Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Little Golden Books


Did you have a Little Golden Books or two when you were a child? Did you buy them for your own children?

When Little Golden Books launched in 1942 at 25 cents each, they changed publishing history. For the first time, children's books were high quality and low-priced and they were sold in many places besides bookstores, which was a new concept at the time.

In 1941, children's books normally sold for $2-$3 which made them a luxury for many families. George Duplaix, president of the Artists and Writers Guild, Inc. which was a joint interest of Simon & Schuster Publishing and Western Printing, came up with the concept of developing a colorful children's book that was durable and affordable for most American families, and Little Golden Books was born.

The Poky Little Puppy, was the best-selling Little Golden Book of all, selling over 15 million copies worldwide, in many different languages.

"Tootle the Train," "The Saggy Baggy Elephant," " The Shy Little Kitten," "The Little Red Caboose," " The Tawny Scrawny Lion," and "Scuffy the Tugboat" soon followed in publication, and become almost as popular.

Today, over two billion Little Golden Books have been sold worldwide!

Little Golden Books is such an icon of American history that when it celebrated its golden anniversary in 1992, a permanent Little Golden Books exhibit was given to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The exhibit, titled: "Little Golden Books and American Culture 1942-1992," that can still be viewed here!

Random House now owns the imprint, and since 2001 has made a big push to revive beloved old books in the series. First to return were reissues of classics such as "The Saggy Baggy Elephant," "Richard Scarry's Best Little Word Book Ever!" and "Scuffy the Tugboat."
Published in their original format, they are still bargain prices at $ 2.99.

My favorite Little Golden Book illustrator was Eloise Wilkin. Her illustrations of babies and children drawn in everyday activities were absolutely exquisite in detail and innocence. A short biography of Mrs. Wilkin can be found here
Recently, I was thrilled to purchase the 209-page hardcover "A Little Golden Book Collection Eloise Wilkin Stories."

This collection features nine of her most treasured stories: "Busy Timmy" by Kathryn and Byron Jackson, "Guess Who Lives Here" by Louise Woodcock, "Wonders of Nature" by Jane Werner Watson, "Selections from A Child’s Garden of Verses" by Robert Louis Stevenson, and my personal favorites: "We Help Mommy" by Jean Cushman, "Baby Listens," "Baby Dear," and "Baby Looks" by Esther Wilkin, who was Eloise’s sister.

I remember the joy of reading many of those stories as a child; wishing that I could live in the same house as the children did in the book, and have the same toys and experiences.

As was so aptly described by Jame Werner Watson as an afterword to the collection:

"A warm and creative homemaker, Eloise shared with the world glimpses of her big, busy, welcoming household, its rooms papered with gentle patterns, its drop-leaf tables and rocking chairs aglow with hand-rubbed sheen, its four-poster beds covered by hand-stitched quilts. A devoutly religious person,she shared ever so gently her values, her sense of the beauty of order and love,of implicit self-discipline, and of regard for others . . . she has left us,only slightly idealized, rich reminders of a lovely time not
very long ago."

My now adult daughter's favorite Little Golden Book was "Baby Dear"

The story is about a little girl who, right before her mother and father bring a new baby home from the hospital, is given a baby doll. In the story, the little girl feeds her “baby” when Mommy feeds her baby; she changes her baby’s diapers when Mommy changes the baby. They take carriage rides together and tuck them into bed at the same time.
An excerpt from the book:

"We smile at our babies and talk to them. Mommy says this is the way our babies know they are the most wonderful babies in the world."

There is such a sweet innocence and appeal for little girls in the illustrations that accompany the story of a big sister imitates her Mother's love for her newborn.

Eloise Wilkin was also known for designing dolls and dollhouses. In the 1960s she successfully marketed a new-born infant doll called "Baby Dear," which is highly valued as a collectible today.

Another of my daughter's favorite books was "My Goodnight Book" which was a "Golden Sturdy Shape Board Book" illustrated by Eloise Wilkin.

We read that book together at bedtime for many years, as the simple text and soothing pictures of a little girl's night time routine, and her pretty moonlit bedroom, in the end, was a part of a comforting ritual of her childhood.
For collectors, and those interested in reminiscing, there is a book published by Random House available called "Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever and Became An American Icon Along the Way" by Leonard S. Marcus a noted children's book historian. Golden Legacy is a lively history of a company, a line of books, the groundbreaking writers, and artists who created them, the clever mavericks who marketed and sold them, and the cultural landscape that surrounded them.

From The New York Times Book Review, November 11, 2007:

"The book includes a wonderful selection of archival photos and artwork that convey the depth and breadth of the creative talent working there in those early years."

I'd love to know what were your favorite Little Golden Books and those of your children or grandchildren.

How wonderful to open the cover of a book and be transported back to childhood! Bookmark and Share

Arte y Pico Award

Donna, of the very creative and beautiful blog "An Enchanted Cottage," honored me with a special award yesterday! A New England resident, Donna has embraced the "shabby chic" style of decorating, and is transforming her home with paint, slipcovers, imagination and talent galore into a cozy and comforting cottage. I was lucky enough to find Donna's blog from day one, and I've cherished it since. Please make sure to visit her, as I know you'll be enchanted by her too! Thank you Donna!

This is the award:

"Arte y Pico"

The rules are:

1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also contribute to the blogging community, no matter what language.

2) Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog to be visited by everyone.

3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that presented her/him with the award.

4) The award winner and one who has given the price have to show the link of "Arte y Pico" blog so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) To show these rules.

It is always hard to choose just a few blogs from the very many I enjoy.
You are ALL my inspirations and I enjoy reading and learning and discovering new things through every blog I visit each day!
All of you deserve this award, and I'd be pleased to give it to you if you'd like to add it to your blog.

That said, I'd love to introduce you to some wonderful blogs that may be new to you, and that you might enjoy as much as I do!

May the following wonderful bloggers please accept this award.....

Tara, at Days Missed On A Hammock ~ Tara, shares her day to day family life and decorating decisions with such joy and friendliness. We have a lot in common, and she feels like a younger sister to me.

Mrs. B at Mrs B ~ She has the funniest self-depreciating humor and a fantastic young California style in decorating. I think she has a great eye and I love how she is able to replicate what she likes in her home with her and her husband's "do it your self" talents, proving that good looks do not have to be high priced!

Sherry at Edie Marie's Attic ~ Sherry has such wonderful talent decorating on a budget! Her home is warm and whimsical and she fills it with marvelous hand painted and crafted decorations. She always finds the best bargains when she thrift shops, and I would love to be able go shopping with her!

Gina at Gingerbread ~ Gina is a wonderful creative mother who is always doing the sweetest crafts with her two daughters. She shares her day to day life, delicious recipes and photos of her beautiful and exotic Tasmania, Australia surroundings with such grace and peacefulness.

M. Kate at La Vie Est Belle ~ M. Kate lives in Malaysia and shares fantastic pictures and stories about her life and travels. Her photos take my breath away with their beauty! I love learning about new cultures, and in the time I've been reading her blog, I feel the world has become a smaller friendlier place.

Sandi and Bill of The WhistleStop Cafe Cooking ~ Sandi and Bill were just blessed with a new grandbaby! I love recipes, and they share wonderful good ole' fashioned cooking. Bill's family owned the Irondale Cafe for many years which was the very same cafe that was the basis of the charming novel "Fried Green Tomatoes at The Whistlestop Cafe" that author Fannie Flagg wrote!

So that is my short list of award winners, but please know you are ALL on my long list!

Enjoy the day!

ETA...Thanks to Sherry, who honored me with this award today too!

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Sheepshead Bay Day

A nice thing I've noticed since I've begun blogging is that I am seeing things in my day-to-day life with new eyes and new appreciation.

This weekend my husband and I visited one of the neighborhoods of Brooklyn, New York, not far from where we live, which has the fanciful name of Sheepshead Bay, after the fish that was once found there in abundance in the early 1800s before the area became developed.

The shore along Sheepshead Bay became a cove for recreational party fishing boats in the 1930s and has been taking sporting fishermen out to the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours to fish for the seasonal runs of fluke, porgy, blues, ling, mackerel, cod, striped bass, and blackfish since then.

Some of the returning boats sell fresh fish caught that morning from coolers on their deck. Customers line up on the dock, yell down their order, and the fishermen will fillet and scale the fish if desired, and pass up the bags. I have many fond memories of going along with my father and siblings, when I was a child, to buy fresh fish on weekends this way.

Now there are also some luxury yachts available on the piers that offer tours of the Lower New York Bay, dinner cruises, and excursions to see the famous Macy's firework displays on the Fourth of July.

The Sheepshead bay inlet is located across from another neighborhood of Brooklyn called Manhattan Beach, which faces the Atlantic Ocean on its southeast side. Here is the pedestrian walkway that is a connection between the two neighborhoods.

The waters in this area are full of ducks and swans who are hoping someone will toss a crust or two their way.

Opposite the boat piers, many different restaurants are offering a multitude of different cuisines, such as Turkish, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, Italian, and American.
No surprise, my husband and I chose a famous Italian establishment to have our lunch: Randazzo's Clam Bar

There we both had delicious bowls of creamy New England Clam Chowder.

As for entrees, my husband had one of their signature dishes, scungilli with hot sauce. ...

...and I had a dozen oysters on the half shell -- a delicious taste of the sea!

To help digest lunch we went to a nearby beach to take a walk, and watch the windsurfers and kiteboarders.

I hope you had a nice weekend, and that you enjoyed your neighborhood! It is a wonderful way to celebrate life, and "bloom where you are planted."

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour!

I've lived my whole life in Brooklyn, New York -- one of the five boroughs that make up New York City. Brooklyn is New York City's most populous borough, with more than 2.5 million residents, and if the borough was an independent city, it would be the 4th largest city in the United States by population!

Geographically, it occupies the westernmost part of Long Island, with the Borough of Queens as it's neighbor to the east. As you can imagine Brooklyn is a borough with a distinct history, of great cultural diversity, multiple and varied neighborhoods, and has art and culture of its own.

One of the very best ways to see Brooklyn, and experience some of the best the borough has to offer, is to take the A Slice Of Pizza Brooklyn Tour!

From the tour website:

“A Slice Of Brooklyn Pizza Tour” invites New Yorkers and tourists alike
to climb aboard the city’s only guided bus tour of Brooklyn’s BEST pizzerias.
For one low price this 4 1/2 hour foodie romp through Brooklyn includes pizza,
soft drinks and an audio-visual historical tour of Brooklyn’s famous movie
locations, landmarks and points of interest. During this 4 1/2 hour pizza tour
you’ll learn about and see some of the things that have made Brooklyn

Even though I am a lifelong resident of Brooklyn, I learned quite a bit about Brooklyn from Tony the tour guide -- it's history, famous residents and celebrities, films made in the borough, the history of Pizza from Italy to Brooklyn, and a close up view from the million dollar homes of Brooklyn Heights and Bay Ridge to the Coney Island's historic amusement park and boardwalk.
We were picked up in Manhattan and rode in a comfortable bus with large windows. Tony had some wonderful DVD presentations to view during the trip which, along with his wonderful personality, added to the enjoyment of the tour.
Here are photos of some tour highlights!
One of the most recognized bridges in the world, The Brooklyn Bridge:

Some great opportunities here to take New York City skyline photos!

The first pizza stop was Grimaldi's Pizzeria, which serves a Neapolitan style round thin crust pizza. Grimaldi’s has been voted #1 pizzeria in New York by the Zagat Survey for 5 years in a row!

Just look at these examples of culinary pizza heaven:

As we leave Grimaldi's we pass some of the pretty homes along Shore Road in Bay Ridge. Here is an unusual stone cottage:

Along the tour, Tony pointed out from the bus, locations from movies filmed in Brooklyn such as “Saturday Night Fever”, “The French Connection”,“Scent of a Woman”, "Requiem For A Dream”, “Annie Hall” and many more. We saw the Brooklyn Army Terminal where Elvis shipped off to Germany in 1958. We learned about George Washington’s Battle of Brooklyn in 1776 and saw the Verrazano Narrows Bridge -- one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. We saw Keyspan Park - home of the Brooklyn Cyclones and baseball’s return to Brooklyn and Trump Village - the development where The Donald’s dad, Fred, first made his fortune!
Our next pizza stop is LandB Spumoni Gardens, specializing in authentic Sicilian style thick crust pizza.

According to the Zagat Survey:

"Brooklyn landmarks' don’t get much more authentic than
this Bensonhurst pizzeria/ice cream parlor where traditionalists order a 'corner
square' of the Sicilian pie topped off by some 'delicious homemade

Just look at these examples of "Mamma mia" pizza goodness:

Now, totally sated, and in love with the samples of the two best pizzas Brooklyn has to offer, the tour continues to the very colorful and historical Coney Island area of Brooklyn, where the boardwalk travels along the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean , and the famous first Nathan's hot dog was served, and rides from the famous amusements parks can be viewed. Since the amusement park has not opened for the season, as yet, most of this area is still quiet, but the summer brings lots of activity, and Tony usually gives the tour an opportunity to take a ride on the Cyclone roller coaster if they are brave enough!


As the bus brings us back to Manhattan, Tony entertains us with many Brooklyn anecdotes, including a surprising list of famous people who were born in Brooklyn and their achievements.

If you come to New York City and want to visit Brooklyn, take A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour! You won't be disappointed! But don't only take my word for it...watch this video of NBC's The Today Show when they went on the tour:

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

La Fille du Regiment at the Met

My husband and I attended the last performance of our Metropolitan Opera '07 -'08 opera subscription on Monday evening -- the gala benefit premiere of LA FILLE du REGIMENT

Yves Saint Laurent underwrote this gala, and there was quite a buzz on Lincoln Center's plaza with paparazzi and reporters under a tent waiting to take pictures of people who were obviously important, but who I, unfortunately, didn't recognize. It was still exciting to see!

Since this was a gala premiere, there were many in the audience attending in black tie and gowns, and the Grand Tier Restaurant which you can see in the picture below, with the elegant staircase entrance below it, was overflowing with invited guests.

La Fille du Regiment is a comedic opera in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Natalie Dessay stars in the title role, and tenor Juan Diego Flórez sings her lover, Tonio.
You can read the entire synopsis here, but it is basically the story of a young woman who was an orphan raised by a French army regiment as their mascot and begins at the moment of her first stirrings of love. Complications and comedy ensue when her true identity is discovered.
The most amazing performance of the night was Juan Diego Florez's rendition of " Pour mon ame quel destin!" in his role as Tonio, which has nine high C notes and is notoriously difficult to sing. Florez not only captured every note, but he delivered them with such pure clarity and strength he literally brought the house down! In all my years of attending Met performances, I never heard such a long and loud ovation and cries of "Bravo!" It was truly thrilling! In fact, the orchestra began the chords for the aria again and Florez sang an encore!
The opera role of Tonio was the breakout role for Luciano Pavarotti in 1972, and I couldn't help but feel that Mr. Florez will be one of the brightest stars in opera too.

Here is a photo of Juan Diego Florez taking his bows at the finale:

Natale Dessay in the title role was also wonderful. She was animated and quite believable as a young tomboy, and her difficult arias were also expertly delivered bel canto.

Ms. Dessay taking her bow:

If you would like, read The New York Times review. Watch their video clip of Juan Diego Florez singing "Ah! Mes Amis" from "Fille du Régiment" at the Metropolitan Opera dress rehearsal, but if you want a real treat to go to the left sidebar of the article and under the title "Those High C's" click on the arrow to listen to an MP3 recording of the Monday night performance of Mr. Florez, that we saw, followed by the thunderous ovation and the encore ... it will give you chills!
Thank you Metropolitan Opera and New York Times for letting me relive that again!

It really was a magical night, and a perfect farewell, for us, for another wonderful Met opera season! Bookmark and Share