Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover

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Grandmother Thorn – Picture Book & KID KANDY



By Katey Howes

Art by Rebecca Hahn

(Ripple Grove Press, 2017)


Grandmother Thorn gives new meaning to the words OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). She maintains her gardens with an iron will, daring anything to be out of place, grow where it’s not supposed to, or become mussed by irresponsible footprints.

Only one friend, Ojiisan, the man with a dragging foot and droopy shoulder, was allowed to make tracks in her perfectly groomed gravel paths. For they were best friends and enjoyed hot tea, conversation, and tasty sweets.

All was well until one day Ojiisan tasted gorgeous red berries and urged the salesperson to take some to Grandmother Thorn (but DO NOT walk on the path).

As you can imagine, he did not listen and disaster befell the merchant, the garden, and the welfare of Grandmother Thorn.

Or did it?

This beautiful picture book shares the story of letting go and allowing some things to be. And not all weeds are what they appear.

I love this book, both for the story and the tapestry-like illustrations.


Berry Hunt

1. Read GRANDMOTHER THORN. Memorize all the details you can of the weed and its fruit.

2. Does anyone in your family go grocery shopping or visit a farmer’s market? It’s time to go with that person. Go shopping.

3. Search the produce section. Can you find the fruit found in GRANDMOTHER THORN? Maybe your adult shopper will buy some!

4. Perhaps you live in an area where this type of fruit grows. Look around your neighborhood and see if you find the vines. If you time it right, you might even be able to pick some of those tasty fruits!


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The MABEL Gate: In Memory of a Furbaby


Just before Christmas, our family was devastated to discover neighborhood dogs had destroyed our precious love-love (my nickname for her) Mabel. It was pretty awful. We still miss our little gray girl every day.


No more “Which one is this?” from the grands (and everyone else). No more help working on my writing projects. No more kitty tracks on my printed papers. No more head butts and lap cuddles.


Monet, her twin sister, was lost for quite a few weeks and is now just finally starting to come into her own as an ONLY cat. There are times she quite enjoys the attention. The rest of the time she’d rather be out mousing or birding. She was always the more independent wild thing.


To combat future attacks, we put up a gate on our driveway to discourage any other dogs from wandering in to check out what trouble they could get into. As Papa and Hayden finished up the gate, they decided it should be named after Mabel, a tribute to her short, cuddly, furry life.


Perfect! In honor of our Mabes, Mabel, love-love, gray girl, kitty baby. The MABEL gate. Ta-da!

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Applesauce Day ~ Picture Book & KID KANDY


Applesauce Day

By Lisa Amstutz

Pictures by Tabitha Shipman

Albert Whitman & Company, 2017


I love Applesauce Day!

Fall is my favorite time of year, when the apples, pumpkins, squash, and other great produce is harvested. I can’t wait to sink my greedy fingers into a box of apples or a trunk-load of pumpkins.

Applesauce Day takes me right into autumn. I can just imagine the fun and tradition of gathering with family to make large amounts of applesauce. What tastes better than homemade applesauce? Nothing! Ok, maybe homemade pumpkin pie or apple cake or pear tartes or . . .

This lovely picture book tells the tale of a family traveling from the big city to the orchards to pick apples and then to grandma’s house to put those apples to good use. What’s special about Applesauce Day is the family heirloom – the applesauce cooking pot. Family traditions and passed-down items are a passion of mine, so I immediately bonded with this tale.

I found Applesauce Day to be well written and beautifully illustrated. Flashbacks! I don’t know that I’ve seen other picture books with flashbacks, but the ones in this book are adorable.

Even though apple season is at an end, boxes of apples are still available. Go ahead. You know you want to read this book and make applesauce. Just imagine the scent of warm apples and cinnamon wafting through your home. See? I can smell it from here.


Make Crock-Pot Applesauce


apples, cinnamon, water


1. Wash, peel, and core apples. Slice into wedges.

2. Put apples in Crock-Pot. Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon. Add about 1/4 cup water.

3. Cover Crock-Pot with lid. Turn heat to high and let it simmer. Occasionally stir and check apples for tenderness.

4. When apples are soft and mushy, use a potato masher to mash the apples into sauce. I love chunks, so I don’t strain it.

5. Eat warm! Cool and put the rest in the fridge. Or freeze individual containers for later.


I love making Crock-Pot Applesauce with my students every fall. Everyone brings 2 apples, no matter what variety, and we put them all together to cook. By the end of the day, everyone in the school wants what’s bubbling in our room!

I’d love to hear (and smell and taste) how your applesauce turns out!

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Expecting Spring


tightly closed fists peek

pink wisps bulge with life – spring yearns,

bursts forth, nest and tree alike


The most hopeful of seasons, spring, lies in wait, gathering herself in preparation to leap into the exploding fray of growth, buzzing with energy and promise.


What signs of spring do you see in your area?


From Snow to Pansies


It has ever been such a long, cold, snow-bound winter for us. The first season of surprises in our RV.

Not sticker or culture, but rather seasonal challenges and lack-of-space shock.

Today dawned with swirling and dancing fog. Thick mists block sun rays, and though the weather “suggestions” report zero chance of rain, my eyes tell me the overhead clouds and heaviness may disagree.

Yet spring is here. We have moved from this:


to this:


Cheerful pansies rest and smile in rain dampened glory.



Welcome Spring!


Spring Wildflower

S – shows of life, green carpeted paths

P – peek at bursts of color, winters’ grays fade away

R – renewed vigor, earth joyfully bursts forth

I – invitation to celebrate, cold passes as warmth returns

N – nature dons her new attire, fresh and vibrant

G – growing time arrives, rest is over for bounty begins


Columbia River Gorge

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Throwback Thursday: John Smith

This talking-to-myself post originally aired on April 21, 2012.

It was warm outside and Captain John Smith was looking a bit washed out…

I crack me up.

Hello, Captain John Smith, toy of my daughter from years past. He was just hanging around, catching some rays. Now we know how many years plastic figures last.

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Throwback Thursday: Sunday Markets, I Miss You!

Summer farmer markets, oh how I look forward to you! Enjoy this throwback post from August 2009.

The fountain at Place Monge on Sunday Market day

Place Monge (Paris) fountain on Sunday Market day

In France, one of the things we truly enjoyed was the Sunday market held in the Place Monge town square. One could buy ANYTHING needed for eating, drinking, or giving. One Sunday we encountered a simultaneous flea market, but I could never figure out when another was going to be staged. I so wanted another chance at finding treasures!

On any given Sunday, there was no lack of choices for purchase at the market. Fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers were squashed in among stalls of stinky cheese and fish, raw meat and poultry. Lucious homemade breads competed for the winning fragrance award with occasional ‘meals made for you right now.’ The entire experience was a delight for the senses. Taking home the goods – mouth-watering sustenance.

flowers on Sunday Market

Flowers at Sunday Market

Meat vendor at Place Monge

Meat vendor at Place Monge

vegetable vendor at Place Monge

Produce vendor at Place Monge

Market fare from Place Monge

A meal comprised of market fare from Place Monge

Many years ago, in the Yakima Valley, a Sunday farmer’s market was hatched. Of course, being at church  most of each Sunday, we did not frequent the market. In fact, we boycotted it simply because it should be held on Saturdays (our opinion) so market workers and go-ers could attend church on Sunday. Granted, I don’t believe our boycott gained any new members of a church anywhere…

With our recent life change of full Sunday church responsibilities to experiencing ‘house church’ at a local park on Sunday mornings, we decided we would check it out – to see what the rest of the valley does on Sunday mornings. It seems that many residents take pride and joy at what is locally available, fresh from the fields, and the hands of gardeners, farmers, and crafters.

Sunday Market in Yakima

Sunday Market in Yakima

Pleasantly surprised, we found a plethora of aromatic and tasty produce, fruit, home-produced crafts, and food items. Mixed in was a variety of ethnic food stalls (I love the panset and lumpia) and shoppers galore.

Checking out the goods

Checking out the goods

An added bonus was musical entertainment. Steel drum music was such a wonderful accompaniment to the outing.

My grandbaby hits the Sunday Market

My oldest grandbaby (now he is 7) hits the Sunday Market

We encountered people we knew, interacted with community members, and socialized under the hot sun. Purchasing fresh produce and showing off our grandson were top prizes for the day.

Hayden with Papa at the Yakima Sunday Market

Hayden with Papa at the Yakima Sunday Market

I guess the boycott was a misguided waste of time. The Master Gardener did not stick Himself in church and stay there all day on Sundays. He was out among the people, out in the community. Perhaps more productive to relationship building, making new friends, and reaching out is to be where the people are…not where we think they should be, but where they actually are.

A challenge to myself – where are the families in my community on any given Sunday morning? Maybe it’s time I found out…and made some new friends.