Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tell me a story...

I only recently discovered When I Was Small written by Sara O'Leary and illustrated by Julie Morstad, and I have to say, I've found yet another picture book which I've fallen in love with.

The book had me at the cover of petal pink and raspberry red – that combination of colours captivated me from the get-go, as well as the simple book jacket and linen-covered spine - it's almost a bit of a nod to another era in its mood and design. The story is about a little boy named Henry who is wondering what his mother was like when she was little (incredibly little!) and the tales they share about being small together. This book led me to an itsy-bitsy place where I wanted to be that tiny, that small – just for a while. 

I love both the repeating, patterned text, the sweet (with just the right amount of sweetness and light) spot illustrations, and the way in which these elements support one other. Sara O'Leary's story is so imaginative and inventive. And Julie is quickly becoming a favourite illustrator of mine. Her interpretations of the words are quite endearing. I think my favourite page is of the 'teeny' parent standing at an outdoor 'bobbin' table, ready and waiting to feast on one enormous raspberry under a floral paper parasol. Such whimsy, charm and gentle humour in both the pictures and the words. I have to admit that I haven't read the other ‘Henry’ books but they're on my list now - along with other Canadian authored and illustrated works for children.

Last week while I was browsing for books (once again), a young girl was reading to her even younger brother in the cozy corner of the bookshop. There was such excitement and enthusiasm in the girl's voice and the little boy was nestled up next to his older sibling, following along and listening so intently. Being read to or told a story is such a different experience than reading on one's own. And whether it's a tale in pictures and words on paper or a voice upon air - a connection takes place. There are links on so many levels - physical (a cuddle-up and read time), emotional (feelings are stirred), intellectual (a time for discussion and questions). I recall when I was small, my father would always begin our bedtime story ritual not with 'Once upon a time...', but with 'P'onca, p'onca time...'. 

Stories matter; stories are important. We've all got a story to tell, to give - grounded in reality, maybe guided somewhere fanciful or fragile or someplace in between. And perhaps a listener who wants and asks to receive what one knows and has to share.

~ Everything you look at can become a fairy tale and you can get a story from everything you touch. - Hans Christian Andersen

~ Stories are not like the real world; they aren't held back by what we know is false or true. What's important is how a story makes you feel inside.”  - Tahir Shah

~ To be a person is to have a story to tell. - Isak Dinesen

Tell me a story, read me a story, please...oh, the possibilities...

This week, I felt as though I needed to bake something delicate and airy to match the mood of this book. Pavlova - not only a Russian ballet dancer, but a confection of crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside meringue, snowy whipped cream and bright, fresh berries. Just right, I believe...

Baby Pavlovas with Raspberries
Inspiration:  Martha Stewart's 'Pavlova with Roasted Rhubarb and Pistachios' & Nigella Lawson's 'Miniature Pavlovas'

1 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tsp fresh lemon juice 
1/4 tsp salt

Whipping cream

Fresh raspberries

1.  Preheat oven to 250°F. 

2.  Stir together 1 cup sugar and the cornstarch in a small bowl. Beat together egg whites, lemon juice and salt with a mixer on low speed until very frothy. Increase speed to medium-high and gradually add sugar mixture, one spoonful at a time, beating until stiff, glossy peaks form, 12 to 15 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl halfway through.

3.  Mound a small spoonful or pipe meringue onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Make a small well in the centre of each meringue. Bake until meringue is crisp on the outside and the texture of marshmallow on the inside, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 200°F if meringue begins to brown. Turn off heat and let meringue cool in oven (without opening the door) at least 30 minutes.

4.  Just before serving, beat cream until soft peaks form. Place meringues on a serving dish and fill each one with a small amount of whipped cream. Top each pavlova with a single raspberry followed by a dusting of powdered sugar. 

Voilà - baby pavlovas, each with a feast of a solitary raspberry...


  1. I came across this cookbook today and thought of you. I can't vouch for the recipes but the photography is gorgeous!

    1. Sara, I will certainly check this out...and yes, it was the book I was thinking of, too...xo

  2. This is the book I was mentioning: The School for Cats, featuring Jenny Linksy, a black cat who sports a snazzy red scarf. I read this a zillion times as a kid and I still love it.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Barbara - looking forward to reading this book! Sounds so great...xo