A Day at the Opera



This week, a dream of mine came true: I went to the opera. The Lyric Opera of Chicago performed a dress rehearsal of Massenet’s Cendrillon that I was beyond excited to attend. It was really everything I had hoped for. Beautiful music, stunning visuals, wonderful voices. It was such a memorable experience.

But the backstory of how I came to have the tickets was just as much of a thrill for me.

One of the reasons I love my job so much is that I get to work with people (which may also be the reason why there are times that my job is not so fun either, but that’s a subject for a different day…). One evening, two senior couples came into the restaurant and sat in one of my booths. It was my last table of the evening, and I started chatting with them. They told me they had just come from the opera. I exclaimed, “How fun!” and asked what they had seen. They responded that it was Sigfreid and when I commented on the length of that opera, they told me it had lasted five hours. Wow!

In the midst of getting them bread, water and a bottle of wine, I chatted with them about how I had never attended an opera, but had long wanted to. I shared how, as a teen, I had gone to a backstage tour of the Lyric Opera with my family. They talked a bit about their experience as well. It was a fun conversation. I enjoy connecting with people, however briefly, about a shared interest.

One of the times I was at the table, one of the gentlemen unexpectedly asked me how I would like to see Cinderella at the Lyric Opera for the dress rehearsal in three weeks! He offered four tickets in exchange for excellent dinner service. The other folks at the table were all nodding and smiling. The gentleman continued that they would love to promote an appreciation of the opera, and would like to give the tickets to me if I would be able to use them. Well, I was practically speechless! I definitely couldn’t see straight I was so thrilled.

I tried to contain my excitement, and told them I would have to see if I could make babysitting arrangements before I could accept them. If I couldn’t use them, there was no use in saying yes, as disappointing as that would be… He gave me his email address and I told him I would let him know either way. The four of them proceeded to enjoy their dinner.

As I left the restaurant that evening, I called my sister squealing excitedly into the phone: “We’re going to the opera!!!” Needless to say, I was able to make arrangements for the littles and the tickets were promptly emailed to me with the note that he “hoped this was one of the more innovative tips you’ve ever received.” I should say it was!

The whole thing was a thrill from beginning to end. We even decided to take Strawberry, which was quite the occasion for her. I love that from a simple chance connection, my family and I had were able to have a wonderful experience that we will always remember. And while I’ll never see that couple again, I will always remember their thoughtfulness and generosity. What a blessing there is in community.

Answer Me This: First Time Link-up


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I’ve been wanting to participate in Kendra’s “virtual cocktail party” and this is my last chance this summer, so here I go…

1~ Favorite grocery store splurge?  We go through phases where we get hooked on some treat and keep going back to the store for it. Currently, I would say it’s fancy cheeses (especially aged cheddar and gouda) and prosciutto. We like to also add this spiced jam, paired with whatever cheese was recommended on top of the jar.  Add a baguette and some red wine…mmmmm!

Last summer, the phase we went through was Talenti gelato. That was really a splurge because the containers were so small for the price. But oh, so good! The sea salt caramel is to die for.

Yesterday I just tried Simply Limeade. I think I might switch to this being my splurge for the summer. Not that it costs so much, but I usually get the Minute Maid Lemonade (my favorite in summer!) This is something a little different and just as refreshing. I think I’m hooked.

2~ How’s my penmanship? It used to be great. Handwriting was always one of my favorite subjects in school. However, the older I get, the worse it gets. I’ve recently been trying to take my time and improve my writing; I used to like it. Not so much now. I did a little bit of calligraphy when I was a teen and am interested in starting up with that again. I pulled out my calligraphy pen from the craft box last month and did a little lettering. I’ll keep working on it for fun.

3~ Do you have a summer bucket list? Yes, but it’s not written down yet. It’s still in my head. Last year the kids and I made a list with markers on butcher paper and taped it up on the kitchen wall. We really liked it and it was so colorful. I’ve been meaning to do the same this year and we haven’t done it. Summer’s half over already, so I guess I’d better get on that if I’m going to do it at all. But lots of the things that would be on it we have already done: going to the splash pad, outdoor concerts, taking walks, seeing a movie at the drive in, going out for ice cream or frozen yogurt, visiting nearby parks and outdoor entertainment for the kids, putting out the water table and little kiddie pool in the yard. I guess we’re doing ok!

4~ What’s the best thing on the radio right now? When I turn on the radio, it’s almost always the classical music station. Every so often I turn to the current hits station. While I do like some songs, I couldn’t tell you the artist or probably even the title. If I especially like a certain song, I listen to the words and then either Google it to find out what it is or ask my husband or my sister. They are way more hip to that kind of stuff than I am.

On the classical station, I’m trying to listen to Bill McGlaughlin’s Exploring Music series. I don’t get to it every evening, but sometimes.

5~ Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt? I won’t turn up my nose at either, but going to have to go with ice cream on this one. My absolute favorite flavor is chocolate peanut butter, followed closely by mint chocolate chip. Ice cream is one of my favorite desserts and eating ice cream is one of my favorite summer pastimes. In fact, I just finished a Haagen-Dazs vanilla milk chocolate almond ice cream bar.

6~ Congrats to Kendra on the birth of her new baby girl!

Well, that was fun! Now I hope I can figure out how to link up, because that’s something I’ve never done before!

Author Spotlight: Robert McCloskey


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How could I have missed spotlighting Robert McCloskey when I was doing all my 31 days posts last October?? He’s one of my favorites. The kids and I are currently loving all things McCloskey. I could look at his illustrations for hours. Ever take a good long look at the end papers in Blueberries for Sal? Sigh. I love the details, I love the time period. So charming.

Strawberry has recently been enamored with One Morning in Maine and I’m with her on that one. In looking online, I don’t see anywhere that these are the same characters that appeared in Blueberries for Sal, but it sure looks that way. You know what is especially captivating? The family relationships, particularly the sisters. The simplicity of the pursuits of their day. Sal’s childlike anticipation of a trip to town and a special treat when she gets there. The whole thing is a sweet portrayal of family life in an idyllic small town setting. And Strawberry really identifies with the character. I think she’s just waiting for one of her teeth to come loose and fall out.

Yesterday I read the chapter in Homer Price entitled “The Doughnuts.” A little background here: we have a small local doughnut shop within walking distance from us. (Come to think about it, I’ve written about it before. And I mentioned in that post about how it reminded me of Uncle Ulysses and Aunt Agnes’ Lunchroom–don’t you just love those names!) Anyway, we go to this doughnut shop after Mass on Sundays for a treat–their freshly made doughnuts are fantastic! So it has an enshrined place in the minds of my little Berries. I figured that a story about a similar place would strike a chord, and I figured correctly. And anyway, it’s my favorite story in Homer Price (seconded by “Mystery Yarn.”) The story is just as wonderful as I remember it.

It’s such a pleasure to be sharing these stories with the kids. I’m remembering my own delight from the ones I read years ago, and also loving that we are sharing new discoveries that I had no idea existed when I was young.

Just found these two books on Amazon that now I want to read:

McCloskey book 1



McCloskey book 2


Now I have to read Time of Wonder and Burt Dow, Deep-water Man, the two that I haven’t yet seen.

Happy reading!


Literature and Halloween Costumes


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My personal preference for Halloween costumes are literature-inspired ones.  (Are you surprised?  I didn’t think so…)  Happily, Strawberry chose to be Little Red Riding Hood this year, a choice I definitely approved of.  (I would have let her be Elsa if she really wanted to be–because that seems to be the costume of choice this year, and no wonder.  But she definitely did not, and I was good with that.)  A couple years ago she went as Olivia the pig, a decision I made because she was still too young to have any preference at all.

Blueberry is going as a pumpkin this year.  I think being a pumpkin is such a classic choice.  I did it when I was little and Strawberry really wanted to do it last year so that was her year for it.  We also had a Winnie the Pooh costume available to us this year, which I dressed him in for the library Halloween costume story time a few days ago.  So, again, literature inspired.  (And Disney-inspired too, I guess…)

I’m hoping the kids will continue to choose literary characters as their Halloween outfits for years to come.


Well, we have come to the end of the 31 Days!  It was a challenge, but a fun one, and I’m so glad I did it.  Would I do it again?  Yeah, probably I will.  It was just hard enough to push me, but not so hard that it felt overwhelming.  I’m a little sad it’s over. However, I’m hoping it’s just the impetus I need to keep going with this blogging.  I find I am enjoying it!  Thanks for reading!

This post is part of a 31-day series on Enjoying Children’s Literature.  To read all the posts, click here.

Books and Movies


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Today we went to see The Sound of Music at a local children’s theater.  The play was performed by kids ages 8-18, and it was mostly kids in the audience.  I thought the performers did a wonderful job, and my own two littles were entranced by the singing and dancing.  (I tried to get Strawberry to choose Maria von Trapp as her Halloween costume this year after seeing the idea here.  For a while, I thought she was going to go with it…  Check back tomorrow to see what she actually picked.)  We, of course, also love the movie which was loosely based on a book (The Story of the Trapp Family Singers).  All of this led me to think of a suggestion I received recently to write a post on movies that have been based on kid’s books.

Around here we mostly stick to animations.  I’m trying to branch out, but have met with resistance.  I have always enjoyed Disney movies, though, so I don’t protest too much when one of these is playing:

  • Pinocchio
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Peter Pan
  • 101 Dalmations (I didn’t even know this was a book first until I saw it on Wikipedia!)
  • The Jungle Book
  • Robin Hood

I’m not going to lump Mary Poppins into the above group because I think it really deserves to stand on it’s own.  That one is a classic!

While maybe not technically a “movie,” I think the made-for-tv Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea definitely count as books turned into movies.  My sister and I loved these when we were kids!  And we also used to listen to the audio books read by Megan Follows, the actress who played Anne in them.

And what about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?  Loved that one growing up!  I think it’s still popular.  Plus, I love that one song at the end so much that I downloaded it onto my iPod. 🙂

Ever read Freaky Friday?  That one was awesome!  And the movie with Jodie Foster was pretty funny too.  I’m not a big fan of movies from the ’70’s, but I’d watch that one again.

Charlotte’s Web was another one I liked–actually there are two I like.  The first one was an animated film that we used to watch as kids.  But I saw the more recent one with Dakota Fanning and that one was good too.  Added plus that Strawberry liked it!

As a fan of classic movies, there are quite a few that I have enjoyed through the years.  Shirley Temple was in a version of The Little Princess as well as Heidi.  Her movies are good for kids young and old. 🙂

And Little Women with Katherine Hepburn was one of my favorites.  The one with Elizabeth Taylor was ok, but I don’t like that one as much.  I LOVED reading Little Women.  I think it was the first book that ever made me cry.  (That’s really saying something because I didn’t often cry at books or movies before I had kids.  Since having babies, well that’s another story…)

There are really so many more movies than just what I have listed above, but these were some that I remember having enjoyed and would definitely recommend.

What books-turned-movies do you enjoy?

This post is part of a 31-day series on Enjoying Children’s Literature.  To read all the posts, click here.

Magazines for Kids


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I think magazines are a wonderful treat to have in the home.  They provide a variation in your literary diet, so to speak.  And they are so beautiful to look at and articles are in shorter, digestible lengths.  The same goes for kid’s magazines.  We have a couple subscriptions in our home that were generously given for birthdays and I recommend them both:

Highlights High Five, which is a version of Highlights geared for the younger set.  It still features the Hidden Pictures, which was my favorite thing about Highlights.  (Isn’t it everybody’s favorite??)  They also have one for babies called Hello.  It looks cute too!

National Geographic Little Kids.  Again, a version for the age group we are looking for here in the Berry Patch.  There’s also National Geographic Kids for ages 6-14.  Fantastic pictures and all the kids I know love looking at animals.

We don’t actually get a subscription to Ranger Rick, but I remember it being interesting when I was reading it as a kid.  They have a younger version of that one too.

Another magazine I’ve looked at is Ladybug (and Babybug for the babies), but we never actually subscribed.  I remember it being rather expensive, so even though it looked good, our viewing of this one has been limited to what we have seen at the library.

We don’t check out a lot of magazines from the library because of how easily they can be damaged, but they are available at most libraries.  Another resource to take advantage of!

I came across this list, which has a much broader selection of kid’s magazines.

Do you have any magazine subscriptions in your home, and, if so, what are your favorites?

This post is part of a 31-day series on Enjoying Children’s Literature.  To read all the posts, click here.

Non-fiction for Kids


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Fiction literature has always been my preference.  It just appeals to me much more than non-fiction does.  But I couldn’t let a whole series of literature go by without at least one post devoted to non-fiction.  There is just so much out there!  Judging by the library bookshelves, there seems to be more non-fiction than fiction.  (I say this having nothing to back up my statement and just eyeballing the shelves.)  But I have a hard time choosing non-fiction books unless something is specifically recommended to me.  I realize that non-fiction is such a broad topic.  Unless there is a specific subject you are interested in, it’s hard for someone to make recommendations.  And since non-fiction is organized by subject instead of by author as fiction is, I find it harder to browse.  (I bet some people find it easier to browse this way.  But my mind doesn’t work that way.)  And when you find book lists and recommendations of what to read, most of the time they are fiction books.

So, what did I do?  I talked to the librarian, of course!  After story time, I approached her and asked my question and was directed to the head of the department who, I was told, does all the non-fiction book ordering.   So I asked this librarian and was delighted by her response.  I could tell how passionate she was about books.  I told her that my age range was around 4-7 years old and she ended up giving me a list of authors that came immediately to her mind that were worth searching for.  I’ll list them here for you:

  • Anne Rockwell
  • Gail Gibbons
  • Roxi Munro
  • Steven Jenkins
  • Nic Bishop
  • Seymour Simon

The last two she listed for the quality of the pictures because apparently the reading level is appropriate for children a bit older than the 4-7 age group.

But that was not all.  Oh, no.  She led me right out to those bookshelves and started plucking books off the shelves and into my (rather full) arms.  I hadn’t brought the stroller in, which was unfortunate for me because I couldn’t keep hold of Blueberry and all these books at the same time. (Plus other costume-related paraphenalia–the story time included wearing Halloween costumes this week.)  Strawberry, I am happy to say, was most helpful in her own way, but ultimately I had to keep taking off after him, which he thought was the most hilarious game of cat-and-mouse.  And that librarian just kept pulling books and waiting for me to come back.  But I digress…

Needless to say, I came home with a large pile of books, which was amplified by Strawberry’s selections.  She grew bored of my conversation with the head librarian and ended up choosing a countless number of randoms from the shelves.  I was too frazzled to look through them, so we piled them on and made a beeline for circulation.

So here are the non-fiction books that came home with us this afternoon.

non-fic books

I am not familiar with any of these authors’ works.  But I figure this will be a good starting point for us as we delve into more non-fiction reading.  And I am also going to start doing some more research to see if I can find some non-fiction book lists that will be helpful to us…although I may have to first determine which subjects we want to read about!

Where do you go to find quality non-fiction books?

This post is part of a 31-day series on Enjoying Children’s Literature.  To read all the posts, click here.

Chapter Books


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I know I’ve been focusing on literature for young children, but there are just so many good chapter books that I can’t resist including a list of the ones I loved reading when I was younger.  And while I am enjoying the picture book stage at this point with my littles, I do look forward to the day when I can share these books with them as well.

  1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  2. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  3. The Four-Story Mistake (and others in this series) by Elizabeth Enright
  4. Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  5. The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
  6. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (and others in the series) by Betty MacDonald
  7. Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
  8. The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
  9. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  10. Stuart Little by E.B. White
  11. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
  12. Little House in the Big Woods (and all the others in this series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  13. Henry Huggins (and all the Henry books) by Beverly Cleary
  14. Beezus and Ramona (and all the Ramona books) by Beverly Cleary
  15. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  16. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  17. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  18. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
  19. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  20. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
  21. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  22. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (and the whole Narnia series) by C.S. Lewis
  23. The Borrowers by Mary Norton
  24. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  25. Anne of Green Gables (and all the Anne books) by L. M. Montgomery.  I saved the best for last! 🙂

Oh, and also a special mention of the Nancy Drew series–the original ones.  I tore through those books!  I used to get stacks out of the library so tall and read every single one of them.  Hours and hours of reading.  It was great!

This post is part of a 31-day series on Enjoying Children’s Literature.  To read all the posts, click here.

More Friend Recommendations



After I wrote the last post on friend recommendations, I got a few more suggestions.  And so I thought I’d share them here today.

K’s pick: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce.  I have not heard of this one, and I always like to get new recommendations.  This one will be going on the list.

M’s picks: Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson; Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel; Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin; The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton; Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman; Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems; Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner; and the Llama, Llama books by Anna Dewdney.  Such good recommendations!  We have enjoyed most of these (especially Click Clack Moo!), but most of them haven’t been on my other lists this month.  I’m happy they will now be included!

Thanks for sharing your favorite picks!

This post is part of a 31-day series on Enjoying Children’s Literature.  To read all the posts, click here.

Books About Colors


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There have been several books that I’ve talked about in previous posts that could come under this heading, but I’m not going to list them again here.  I want to, because they would fit in so easily, but no.  That would be boring and redundant.  SO…

What about these for variety?  All have been heartily enjoyed in this Berry Patch.

Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.  All different shades of green.

Color Zoo by by Lois Ehlert.  Cut outs make for an imaginative read.

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh.  Strawberry couldn’t get enough of this one!  (And the others in the series too, but those ones don’t come under this category.)

Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes by Erik Litvin.  Apparently Pete the Cat is what’s up these days.  The librarian read this one at story time the other day (a story time that had “colors” as it’s theme).  And my friends who have kids in school say this is a popular pick there too.  It was a fun one.

Press Here by Herve Tullet.  Oh my goodness, this was such a pleasure to read!  Both kids loved it!  Creative.

And one honorary mention because it was so highly recommended by a friend of mine:

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt.  I haven’t read it myself, but it came up in a text conversation as I was writing this blog post.  So I thought I’d list it. 🙂

What are your favorite books about colors?

This post is part of a 31-day series on Enjoying Children’s Literature.  To read all the posts, click here.