Thanksgiving

In my family we learned to accept responsibility early in life. I was the sous chef, and I fixed the turkey. Okay, I might be padding my resume. I assisted the chef.

girl with uncooked Thanksgiving turkeyI was an enthusiastic carnivore as a child, but now I really love vegetables. My daughter tends our backyard garden, and this week she’s built a hoop structure with pipes and sheets of plastic. It will protect the  parsley, thyme, kale and other greens through the winter. I’m thankful to have children who like to grow things that I like to eat!

As we plan holiday menus, I’m reading  The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook, written by chef and farmer, Chris Fischer, in collaboration with chef and writer, Catherine Young. You might have seen the recipes and review in The New York Times food blog.  The book tells the story of a family farm on Martha’s Vineyard, complete with descriptions of mouthwatering meals and recipes for ingredients straight from the seashore, pasture and garden.The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook

Last year I wrote about recipes and books to share with children over the holidays. You’ll find several books by Virginia authors in that discussion. Many writers released new titles this year. I hope to write more about them in a future post.

Fox Tales

fox -- head in profile
watercolor | Fox | copyright Liz Macklin 2015

A fox ran past our house the other night. I spotted it under the streetlight. My neighbor saw it, too.

My favorite book from childhood, The Anthology of Children’s Literature, included “The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story” by Joel Chandler Harris. You might also remember the story from the Disney movie, Song of the South. Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox trick each other. The fox catches the rabbit with a very sticky ruse, the Tar Baby. To avoid becoming barbecue, the rabbit pleads, “Please don’t throw me into the briar patch!” Of course, the fox flings the rabbit straight into the thicket.

Virginia Hamilton retells this story in her anthology, The People Could Fly, and the rabbit cries, “Hot lettuce pie! This is where I want to be,” as he lands in the briars — free and safe.

Peter Spier’s The Fox went out on a chilly night features a roguish fox that fares better. He races through town and country and arrives home with dinner for a den full of kits. Emily Gleichenhaus sings this melody on the CD for her program, Sing Books with Emily. You can catch her performances for children at libraries in Northern Virginia.

For glimpses of foxes — I paint the taxidermy specimens, alas! — in Arlington, Virginia, visit the nature centers at Potomac Overlook Park and Long Branch Nature Center.

Note: I noticed today (May 14, 2015) that my copy of The Fox went out on a chilly night, the seventeenth printing, has only “The Fox” capitalized in the title. The other words are written underneath in lower case. As the photo on Emily’s web site shows, more recent printings capitalize using familiar rules, The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night.

Holidays

Liz Macklin singing 1956I love the holidays, the friends, the lights, the music. I can barely sing a note, but that hasn’t stopped me. And then there’s the food…

BettyCrockerCookbook_72dpiBetty Crocker’s step by step cookbook for kids taught me to make Long John Silver Sandwiches, Canned Peas Deluxe — just think of the gastronomic flair — and Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes. Of course, I had lots of on the job experience with my mom, my grandmothers, a very talented dad and generous aunts. I loved the illustrations in Betty Crocker’s 1957 edition. On the cover, the young fellow is tasting, while the girls whip up the batter by hand. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that boys do all the campfire cooking and girls do most of the serving and dishwashing.  Thank heaven for all you feminists out there, because my husband knows how to wash dishes!

Now I’m inspired by authors, who write about food and celebrations with friends and families. Here are just a few:

How to Behave at a Tea PartyFrench toast by the author of Dream Boy and How to Behave at a Tea Party, Madelyn Rosenberg

Emily and CarloRecipes for griddle cakes, turkey soup, blueberry pie and more by the author of Emily and Carlo, Marty Rhodes Figley

The Bakeshop GhostA review of The Bakeshop Ghost by Jacqueline Ogburn in Books Together by Anamaria AndersonWhat a Way to Celebrate the New Year! A Rosh Hashanah StoryWhat a Way to Start a New Year! A Rosh Hashanah Story and The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle by Jacqueline Jules

The Gingerbreadman Loose on the Fire TruckThis Gingerbread Man has adventures all year round. Look for him in books by Laura Murray.

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update December 9, 2014: For those of you who are curious, the well-known illustrator, Gloria Kamen, created the drawings for Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls.

Winter Watercolors and Then — Spring!!

Along Four Mile Run at Long Branch Nature Center
Along Four Mile Run at Long Branch Nature Center

Spring? Not quite yet. This month I’ve painted with a new group of artists – talented teens from Arlington County. On a sunny Saturday we packed up our watercolors and met at Long Branch Nature Center.

There’s still snow in the shadows, but the park naturalists are thinking ahead to spring planting. The center sponsors an annual native plant sale with a deadline for placing orders on April 4, 2014. See the center’s web site for more information and full color photos of bluebells, cardinal flowers, coneflowers, wild geraniums and other flowers. I’m thinking about green shoots and blossoms now. How about you?garden detail

Seven Degree Days

Snow Houses | watercolor |copyright Liz Macklin 2013

It’s 5:55 am and I’ve checked temperatures on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) web site. It’s -26 degrees Fahrenheit in International Falls, Minnesota. My town feels like the tropics at a balmy 7 degrees. NOAA cautions us to protect our noses and other extremities from the cold! My favorite post tells how snowflakes form.

Google says its 39 degrees F in Reykjavik, Iceland. In my email I read that poet Joanne Growney has written about measuring winter and about a recent trip to Iceland in her blog Intersections – Poetry with Mathematics. I start to dream of hot springs and the steamy blue waters I’ve seen in photos of Icelandic mineral baths. Time to wrap up in a quilt, brew a cup of hot tea and then get ready for work.

Drawing at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Drawings of Architecture by Children

This fall I’ve enjoyed drawing in the courtyard at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I’ve met several talented young people, and three of them allowed me to photograph their work. Jennifer’s drawing (on the left) captures the activity at the museum during the Big Draw Family Day, and Amelia’s (in the center) is a colorful design of her dream house. A third anonymous artist drew the geometry of the courtyard skylight in bold black and white.

The museum offers free drawing sessions in the Luce Foundation Center on Tuesday afternoons. The exhibit, The Civil War in American Art, recently opened and will be on display until April 28, 2013. Don’t miss it!

A Moment for Art

Leaves on Green
Leaves on Green | monoprint | copyright Liz Macklin 2012

How to enjoy a moment of relaxation and  fun at noon? I spent an hour today with the staff of Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. First we sampled a delicious assortment of salads by artist and chef Nevin Bossart. Then we experimented with printmaking.  I brought the paints and colored papers, as well as a collection  of leaves and flowers — maple, sweetgum, peony, yarrow and lavender. Part of the fun was seeing all the amazing creations. I met nurses, chaplains, interns and clinicians, and we chatted about art, color, techniques, day-to-day activities and the scrumptious food! Everyone celebrated with cake and bid farewell to a staff member who is moving overseas. The event, a monthly feature of  “Caring for the Caregivers, ” is sponsored by Lombardi’s Arts and Humanities Program under the direction of Nancy Morgan.