With an early spring in the PNW, we’ve been taking advantage of the improved weather and getting out more. The lunar new year has come, Imbolc celebrated before that, and our schedule is filling rapidly with new classes, adventures, and friendly visits across the whole of spring.
WHAT WE’RE DOING
Lunar New Year: Year of the Monkey from the Seattle Int’l District’s festival page. Sadly, we didn’t make it this year. My son would have loved it.
One activity plaguing my mind most in the midst of this early spring is gardening. Over the end of the summer and early fall of last year, we hired a few people to help clear away some of the most troublesome spots so I could start this year fresh. Given the Year of the Monkey is said to be a year of cleansing, it seems appropriate. I have new vegetable boxes and an herb spiral to build, lettuce towers to make, and a whole new area to level into a usable plot — our sunniest spot in the whole of our near-acre property.
We’re also excited, because our local park’s playground is reopening after months of reconstruction, and includes a number of new structures to climb, bounce on, and explore. Too bad the reopening week the weather turned to the gloomiest we’ve seen since November.
This spring three of us will be taking music lessons: my daughter has started singing lessons with an acclaimed local actress, I’m still working on my piano (learning composition now!), and my son will be joining a weekly toddler music group.
Add to this a discussion of whether we can fit a spring course of Tiny Treks at a local farm into our schedules, making time for both high school and college advisers for Running Start, and finding time for friends, home, and quiet, it’s going to be our busiest year in a long while.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Most of my reading the last couple of weeks has been political or educational (e.g. news articles and activity books like The Preschooler’s Busy Book), while my daughter recently completed I Never Saw Another Butterfly and has been decompressing with manga online.
The Little Fox, however, has found great delight in revisiting two new library books: Pepper & Poe by Frann Preston-Gannon and Where’s My Mommy? by Jo Brown.
The former book deals with a fluffy cat named Pepper who adores life at home teasing the dog, playing with yarn, and generally having the run of the house. That is until his human brings home a new friend to play with, a white kitten named Poe. Poe adores absolutely everything about Pepper, but the feeling isn’t mutual. The book is charming and the tale told succinctly with few words and strong imagery. It’s an excellent book for children who like cats, or are struggling with having to share their homes with a new, younger sibling.
Where’s My Mommy deals with a different issue: finding one’s identity. A little crocodile egg rolls down a hill away from its nest and cracks open, and the tiny crocodile who pops out doesn’t know what it is or who its mother is, and begins asking the various animals around. This book is wildly successful with my son because it contains vibrant animals, repetition in its storytelling (a great way to engage little children), and includes a chance several times to participate in the story by yelling, “Snap!” It’s an engaging read, just the right length for a bedtime story, and something both my partner and I enjoy reading to him over and over again (thankfully).
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
Friday nights are movie nights — at least most weeks — and this Friday we agreed to watch Song of the Sea, another illuminated (sometimes literally) animated film by the same group who brought the world Secret of the Kells. This film took my breath away and awed my daughter, too. It blended a contemporary Irish family’s life and tragedy with cultural tales, “tangled with this world,” as one character mentions later in the film. It includes selkies, Fair Folk, giants, and more. If I had to say what brought me chills and later to tears, I’d first want to talk about the storytelling, but it wouldn’t seem right.
It took me a few days to sit with it and realize, it was the authenticity of it all. This wasn’t an American film talking about Irish fairytales, this wasn’t even a British film attempting to portray Irish myths and culture. This came directly from the source, and like indigenous films and video games coming from Native Americans, Aboriginals, and Maori, it’s told from the people themselves. And being of Celtic ancestry myself, it felt a little like coming home to watch it — even more so than Secret of the Kells had. It was a beautiful film, and a little sad, and quite a lot of hopeful.
Add to this, my daughter’s observation: there weren’t any “true” villains — no character was entirely good or evil, but rather whole, complex people.
So, if you like engaging animated films that are as much artful as they are entertaining, and you enjoy a good story, this is an excellent family film.
WHAT WE’RE EATING
One of my go-to recipes once or twice a month is pancakes and bacon. We’ve eaten it for brunch or dinner at various points over the years, and since two of us need to eat gluten free (thanks, wheat allergy), it’s taken time to get our pancake recipe just right.
Part of the trick is to make it “fluffy” enough, and the other is to make it “glutinous” enough without having gluten in it. The secrets are in the tapioca starch (just a little), using half “heavy/dark” and half “light” flours, and a good binder like eggs or bananas. I present my own mix for gluten-free banana pancakes (with options for alternatives).
Gluten Free Banana Pancakes
2/3 c. brown rice flour
2/3 c. buckwheat flour
3 T. tapioca starch
1 1/2 t. gf powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/4 c. almond milk
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. vanilla
3 T. melted butter (or sunflower oil)
Mix dry ingredients together. Mash bananas thoroughly with a fork. Blend in eggs, then add vanilla and almond milk. Pour into dry ingredients, stir it most of the way, and then slowly add in melted butter. Stir just at the point of the dry blending with the wet ingredients. It’s ok if there are small lumps, you don’t want to over blend a pancake batter.
Use a sauce ladle and spoon out pancake batter onto a hot, lightly greased skillet or griddle. In my largest skillet I can fit four small pancakes at once. Cook until the edges are bubbly and slightly dry. Flip and cook each an extra 1.5 – 2 minutes. Lay them out on a large plate as they finish, until you’ve cooked all of the batter in this way. Serve with thick, crisp bacon (we prefer Pure Country Pork, the most sustainably raised pigs within a two hour drive), crushed walnuts or whole pine nuts, and your favorite syrup.
*If you’re vegan, please substitute another banana for the two eggs. Please also note, we use DUCK EGGS, and they are larger than most chicken eggs. YMMV.
Use gf oat flour in place of the brown rice flour, add in a bit of ground ginger to the batter, and serve with small slices of candied ginger for ginger oatcakes (my partner’s favorites).