Tuesday, May 29, 2007

MotherTalk Book Review: The Kids' Book Club Book

The Kids’ Book Club Book by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp

This is soooo book! Hip mama that I am, I know that “book” can be IM text slang for cool. Okay, I’m actually a geek; I heard it on NPR. Anyway, take a look at the keypad on your phone and you’ll get what I mean.

Flipping through the pages of my fresh-from-the-envelope review copy, I thought: Wow! Forget the kids, I want an adult version of this for my book club. Turns out authors Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp already wrote that book, and The Kids’ Book Club Book is a follow-up.

This chock-full-of-ideas book is a great resource for parents, teachers, youth group leaders and librarians. It’s also useful for homeschoolers or parents who seek to enhance or extend in-school learning (can you say No Child Left Behind)? The Kids’ Book Club Book highlights a great selection of books that are suitable ages 8-18 at a range of reading levels. It includes succinct summaries as well as author interviews, extension activities, recipes and tips from book club organizers. It also provides related websites and basic information on the film, if one was made based on the book.

I love that they also feature book recommendations from the authors, themselves. As a reader, it’s another way to connect with the author of a favorite book; as a mom, it give me helpful tips as to what books to bring home from the library when I’m there without the boys in tow.

This is a fun book to wander through, but it’s so well indexed, it’s easy to find just what you’re looking for- whether it’s a book title or a recipe. One appendix lists recommended titles broken down by age and genre and another one lists award winning book. Titles featured in The Kids’ Book Club Book are referenced by author, activity, and even recipes (so cool, it’s worth mentioning twice). It couldn’t be any more user-friendly.

And, natch, if you seek to start a book club, this book is your one-stop how-to shop. The authors share tips from book group leaders around the country. They weigh in on everything from where to hold it to how to keep to going. They also provide advice about potential stumbling blocks, like mother-daughter groups that can’t agree on titles. The lovely moms yearn to introduce classics while the hip daughters crave more contemporary titles.

On a personal note, this book will turn our trip to the Printer’s Row Book Fair into a true treasure hunt. We’ve also garnered a few ideas for the Harry Potter party we will inevitably host this summer

P.S. Smartypants just highjacked my book after I pointed out a cool activity for Phantom Tollbooth, the book his LA class is reading right now. Let’s hope he remembers to bring it home before the school year ends next week.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Chicago Moms Blog is live!

The Chicago Mom's blog is live. You won't want to miss this great new site, http://www.chicagomomsblog.com/. I'm thrilled to blogging along with other witty, talented Chicago moms including, Alma, Amy, Foodmomiac, Jessica, Meagan, Selfmademom and Stephanie.

I've cross-posted my first Chicago Moms Blog entry below. My next one should be up next week and it's pretty funny, so be sure to stop by. Just click. Why don't you ever click?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Serving up some spicy reality TV, Moldofsky style

The boys were excited and nervous as we headed to The Spice House in Evanston to film a segment for the award-winning by-kids, for-kids cooking website, Spatulatta. On the way, Splinter told me that he was feeling shy and might not want to speak on camera.

I responded like a classic stage mother. "Do what's comfortable, but given that I re-arranged my work schedule and took you out of school early to do this, I really hope you feel like talking."

I wasn't clear on all the details- was there going to be a script? Was this more of an interview? I had Smartypants write down a few questions just in case. I needn't have worried, though. Spice House owners Patti and Tom Erd are TV interview veterans. They talked spices with the boys and even had them grating nutmeg and some other things on a microplane all before the camera was even rolling to capture it.

Once the camera was on the boys got a bit nervous again, but it was short-lived. Smartypants asked a question or two and they got on the topic of cinnamon. Tom or Patti brought out a huge piece of raw cinnamon (did you know it's tree bark?). The specimen got the boys talking about our favorite Spice House product, Chicago Old Town Spiced Sugar. This delightful blend of cinnamon, sugar and cardamom turns ordinary French toast into extraordinary. It's also great on plain toast, pumpkin pie...we love it!

This spiced sugar turned into the focal point of the visit. For the next hour, Tom and Patti walked my boys though the making of this blend. They went into the mixing room where the boys cut vanilla beans and prepared them for drying, and then they headed to the basement to grind cinnamon on a massive scale. Smartypants and Splinter were perhaps the first kids ever to see Bad Boy, their industrial grinding machine. The boys donned aspirator masks to keep the fine cinnamon dust from their lungs and headphones to protect their ears from Bad Boy's loud noises.

After the cinnamon bark was crushed they helped sift it into a fine powder. Tom warned us though, his was excellent and potent stuff- some of the freshest and finest Vietnamese cinnamon to be found in this country. He told us to cut it with more generic cinnamon lest it will overpower the intended dish. Our timid midwestern palates are just not used to this kind of heat. Indeed, after Splinter tried a tiny sample he came running for my water bottle.

Each boy received a small jar of the hot stuff to take home, but we passed one along to our camerawoman, Spatulatta creator Gaylon Emerzian. Of course, we couldn't resist making a few purchases on our way out, like a jar of vanilla sugar to mix with our cinnamon. And speaking of mixing, it will take a few weeks for the episode to get edited and posted on Spatulatta, but we'll be sure to let you know when it goes live.

For more photos, see Scrambled CAKE.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Cool Mother's Day Gifts

This morning DH and the kids made me a lovely breakfast in bed. I ate a leisurely meal while listening to my new Fountains of Wayne CD (yeah!). Breakfast was followed up by a round of Splinter's new card game, Moose in the House, while Norah Jones crooned her latest tunes in the background.

What, you thought I'd be jamming to the new Tori Amos CD and her MILF song? When I first heard it, I thought I must have missed soemthing or that there must be another definition for MILF. But no, she's singing about her hot mama self.

Well, my mama self has got her some hot new blogging digs! I'm flattered to be part of the talented crew of writers at the new Chicago Moms Blog, sister site to the Silicon Valley Moms Blog. Stop by and leave a comment. Except for you, DH, because I know your comment will be something like: how do you have time for this? Or, are you telling me you want to quit working so you can blog more? For the near future many of my posts here at HCD will either be cross-posts or I'll ask you to click over to see my new posts. C'mon, just click!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Dangerous Book for Boys, a Mother-talk Blog Book Tour

Gosh, now that I've seen the the fabulous website and the little commercial at Amazon.com I'm wondering if you'll bother with the arduous task of reading my post or just head over for some eye candy. Since when do books have trailers?! I guess I'm not shopping enough at Amazon, but that's a good thing because A) school tuition is due in a few weeks and B) we should try to buy through the venerable Chicago institution, the Women and Children First bookstore because they've let it be known that they're on financially shaky ground.

You're still reading? Good!

I found Conn Iggulden's Dangerous Book for Boys on my doorstep one night shortly before the boys' (ages 7 and 9) bedtime. I made a big show of opening it (even though I know I should not) and the boys were immediately transfixed by the golden lettering on the cover. I added intrigue by pretending to shield them from the book, cautioning the, "No, it's too dangerous!" And then I sent them to bed. And as I write this I realize this post will someday be presented as proof of my emotional cruelty.

Ah well, good thing I sent them away, because I didn't see the book much after that first night.

I loved the opening quote. No, not the liability disclaimer, the other page.

The quote comes from Sir Frederick Treves (who has several titles after his name whose meaning, I think only the Brits understand):

Don't worry about genius and don't worry about not being clever. Trust rather hard work, perseverance, and determination.....Don't grumble. Plug on.

Ugh! We say that to the boys all the time. Do they seem to listen? Maybe seeing it in print will make a stronger impression.

As I said, I never got too far beyond that first page because when I woke up the next morning the book was gone. And it was difficult to track down for many days after because every boy in my house (including the one who's almost 40 years old) was compelled to read it. They could not keep their hands off the book!

This is not a book one simply reads from beginning to end, it's one of those delightful treasures you can open to any page and find something interesting to read or, better yet, do. I'll demonstrate now (totally random page-flipping):

  • p 141- how to build a workbench
  • p 144- pen and paper games (Hangman and others that are new to me)
  • p 195- key Latin phrases (like carpe diem and such)
  • p 68 - Morse code
  • p 2- how to create the best paper airplane in the world

It's all in there! The only thing this book is missing is an index.

The Dangerous Book for Boys makes a great gift for the 8-10 year old set and an equally thoughtful gift for parents of boys.

My boys have a month between the end of camp and the beginning of school (!!!) and I predict this book will be a handy companion for those days.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mother's Day Blogfest

Boy! I went to town on this topic last year. That's good because I'm too tired to write at the moment, so I'll just refer you to that entire mini-series of Mother's Day posts.

Access last year's wit and wisdom here. This year, I feel full of piss and vinegar, but I'm sure my mood will turn after a lovely breakfast of toast served on Splinter's bashed up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle tray while listening (ahem) to my new Fountains of Wayne CD.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Pimp your pancakes?

Forget the dishes this weekend, go out and pimp your pancakes at Flat Top Grill. Read more at Scrambled CAKE.

We're hoping to check out the new upscale dining, bowling and bocce joint this weekend. Bocce? Apparently this is a west coast trend. I'm skeptical, though. Bocce? We'll see how my energetic boys take to it. It might be a hit, actually. Smartypants was the class Shuffleboard champ in PE! We're thinking of taking a cruise so he can earn some tuition money hustling the seniors.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Did somebody say chocolate?

Check out today's post at Scrambled Cake!