Tuesday, July 26, 2016

#24in48 Readathon

Over the weekend I had fun participating a mini-readathon that I found on @Litsy.  I read more than usual on both Saturday and Sunday and still didn't make it to 24 hours. I did have two lunch dates and a 2 year-old birthday party to attend but still...

I finished two books in this time period and that was my true main goal. On our Asheville trip I'd started A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and I was anxious to finish it. The book brought out a lot of emotions and mixed feelings for me.

Her writing is brilliant and I can see why it's the talk of the town. I loved how deeply she explored the idea of friendship.  The entire book revolves around four roommates, Jude, Willem, JB, and Malcolm, that form a bond so tight that it lasts throughout their lives. Hanya gives us different perspectives through a few alternating chapters but Jude takes center stage. If you haven't already read this I want to leave Jude's character unexplained and even though I had a few criticisms of the Hanya's story I would encourage everyone to read this book to the end. Don't be frightened of the 700+ pages- you will turn the pages quickly and you'll be halfway through before you look up. When I finished on Sunday morning I cried a little and then danced a little.

I picked a much easier book for my second read for the weekend readathon. Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper. I love the cover; oddly the cover on my library copy is very different-it shows a more modern-looking Stella-which doesn't fit the era. In Bumblebee, NC Stella and her brother witness a cross burning across the pond very near their black community. FDR is about to be elected and a few members, including her father, want to register and vote for the first time. Stella is asked to make the journey into town to go with them. Of course they are treated unfairly, have to pay the poll tax and take a test while several white men wander in and only sign their name to a piece of paper to register.

The KKK strikes out and burns a house right down the street from Stella's house.  The community bands together to help and are surprised when several of their white neighbors come out to help. I thought the civil unrest brought out in this book are not properly finished. The book ends with a Christmas pageant but no finish to the voting unrest or the KKK.

I did enjoy Stella's quest to be a better writer and thought it probably reflected a bit of Sharon Draper's own story. This is still a worthwhile story and can serve as an introduction to young readers (3rd-6th grade) of how difficult the civil rights journey has been and continues on today.

I really enjoyed participating in the #24in48 readathon sponsored by @Litsy.  I'm happy I had the weekend free and even though I didn't get in 24 hours I did complete two books. And now I'm reading New Kid by Tim Green. I have to balance in books from school with other books I'm interested in reading.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Black Lives Matter

A few years ago our son, on the way to community college, reached to the floor of his car to get a kleenex and as he did this his car swerved, hit a small sign for the median. He was a young driver and he didn't know what to do. He wanted to get to class on time so he just kept driving. Unbeknownst to him an off-duty police officer was near him in traffic and took it upon himself to follow our son all the way to school; 20 minutes away. He called for back up at some point and when our son pulled into the parking lot he was met with two police cars.  The off-duty officer's reasoning was that he thought our son was drunk or high even though he followed him all the way to school and he made no other traffic errors. He didn't swerve, cross the yellow line, or any other traffic violations.

Tristan was freaked out by this incident. After the on-duty officers spoke with him and ascertained that he was not drunk (at 9:30 am) and that he just had a cold he was allowed to head in for class. Our family, while generally law-abiding citizens, thought the off-duty officer was a little overzealous. Why didn't he just snap a photo of our son's licence plate? After all that we paid a nominal fee to have a new sign added back to the median. Thankfully that was it.

When I think of this crazy incident though and think about how scared my son felt that this guy in the oversized black pick-up was purposefully following him and it makes me realize how all American citizens with many shades of brown/black would feel in this situation. My son might have been scared and confused but he didn't fear for his life.

The video above from the NYT encapsulates the bloodshed based on skin tone.  Each one is violent and freaks me out how easily guns are blasted off as if they are playing a video game and not real life. Reaching for your wallet, errant teenagers leaving a pool in swim suits, a man selling CDs, a boy playing with a fake gun, a young man throwing rocks; all just people going about their day, not one a violent criminal yet dead at the end of the day.

I know the teens in swimsuits were not shot at but why in God's glory would police officers need to pull their weapons on teens in bathing suits. Warn them and move on. It looks like a scene from the 1960s not 2015.

I attended a vigil for #Orlando a few weeks ago and I have to admit I felt fear as I stood in the park surrounded by many like-minded friends and neighbors.  Bordering the park were streets with drivers, some who honked and waved and some who revved their engines purposefully as they raced by us.

Years ago our family stood at many street corners protesting against Bush's Iraq war. We knew it was a senseless war, planned for oil, not weapons of mass destruction. Often as we stood there, vulnerable, we had people in cars harass us, point, curse, scream horrible comments to us yet it was important for us to make our stand.

Each one of us needs to take a stand now to make this better. We need police communities to become much more sensitive through training/education. We need officers who do shoot to kill to face criminal charges.  We need local governments to take this seriously. We do seriously need gun control. Citizens armed with a variety of weapons, police officers armed and ready to shoot; we are getting nowhere fast!

Most Americans are interested in real freedom for all. #blacklivesmatter because we all matter. We are human. We need to stand together even if we are afraid.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy 4th of July

It's been a quirky day. I made pancakes for Groovy Girl and her amazing sidekick.  And then the rest of the day, for real, I cleaned my refrigerator. Well, except for the hour I laid on the sofa and finished reading The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy.  It was so good and very alien science fiction.  It was extremely popular in my library and I'd heard that it had some b-a-d words; I only counted three.  There is a little kissing but who wouldn't kiss if you think it's your last day on earth?! I would. I'd find the first cute guy/alien and kiss him. I like kissing. I also like being alive.

I cooked up a nice organic chicken with yellow potatoes while I juggled the contents of my ice box.  Now I'm off to a baseball game-the best part of Americana-that and the freedom I cherish.  Freedom to say what we want, eat what we want, think the way we want, and elect who we want. It's' a VERY important year.  Go out there and make American good, happy, free for everyone, and kind. Don't forget to be kind.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer Reading

One of the joys and necessities of summer is to read many books. Some from my own stacks of books from around my house but many from my school library. I read during the year but the books that are constantly in the hands of young readers escape me until I get them all back, inventoried, and then brought home in a box for me to read.

I've started off the summer with two very popular books and I loved both of these quirky, mystery-filled books.

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner (2012/what took me so long?):

I don't know why I didn't read this one when it first came out. I love Messner's work.  I love books with both male and female main characters especially when they work in synchronicity as Jose, Henry, and Anna did. I love that this book takes place almost entirely in the DC airport after a fancy event at the Smithsonian Museum. Getting snowed in was the a great way to keep all the characters in one place until the mystery could be solved. The interesting idea of a Silver Jaguar Society made up of descendents of famous concerned people is the perfect vehicle for a series. Even though I had the mystery figured out right after I met the villain (I'm quick that way and I'm not an elementary student) I thought the plot twists and how the kids worked as a team makes this a great classroom read-aloud.  I will now be forced to read the rest of this series probably before school begins in August.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein (2013): What a unique story created by Grabenstein! This book would have to get students excited about reading and other books because so many are used to create the game. On the way to school one morning Kyle is reminded by his best friend Akimi about an essay contest to earn entry into the new Alexandriaville library created by gaming genius and bazillionaire Mr. Lemoncello. Kyle, by some miracle wins a spot with 11 other students including Akimi.  Once in the library for a sleepover a challenge is made for the students to find a secret way out using clues in the library. Kyle and his friends work together to solve the many-layered puzzles to win.  I read this book in exactly 2 days because I loved the kids, the teamwork, and the many book references as well as the amazing look at how libraries and librarians are more than relevant in the 21st century.  This one is also the first in a series.

My mind worked overtime as I read this book trying to think of a way to recreate a library game based on this book's ideas to start the year off at Hansen. The wheels are still spinning.

If you are looking for a good, quick summer read to make you smile or need a book recommendation for a student both of these books will work!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Minneapolis good times

Last week I had the privilege of attending a PLC conference at the convention center which had the best recycling stations. Yeah for eco-friendly services.

So by day we absorbed a great amount of information-some days to explosion. And by night we explored the downtown Nicollet Mall neighborhood. As a crazy foodie person I had done my research on a few places to eat. I did NOT want to be stuck eating at chain restaurants or fast food. I went with a plan and had hopes that the teaching crew from Hansen would join or so their own thing. I knew my friend and roommate for this trip Beth would jump right into my foodie plan. 

Hell's Kitchen: this has been on my list for quite awhile. Delicious. I had the walleye with asparagus and sweet potato fries. I was in Minnesota after all and my fish-obsessed nephews would be proud. We had fun drinks there and all 6 teachers loved their food as well. 

The Newsroom: another amazing choice. As the daughter of a newspaper man I loved all the news walls to look at throughout the restaurant. I had the ahi fish tacos appetizer as my meal. I didn't snap a photo-I must have been too hungry. There were three petite tacos and they were melt in your mouth delicious. Everyone enjoyed their meals here as well; most everyone else at the table chose steaks. While I didn't take a photo of my food or drink I did snap a great shot of Caitlin, Pre-k teacher, with her pineapple rum drink. 

After both dinners we had fun at two close by clubs. At Brit's Pub we ordered beers and ciders while we watched the US lose to Argentina on their rooftop lawn!  And then on our last night like everyone else at the conference we had heard about an amazing dueling piano bar The Shout House. Crazy loud, super fun, and it was 90's night. Can't get much better than that!

I would return to any of these places with family/friends and am very grateful that my Hansen/Holmes family were willing to try these new places! 

(Dessert at Hell's Kitchen)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Breakfast Recipe: Blueberry Muffins with a hint of lemon

Tomorrow morning I'm meeting up with my team from school. We were supposed to go for a boat ride but the river is too high so we are going to just sit on her deck (our friend Mary who lives on the river here) and relax together. No children. Just us. The deck and the muffins I'm bringing.

I knew as soon as I decided to bring a morning treat where to look; The Cottage (from La Jolla's favorite beachside bungalow)-many times I google or Pinterest a recipe but every once in awhile I know what to get from my own shelves. Tried and true excellent recipes. If you love brunch and fresh food this book is a must.

Blueberry Muffins {pg 14}

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 stick butter, softened
3 eggs, {farm fresh}
1 cup sour cream
3 1/2 cups flour, {unbleached}
1 T. baking powder
2 cups blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and line one 12-cup or two 6-cup muffin tins.  In a large bowl beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time mixing after each addition.  Mix in the sour cream until blended.  In a small bowl mix together the flour and baking powder. Stir the flour mixture into the batter until just blended. {At this point I squeezed in a little fresh lemon juice} Add the blueberries and stir gently.  Pour the batter into muffin cups to the top. Bake for 25 minutes.  {I added grated lemon peel to the top half way through the baking process}

Makes 12 muffins

Enjoy your day tomorrow. I'll be on a deck, watching the river flow, with friends and muffins.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


We are back from the crazy music festival.  Almost all of the music was amazing. We took a lot of pictures with our Nikon (which of course are not uploaded yet) I created the above video from just the few pictures I had on my iPhone.

We had a great time with the friends we went with and we now have other friends who are interested. We met some cool people while there (Lindsey and Joel stood out as true kind folk) and we ate some interesting festival food. We had camping neighbors that were parents of the harmonica player for Horseshoes and Handgrenades. Another camping neighbor and I exchanged books; she gave me Wild by Cheryl Strayed and I gave her Left Neglected by Lisa Genova.  I also ran into an old friend that I've not seen for like 20 years. Strange things happen when you listen to the music.

Camping was good. I do not have a sore back. Positive. It stormed pretty crazily Friday afternoon but we all survived. One car did get crushed by a tree though.  Coming home we found a small bakery (donuts and great bread) and a cute diner in Wabash that fed us real meals on real plates with a real bathroom.

Getting back inside my lovely house I was happy to have indoor plumbing once again, a kitchen to cook in, and I bathed for the first time in four days!  Yes, that felt great. Whispering Pines Campground DID have a shower house but it was ice cold water as two of my camping mates experienced.  I opted to be happy with the dirty hippie brigade instead of cold water spraying over me.  My hot bath last night brought joy and order back to my world.  That and creating a feast for my two children who took care of each other while we were camping.  As we sat and ate together, just the 3 of us, I felt so grateful for my children who I love to the moon and back.  They, in return, were over the moon for the meal I made them.

Groovy Girl is on Pinterest and she'd asked me if over the summer we could make it a goal to make some of the meals on her "yum" board so I made one last night.  Only 28 more "Yum" recipes to go!

From The Recipe Critic-Crispy Parmesan Chicken with lemon pasta.  It says boldly on her page that this recipe takes only 30 minutes to prepare which must mean if you have all ingredients completely ready to go. It took me an hour to prepare which is no big deal especially because I made my own breadcrumbs.  My kids laughed about that-but of course I could not use something so pre-packaged! They know me so well.

Favorite new music from Blue Ox:

The Wood Brothers
Sierra Hull
The Pistol Whippin' Party Penguins
The Last Revel (we already loved this band)
Blitzen Trapper
Sam Bush
Railroad Earth
GinStrings - This group played right as the storm ended inside the merch lodge and it was beautiful.

It was also devastating to wake up on Sunday morning and hear about the tragedy in Orlando. I can only hope (and beg the people who govern us) to change our gun laws.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Blue Ox

Thinking back Blue Ox cues me to our time as a family visiting Paul Bunyon Park in Northern Minnesota. Gorgeous and fun. I do remember a childhood video ( I grew up with a photographer father) of me losing my pristine white sandal in the muddy Babe, the Blue Ox area. I cried.

That's what the whole video is about, me sad about losing my shoe in the mud, knowing there might be hell to pay. There are also highlights of Babe and Paul speaking to us. Super cool technology for the day-the badass 70's. 

Fast forward in crazy time warp speed I'm now at the Blue Ox Music festival, camping, and listening to amazing bands. Leftover Salmon 💜,  the Big Wu, the Last Revel, Sam Bush, Shovels and Rope, The Del McCoury Band, and Bela and the Flecktones. That's just the bands that I personally recognize or have heard. Wow! F-(/)/&:& yes. 

Dynamic music, beautiful WI scenery, great Bell's beer. Come on over. Sit a spell- my husband and Paulie will be happy to play a bit with you.