Saturday, January 24, 2015

Grasshopper Jungle


If you want to discover stacks and stacks of good books at your local library you need my friend Tina to go with you.  Any time I meet her there she loads me up as we walk down the shelves. On our last trip she handed me Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith and said "here read this, because I can't, and let me know how it is."  She's not a fan of dystopia but she was interested in the Iowa setting.

So I read it and for the first 40 pages I kept thinking I should quit.  And then I'd read a little more and a little more and then it started to grow on me.  At about the half way point I couldn't stop reading which made me laugh because that's just what I tell my students-keep going~the really good stuff doesn't always happen in the beginning.  I didn't almost give up on it though because stuff wasn't happening-it was the main character, Austin, that drove me nuts.  He's telling us the story as a sort of historical document and we really get to know Austin-it's his coming-of-age tale after all-right in the middle of the end of the world.

My thoughts were poor Austin all he can think about is being horny and every single page is about his desire to have sex, shit, masturbate, sex, shit, masturbate, with a lot of smoking mixed in.  And then just when I thought I couldn't take his relentless need to talk about it all so much I let it slide~after all he's 15~and began to appreciate what Austin had to say about his relationship with Robby, his best friend.  I loved that he was so confused about his relationship with both Robby and his girlfriend, Shann because it's tough to be in love with two people at the same time.  His friendship with Robby was a breath of fresh air because he cared so deeply.  I grew to like him.

I also thought it was a realistic look at small town Iowa with it's boarded up shops, crazy family drama, and lots of corn. And the book definetely makes a case for not messing with genetics. Say no to GMOs of any kind.  And Austin does a great job of reminding us that everything is connected and life is a massive game of 6 degrees of seperation.

Now the huge  6-foot-grasshopper creepy things I can't even talk about them...

Someone on goodreads mentioned that you either get Andrew Smith or you don't~and I completely agree.  This book is not for everyone but it is good.

Now you don't have to read it Tina. I thank you for handing it to me though even if my hand now feels a little grubby.

A sample:

It took me a very long time to work up the nerve to kiss Shann Collins, who was the first and only girl I had ever kissed.  
     There was a possibility that I'd never have kissed her, too, because she was the one who actually initiated the kiss.
     It happened nearly one full year after the Curtis Crane Lutheran Academy End-of-the-year Mixed-Gender Mixer.
     Like Robby explained to her: I was shy.
     I was on the conveyor belt toward the paper shredder of history with countless scores of other sexually confused boys.  
     After the Curtis Crane Lutheran Academy End-of-the-year Mixed-Gender Mixer, I tried to get Shann to pay more serious attention to me.
     I tried any reasonable method I could think of. I joined the archery club when I found out she was a member, and I offered multiple times to do homework with her. Sadly, nothing seemed to result in serious progress.

She finally comes around when he gets in trouble at school for reading The Chocolate Wars by Robert Cormier.   If you can handle it you should read it. Welcome to Eden if you do.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Even librarians make mistakes...


You know it's easy to lose a book in a house full of books even when you are a librarian!  My friend Tina and I have often joked how we are terrible examples of library book care as we've both had to pay not only overdue fines but  for lost books as well.

Today I opened up several boxes from Scholastic that I ordered using our book fair $$.  Inside one of the boxes was a copy of The False Prince by Jennifer Nielson and I cringed a little. My school library had a copy of this book when I started the year off-mind you this IS my very 1st year here-and I was reading it at school as my "I'm reading" example book (loosely translated to the book I read a page or two out of to demonstrate to students what a good reader looks like as they read near me; trust me it works).  I'd gotten to the half way point in the book and was pretty engaged so that Friday I stuck it in my backpack and carted it home with high hopes to finish it that weekend.

Saturday (way back in November) I toted The False Prince with me in my little "31" bag as I went off to work our church Christmas bazaar, where I am in charge of the used book sale. When we finished setting up I set it on the counter because I thought for sure during a lull that I would be able to read a chapter or at the very least a few pages paragraphs.  That lull never came and at the end of the bazaar after Teri and I counted the money and closed up shop I went to pick up my book (more accurately my library's book)  and lo and behold all heck broke loose because it was GONE!  Now I must be completely honest here and admit that the table I had set this book on was also the table where we exhanged money for books and bagged sold books up for happy buyers.  Really, really a poor choice on my part.

So when I pulled this new copy of The False Prince out of the Scholastic box I felt sad that I'd lost the first copy.  This is why when students come to us with the crazy excuses they have for losing a book I have to look at them with total empathy.  I've walked in their shoes.

Somewhere out there is a copy of The False Prince sitting in the bottom of someone's Target bag of books, waiting to be found.  Maybe someday it will be returned to our church or to our school as it is stamped inside.  Maybe it will even be returned with my book mark sticking out.  Who knows? More than likely the book buyer will just shrug their shoulders and think "I don't remember buying this one but it looks good!" and they'll proceed to move the book mark back to the beginning.

Maybe every year I could lose a book to remind myself to stay humble and remember how tough it is for most kids to come in and admit that their new puppy chewed their chapter book to cardboard bits.
And I still need to finish the rest of Jennifer Nielson's excellent book.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dinner w/ Friends

Last night I made dinner for two friends who've recently moved into our neighborhood.  It's been my resolution even before New Year's Eve that I would host more dinners with friends.  It sounds easy enough...invite people over and cook them good food.  But where it gets tricky is cleaning of the house space and coordinating calendars can be complicated as well at least in our house.

I like a clean house but I'm not great at keeping it up because, well, I like to read more.  And watch Gilmore Girls with Groovy Girl more.  And play Ruzzle or WWF on my Kindle more.  But all that aside it is a goal for the new year to entertain more, cleaning is optional.

I actually found this recipe when I sampled Jamie Oliver's app on my phone.  I haven't paid to get the app and I'm not actually sure I will (anyone else have it and like it?)   This recipe caught my attention easily and then I thought of this couple, Kathleen and Evan, and knew they would like this dish as well.
{Jaime Oliver's; mine looked quite similar though}

Tarka Daal

(Tarka Daal is lentil heaven-garlicky with a little bit of a kick, eat it with your favorite naan bread or along with lots of little sides) Serves 4.

Ingredients

1 cup red lentils
1 cup yellow split peas
2 red onions
6 cloves of garlic
2 ripe tomatoes
2 fresh red chilies
1/2 bunch of cilantro
1 tsp hot chili powder
1 pinch of Spanish smoked paprika
1 tsp ground tumeric
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
sea salt

1. Peel and thinly slice the onions and the garlic. Halve, seed, and finely chop the chilies and roughly chop the tomatoes.

2. Pick the cilantro leaves and put aside, then finely chop the stems.
3. To a large saucepan, add the onions, chilies, tomatoes, cilantro stems, the lentils, split peas and one third of the garlic.

4. Place the pan on a high heat, pour in 6 cups of cold water and bring to a boil.

5. With a metal (I use wood) spoon scoop away any froth from the top, then add the chili powder, smoked paprika, tumeric and a pinch of salt.

6. Reduce the heat a little and simmer gently for 35-40 minutes, or until the legumes are cooked and the sauce has thickened, stirring regularly.  Meanwhile...

7. Make your table look respectable-get the flatware, salt, pepper, and drinks laid out nicely.  (This step made me smile and made me prepared, which is good).

8. Roughly 5 minutes before the daal is ready, place a small frying pan on a medium heat.

9. Add the vegetable oil, followed by the cumin and the remaining garlic and fry gently for 1-2 minutes, or until the garlic is golden.

10. Swirl the cumin and garlic through the daal, tear over the reserved cilantro leaves and seve with your favorite flat bread.

It was quite good and I'm excited for today's lunch of leftovers.  When I make it next time I will put more heat in it.  I didn't add the fresh chilies as I was afraid it would be too hot for Groovy Girl.  She didn't eat it anyway so I'm going all out next time and kicking it up a few notches but the flavor was splendiforous!  We had naan and chapattis to dig in with and I served it with brown rice.  I did bring extra spice to the table so anyone could spice it up more.  Only Evan shook some chili powder onto his 2nd portion.  They brought a lovely spinach salad which was a perfect companion to the daal.

Usually with friends we might sit around and talk or play a board game but on this particular night we had tickets to the university's women's BB game so we picked up quickly and headed off to the game.

My goal has been successful for the first month and I didn't die because the house was not immaculate!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Landline by Rainbow Rowell


Like everyone else out there I loved Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park (2013) and knew that I would want to read whatever else she produced.  Then you get on with life and read a bazillion other authors because you have a pile to read.  Then fast forward into my Christmas break and I came upon review or an online conversation about Rowell's book Landline and how it takes place leading right up to Christmas.  And just like that Rainbow was back in my life.

I need to keep up more as she is quite a prolific writer; four books in basically two years.  Wow.

Landline (2014) is an amazing story of Georgie McCool, a television scriptwriter who has a major writing opportunity right before Christmas. In order to accept the gig with her hip writing partner, Seth, they have to put together several scripts over the holiday!  This is a chance of a lifetime, Georgie tells her husband Neal.  Neal, though, chooses to travel to his mom's house in Omaha on his own with their two daughters, Namoi and Alice.  She can't believe he does but he does it and while she feels a little abandoned she puts in long hours with Seth working on the show.

The first few nights she can't face going back to their house on her own she finds reasons to end up at her mom's house.  It is here in her childhood room where she fishes out an old rotary phone to call Neal one night.  She has cell phone problems and it's easier than going home for the charger.  The phone makes a call to the past and she ends up talking to a young Neal, a college-age Neal.  And the conversations are so wonderful that she gets pulled back to that time herself as they chat and flirt and remember all that was good.

A quote:

"Hi Mrs. Grafton," Georgie said.
"Yes?"
"It's Georgie."
"Oh hi, Georgie. Neal's still asleep.  He must have been up pretty late.  Do you want him to call you back?"
"No. I mean, just tell him I'll call later.  Actually, I already told him I'd call later.  But-I was going to ask him something." She couldn't ask about the president; that would seem mental..."Do you happen to know who the Speaker of the House is?"
Neal's mom hummed.  "It's Newt Gingrich, isn't it? Did it change?" 
"No," Georgie siad.  "I think that's right. His name was at the tip of my tongue." She leaned closer to the base of the phone.  "Thanks. Um bye. Thanks." She dropped the receiver onto the hook and stood up suddenly, taking a few steps away.
Then she dropped to her knees and crawled under the bed, reading for the telephone outlet and unclicking the plug.  She pulled the cord away, then backed out from the bed and crawled to the opposite wall staring at the nightstand.
She had to deal with this.
It was still happening. (108)

If you haven't picked this one up please do.  I now have to wrestle Fangirl from my librarian friend Denise's hands.




Saturday, January 3, 2015

Favorite Reads of 2014

2014 was a good year for reading for me.  I read 67 books, 3 away from my goal of 70.  Not bad considering I don't spend hours lounging around my house reading. Out of my 67 books I found 30 to be great reads.  Hopefully my list will inspire you to read one that you hadn't heard of before or that might be languishing on your to-read pile. I only read two nonfiction books this year; I'm much more adept at reading fun and interesting fiction but both nonfiction were noteworthy (The Book Whisperer and Here and Now)

My three lists are in random order.

Adult:


1. The Invention of Wings  by Sue Monk Kidd
2. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
3. Belong to me by Marisa de los Santos
4. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
5. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
6. We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
7. Sweetgrass by Mary Alice Monroe
8. The Wife by Meg Wolitzer
9. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
10. The cuckoo's calling by Robert Galbraith


Young Adult:

1. All rivers flow to the sea by Alison Mcghee
2. Counting by 7's by Holly Goldberg Sloan
3. The scorpio races by Maggie Stiefvater
4. Where'd you go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
5. Mark of the dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
6. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
7. The Fault in our stars by John Green
8. Never Ending by  Martyn Bedford
9. The mirk and the midnight hour by Jane Nickerson
10. Hush Puppy by Lisa Cresswell

Chapter books:


1. Ophelia and the marvelous boy by Karen Foxlee
2. Here Lies Linc by Delia Ray
3. Fortunetely the milk by Neil Gaiman
4. Doll Bones by Holly Black
5. Curse of the warmbloods by Suzanne Collins
6. Secret Hum of a daisy by Tracy Holczer
7. Winterling by Sarah Prineas
8. Palace Beautiful by Sarah Deford Williams
9. Laugh at the moon by Shana Burg
10. The mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis


I have a hard time choosing each year and can never get it down to just a few.  Enjoy!


Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015~bring on adventure

  



Starting 2015 off right for me. Yes, that is a Bloody Mary but before that appeared I did 53 minutes of power yoga from my new connection with GaiamTV.  I can stream it from my laptop or our PS3 for a variety of content.  I signed up to do a year challenge~yoga everyday.  They send me an email with my workout embedded and because I check my email first thing in the morning before I even touch my feet to the floor I will be reminded to get my sore legs up and onto my mat.  Right now I need that kind of motivation. 

Groovy Girl even joined me for part of my session this morning. Starting off with a bang!  (or a twist, forward fold, or three-legged dog).  All work-out and no play is not our way so we made chocolate chip pancakes after our yoga.  Playful. Balance. 

I juiced and had one small pancake. Just one.  Must leave room for the veggies in my Bloody Mary.

Now it's time to  really relax and drink the delicious Bloody Mary as we have a minimal to-do list for us. Watch some football, Groovy Girl has two games she wants to play (Gin and Mexican Train), I have two book reviews to write, and a Netflix movie to watch with my husband.  A full good day.

And my husband is making dinner~salmon with a side of black-eyed peas.  Health and prosperity in the new year.  2015.  Make it your best year ever.  


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015-Happy New Year to You.

{Xmas morn}
I can't believe it's here!  I don't have everything checked off my list from 2014!  Do you?  I still have miles to go in fact.  I didn't write enough, didn't do enough downward dogs, and I'm three books behind on my Goodreads challenge.

I can reflect back and know that while I didn't get everything done I did get so much accomplished. And I'm grateful for the year that I've had especially school-related.  I didn't think I could love kids the way I loved Highland students but Hansen proved me wrong.  Grateful.

I've survived a year with handsome son out of the house and living in Colorado.  I miss him fiercely but I'm happy he's working on the next part of his own journey.  I love to text back and forth with him and have received some amazing messages from him throughout the year.  Grateful.

Groovy Girl and I have survived the first half of 7th grade together.  Middle school is harsh because her elementary school was like home; filled with love and understanding.  Middle school is the opposite of that. Rules, rules and more rules.  She's learning though and I've learned to listen as she rants about this teacher or that rule.  In the long run we'll both be better off.  Grateful.

I'm happy that oldest daughter has figured out her next step after graduating in May from Oberlin. She'll be off to Portland, ME in a week to study at the The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.  Just browsing their website makes me know she will love it.  It's good when each person knows what their next step into space is going to be.  Grateful.

This new year will bring more surprises, more journeys, and more inner peace.  What will the new year bring for you?

{Last night together for 2014 @Ciao Bella/Minneapolis)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The night before Christmas...


and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.  I stirred most of the day though.

What a beautiful Christmas Eve day we've had here in the Holt household.  The kids woke up lazy and late, eating breakfast for lunch.  I, on the other hand, had been up since 5 a.m. putting together dough for three loaves of bread, making my last list and checking it twice.  I dislike to be all crazy on a holiday yet I didn't want it to be Christmas Day and not have what I needed for our meal and our, most importantly, mimosas!  So I did have a long list of things to do since it was my first day off and even though I'd shopped previously.  I blame it on our too small refrigerator.

We've done a lot of sharing over this holiday since it is now rare for all 5 of us to be together.  Somehow it's made us more appreciative.  The older kids have shared many memories and both said that eating breakfast together on Christmas morn is very special to them.  That over opening gifts!  That is a happy thought I will savor all through the year.

Tomorrow morning we are having this french toast recipe which I picked just because I could make it in my crock pot.  I adore the idea of getting up and having it all ready.  We usually only look at Santa gifts and stocking gifts before we eat so this will be perfect.  I am also going to cook some bacon (for our meat-loving men) and fried eggs to round out the meal.

(Bon Appetit clam chowder)

Christmas Eve meals have always been special in our house and many times I've many lasagna but the last few years we've had clam chowder.  In my family we always had oyster stew with fresh bread which was so perfect but I married a man who cannot eat oysters so we came around to clams-for some reason clams are okay.   I will use this Bon Appetit recipe again -it had excellent flavor and I'm sure it came from the pound of real clams I started with and I was so excited when they all opened.  The fresh bread was perfect for dipping and soaking up the broth.  I made a double batch and we have just a small amount for leftovers.

Tomorrow we have a hodgepodge of favorites for all types.  My husband and son will enjoy a spiral-cut ham (a gift from a friend) and the rest of us will enjoy a variety of veggie dishes + a big salad.  Mostly I want to just sit and enjoy my kids as we laugh together, go for a walk, and play board games.  I think watching a movie is in the works as well.

Appreciate the love of your family as you celebrate this holiday season!   Feliz Navidad.