Saturday, January 31, 2009


Valentine, by Carol Carrick and illustrated by Paddy Bouma, is a very sweet story. Early in the morning, little Heather is asking her mother to stay home because it is Valentine's Day. But Mama explains that while she would rather stay home with her daughter, even though it is Valentine's day, she still has to go to work. Heather will stay with Grandma, who she and her mother live with.

Grandma tries to cheer her granddaughter up by having her help with baking some Valentine cookies. To Heather, the cookie dough feels like the clay at day care. She cuts out cookies in the shapes of Grandma's animals, and she in anxious to eat them. But Grandma tells Heather she has to wait: they have to bake first...

Heather sighed. She always had to wait. Wait for Valentine's Day. Wait for cookies to bake. Wait for Mama to come home.

The first batch of cookies are put in to bake, and Grandma suggests they check on Clover, her favorite sheep. Clover is expecting. Heather, bundled up against the cold, brings her favorite blanket along. Grandma announces that Clover had her babies. Grandma sees two little lambs feeding. But, Heather notices a third little lamb laying behind Clover. Heather asks her grandmother if it is dead. Grandma picks it up: "'I think I can feel his breath', she said. 'Let's take him insdie where it's warm.'"

Heather watches as Grandma gives the lamb a warm bath in the kitchen sink. When Grandma asks for a towel to wrap the lamb in, Heather brings out her own towel. But, he still wasn't moving.

Then, Heather smelled the cookies that had been put in to bake before checking on Clover. Grandma says, "I forgot. Good thing I have you to help me," and she has Heather hold the lamb while she gets the cookies from the oven. Heather thought the cookies were a little to brown, but Grandma says they taste better that way...

Heather is still worried about the little lamb. He hasn't been moving, or opened his eyes. She worries the lamb is going to die. Grandma unwraps the towel a little. She feels the lamb's heartbeat, and has Heather feel it, too. Then, she brings out Mama's hairdryer out to help dry the lamb. He makes a small noise.

Heather holds him again while Grandma prepares a one of Heather's old baby bottles with warm milk. Grandma gives the bottle to the lamb, and he begins to feed.

He began sucking noisily, pulling at the bottle with his mouth. Under Heather's blanket, the lamb's tail wagged. That made Heather laugh.

The lamb finished the bottle and let out a bleat. Heather asks Grandma if he will out back to his mother in the barn. Grandma explains that Clover will need help with taking care of the littlest lamb, so he'll stay in the house for a while. Heather is happy to take care of him, and put him down for a nap in the laundry basket.

Grandma bakes the rest of the cookies, including the heart-shaped one for Mama. When Mama gets home from work, Heather shows off the lamb and announces his name is Valentine.

Then Heather showed Mama the cookie cats, and the chickens, and the little sheep that looked like Grandma's.

"I made this heart for you," said Heather, "because I love you."

"And I love you, too," said Mama.

"M-a-a," called Valentine, lifting his head.

Valentine is recommended for children between the ages of 5 and 8. It does address something that might otherwise be difficult to broach with small children: death. Heather, it would seem, isn't old enough to be in school yet. But, she lives on a farm and understands that the little lamb isn't okay and that there is the possibility it might die. Also, learning patience is a theme - Heather has to wait for many things she wants. Another thing I noted is that there is no father, or even grandfather, in the story. Why isn't really important (Is Mama widowed, divorced, or an unwed mother?), nor do I criticize the story for it. While a home with a mother and a father is ideal, that isn't always the reality. But, Heather does live in a safe and loving home, and that is the important thing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Today I Feel Silly

For Christmas, my sisters - both in their twenties - decided I needed some fun/silly presents. Included were a Little Miss Sunshine lemon lip balm, a Little Miss Giggles spiral notebook and a copy of Today I Feel Silly & Other MOODS That Make My Day, written by Jamie Lee Curtis (yes, THAT Jamie Lee Curtis - the actress) and illustrated by Laura Cornell.

Today I Feel Silly is all about the different kinds of emotions we experience. It's a good way to introduce the topic to little kids (the book is recommended for children ages 3 to 8):

Today I feel silly.
Mom says it's the heat.
I put rouge on the cat
and gloves on my feet.
I ate noodles for breakfast
and pancakes at night.
I dressed like a star
and was quite a sight.

Silly, grumpy, angry, joyful and confused. Subdued and excited. Cranky. Lonely. Happy. Disheartened. Sad. These are normal emotions we all experience:

I'd rather feel silly, excited or glad,
than cranky or grumpy, discouraged or sad.
But moods are just something that happen each day.
Whatever I'm feeling inside is okay!

The book closes with the question: “How do YOU feel today?” It even comes with a "mood wheel" so the reader can match the moods between the eyes and the mouth of the little girl in the story. If you have a small child, this is one way to talk about the emotions they are learning to cope with and learning to recognize in others. Also, this book could be used as an opening to discuss when different behavior is appropriate. For example, it's not generally okay to be silly at church, but it's acceptable at play time; you can be grumpy, but that doesn't mean you can be rude to others. Books, in addition to being good entertainment, can also be valuable tools...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Resolution update

So, it's been two weeks since I began with my New Year's Resolution to lose weight. I've lost another three and a half pounds this week. Now that I have some concept of how much my body needs to function, and how many calories I should be consuming to lose weight without making my body think it needs to start conserving its energy, it has been much easier to stop myself from eating things that would be counterproductive to my goal.

I still haven't had a soda. The 150 calories for a 12-ounce can just aren't worth it. Why do that, when I can have an entire quart of sweet tea with my lunch for only 25 more calories? And, it is helping me to "plan ahead" for special occasions. My sister's fiancé has a birthday on Monday, and he wanted to celebrate with friend tonight. So, I've known for a week or so that I'd be going out to dinner, and where, and I've been able to check online for nutritional information. While the chicken strips are Hooter's aren't exactly low in calories, I'll still order them, along with the not-low-in-calories fries, but I'm taking that into consideration for my meal choices earlier in the day. An apple for breakfast, and some chicken noodle soup with crackers for lunch. While I might not hit my current target of a daily 1000 calorie deficit, I still won't be going over what I need for the day. I haven't gone for my walk yet, but all I need to do is put on my shoes and socks, and grab my iPod, house key and cell phone...

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Other Little Soldier

I was able to buy an iPod in part with a few of my Christmas presents. I've been able to load it up with everything I've wanted so far (I've done a far number of my CD collection and still have plenty of space left!), so I'm getting to listen to a lot of my music I hadn't really heard for a while. One of those songs is The Other Little Soldier by Josh Gracin. For those of you unfamiliar with him, he was the Marine contestant on American Idol a few years ago. I have his album, and I liked this song the very first time I heard it. Too bad it hasn't gotten the attention I think it deserves....

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Year's Resolution

Anyone who has seen some of my comments on some of the threads at some of the sites I frequent has probably picked up on the fact that I am overweight. Technically, based on my height and weight and the resulting BMI, I am obese. That's really kind of a hard thing to say... But, there it is. I wasn't always this way - I wasn't as a child, but I was a little pudgy in junior high, but not so much during my high school and college years (I was walking EVERYWHERE..., and I never gained that "freshman fifteen" they talk about). Then, I graduated and got that office job. The pounds slowly added up. I've tried exercising, and doing diets, that hasn't stuck in the past. For a while, I was doing really well, with the Atkins diet and my membership at Curves. Atkins was hard to stick to, especially with the job I had that required lots of travel sometimes. Then, I moved back to Texas, and I had to let my Curves membership expire when I made the decision to go back to school and earn my M.Ed. While I hadn't put on a lot more weight since coming back to Texas, I still put some on. And I'm tired of it. I'm tired of having a hard time finding clothes that fit - the combination of being short (5'2") and overweight makes fielding a decent wardrobe a difficult thing. I'm tired of seeing all these cute clothes that I can't wear. I'm tired of feeling über-unattractive to the opposite sex. I'm tired of seeing how I look in the mirror. I'm tired of the fact that it's not so easy as it once was to bend over and tie my shoes (though I still can).

Back around the end of April, I got a job at the same place my sisters work. They didn't take a "lunch". They would eat at their respective desks, then take a break around 3pm to go work out in the fitness center that is provided to employees for free. It's not fancy - 2 treadmills, 1 elliptical, 2 stationary bikes, free weights, exercise balls, and some sort of weight machine, as well as a TV with cable and a sound system of sorts. So, when I started working there, I started going with my sisters for my "lunch hour". I walk on the treadmill. I don't like running, really - never have; I feel COMPLETELY uncoordinated on the elliptical. But, the oldest of my little sisters likes the elliptical, and the youngest one runs on a treadmill. We're all too short for the stationary bikes - even with the seat as far down as it will go, we can't really reach with our feet to pedal. So, most days, we all go together, all lined up on the 2 treadmills and the elliptical. But, I just wasn't making any progress, even though I was getting exercise that I wasn't getting before, and I don't think I was really eating any differently. And, it didn't help when I had a longer-term sub position, and would put in a couple of hours in the office after school for several weeks October/November and wasn't exercising at all. In all honesty, left to my own devices, I likely would have spent my lunch hours reading a book.

Losing weight is something I've wanted - and knew I needed - to do for a while. I'd make what would turn out to be half-hearted or unsustainable efforts and end up where I started, or worse. Then, I found out my sister's boyfriend would be proposing while they had a mini-vacation to Las Vegas mid-December. While he's basically been a part of the family for years, and I am very happy for my sister, that didn't make me feel very good about myself. I don't want to be the fat spinster at my sister's wedding, and I also don't want to look like I do right now in the wedding pictures that will be around forever - I will be one of my sister's bridesmaids. So, with this motivation, I'm sticking to this New Year's Resolution...

I ate the last slice of New Year's day chocolate Dream Pie on Saturday, January 3rd. Sunday, January 4th, marked the real change I've decided to make. On Saturday morning, I stepped on the scale: 228.8 lbs. I also took one of those embarrassing wearing-nothing-but-your-bra-and-panties pictures. No one is going to get to see that: that is strictly for my own use, a visual record of where I started and to gauge how much process progress I make. I also got my mom to help me take measurements, practically from head to toe.

I've been keeping a food diary - hit & miss - since late September. I've managed to keep it daily since December 29th. It's not (necessarily) that I eat tons of crap, although I do admit that I might have been a little too free and easy about picking something up at the drive-thru for convenience sake. But, keeping track of what I'm eating doesn't do a whole lot of good if you've not really got a concept of how many calories that all is, and then again how many calories you're burning daily. Having a dinner of a piece of grilled or baked chicken with beans and rice doesn't sound unhealthy, but if you're in reality eating twice as much as what a serving should be, how are you going to make any progress? I decided I needed one of those little kitchen scales. Off to Target I went, and I found what I was looking for, and on clearance, to boot. Now, I am able to weigh portions, and for items in the scale's database, get instant calorie counts. I went to the grocery store this evening: pieces of chuck steak and pork loin are now individually packages in zip-lock baggie with the calorie count written on the outside with a Sharpie. A can of honey roasted peanuts is broken out into 11 28-gram (170 calories) and 1 31-gram (188 calories) servings .

On Friday, January 2nd, one of my sisters sent me, my other sister and my mom the link to this article at In the article is a link to another article about how many calories a person should eat to lose fat. That second article has a link to a Basal Metabolic Rate calculator: you enter your age, weight, height and sex, and it returns with how many calories (roughly - I realize everyone has a little bit different metabolism) a person burns in a day if completely at rest all day long. Last week, for me, that was about 1766. Then, the article also includes another calculation you can do (using the first number) to determine how many calories you are burning, based on your activity level. With light to moderate activity, I have been burning between 2428-2738 calories daily.

Now, to lose weight, you should be consuming fewer calories than you are burning (DUH!). Since I am so much overweight, I am able to go into a larger calorie deficit to lose weight more quickly in the beginning (normally, you would want to lose about 1 pound/week, or be in a deficit of 500 calories/day, but I can aim for 2 pounds/week, or a deficit of 1000 calories/day, and may initially lose more than this as I'm starting - it would be "water weight and bloat"). I'm reading labels and, using that nutritional scale, I can calculate calories in things like raw chicken and sliced apples, which enables me to make better decisions on how much I should be eating for my desired calorie intake each day. I will need to re-evaluate my calorie usage as I lose weight and/or change my activity level (will I ever be like my sisters and go beyond a moderate level of activity?) - if you cut your calories too much, your body will think it needs to slow its metabolism to conserve energy, and that is counterproductive. As of this morning, I am down 4.4 pounds. I did re-evaluate my BMR this evening - it has dropped to 1746.

I'm not making drastic changes to my routine or diet. I need this to be something I can stick with for the rest of my life - "diet" is a four-letter word; people don't stick to "diets" after they lose the weight - they go back to what they were doing before. I'm not on a diet; I'm making a lifestyle change. I have cut out the sodas - I haven't had one for a week now. I'm drinking home-brewed tea with a little bit of sugar (I'm not a coffee drinker, and lately I've been fixing a 16 ounce hot tea at the office in the morning with 4 sugar cubes (60 calories), and I'll pack a quart-sized Thermos with either Kool-Aid (240 calories per quart) or sweet tea (about 180 calories per quart). A 12 ounce can of soda is about 150 calories... I'm not eating weird stuff - this week, I've had spaghetti and meatballs (a higher calorie choice), chicken on the griddle (seasoned, no oil or butter), and corn tortillas with refried beans. I'm just not going back for seconds. I'm having a glass of water with dinner. You don't know how much I'd love to down a soft drink with a meal, but I think to myself "do you want that, or do you want to lose the weight?" Also, I discovered - when I was looking for something for lunch today - I can have a can of Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup and 10 saltine crackers for only 270 calories. That means I was able to "afford" eating a piece of cake at my second cousin's 3rd birthday party this afternoon. So far, the wanting to lose weight is winning out...

As for my exercise routine, while I can't afford some fancy gym membership with access to a personal trainer, I thankfully don't really need one. One of my sisters really should have a job like that. She has given me a list of exercises - some using free weights - to do to work different parts of my body, and a schedule as to when I should do them, in addition to the cardio workouts. I should listen to my sisters - they both look great... Where I need to make improvement is on the weekends. Today, I didn't get up until about 10am, and I was putzing around the house before going to the party, then I ran some errands. Needless to say, I didn't get any real exercise in (walking around Target or HEB doesn't really count...). But, I've kept track of what I ate today, and I've still managed to hit that 1000 calorie deficit target...

I'll be doing weigh-ins weekly (and I bought a new scale that I've been able to program with my information, so it can give me body fat, body muscle and bone mass information, along with body water, so I'll have to kind of compare the weight from the old scale to the new scale tomorrow morning). I'll only be getting help measuring me about once a month - that will take more time to see a difference, I think. I'm not going to turn this into a weight-loss blog site, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to put this out there, and give updates from time to time. I just thought that by sharing, I might also be able to help encourage others who might be dealing with the same issues. I know I felt good about the progress I've made in just one week. One of my sisters asked me what I weighed in at today, and when I told her, she insisted on an exploding fist-bump ;-)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Christmas children's book pushes global warming

Just before Christmas, when checking in on the Fox News website, I ran across this article about how some children's books are using Christmas to push the man-made global warming agenda:

Global warming alarmists, picking up where the Grinch left off, are trying to steal Christmas, some critics say. From children's books to school plays, the climate change crowd is dreaming of a green Christmas, angering opponents who say 'tis NOT the season to be preachy.

The children's book "Santa Goes Green" by Anne Margaret Lewis tells how a young boy named Finn gets Santa to leave the North Pole to help him track down Leopold, a polar bear he has adopted, because the sea ice is melting and Leopold's home is in danger.

“You see, it’s like this Santa,” Finn tells Santa in the book. “I’ve adopted a polar bear named Leopold. He is in danger of losing his home. I’m sure you being in the North Pole you know about the melting glaciers. All I want this year Santa, is to save Leopold and his home.”

Santa is so inspired by his visit to the polar bear that he decides to re-use last year's wrapping paper, recycle toys and start using wind to generate power for his toy shop.

The book ends with a note from Santa urging kids to send him notes on how to take care of the planet.

But the content has left some reviewers feeling bearish about the book. "The global climate change alarmists are now trying brainwash our kids by infusing their unproven and baseless climate change rhetoric into Santa books," T. Wilkinson wrote on, giving "Santa Goes Green" a one-star review.

This is why I take the time to read pretty much every picture book at the bookstore before I spend good money on it. An otherwise good book can slip in the global warming alarmism, even when the science is far from settled. Although I know it's not so practical for chapter books for older children, I recommend screening books before you give them to your kids... You never know what left-wing propaganda might be hiding within its pages.

Friday, January 2, 2009

99 things on the wall

Found this New Year's Eve at Kat's (of Moms in the Right) other blog. Thought I'd do it, too, since there were things I had actually done on this list....

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars (in a tent doesn't really count)
3. Played in a band (tried learning piano when I had a roommate who owned an awesome antique upright, but I didn't really have the time to devote to it...)
4. Visited Hawaii (would like to)
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/World (World, Spring Break '92)
8. Climbed a mountain (well, not climbed, per se, but I have hiked to the top of one, way back in high school, down near Neuschwanstein Castle - I've got awesome pictures to prove it!)
9. Held a praying mantis (when I was a kid)
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped (not on your life!)
12. Visited Paris (would have liked to...)
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning (thankfully, no...)
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (we didn't have time to wait to go up in it, but I have been on Liberty Island)
18. Grown your own vegetables (personally, no, but my parents did when I was a kid)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train (More than once - to and from Berlin on the Duty Train in elementary school, to Florence from Augsburg my junior year of high school)
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked (are you crazy??)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping (Ummm...)
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (Sunset, on the beach on Anna Maria Island, Florida, Spring Break '92)
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise (a 4-hour whale-watching cruise in Alaska)
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (not the actual birthplace, but the country, at least)
35. Seen an Amish community (from a car, while driving up to Hershey, PA to do some Christmas shopping when I was near Philly on business)
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (I was happy with my situation after I sold my house in Arkansas, before I decided to go back to school)...
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David (During that trip to Florence in high school)
41. Sung karaoke (a few times - at a company Christmas party more than a decade ago, and at my 10-year high school reunion)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt (the "Old Faithful" in Napa Valley...)
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (No - see #12)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie (my dad & sisters were extras in Varsity Blues as fans at a high school football game)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business (toyed with the idea, with my crafty stuff)
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching (see "cruise" above)
63. Got flowers for no reason (I've barely gotten flowers, never mind "for no reason")
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (I'm not allowed to give blood - I lived in Germany during that Mad Cow scare...)
65. Gone sky diving (I don't plan on jumping out of a perfectly good airplane...)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp (Dachau, near Munich)
67. Bounced a check (not on purpose, of course)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar (ICK!)
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square (maybe? I can't recall all the places we visited that one day we went into Manhattan before flying out of JFK the next day)
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle (not a speeding motorcycle, and only as a passenger)
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person (does "from an airplane on the way to CA count?)
80. Published a book (not yet...)
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car (3 times)
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury (we convicted a child molester)
91. Met someone famous (walked past Johnny Cochran in BWI once)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one — (2 grandparents, and an aunt)
94. Had a baby (hopefully someday, if I ever find "Mr. Right")
95. Seen the Alamo in person (more times than I can recall - used to live in San Antonio)
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Thursday, January 1, 2009


I'm still up at 11pm on New Year's Day, even though I have to go to work in the morning. I'd been watching Bones, but when that went over, I switched over to Bridget Jones' Diary, a movie I own and have seen countless times, so I'm very familiar with the dialogue.

For anyone unfamiliar with the movie, it starts off with the heroine, Bridget Jones, home for Christmas, and her mother is attempting to set her up with a man who she'd known as a child, Mark, who is a barrister, and divorced. Bridget's mother tells about Mark's ex-wife. In the theatrical release, she is described as Japanese, which is a "cruel race". In Bravo's edit, they changed it to calling her a "cruel lady".

I also noticed, while composing this post, that as Bridget is working on a New Year's resolution, as she goes through the list of the types of men she will no longer involve herself with, "f*ckwit" is left off...

1/2/09, 12:05am

They ruined one of the best lines from the entire movie...  As Bridget is telling off her boss when she quits, instead of her saying if continuing to work there means being within a certain distance of her boss/former lover, she'd rather have a job "wiping Saddam Hussein's a$$", it was "washing Saddam Hussein's cars"...

Long Long's New Year

While working on my M.Ed., one of the required classes was "Multicultural Teaching & Learning". I didn't like the class, overall. The textbook was pushing leftist ideas, and a website used by the professor had a "quiz" to point out how bad America is (and it was from a professor at another college who was all about "social justice" - code for "America is a bad country that mistreats anyone who isn't white and male." However, with the students in the class, discussions didn't get out of hand with America-bashing. One of the assignments was to share a "multicultural" book and write a lesson plan for it. I found Long Long's New Year by Catherine Gower. It is beautifully illustrated by He Zhihong. I liked it because its focus is the traditions of Chinese New Year (The Year of the Ox begins January 26, 2009).

It is time for Spring Festival. Long-Long is going with his grandfather into town for the first time. They have cabbages to sell before they can buy what they need to celebrate Spring Festival. On the way to the market, Grandpa's cart gets a flat tire. Long-Long helps Grandpa push the cart to the market so they will be ready when the customers come. Once everything is set up, Long-Long takes the cart to find a bicycle repair shop.

On his way, a lady riding a bicycle stopped just in time before running into Long-Long and his cart. He helps pick up the oranges that fell out of her basket. She gives him "a big lipstick smile" and an orange in thanks.

At the bicycle repair shop, the repairman fixed the flat tire, and Long-Long asks if he can help. The repairman puts him to work pumping tires full of air. Before Long-Long leaves, the repairman thanks him, giving him a yuan coin.

Long-Long returns to Grandpa in the market to find the the cabbages have not sold. Long-Long shows Grandpa the yuan coin he earned, but Grandpa tells him that is not enough to buy what they need to celebrate Spring Festival.

They see an old woman who is also selling cabbages, but hers are not as nice as the ones Grandpa had. She tries to make them look more fresh by sprinkling them with water when no one else is looking... She manages to attract customers by calling out to them before they get to where Grandpa is selling his cabbages.

Long-Long wandered off, trying to think what to do. Soon he arrived at a street restaurant. The smells from the cook's pan were wonderful.

"Hey, are you hungry?" shouted the cook.

Long-Long looked at his silver coin. What should he buy? Two steamed buns stuffed with pork and ginger... no, rice soup with pickled vegetables... Then Long-Long remembered Ma and little Hong-Hong. He put the coin back in his pocket.

"I've never seen you around here," said the cook.

"I came with Grandpa to sell cabbages," answered Long-Long quietly.

"Then sell me fresh cabbages for my soup and steamed buns!" she said.

Long-Long led the cook back to Grandpa. He was worried that she would buy cabbages from the old woman instead, but when she saw the old woman, the cook shouted angrily, "I told you never to come back here! What are you selling this time? More holes and caterpillars?"

Grandpa was able to sell all his cabbages, as no one wanted to buy from the old woman anymore. They had enough money to buy what they needed for Spring Festival: spices, rice, flour, cooking oil, firecrackers and lucky words on red paper.

On the way home, Grandpa stopped at a Hundred Goods Store and gave Long-Long 10 yuan, telling him to treat himself. He bought his little cousin bows for her hair. Then, he found hand cream for Ma, but he was one yuan short, until he remembered the silver coin from the bicycle repairman.

When he finished making his purchases, he hears "the beating of a gong and a roll of drums" from a passing procession. He runs outside to watch.

The next spread of pages is a wonderful illustration of the procession Long-Long sees: Lions, a long dragon, fish, the musicians, and more, as well as the spectators.

When Long-Long returned to Grandpa, he is presented with a sweet treat: tang-hu-lu, a stick full of toffee fruit. They go home to Ma and Hong-Hong. "Long-Long took a square of red paper with Fu painted on it. He pinned it, upside down, to the front door. Ma and Grandpa smiled and Hong-Hong clapped. Happiness and good luck had arrived in Long-Long's home just in time for Spring Festival."

At the back of the book, you will find a brief story of "The Very First Spring Festival": long ago in a village like Long-Long's, every year, a monster called Nian came, and the people would run away. One time, a beggar came as everyone was leaving. He found an old woman who was "too tired to run after the others." She told the beggar about the monster. He said he would help, but he was hungry. The noise of the old woman preparing the dumplings woke the monster. When the monster came, the beggar used red paper to hurt the monster's eyes, then he set fire to "a magic baton of bamboo", which made lots of noise that scared the monster away. Then, the beggar disappeared. The old woman told the villagers about the beggar, and now they do what the beggar did at every Spring Festival.

Also, there is a page listing the Chinese words found in the story: the English spelling, the Chinese character, and a definition.

This book is recommended for children 4 to 8 years old.