Tuesday, February 28, 2017

To be shared

Ah, winter.

Making snow angels, building snowmen, sledding down hills, cheeks becoming rosy, bundling up against the chill. 

Snowsuits, hats, scarves, boots and, of course, mittens. 

This book caught my eye while browsing through the gift shop at the Art Gallery of Ontario in December. It had to be that gorgeous cover - soft yet bold - which drew my attention. And the title - Mittens to Share. 

Mittens to Share, text by Emil Sher, illustrations by Irene Luxbacher and published by North Winds Press, an imprint of Scholastic Canada. Together they've created a beautiful book, a simple story of spare, lilting words and striking, textured images. A book full of recurring words and opposites - up/down, out of/into, cold/warm, here/there, lost/found. Words and images that sparkle and shine. It's a book especially appropriate for a chilly winter's day or evening to snuggle up and read, young child and adult together.

A little girl and her father venture out to enjoy the abundance of fresh snow. Soon, as many of us living through this season have experienced, a mitten goes astray. Back to the indoors, to find a replacement, then outdoors once again. Re-emerging and finding what was lost but also something unexpected and now shared. 

'To share:  to use, occupy, or enjoy (something) jointly with another or others; a person's part in or contribution to something.' (from the Oxford Dictionary of English). 

Something to share, to give, to support another. And after recently reading about Emil Sher's dedication, I discovered a richer and deeper appreciation for this story - of woven nests, connectedness, providing comfort.

...and the images throughout the book of a father and daughter enjoying the outdoors together are heartwarming. That little bird - a chickadee - off in the distance keeping a watchful eye on all that is happening. Look...look for this bird on the pages - giving clues as to how the story unfolds - perfect for making predictions during a reading.

We have chickadees around our home all year. Such friendly, sweet birds. Seemingly fearless of humans. Chit-chattering to one another in their distinctive voices. Ready to eat nuts from your hand. In summer, hovering near the sumac trees; in winter, almost constantly nibbling at the feeders.

And to match with this sweet story...gingerbread cookies. To be enjoyed with a cup of hot cocoa or made into a garland or tied up with string for sharing.

Gingerbread Mitten Cookies
Inspiration:  Donna Hay's Basic Gingerbread Cookie Dough
Makes about 30 cookies depending on size of cookie cutter

1 stick (125 grams) unsalted butter 
1/2 cup (90 grams) brown sugar, lightly packed
2/3 cup (230 grams) golden syrup
2 1/2 cups (375 grams) all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves

Place butter and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer. Beat for about 5 minutes, until light and creamy. Add the golden syrup, flour, baking soda, ginger and spices. Combine until the mixture just comes together to form a smooth dough. Divide dough in half. Flatten into discs, wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Roll out dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper to a thickness of about 4 mm (1/8 inch). Cut out shapes with cookie cutter. Place on parchment paper. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, until lightly golden. (Gather dough scraps, re-roll and cut for more cookies.) Let cool slightly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Decorate with icing, if desired. Store in the freezer, if not eating right away. If you'd like the cookies for a garland, then bake just a about 3 - 4 minutes longer, until more firm.

mittens by amstasiuk

Mittens to share - made of yarn, baked from dough, painted on paper - each and all a delight.

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