Family Trees

The book signing at the Concord Museum was about as much fun as an author can have. I got to spend the day with my friend, Ben Fink, who shot the photos for Tillie Lays an Egg.

Behind him is our tree. Those long brown decorations are rubber worms. I think our tree was the only one of the thirty at the museum that had worms on it. Every child declared that they wanted worms on their trees, too. A few stopped to read my book.

We were in the same room as the Martha Speaks tree, and I was thrilled to pieces that Susan Meddaugh, the author, was there to sign books! I was star struck!

We chatted about how important it is to have our characters be true to the nature of the animals that they are. When the Martha books became a PBS series, Susan insisted that Martha still be dog – which means no flying or other superpowers. Susan really does know dogs, and it comes through in her writing.

(BTW, note the necklace I’m wearing – it’s a 1950’s lucite chicken with green rhinestone eyes. I love that my job lets me get away with wearing such things.)

I got to meet other authors, too. Ed Emberley was right next door. And Clare Beaton came all the way from England with a suitcase filled with her handmade decorations that filled the large tree in the center entrance.

Each tree had details to ooh and ahh over. There were garlands made from feathers and from dog leashes, there were owl babies, fairies in flowers, and sailboats. There were jellyfish with pearl stingers, a tree skirt that looked like apple pie, and another like thick and twisted tree roots.

In my home we celebrate Chanukah. We keep the gift-giving modest. One present a night. Years ago, even before we had children, my husband would give me one children’s picture book a night. If you’re stuck on your holiday gift list, you might consider doing the same. There continues to be no better way to spread creativity and joy.

Tillie IN a Tree

Every year the Concord Museum selects over thirty children’s books, both classic and recent. A volunteer decorator is matched to each book and the fun begins. Ornaments are crafted and clever details designed. In December, trees are set up throughout the museum, amidst 18th century highboys and the lantern made famous from “one if by land, two if by sea.” The decorators decorate. Charming, whimsical, funny, poignant. It’s all there on these trees. If you love Christmas trees, childrens’ books, history, or crafts, you have to visit. If you want a charming and whimsical holiday tradition (not crass and commercial) you have to visit.

I am thrilled to pieces that this year, Tillie Lays an Egg was chosen to be a tree at the Concord Museum. A family that I’ve never met, and have had no contact with, decorated the tree. I got a peek at it today. It’s perfect. First of all, they must be a 4-H family. There are 4-H ribbons on the tree! How clever is that? Go ahead, use the idea! There are  rubber worms! (Tillie approves.) To top it all off (or should I say bottom?) look at this tree skirt. Sewn out of feed bags! You can use that idea, too! (If you do, please send a photo.)

This Saturday, December 4, from 1 to 4, I will be sitting by my tree signing books. I won’t be alone – Ben Fink, the book’s photographer, will be here from NYC. This is the first time we’ve signed books together. Come and say hello.

Egg White Magic

My excessive baking week left me with few leftovers, but I did have a bowl of 15 egg whites in the refrigerator. In the summer, when I have a bounty of eggs, those whites might, lazily, be fed to the dogs. But nearing winter, every egg is precious.  So, I pulled out a recipe from my 1,ooo Lowfat Recipes cookbook. Tried and true and easy.

Egg whites are magic. They go from this:

to this:

Whipping egg whites is immediate gratification.

The chocolate and nuts (I used walnuts, not almonds as called for in the recipe – I had some leftover from the pie party cooking) were gently folded in.

Dollops of meringue were dropped onto cookie sheets lined with parchment, and baked until dry and crisp. I used both of my wall ovens, and 8 cookie sheets. By the way, the cookies bake up better on traditional thin sheets, not the insulated ones. Here they are.

Egg whites are pure protein. Even with the addition of cocoa and ground nuts, these cookies are only 57 calories each. Just what I need after a week of eating custard pies!