During the summer months, when my children were young, we spent plenty of time at our public library. Any program that would encourage them to continue reading and keep them engaged and motivated was one in which we participated. Our public libraries are currently closed and visiting the library is not an option as we move into summer. Library lovers will be happy to know that the Delaware County Libraries are making plans to reopen offering modified services when they get the approval from the state. Once Delaware County moves from a red zone to a yellow zone there will be updated information on the Delaware County Libraries website as to how the libraries will proceed and what services will be offered. Fortunately, in the meantime, the Delaware County Library System has a wealth of resources available online and is continuing to run virtual story times and other online programs. These resources can be accessed using your Delaware County library card. If you do not currently have a library card, information on how to obtain one can be found here. Residents of Philadelphia can access their public library through The Free Library of Philadelphia.
In addition to resources offered by our public libraries, there are plenty of apps and websites that give kids access to free ebooks. Your children (and you) can continue reading throughout the summer months with many choices available.. Listed below you will find several options for you to consider when you are looking for new reading material. Most of these resources are free. There are a few subscription options that charge a monthly fee and I have included any cost associated with these services.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful and that you and your children are able to find some great books to read this summer.
Read Aloud Picture Books for Young Children
Storyline Online has been created and is supported by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation. Well known actors narrator popular children’s picture books.
Tumblebooks is available in the e-resources section of the Delaware County Library System. To quote the library website description “ Animation, sound, music and narration are added to existing picture books in order to produce an electronic picture book for children to read or to read to children.” You will need to enter your library barcode number to gain access.
Free Ebook Apps and Websites
Overdrive is available through the Delaware County Library System and offers thousands of free ebooks for children and adults. You will need your Delaware County library card to check out these materials.
Barnes and Noble offers hundreds of free ebooks for children and adults through their Nook app. It is a free app that can be downloaded to just about any device. Open the app and search “free ebooks for kids” in the Bookstore.
Amazon offers some free ebooks through their Kindle app.The Kindle app is free and can be downloaded to just about any device. Once you have downloaded the Kindle app, go to Amazon and search “free ebooks for kids”. When reviewing items be sure it says Kindle $0.00 and not Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service which I will introduce under subscription services.
The International Children's Digital Library has over 4000 ebook titles on a variety of reading levels available in 59 languages.
FreeKidsBooks.org and Magic Keys offer ebook selections appropriate for toddlers to young adults.
Oxford Owl offers ebooks for children ages 3 to 11 years old.
Manybooks.net has an ebook collection focused mainly on classics with some more contemporary titles. It’s collection is appropriate for middle school students and above.
Epic! Is a children’s e-library that many of our HCA teachers use in the classroom. It is appropriate for children in Pre-K through Gr. 5. It can be accessed through the Epic! website and app. If your child currently has access with their classroom code, they can continue accessing the program that way until June 30, 2020. For parents, it is a subscription service with a monthly charge of $7.99. Your first month is free.
Amazon offers a couple of different subscription services that include ebooks. Kindle Unlimited offers ebooks for children and adults and is accessed through the free Kindle app with selections chosen through the Amazon website. (Go to the Kindle Store on the Amazon site and select Kindle Unlimited to view selections) The first two months are free. After that there is a monthly charge of $9.99. Amazon Freetime Unlimited is a subscription service designed just for children ages 3-12 years. You will need to download the Amazon Free time Unlimited free app. In addition to ebooks, it includes children’s programming. For Prime members the monthly cost per child is $2.99 or $6.99 for the family. If you are not a Prime member the cost per child is $4.99 or $9.99 monthly for the family. The first month is free. It features good parental controls on the app.
Comfort food is different for everyone. For me, my go to is a delicious Italian meal. It brings back loving memories of my grandmother’s Italian kitchen. There is nothing like a pot of homemade gravy (Not Sauce!) that has been simmering for hours poured over some homemade pasta with meatballs. I make a respectable meatball but I have yet to perfect my grandmother’s gravy recipe. (She never wrote anything down). However, I am getting closer. In truth, I am not sure anything I create would live up to the memory of my grandmother’s cooking.
Quarantine has given me time to experiment with some new recipes and time to perfect old ones, like my grandmother’s gravy. My husband and I both enjoy cooking and we have found some great new recipes. We are enjoying the ritual and routine of preparing the meal because we are not rushing to eat and run out the door.
One silver lining of being in quarantine is all three of my children are home and we have time to enjoy our family meals. My children are 17, 20 and 23. Under normal circumstances, we don’t have the opportunity to sit together for a meal as often as we would like. When we are all home and have dinner together, someone is usually rushing out the door right after the meal to get to a practice or a social event. Now, since we have little else to look forward to during the day, dinners have become an anticipated event for everyone in my house. We are able to savor the meal and spend time in conversion afterward. The slower pace of life allows us reminise, laugh more and appreciate each other’s company. (Parents of young children...there is hope. One day you will be able to sit through an entire meal. That day will come more quickly than you think.)
Below we have listed some recipes we hope will provide you comfort and enjoyment. If you have a recipe you would like to share, please email me at email@example.com . If you are experiencing food insecurities due to current circumstances, please see Food Resources under the Covid-19 Resources section of this blog.
From the Kitchen of Stacey Kerno….
Italian Tortellini Soup with White Beans
3 Italian turkey sausage links (4 oz each)
1 medium diced
6 garlic cloves minced
32 oz Chicken broth
1- 1/2 cups of water
1 can (14-1/2 oz) diced tomatoes
1 package (6 oz) cheese tortellini (or any favorite)
1 small zucchini chopped
6 oz of fresh spinach chopped
2-1/2 teaspoons of minced fresh basil or 3/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
Dash of crushed pepper flakes or to taste
1/4 cup of white wine (optional)
1. Crumble sausage into a dutch oven, add onions. Cook over medium heat until meat is a golden brown. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute longer. Deglaze the pot with optional wine. Add the broth, water and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
2. Add tortellini and zucchini, cook for 7 to 9 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the spinach, basil, pepper and pepper flakes. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Serve with parmesan cheese if desired.
From the kitchen of Judy (and Joe) Clay….
Balsamic Brussel Sprouts with Bacon
This is a newer go-to recipe for my family. Even if you are not the biggest fan of brussel sprouts, you may find you enjoy this recipe. As the saying goes “Everything's better with bacon.” Remove the bacon and this is a tasty vegetarian recipe.
1 32 ounce bag of brussel sprouts, washed, trimmed and halved
½ of one medium sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
6 pieces of pan or oven cooked bacon crumbled (or as a shortcut, 3- 4 tablespoons of Hormel real bacon pieces)
2 tablespoons of bacon grease
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Add the bacon grease and olive oil to a pan on medium heat. (We freeze bacon fat after the occasional Sunday brunch and reuse it in various recipes. For this recipe it allows us to use the bacon bits as a shortcut without having to cook the bacon.)
Add the diced onion. As onions begin to carmelize, reduce the heat and add the minced garlic. Add balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan.
Add the brussel sprouts and increase the heat back up medium high. Add salt and pepper to your liking.
Continue to cook the brussel sprouts on medium heat, stirring occasionally, allowing them to brown and crisp in the process. If the bottom of the pan browns, deglaze with a tablespoon water.
Add the bacon (or bacon bits) and continue to cook for several minutes until brussel sprouts are tender and browned.
Recommended by Sharon DeBardino (from Facebook). Kate McGurk gives it two thumbs up!
Apple Fritter Loaf
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅔ cup white sugar
½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
½ cup milk
2-3 apples, peeled and chopped (any kind), mixed with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a 9x5 inch loaf pan and spray with non-stick spray to get out easily for slicing.
Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside.
In another medium bowl, beat white sugar and butter together using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended in; add in vanilla extract.
Combine and whisk flour and baking powder together in another bowl and add into creamed butter mixture. Stir until blended.
Mix mild into batter until smooth.
Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half the apples and half the brown sugar cinnamon mixture.
Lightly pat the apple mixture into the batter. Pour in remaining batter and top with remaining apples and brown sugar/cinnamon.
Lightly pat apples in batter: swirl brown sugar mixture through apples using knife or spoon.
Bake the 350 degree oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf come out clean, approximately 60-75 minutes. Baking time will vary according to your oven and the kind of pan you use.
Allow to cool on a baking rack for several minutes then carefully remove from loaf pan. If desired, top with cream cheese glaze before serving.
Cream Cheese Glaze
2 ounces cream cheese softened
2 tablespoons butter softened
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup powdered sugar (You can make powdered sugar by pulsing granulated sugar in a food processor until fine.)
Mix ingredients until smooth. Warm until pourable and allow to set before serving.
From the kitchen of Judy Clay…..
Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips
This recipe is one that I have been baking for decades. My own children now make it for themselves. It originally came from The Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook which I received as a wedding shower gift. Instead of throwing away overripe bananas, I freeze them to use in this recipe.
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
⅔ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2-3 mashed ripe bananas (about 1 cup)
⅓ cup shortening, margarine or butter
2 tablespoons milk
½ cup chocolate chips (or a little more if you like)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 8x4 loaf pan and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl combine 1 cup flour, the sugar, baking powder and baking soda, and salt.
Add mashed bananas, margarine or butter, and milk. Beat with a mixer until blended.
Add eggs and remaining flour and beat until blended.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Pour batter into the greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 55 to 60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Baking time may vary for your oven and the pan you use.
Remove loaf pan from oven and place on a wire baking rack to cool for several minutes before removing the banana bread from the loaf pan.
This Sunday, Ms. Mossor and Ms. Brown started the process of cleaning up, weeding, and preparing the garden for Spring planting. Over the past week, our HCA teachers and interested members of the community have been working on a schedule that will practice social distancing, but still allow us to maintain our Organic Garden.
The HCA community, our country, and the world at large could not possibly have anticipated or predicted the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in, at this moment in history. We have all been deeply impacted by the global coronavirus pandemic in one way or another. We pray that your families are safe and as healthy as can be during these current circumstances.
This pandemic can cause a myriad of emotions, from fear and uncertainty, to anxiety and sense of hopelessness. The disruption to our daily routines, the unpredictable future and the many questions that remain unanswered can put undue stress on our sense of normalcy, shake us to the core, and leave us wondering what the future may hold.
Therefore it is in times like these, that it is even more crucial to turn to the arts for healing, comfort, and inspiration. The arts transcend cultural boundaries, gender, age, ethnicity, faith, socio-economic status and even pre-existing health-related concerns. The arts can calm our fears, soothe our bodies and minds, and elevate our spirits and souls. They can transform us from the inside out. We only have to allow ourselves to be open to the possibility.
I encourage you to carve time each day, amid the chaos and confusion, to create a crucial space where you can detach from the turmoil, even momentarily. Allow yourself to connect with something beyond your normal obligations and responsibilities. Experience something new, whether it be a beautiful piece of art, or a piece of music you have never heard before. Allow your body to be still, your mind to be at ease and your spirit to be uplifted. Embrace the unfamiliar with a new sense of curiosity.
Below you will find a link to a piece of music by Enno Morricone used in a film entitled the Mission. It is intended to encourage you to find a few moments for reflection and meditation. It is performed here as a duet by me performing both the piano and violin parts. While you listen, I hope you will take the time to read some of my favorite quotes about the importance of the arts in our lives.
We are blessed in so many ways by the gifts we have been given by God. Artists and musicians create with their hands, brains, hearts and souls. They share their talents and provide us with an outlet to enable us to reach inside our own thoughts and hearts to experience life at a deeper, more spiritual level. May you immerse yourself every day in the gifts that musicians and artists share so freely.