July 25, 2014

The Secret to Perfect Homemade Ice Cream

I have a problem. It's a serious problem, one that has cursed my thighs and waistline since I was five.

I am Robin King and I am an ice cream-aholic. 
There. I said it. I love ice cream. Cones, sundaes, shakes, with or without toppings, it doesn't matter. I love it. My favorite ice cream of all time is HOMEMADE! My problem is so bad that I currently have 3 different ice cream makers and I'm always on the lookout for another.


Ice Cream Cart from The Golem and the Jinni
A cart similar to what Ice Cream Saleh used
 in The Golem and the Jinni 
(source).
Luckily, our Delicious Reads book this month, The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, gives me the perfect excuse to pull out my ice cream makers and gain a few pounds. One of the characters in the book, Mahmoud Saleh is an itinerant ice-cream vendor in 1899 New York.

“I was researching Little Syria, and I found an article in the New-York Daily Tribune written in 1892. One of the illustrations was o
f a man in a turban, sitting in front of a wooden churn. The caption was “An Ice-Cream Seller.” I thought, who is that guy? And suddenly I knew. I wrote his backstory in one long, frenzied session. It felt like an unlooked-for gift.” -Helene Wecker
Ice Cream Saleh


An old-fashioned wooden ice cream churn like Saleh used in The Golem and the Jinni (source).
Since I've been around the block a few times when it comes to homemade ice cream, I'm going to give you my best kept SECRET to the perfectly creamy homemade ice cream. It's not the mixer. It's not the cream or sugar. It's not the milk or the vanilla. It's the . . .
Best kept secret to the perfect ice cream

SALT!!

Yes, I said SALT

Now I'm not talking about the pinch of salt that you add to the actual ice cream. I'm talking about the ROCK SALT that you use with your ice in your ice cream maker. The salt isn't as important as how you use it. In fact, to save money, I buy one of those big 50 pound bags of water softener rock salt for about $5 and keep it in a 5 gallon bucket. It keeps for years and you don't have to worry about how much you use. Because the real key to homemade ice cream is all about using A LOT of rock salt.
All of you science geeks out there know that the reason we use rock salt is to lower the freezing point of the ice to freeze the cream. Now every ice cream maker is a little different, but here is my rule: for every 3 inches of ice, add 1/2 cup of rock salt.  Just keep layering until you reach the top of your canister, but don't cover it.



If you pack the salt and ice correctly (and add a layer as the ice melts), you should get perfectly creamy ice cream in 30-45 minutes for a 4-6 quart canister. Just follow the instructions that come with your ice cream maker!! If you want ice cream that works for a cone, don't forget the RIPENING & HARDENING STEP. This just means that you remove the beater, put the top back on, cork/plug the hole at the top, put more ice and salt around the canister, and cover with a towel.

Here's a good guide as to how much ice and salt you need:

Freezer Size
Ice for
Making
Ice for
Ripening
Rock Salt Making
Rock Salt Ripening
4 qts.
10 lbs.
5 lbs.
2-1/2 cups
2-1/2 cups
5 qts.
15 lbs.
5 lbs.
3 cups
3 cups
6 qts.
20 lbs.
5 lbs.
3-1/2 cups
3-1/2 cups

Now you may be thinking this all sounds a bit complicated, but once you've done it once, it is super easy and fun. And yummy! 

But, Robin, you may be asking, what about for those of us that are too scared or lazy to use ice and salt. Can we still enjoy homemade ice cream? Why, yes. Yes, you can. In fact, one of my favorite ice cream makers is a 1.5 quart ice cream maker that requires no ice or salt. The bottom part stays in the freezer until you are ready to use it. It has a special solution that freezes perfectly every time. All you have to do is put in your ingredients. It is ready in 20-25 minutes and makes enough for 2-3 people.

no ice no salt ice cream maker
My favorite no-ice-no-salt Ice Cream Maker!
So what is my secret for using an ice cream maker like this? Use the instructions that comes with it!! I have found that if I use the recipes that come with my maker and follow it to a T, the ice cream is perfect every time.

Now pull out that ice cream maker (or borrow one) and make at least one batch of ice cream this summer. Your spouse will thank you, your kids will lick their bowls, and your waistline, well, it will keep you warm in the winter.
Source

XoXo, Robin

July 21, 2014

What's Your Library Have to Offer?


In the Salt Lake Library mission statement it says, "The mission .... is to make a positive difference in the lives of our customers by responsively providing materials, information and services..." 
When was the last time you stopped by the circulation desk to find out what other resources your library has for you besides shelves and shelves of books to look through? This past visit, I took a few minutes to check out some of the resources. Utah's first lady, Jeanette Herbert, has a summer reading program for children. She included several great resources for parents. The first is a color coded calendar of age appropriate activities to do with kids that will help encourage reading. Here is an example of what August looks like.

She also has a recommended book list for K-6 broken out by each grade. There are printable bookmarks with the goal of reading 20 minutes a day. When it is all filled in, you will have read 1200 minutes.

Libraries offer free book clubs, story times, craft days, read-a-thons, art classes, puppet shows, and many other fun activities to help you and your child read together.

Here are some of Utah's local library pages so you can see what events may be happening near you:


What kind of resources does your library have? 
Cheers, Elizabeth


July 18, 2014

Reading Out loud, Let's get real


(photo source)
Ok, guys. Let’s get real…. I want you to read the following Shel Silverstein poem ALOUD as you would read it to your littles.
Ready?
Go!

Be honest here…. Did your voice alter as you read the poem or did you vary your pitch and speed? Did you touch your knee when you read about it? Your neck? How did you read the “upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff” at the end?

Seriously. If you just simply read the “upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff” at the end, we can’t be friends.  
Lie to me if you need.

Today, friends, we are going to talk about reading ALOUD. By the end of this post, you will be reading “Boa Constrictor” so well that Jim Dale would give you a smooch on the cheek.

First, get into it. If you are reading to your kids with no voices, no accents, no dramatic pauses, no yelling when appropriate, no whispers when it calls for them- you gotta just stop. Kids want to enjoy reading with you! Give them a show! Try reading the “Boa” poem again… this time as an old man. Try again as a nervous woman. Try again doing your best Barney impersonation. Ain’t nobody got time to be shy when it comes to reading aloud.

Next, bring out your onomatopoeia. When the peom says, “upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff” you had better make the best “I’ve just been swallowed whole” sound you’ve got. When you see “vroooooom” written in a book, you gotta rev that engine. Add a “splat” of your own if something drops in the book. Bark like a dog when the page says, “woof.”
(photo source)
Interact with your kiddies. If you are reading this to a wee one, you could read the line, “It's nibblin' my toe” and then ask where their toes are. As your kids get older, you could have them fill in the blank of the rhyming word. “Oh, heck, It’s up to my…….” I also love to do this in books we have read a gazillion times. I read the majority of the sentence but have them fill in the rest.  

Don’t rush. There is nothing worse than rushing through a read with kids.  Slow it down! This will help you emphasize what you need as the reader and also help the kids follow along with you.

Search for a learning opportunity. This poem leads so well into how animals eat their food! Ask open-ended questions that will help your reader think. “Why do you think a boa constrictor would need to swallow their food whole?” When reading a book, ask questions like, “What would you do if you were them?” or “What do you think will happen next?”

Practice, practice. It will take some time to get better at reading aloud- but keep at it! To give you a little inspiration, here are a few great books being read aloud:

Jim Dale reads from Harry Potter...he's absolutely amazing!

And here's Shel Silverstein, the man himself, reciting his boa constrictor poem to a room full of kids who can't wait to hear what he's going to say next.
Here are a couple book suggestions that explain the impact that reading aloud can have on children and on their ability to learn to read. Reading out loud helps pave the road to your children becoming lifelong readers.
by Jim Trelease
This book is great because it not only gives you the tools, tricks and suggestions for reading out loud but it also provides lists and lists of books to read to your children of every age! There are over 1000+ titles recommended! 


by Mem Fox
Pretty much anything Mem Fox publishes is amazing so I never question reading her books.
She is a best-selling children's author and internationally respected literacy expert and in this book she shows us when, where, and why to read aloud and demonstrates how to read aloud to best effect and get the most out of a read-aloud session. AND She discusses the three secrets of reading, (you'll have to read it to find out what they are!)

I am always looking for a great "read-aloud" book. What's your favorite?

-Ashley

July 15, 2014

Writerly Rants: To Review or Not to Review… That is the Question

(image source)
When you're looking for the perfect new beach read this summer, do you check out the reviews? You have to admit, it's pretty helpful to be able to get a sense of the book to decide if it will be something you'll want to rave about to all your friends.
(image Source)
Have YOU ever given a book a star rating or written a review? It's easy! You don't have to have any qualifications to rate a book and you don't have to come up with a whole breakdown of it. If you want, you can just click on a star rating and leave it at that.
(image source)

GoodreadsBarnes and Noble and Amazon all have places for you to give a book a 1-5 star rating and you can also write a review if you want.

But WHY should I give a star rating or write a review?

1) Word of mouth is the most compelling form of endorsement.
2) Positive reviews = more books sold.
3) Reviews have helped you to find good books before… pay it forward!

For example- on Amazon, once a book has between 20-25 reviews, it's in the "also bought" and "you might like this" lists. Once a book hits between 50-70 reviews, it can also be spotlighted online or in their newsletter, which will obviously get it more attention.

Many websites that review or promote books won't even consider the book unless it has a certain number of reviews.

And of course, it really helps the authors move up on the Ratings and Best Sellers lists.
(image source)
Ok. Ok. I'll try it out. But what kinds of things could I put in a review?

Pick a few words to describe your overall feel of the book. Think of a few words that pop into your head- Fascinating. A Nail-biter. Awesome. Scary. Thought-provoking. Scandalous. Hypnotic. Funny.

Tell us what you liked! Did you adore a character? Was it so fast-paced that you put off everything you were supposed to be doing? Did it make you laugh? Cry? Are you dying for the next book in the series? Did it keep you guessing until the end? Just pretend you're telling a good friend about it.

Specifics- if you want. You can be as detailed as you want with your favorite parts. Tell us what scenes really moved you or what parts made you feel a connection. Did you love the ending? Will you read other books written by the author?

NO Spoilers without a warning. If you want to give something away… let the readers know. You can just say *spoiler alert right before. On Goodreads there's a box you can check to hide the review unless people want to open it up to see. There's nothing worse than having a major thing revealed before a reader is ready.

Just be honest. You can mention what didn't work for you in a book, but just remember to be tactful in how you say it. Someone spent a lot of time creating something out of a blank page for your enjoyment, so be kind.

Do you recommend it? If you think other's will like it, let us know. If you think that a specific age group will really like it tell us! Or if it will appeal to someone that loves fantasy or beach reads or romance etc… give us the skinny!

(image source) 
Hopefully next time you finish a great book you'll take a few seconds to add a star rating or give it a quick review. It's super easy, helps the author, and let's other people connect with amazing books!

(image source)
It's all about perspective… so give us yours!

Your Writerly Ranter,
Brooke

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