3. While the quinoa is cooking, cook the asparagus. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the asparagus and fresh lemon juice. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the peas and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
4. In a large bowl, combine quinoa, asparagus, peas, and avocado. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir until well coated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the fresh basil and serve.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Birthday Questionnaire

It's birthday season around here!  I have seen a few different versions of "20 (Birthday) Questions," but I wanted to make my own list of questions for open-ended answers, allowing for more creativity and longer answers, rather than short fill-in-the blank questions.  
Hint from Abe--wear your party hat all day on your birthday, so everywhere you go, everyone knows its your birthday!
We got some great answers from the boys today.  Some of the questions were a little advanced for Benjamin (who's turning three), but that only makes his answers better:

"My favorite thing to learn about in school is cookies." 

"I think up a cow."

Abraham had more predictable answers, but still fun and even poignant:

"I like when I go to a fair."

"I think of scary and fun things."

You can download the document to personalize it here (it looks funny when you look at it on Google Docs, but when you download it, it looks just like this one).

You can find other examples of birthday questions here and here.

What other questions would you add to the list? What traditions do you have to mark the changes over the years with your children?