But the most time consuming portion of this month was actually the book fair at Daughters' school. Since friend JA and I have taken over running it, it's been one of those things where I have to work very very hard, but the rewards are worth it. The book fair at our school simply benefits the school library, and a percentage of whatever we sell gets converted to cash so that our librarian is able to keep the books on the shelves that our students want to read. But I don't do it for that aspect of it, because truthfully the dollar amount that our book fair brings in - the amount and time and effort that I put forth isn't worth that amount. I stopped feeding my family (friend SH did it for me instead), I did not know what my kids did for homework for a week, how they practiced piano for a week, and I barely kept track of their sleeping for the week.
But why work so hard? The real reason that I bust out and go crazy - it's so that I can talk to kids about books. I'm still insane about kids pushing themselves in their reading and trying to read things that they might not ordinarily pick up. I've become "the book fair lady" ubiquitous and readily seen in my bright orange vest (think traffic cop) where if you walk around aimlessly at the faire, I'll grab you, make you tell me what you've been reading, and find something that you might like as well. Those who know me bring in their friends in and have them ask me what their child should read next. Others get book recommendations for gift ideas and I spend hours talking to people about what they might enjoy reading next. It's because I love doing it that I can push myself that hard and almost wipe out all trace of sanity. That's me. No sanity. Just books.
If you're not interested in these books titles, feel free to skip ahead to the recipe below. I did have a few people asking me what was new and exciting so I thought I'd share them here.
The three books I really found myself really selling and (selling many copies of) are all Newberry Award winners. One books is one from my own childhood, which tragically it seems many kids have not read in the present and two are more recent in their award winning.
The Graveyard Book: The concept of this book is slightly creepy, with the idea of a young baby being raised by the ghosts of the graveyard. I couldn't get past the initial image of an entire family being murdered while a baby crawls out of the house and ends up in the graveyard. But many kids really enjoy that sort of stuff, and the heart of the story - the tension between the living and the dead, and right and wrong, and how to teach limits and understand them are universal and far more interesting that simply the story. Definitely for older kids (at least age 10, grade 5).
A Wrinkle in Time: I told the students that this was the original book about time travel and space, before Magic Treehouse. It was the original story of good and evil before Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. It was the original book that talked about the innate gifts that everyone had in themselves, before kids of The Mysterious Benedict Society. In short, this was a book that had all the elements that modern books had taken off from, but the original was here. This book flew off of the table once I explained it as such, and hopefully a new generation of readers will enjoy it. (at least 10 and up, grades 5 and up.)
When You Reach Me: This story is connected to A Wrinkle in Time and it is helpful to understand the plot and the experiences of the main character to have read it before reading this book. The book presents a very strange mystery, with Miranda having to try and figure out how someone knows her future before she even does. There are lots of twists and upsets, but the clues given along the way draw you in. (at least 10 and up, grades 5 and up.)
Now how does a book fair connect with this Meyer lemon cake? At our school, the end of the book fair signifies the beginning of spring break, and I have to say, spring break could not have come sooner. With the break means that I'm not dashing to three different drop offs and three different pickups and rather, I have a moment to breathe in and out. Spring has come to my life in the form of sanity and air, and I just want to taste it and enjoy it. To me - spring - tastes like Meyer lemons, sweet, slightly tart, and aromatic. I came up with a cake to celebrate a bit of freedom and spring!
The best thing about this cake is that it isn't fussy. You bake it in a 9X13 pan, and just frost it in the pan. Slice it (carefully) in the pan, and serve it from the pan.
Meyer Lemon Pan Cake
Makes 9X13 inch cake; serves 16 people
Meyer Lemon Cake
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups super fine sugar, or regular sugar that has been put through a food processor and made fine
3 large eggs (taken out of the fridge the same time as the butter)
2 tablespoons zest from Meyer lemons
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350. Spray 9X13 cake pan with cooking spray. Lightly flour pan or cut out parchment sheets the same size as the pan and line them. Set aside until needed.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, blend softened butter and super fine sugar until thoroughly combined. Add eggs, one at a time and beat until well mixed, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is well blended. Add Meyer lemon zest.
Add half of flour mixture and mix until just combined. and add half of buttermilk and mix until just combined. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Add remaining half of flour mixture, mix until just combined and then add remaining buttermilk. Mix until just combined.again. At this stage, the less you mix the better for your cake. (too much mixing makes for a tough cake.)
Pour cake batter into prepared pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until cake springs back when gently pressed with fingertips. Cool slightly, then remove cake from pan and cool on wire rack until completely cool.
Meyer Lemon Frosting
1 cup of butter, softened
8 oz of cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon zest
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
5-6 cups of confectioners sugar
In a large mixing bowl, mix butter until it is softened and uniform. Add cream cheese and beat together until it is uniform. Add 3 cups of sugar to the mixture and mix. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and 2 more cups of sugar. Mix again until mixture is creamy and spreadable. Add more sugar if necessary, otherwise frost completely cooled cake.
With this - it's officially spring!