Tuesday, September 14, 2021

What is your love language?

We are living in a rough environment right now. So much that surrounds are daily life are colliding. Emotions, government, lifestyles, masks/vaccinations, climate developments. I've discovered that when I'm struggling emotionally I connect with food. I've made a wide variety of recipes the last few weeks. And then I'll completely stop making food and just eat snacks for dinner; cheese, crackers, and a cluster of grapes. It's back and forth. For awhile I was really focused on my at home yoga practice with Adriene but I've slacked off - like way off. I haven't done a lick of yoga throughout September except this morning. I was awake too early and decided to spend some of that time blinking my eyes open and reconnecting to my mat. It felt great and I know I can get back on track but I still feel a bit off kilter. I'm going to make the promise to show up though and as she's says that's what's important. 

(Buffalo Chickpea Salad)

Here's a smattering of what I've cooked to connect to myself. I made this  Quinoa Enchilada Bake after I discovered Jamie and her Dishing out Health on Instagram. I've made several of her recipes now and love every one. Many are vegan or can easily be with minimal switches. I made this Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup to split with Tristan and my husband "accidentally" had a bowl after work and loved it.  I made this Buffalo Chickpea Salad with Yogurt Ranch Dressing  which was so easy and packed a little heat! And to combat allergies and the cooler Fall weather I made this Immunity Boosting Tumeric Chicken Soup because I had leftovers from an farm-raised chicken.

And because I love dessert I made this Easy S'mores Dip to share with friends. It was amazing and days later I was still scraping chocolate and toasted marshmallows crusts from my Lodge skillet. Last night after a meeting I came home and made this easy brownie recipe to share at school for a teacher friend's birthday. Just for fun I added chopped up marshmallows and broiled the pan for just about 5 minutes. The brownies were dense and delicious all on their own but the browned marshmallows added extra birthday zing! This recipe truly was easy and I'll make it again when in a pinch for a chocolate treat. 

This is the love I share with my family and friends. I feed them. It's an old tradition that stems from my grandmother who loved to offer visitors a meal or at least a sandwich!  I just finished the very quirky Anxious People by Fredrik Backman which I loved even after a rocky start. And I'm trying to spend as much time outside as I possible can to soak up the wonderful weather before it gets too cold. Recently I was lucky enough to connect with my dearest friend, Verda, and we walked her dogs, shopped at crafty local stores, ate good food, and talked about the world. I guess maybe my recent blue period is because I want that to be my every day. I love teaching and connecting with students but I'm constantly worried about getting sick. Even though I know I'm in a much safer category after having Covid and getting vaccinated but it is still a major worry. 

"Find what feels good" ~Adriene and try and remain calm - this is my new mantra. Say it with me...

Monday, August 30, 2021

Summer Books

 I've read a ton this summer and I want to share these titles with you so you can read them also. All of these are perfect for upper elementary and middle school except for the last one on my list. All are worth a read even as an adult. Pick your topic and find them at a library near you. 

The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm: Life on Mars as told by Bell, an orphan growing up on this solitary space station. America is at war with other nations over Antarctica and even on Mars the U.S. team is not speaking to the other settlements (so like American) and the kids save the day. 


A Whale of the Wild by Rosanne Parry: Told from the point of view of Vega, an Orca Whale, as she shares her life journey with her extended Orca pod. Deals with environmental changes that affect our water, climate change, family relations, and a darkly humorous insight into humans.

Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim: Yumi wants to perform and finds her way to a comedy camp through a hilarious mix-up. Her parents want her to study hard for a scholarship as they try to safe their restaurant. Great friendship and family story about what really matters. 

Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander: A novel in verse mixed with prose takes us through Cassius Clay's early life. He is a peace activist hero of mine and I loved this story. This is an important but quick read. 

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson: ZJ lives with his parents as they begin to navigate his father's head trauma from playing professional football. It's very difficult to see your hero become angry and confused by every day life with no answers from the medical world. Made me cry and wonder why we don't just play flag football at all levels!

The Amelia Six by Kristin L. Gray: Fun mystery that takes place in Amelia Earhart's childhood home. I learned a lot about Amelia and her flying career as the girls uncover an unusual plot to steal the aviator's favorite goggles. 

The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy: Rahul Kampoor, a gay Indian American boy, growing up in the Midwest and is anxious about the upcoming school year. He takes his grandfather's advice to be good at just  one thing...but what if he can't find anything to be good at. I loved the multigenerational story, the characters were outstanding, and was emotional in love with his struggle. Most of us understand this struggle. 

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley: I think I've already said multiple times how much I loved Boulley's story; a family mystery set on a reservation in Michigan. Drug use, FBI informants, romance, athletes, all mixed with Native lore and traditions made this my favorite summer read. This one is for young adults. 

Summer may be waning but there is still plenty of time to find your hammock and read any one of these fabulous books. 



Sunday, August 29, 2021

If I was in charge of the world rant


 I’ve always loved this poem by celebrated author Judith Viorst and I recently found an old copy clipped from a magazine that I'd stuck away long ago. 

If I were in charge of the world
    by Judith Viorst

If I were in charge of the world
I'd cancel oatmeal,
Monday mornings,
Allergy shots, and also
Sarah Steinberg.

If I were in charge of the world 
There’d be brighter night lights,
Healthier hamsters, and 
Basketball baskets 48 inches lower.

If I were in charge of the world
You wouldn't have lonely. 
You wouldn't have clean.
You wouldn't have bedtimes,
Or "Don't punch your sister."
You wouldn't even have sisters.

If I were in charge of the world
A chocolate sundae with whipped 
    cream and nuts
    would be a vegetable.
All 007 movies would be G.
And a person who sometimes forgot to brush.
And sometimes forgot to flush,
Would still be allowed to be 
In charge of the world.

I love the child’s perspective but as I read it over several times the day I discovered it in an old notebook of mine I couldn’t help but reflect on how I see it now because I'm taking in all the news of the world and struggling with it. I'm thankful to have a Democratic president in the WH and he makes mistakes but right now there is an overwhelming amount of terribleness happening even beyond Covid-19. Here's my version; not as much fun yet it fits all my worries in just as Viorst's young character has his list of annoyances. 

If I were in charge of the world 

If I were in charge of the world
we would have never gone to Afghanistan in the first place
But because we did invade I certainly would have pulled Afghan families 
who helped us out of the country first, we owe them a safe place to live.

If I were in charge of the world
I would help Haiti, the tiny island country
That the French and Americans historically have ravaged
I would write a decree that these two wealthy nations would
build a workable infrastructure that will withstand the weather.
The Haitian people should build alongside us at living wages so they might prosper
And have a real chance to recover. 

If I were in charge of the world
Marijuana charges would be dropped and factory farms would be shuttered forever. 
Real farms would thrive and high fructose corn syrup would be a distant memory.
Higher education and health insurance would be affordable for all. 

If I were in charge of the world
Donald Trump would be already in prison for tax evasion,
inciting the insurrection on January 6th, and
for mocking the  pandemic and wearing a mask.
A health crisis that could have been a means to unite us
turned into a political shit storm.

Raging fires and massive storms
too many to count. Climate change
Maybe Greta Thunberg would be my #1
If I were in charge of the world
I wouldn't be able to stop or fix all of these things
but I'd have empathy, I'd listen and try to help as much as possible
with new solutions and out-of-the-box thinking.

The end (but literally the list could go on and on)

As a highly empathetic person it is hard to bear everything in the world today. And I'm back in school which is wonderful on one side-great to see all the students but also worried for outbreaks with all of us together. Most students are not masked up and I didn't want to go back to school with a mask on but I am wearing it as much as possible to stay safe and model that we do hard things to keep others safe. The world is a mess and it is also filled with beauty. 

When I feel all of this I have to seek out my community of friends and I find my way to the mat with Adriene. My yoga quest continues and that all helps. So does cooking up a storm. I also imagined I left for Haiti one day...

August is ending. Maybe the softer temperatures of September will bring relief. 


 


Thursday, August 12, 2021

Natural Wonders


This summer I’ve been lucky to see a lot of natural beauty around me. I took a kayak day trip down a beautiful river with friends, looking up at gorgeous cliffs. And just yesterday I returned from 10 days on the road from Iowa to upstate New York and many cool places along the way. One of our first stops was South Bend, IN so I could check out Brain Lair Books and just to be in former Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s homeland. We had a delicious dinner there and then went onward across the country. Near Buffalo we veered over to see Niagara Falls for the first time. I’d only thought of this as a major tourist attraction and was delighted to behold the actual beauty of the water and the power it held. It roars over the edge but before that as you walk over the bridge you witness an almost ethereal blue color in the water. It was difficult to leave but the masses were starting to descend and we spent all of our vacation trying to keep ahead and away from the crowds.

We witnessed another amazing wonder at the Watkins Glen State Park in upstate New York. This gorge is a beautiful masterpiece carved into rock from erosion. The layers are striking as the waters rush through from up top. We hiked all the way up which took us behind two waterfalls and many, many wet steps up. It took us half the morning to climb up and then we spent the rest of the afternoon on a rental boat in the south side of Seneca Lake looking up at the rolling hills and waterfalls. Our trip out into the lake was cut short when a rainstorm rushed us back to the marina but we had fun tooling around on the boat and jumping into the chill lake in the time that we had. Some of our group went horseback riding into the hills and others traveled into the town of Corning to enjoy museums. Vacations are like that; there is something for everyone. Including wine slushees and Grateful Dead cover bands - thanks Hazlitt Vineyards.  We had a fantastic time exploring the great outdoors and when we had to go indoors  we masked up. 




Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Summer Pie is a gift

(Food52 Pie Crust)
Who doesn't love a delicious fresh baked pie? There are probably some who prefer cake but in our house we love pie. Especially rhubarb in any configuration. I set out to make just that recently and pulled out my mother-in-law Phyllis' pie crust recipe and realized I didn't have Crisco on hand so I Googled alternative choices and found Food52's vegan pie crust to be an almost exact match to Phyllis' but with coconut oil instead of Crisco. It went together easy and rolled out easy -win, win! My pie crusts, even using her recipe, have always been a little crumbly but something about the solid coconut oil helped my crust.  Now mind you mine is not as perfect as the picture above but I'm okay with that. 

The pie recipe I used came from Sweety Pies; an Uncommon collection of womanish observations with pie by Patty Pinner that I picked up from the book fair one year. Each pie recipe comes with a short story of history about the pie. Here is the recipe I used:

Miss Maude McCracken's Rhubarb Pie (103-104)

One 9-inch single layer pie crust; rimmed and crimped

1 1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose (use unbleached) flour 

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp grated orange rind

1/4 cup orange juice

2 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

4 cups trimmed red rhubarb stalks, sliced 1 inch thick

Crumb Topping

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

Makes one 9-inch pie

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare the crust and set aside.

Combine the sugar, flour, and cloves in a medium sized saucepan and whisk until well blended. Stir in the orange zest and juice, and the butter. Cook over low heat stirring, until thickened and bubbly, then add the rhubarb. Stir to coat the rhubarb, then remove from the heat and spoon the filling into the crust. Place in the oven and bake until the rhubarb is tender and the juices bubble, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the crumb topping. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, work it into the dry mixture until pea-sized crumbs form. 

Take the pie out of the oven and sprinkle evenly with the topping. Return to the oven and bake until the topping is golden brown, 10-15 minutes longer. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.  

{My pie}

You could serve it with a dollop of whip cream or ice cream but honestly it doesn't need anything else. Because I'd made the crust vegan I decided it was an easy switch to make the filling vegan as well by substituting the butter for vegan butter. Also I did not have an orange on hand that day so I used lemon zest instead of orange and in the topping I used brown sugar instead of white sugar (I use Turbinado sugar for white). The pie tasted delicious and the rhubarb was particularly TART! Maybe because I pulled it so late in the season? It was super vibrant red and I couldn't let it go to waste. The recipe was easy as...well, pie! I liked it so much that I tried it again. I whipped the pie crust out and added  sliced fresh Georgia peaches to two cups of rhubarb. Groovy Girl suggested the combo. I've never had a peach / rhubarb pie but I think it's going to be delicious. I'm waiting for this second pie to come out of the oven as I type. 

We ate half of the first pie ourselves and then last Sunday I took the other half down to our son in Cedar Rapids -  the empath who chooses vegan bc he cares deeply about the earth and the animals that inhabit it with us and because of this I am pushed to try new (vegan) recipes. He liked the pie. And it was good to sit for more than a minute to eat pie with him as we talked about life. When pie is shared you know the conversation is going to be relaxing and down-to-earth.  You don't rush through a piece of pie...

Other interesting recipe included in the Sweety Pie cookbook:

Carolyn Bennett's Grandmother's Key Lime Pie

Miss Claudette Cotton's White Potato Pie

Sister Curry's Orange Tang Pie

Mamie Short's Lemon Sponge Pie

Ava Joy's Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Sister Shirley Woods' Navy Bean Custard Pie

Miss Bradley's Cottage Cheese Pie

The list goes on and on and you get the idea. Let me know if you want to borrow the book...

I'm also reading the third GrishaVerse novel Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo as well as Neither Wolf nor Dog: on forgotten roads with an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn. 

Peace and love as we get ready to close out July and head right into my birthday month!





Saturday, July 17, 2021

Storms

(The Patch)

What if today was the last day I saw my daughter? If she blew away or I blew away. Would she know how much I love her?

The dog sits on high alert trembling next to me. The sounds are shooting all around us. It's dark as dusk out even though it's only 4pm. 

I went down the wrong way on a one -way street last weekend and my mind keeps repeating this. Accidents happen so quickly.

I was hit once going through an intersection. T-boned they say, like the steak. Our Volkswagen Jetta station wagon tipped over and was pushed a foot or so up the street but the police issued me a ticket. They waited while I was in the emergency room. I'd just picked my daughter up from after school care at her school. She had blood on her arm and kept saying "It's my mommy's blood" after they pulled her out the back window. Scared and crying; "It's my mommy's blood" on repeat. 

Years pass. Has the storm passed? The dog is calmer listening to Alexa's piano selections. I refuse to turn on the television just to hear all the flashing weather reports. I can hear it outside. I refuse to go to the basement also although I did go down just to take the laundry out. There are no comfy spots to relax with the scared dog and the old dog so I'm upstairs in the family room. Listening to the rain come down hard and the wind blowing the trees on the side of the house. 

I was in another accident years ago in my 20s. It was dusk and an elderly man stopped confused by the red turn light even though he was in the lane with a green light. It was an icy Minnesota winter night and four cars behind him slide into each other, boom, boom, boom, boom on the bumpers. No one was hurt although I think the man's ego was severely bruised. 

Clear across town my daughter texts "on my way home" through the torrential rain and I think about the water rising on the roads and the teen drivers all leaving the water park. I would ask her to stay put but I know she is anxious to be home, here with me on the sofa with the dogs listening to piano muzak. 

I see my Prius in the dark driveway getting a free carwash. I'm still thinking about the tall trees that surround the house, most of the time like a protective forest but now like a timber ready to take us out. 

Driving doesn't look safe as I check the front window, water filling the roadway as cars swoosh their way through. 

What if today was the last day I saw my daughter? If she blew away or I blew away. Would she know how much I love her?

I recently read a stream-of-conscience novel and I wanted to try that style of writing as an experiment. We had heavy storms the other night with  49 tornadoes touching down in this area. I wrote this in the dark with a flashlight in the back of an old book because I didn’t want to disturb the shaking dog. Enjoy.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Bestseller Diverse Books for everyone


Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley  took my breath away. I was mesmerized by the young protagonist Daunis, her family & friends and simultaneously pulled into the romantic relationship with Jamie plus the mystery of drugs surfacing around the tribe. I have a deep respect for Native life and enjoyed all the history, traditions, and language that Boulley sprinkled generously throughout the story. I think this is an amazing debut by an author who had the idea at 18 and held on to that idea for many years. Bravo for this  book the world should read. I was very excited to hear that the Obamas are helping to launch this as a Netflix series. I would love for a second in the series to follow Daunis on the next part of her journey because I'd like to hang out with her more. I can see why Reese picked this as one of her club's summer reads.


The Other Black Girl written by Zakiya Dalila Harris is such a brilliant concept and because of that cool idea, which I will not share with you because it will ruin the surprises in store, it will make a fabulous series on Hulu.  What I don't understand is why an editor didn't correct some of the glaring issues? This book sold for a million dollars (literally WTF?) at auction. Everywhere I turn there are positive reviews except one that doesn't mention the actual writing as well.  Little discrepancies, changes in narration, unnecessary chapters that pop up, and so much extra description really surprised me. There are many good moments but I just couldn't wrap my head around why this book is getting so much attention. It's the idea that's interesting but the writing didn't follow through and I wanted to edit this and tie up a few loose ends. 

I read both books back to back and while one left me in awe the other left me scratching my head. Please read both and let me know your thoughts. 


Now I'm reading The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd for July book club and am enjoying the story of Eliza Lucas as she makes her way handling her father's plantations at a time when ladies were to be needlepointing not planting and cultivating.  She is a pioneer in many things she takes on in the 1700s including treating her father's enslaved people with consideration as she attempts to grow indigo to create dye using their expertise. 

Picked up more than a peck of peaches recently and in order to keep up I've shared and baked a little. These peach muffins from Inspired Taste are simple to make and delicious to eat. I made this peach crumble which was  perfect with a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  I hope everyone survived the 4th and are prepared to fully enjoy the rest of July because summer is cruising fast into ...(BTS) can't say it yet. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

It's flying by...

It's the last day of June which means tomorrow begins July.  Summer is what's flying by ... I am working hard on appreciating every day whether I'm alone working on homework, writing, reading, or cooking in my kitchen or if I'm hanging out with family it's all good. I just always want more...

While I was in Rochester a week or so ago my step-mother sent me home with a bag filled with really good chocolate chip cookies and we ate those, loved having them around for an easy snack or dessert. Then I had to make more...have I mentioned that we are working out a LOT this summer! And not just our arm muscles. I browsed through Jenny Rosenstrach's cookbook to find a recipe and decided to try this one switching out the candy for straight up chips.

M&M Cookies
Reprinted from Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach
Makes 24 cookies (I doubled it)

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup good-quality chocolate chips (such as Ghirardelli)
2 1.69-ounce bags M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. (from JR: It was somewhat life-changing when I found out whisking was just as effective as sifting, so that’s what I usually do.) In a separate bowl and using a wooden spoon or electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the egg and mix until well combined. Add the vanilla and stir. Using a handheld mixer, add the dry mixture to the wet mixture gradually until all the dry mixture has been worked into the batter.

Fold in the chocolate chips, and using two spoons, scoop small rounds of dough onto the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart from each other. Pour the M&Ms into as many bowls as you have kids (it’s important for each helper to have his or her own bowl) and ask them to stick the candies into the dough rounds until they are all gone. (Sometimes I use my fingers to make the balls rounder on top—it makes for prettier cookies.)

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden. Cool on a rack.  

Jenny uses this recipe as a fun activity for kids which my kids loved to do also when they were younger. I did not have any kid assistance but I handled it well on my own and then my husband arrived home and he did a great job of tasting and/or stealing cookies.  We all loved how the brown sugar became like a caramel base in the cookie. Will make again.  Now onto yoga...


Work-outs - Me and  (Yoga w/) Adriene have kept our yoga dates ALL through June and I am pleased as a puppy dog that I've followed through and had fun with this as a personal challenge. If you ever thought you might add a little yoga into your life this is the yogi to watch. She is funny, quirky, and gets deep into the feel of yoga.  I hope to continue this through July and August. Her YouTube channel has a variety of styles and times. If you only have 15 minutes she's got you.  Love in, Love out...


I've also done a good amount of reading for pleasure in-between homework assignments and yoga time.  I've read 5 elementary - middle school fiction & graphic novels and my favorites were The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy and Three Keys by Kelly Yang. Both tell great stories about being true to yourself as you struggle to get through school, friends, and all that life can throw at you even as a young person. I highly recommend both of these stories. 



Now are you ready for July?