Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Excellent (and Wildly Quirky) Fiction Selection

Where'd You Go, Bernadette
2012



This has literally been on my actual to-read pile for over a year.  My 22-year-old stepdaughter read it, liked it, and left it for me.  A few months ago a friend chose it as our book club choice for April.  That forced me to pick it up, dust it off, and give it a try.  I loved it.  We had our meeting on Monday and it seems everyone in our group felt the same way.

It was so easy to read and I was captured by this unusual family of geniuses.  I wanted to know more about each one of them.  Bee, an elementary student at one of Seattle's  many private schools, is anxious to head off to a private academy on the East Coast, following in her parent's academic footsteps.  She is smart but there is so much more to her as she remains fairly calm and happily involved in her life throughout the book.  I love that she picks a trip to Antarctica as her reward for good grades.  This is what can happen when parents offer up "you can have anything you want in exchange for good grades!"

This particular request throws Bernadette, Bee's mother, for a major loop-de-loop!  Bernadette has not been dealing well with her life after their move from LA to Seattle.  Her husband has thrown all his energy into his grandiose work at Microsoft wear he pads around barefoot lauded as some kind of creative genius. Bernadette is left to do the stay-at-home mother thing and this is not her talent.  She does not feel any connection to the other parents from Galer Street School and thus has no allies, no one to share her thoughts and feelings. This book is Bee's look back at her mother and how she got so far off track.

This story is told in a very nonlinear fashion, is extremely current with its language and social media conversations,  and is just such a fresh fun read.  If you haven't picked this one up yet don't hesitate. Thank you Maria Semple for writing such a unique story of love and acceptance.







Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Blessings

{Egg decorating 2014 w/ Groovy Girl}

Once again I've inadvertently let a week traipse right by without a bit of writing. It's been a busy week and that excuse is ever present yet this week there was an added snafu.  My lithe little MacBook Air died or so it seemed.  It did some kind of strange fake death worthy of a Shakespearean play. I could get it to make the sound and the white apple would appear but then before you could say Macbeth the screen would go black.  Stupidly I kept trying it whilst pushing button combinations.  After 4 days of that nonsense I sent an emergency text to my friend and co-worker, Al, who embodies the word super techie.  Thank all the powers that be for people like Al, including Al, as he always been able to help me out.  MacBook Air is back up and running as of yesterday.  Don't ask me what he did as I prefer to think that he waved his magic wand three times right over my silver baby and viola!

Now let's talk food.  While everyone around me talks about their Easter ham we are bucking tradition, pretty normal here, and making a large Alaskan wild caught salmon.  Groovy Girl loves fish and she can pretty much finish off an entire plate of fish herself so I bought extra. Added to the fish we will have copious amounts of roasted brussels sprouts, baked sweet potatoes, a little green salad, and strawberries and chocolate for dessert.  Nothing on the menu that even needs a recipe other than what's already in my head. A deliciously simple meal to celebrate Easter, leaving me lots of time to relax with my family.

I was going to make this yummy carrot-ginger soup for dinner. A friend made this soup for our last book club and I've been waiting for this holiday to make it.  I thought the Easter bunny would dig it! Instead I mopped up water in our basement. I guess while I was carpooling for Groovy Girl's theatre rehearsal my husband, while doing some Spring yard work, inadvertently created a huge water leak in the basement.  I came home to huge puddles  lakes in the three rooms of our basement.  Not nearly as much fun as making soup.  We ate Jimmy John's after a trip to the hardware store to buy a wet-dry vac.  Last time we had water in the basement we borrowed a friend's and felt that this was an important purchase for us though we hate buying things.  I could put bunny ears on the wet vac as this present is better than any other Easter basket I could have surprised my husband with this holiday.

No matter how you celebrate have a lovely day ushering in Springtime. Feliz Pascua!

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking meme.  Click her link to see many other food-related posts.




Friday, April 11, 2014

April is Poetry Month; a favorite word poem 4 YOU.



Spatula.
Linoleum.
Persnickety.
Bermuda.
Cattywumpus.
Flabbergasted.
Fuddy-duddy.
Gouda.

Nincompoop
and scuttlebutt.
Kerfuffle
and gazebo.
Dipthong.
Macadamia.
Skedaddle
and placebo.

Spackle.
Grackle.
Folderol.
Galoshes.
Dollop.
Frizzle.
Uvula.
Mustachioed.
Jacuzzi.
Juju.
Swizzle.

Tighty-whitey.
Hoity-toity.
Hurly-burly.
Spleen.
Piggly-wiggly.
Artsy-fartsy.
Namby-pamby.
Preen.

That's my list
of favorite words,
the greatest
words around.
I really don't care
what they mean.
I love the way
they sound.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Three note-worthy picture books for you to enjoy!

We checked these three out recently and I thought they were worth sharing.

The ABC's of Yoga by Teresa Anne Power (2009); Each letter has more than one pose assigned to it so the "D" page has "dolphin" and "do nothing" pose together.  Each direction rhymes and we found most of the poses on our favorite children's yoga site, Namaste Kid.  Sample:

 Frog

Squatting
With my feet apart wide,
I am a frog
With a big underside.
Bringing my arms
Inside my knees,
I jump up and say
"R-r-r-r-i-b-b-i-t!"
On the count of three.



Millie and the Big Rescue by Alexander Steffensmeier (2012);  Millie the cow plays hide-and-seek with her barnyard friends until one day she gets herself stuck up a tree.  She's found the best hiding spot of all and nobody can find her!  With cute results all the animals (and the farmer) join Millie in her clever spot. I noticed there are two other Millie books; Millie waits for the mail and Millie and the snow that look equally as funny!


Catty Jane Loved to Dance by Valeri Gorbachev (2013);  This was Groovy Girl's favorite and I love Mr. Gorbachev's work.  Catty Jane loves to dance and has been dancing since she could walk.  Eventually her mother signs her up for dance class at Mrs. Herron's Dance Academy.  Mrs. Herron informs her that it "takes a lot of practice" to become a ballerina.  Her friends host a dance party but she thinks they are silly and don't really know how to dance.  She overhears their fun though and decides dancing together is far more fun.

All three of these books were checked out from my public library and are now overdue.  Luckily next week is Library Week and I can take in cans of food to pay for my many fines!  Love your library.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Weekend Cooking.

Busy week. Not enough sleep.  Badddd  sleep week.  Does this happen to you?  Sleep has been an issue for me the last few years.  I look forward to summer when I can sleep in and have a more relaxed schedule.

{copyright: Eating Well magazine}
I managed to whip up some healthy, happy meals this week including the Southwest Quinoa Cakes from Eating Well magazine. Candace at Beth Fish Reads featured this recipe and I knew when I read her post that I would make these cakes.  They were delicious and fun to eat.  And the recipe makes a lot! Making these in my very ancient muffin tin made me wish for a new one as I had trouble getting them out of the oiled pan.

Groovy Girl is busy acting in a new play and we are sharing carpool duties with another family.  That gives me and husband some alone time (so rare).  On Tuesday night I made her a simple dinner and sent her out the door with the other mother leaving me time to pull these cakes out of the oven, plate them up with all the fixings and sat down and ate with my husband.  We talked.  It was grand.  I had leftovers for school lunches too! Win-Win.

{My cakes with two baby peppers}

Saturday I made these Lemon Cookies from Two Peas and their Pod  for a Thai dinner we hosted at our church.  A local restaurant catered the main entrees and they were amazing. I had three helpings. Someone told me later they thought the cookies were from the restaurant also.  I grinned like a three-year-old.  I love lemons and will make these again. 

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking meme.  Please click her link to find many other good food posts.

Have a great week.  I'm off to bed.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Look what I've read...{three month review}

January;

Divergent by Veronica Roth (2012);  I devoured this first book in her series.  I loved the beginning of this book but somewhere near the middle disliked all the violence and gun-worship.  I wondered if the series would continue to be violent or if their would be an awakening? {and no I've not had the chance to see the movie...}

The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho (2007);  Love his writing, he always  makes me think.  Read my review here.


Palace Beautiful by Sarah Deford Williams (2010); Sisters Sadie and Zuzu discover a diary written by Helen in a hidden space in the attic of their new Salt Lake City house   The two sisters and a neighbor friend  read the diary together uncovering Helen's troubled life.  One of the highlights of this story was the very caring and hip stepmother.  


Seven Wild Sisters by Charles de Lint (2014);  I received this as an ARC and enjoyed the light fantasy book.  My kids at school are WILD about The Warrior series by Erin Hunter and I think Charles de Lint's books could bridge a gap for those students looking forward to reading the Hunter books. And he sings-Old Blue Truck; a real renaissance man. Thanks Little, Brown, and Company.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (2012);  Read this for book club.  Loved it. My review.  Will make the reader rush out to plant a butterfly garden.


The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (2013);  J.K. Rowling's spy mystery was really very good. There's a new Cormoran Strike mystery, The Silkworm, out...I just need to find a copy.

February:

Insurgent by Veronica Roth (2012);  I liked the unrest-revolution is on the way aspect.  Tris is not my favorite female hero.  She resorts to violence often not thinking of how it will effect others.

Hush Puppy by Lisa Cresswell (2013);  I liked this book.  I read something about Hush Puppy on a website  {that I obviously did not keep track of!} and downloaded it to my Kindle.  It took me a few weeks to get back to it but it was a pleasant diversion from the roughness of Insurgent.  Corrine and Jamie are both unique characters struggling with their own identities.

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller (2009);  Gave me lots of ideas.  Opened me up more as a teacher-librarian.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth (2013);  More violence yet it came with resolution and consequences.  Four is my favorite character from this series.


Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee (2014); Beautifully written chapter book. Read my review. If you have a young reader at home this would make a beautiful gift.

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins (2005); I have one boy's book club at school and we are winding our way through this series.  They were reluctant at first but Gregor has won them over.  I had only ever read the first one so am quite pleased that within this school year I will finish this under-appreciated series by the same Collins of The Hunger Games fame.  I think The Underland would make an amazing movie.

March:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012);  Why did I wait so long to read this?  I read it in under a week.  I hope the movie does it justice.  Must be read with a box of tissues yet so very well worth the pain.  Hazel is a wonderfully quirky character!


Here Lies Linc by Delia Ray (2011);  Ray is coming to be an author-in-residence for a week to meet students.  I loved her other book Singing Hands.  Here Lies Linc has everyone wandering through the graveyard on a school project.  I read this with Groovy Girl and we live across the street from a graveyard-very spooky!

The Summer I found you by Jolene Perry (2014);  Did not love.  Read my review.


The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith (2014);  This one I did love.  Lucy and Owen are location-crossed lovers.  They can't figure out if they would like to be more because they are not in one place for very long.  Postcards remind them of the one day they spend together.  Lucy's parents are a bit odd but other than that this was good.

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson (2012); Read for book club.  Long, really long.  Very interesting look at North Korea; made me happy to have lived dictator-free for all my years.

Sweetgrass by Mary Alice Monroe (2005);  Lovely story of a North Carolina family hanging on to a house on the coast.  I loved how the Blakely and Bennett families were intertwined and needed each other to survive.  The environmental message was well done.  This one has been on my pile at home for some time and it feels good now to pass it on...


Slob by Ellen Potter (2009); I loved The Kneebone Boy and The Humming Room by Potter and my daughter recommended this one to me and I enjoyed Owen's journey. This was a lunchtime book for me at school.

The Curse of the Warmbloods (Gregor #3) by Suzanne Collins (2005); This one takes the reader on a jungle adventure to find a cure for the plague.  We meet a few new characters and find out some Underland secrets.  Already started #4.


The Cats of the Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint (2013);  This is where the story actually begins.  Often I'm sent and ARC of the second book in a series and I can never find the first one.  This one I downloaded to my Kindle and read in two days, just to end the month with a bang.  I plan to order both of de Lint's titles for my early fantasy readers.


I'm so happy with all these list. It is wonderful to rethink about each one as I've written this post.  Almost everyone was an enjoyable read.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Weekend Cooking; Julie's Falafel-Stuffed Pitas

A few years ago my friend Julie copied this recipe for me after she'd told me how delicious and easy it was to make.  I tucked it away in my recipe box until last week.  During Spring Break I cleaned a few cupboards out including the three different locations of cookbooks.  I was going through a recipe box looking for one from my mother-in-law for her pie crust.  I didn't find that card but I did organize the box better and I pulled this one out to make.  My thoughts were "why haven't I made this already?"

I made it tonight. Sometimes it takes me all week to gather ingredients.  Even though I thought I had everything my husband had to stop and get a lemon and a cucumber to complete the list.  Crazy.


{source}

{Super Easy}Falafel-Stuffed Pitas

1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. ground red pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 egg
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained

Cumin is one of my favorite spices. I love just the smell of it.  I was bold and added 2 heaping teaspoons.  I only had red pepper flakes so added just one teaspoon of that.  I try not to buy cans of beans anymore preferring to make them myself.  A few weekends ago for fun I cooked two bags of garbanzos and then froze them in two cup bags.  I unfroze a bag and a half for this recipe.  Love garbanzos too, especially freshly-made.

Toss all those above ingredients into your food processor and mix until smooth.  Divide into small patties.  {This was a very sticky step}  Heat a nonstick skillet (I used a cast iron Lodge) with olive oil.  Cook 5 minutes on each side until slightly browned.

Prepare sauce:

1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 T. lemon juice
2 T tahini
1 garlic clove, minced

Mix together.  Serve falafels with whole wheat pitas, curly lettuce leaves, tomato slices, cucumber slices and pile all together.

My husband and I both thought Feta cheese crumbled on top would have made a wonderful addition.  Next time that will be on our serving platter as well.  They were tasty but too much for Groovy Girl who created her own sandwich with her pita bread.

Thanks Julie!  We loved them.  Next time it won't take me two years to make them.



Tonight at 8:30 all the lights in my house will be turned off in celebration of WWF Earth Hour.  Find out more here.  We participate in this worldly event every year and love how it reminds us of how important our earth is and how our resources are truly limited.  Use a flashlight to read by, light a soy-based candle, hold hands, or just look outside.  It was a gorgeous day outside today and I'm excited to end my evening with Groovy Girl this way.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  All invited to participate.  Click her link to find many other food-related posts.

Peace out.  Happy eating.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Time.

{Home Improvement Half Done}
Time is fleeting.  I just spent ten minutes catching up with what's happening on FaceBook.  I have the house to myself on a Friday night. Both husband and daughter are off acting in plays. Do I clean the house?  My house is a mess with a capital M!  We've been doing a home improvement project in our family area.  Over Spring Break we pulled up carpet, painted, and laid wood flooring down. It's almost done.  But not quite. So we've been living with all our furniture jammed into the dining and living room.  And wood floor planks stacked up until my husband gets it evened out.  It's an old house and certain areas have settled differently.  House cleaning on a Friday night does not sound all that appealing even though several rooms could desperately use my help.

I could sit and write.  I was doing so well over Spring Break blogging on a regular basis and I enjoyed that.  This week has been crazy busy at home and at work.  I've had a ton of lesson plan pieces to put together and it is time consuming.  I also had a nomination paper to write and an application to fill out for an ESL program I hope to be accepted into this year.  Crazy time. Add in that both husband and daughter are in plays (see previous paragraph).

I could go down to my little mini-yoga studio in our basement and do an hour's worth of bending and stretching the wicked kinks out.  That would feel good also.

What I'd really like to do is go take a warm bubble bath with a tall glass of wine and a good book.   Ahhh.  That is the way to end a busy work week.  It is so quiet in the house.  I'd like to come back downstairs and find that the maid has tidied up, dusted, and deep cleaned Groovy Girl's room!  Maybe Mrs. Patmore will have made me a snack as well.

How do you spend a quiet Friday night at home?

I've tried to do a little of all and that has made all the difference.  And with my extra time I'm off to take a that bath.