Saturday, May 26, 2018

Not my best week...


I tipped over last Sunday and injured myself. I didn't trip or fall, I didn't feel myself go over. One minute I was walking and the next I was picking myself up from the pavement.  It was weird. In my right hand, I was holding a glass water bottle which smashed against the pavement and into my hand. My left wrist took the brunt of my fall.  It was slightly embarrassing as it was broad daylight (4pm) and there were people around. I'd come out of a play and was saying goodbye, and walking and thinking at the same time. It made me feel a little old and at the same time resilient.

I drove home with a wad of wet wipes in my hand to stave the blood flow from my hand and I made dinner for people that were coming to my house for a cast party. Both hands were in great pain and Groovy Girl was off with friends.  As soon as she got home she bandaged my right hand and helped me clean but by that time I had the Mexican Lasagna recipe already cooking. I even whipped up my own fajita seasoning spice mix for the recipe.  The kitchen looked like hell as I could just barely open bottles and didn't have the energy to try to recap and put away. And I'm usually a-clean-as-I-go kind of cook. Everyone enjoyed the cast party and the lasagna. I had someone request the recipe; they'll have to supply their own blood drips and pain.

I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend. I have a little school work to do. I have a couple of great books to read; I'm halfway done with The Self-driven child, a fantastic life book I wish I'd had when my kids were younger, my book club read News of the world by Paulette Jiles, and from my mom A spool of blue thread by Anne Tyler.

And while browsing around on Epicureous I found this great article about cast iron skillets which I use frequently in our kitchen.

Here's to a better week ahead!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Two books for you to read...

There is something magical that happens to me when a student says "You've GOT to read this book Mrs. Holt" as they clutch said book tightly in front of them and add "It is soooo good!" (eyes sparkling)


This recently happened with a new-to-Hansen 5th grader, Gabby, and she said all this about Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper, which was on our Iowa Children's Choice list this year. I always intend to start that book straight away yet that actually rarely happens.  That sweet book sat at my desk for a few weeks and finally I finished a stream of other books and picked that one up and brought it home. I am so excited to return to school tomorrow and march right up to Gabby and tell her thank you for recommending this book to me!  I loved it as much as she did so now I'm holding it out to you and telling you, my fine reader, to go find this book at a library or a bookstore and take it home, settle yourself on the sofa or outside in a hammock and be prepared to be transported to Stella's world.

Stella is living in Bumblebee, NC and she tries to write in her journal outside at night because she catches her best thoughts in the quiet.  One night she spots men in white robes and a cross on fire right across the pond from her. The Klan is active and creates terrible tension for her small community and her family. Her father joins two other men from the community to register to vote in town and Stella goes along "to be his rock". When the Klan burns down a house belonging to one of the brave men who registered to vote the town comes together, both black and white to help.  Stella is a brave, smart, kind, and enjoyable character that eventually learns to trust her own talents as a writer. 

Did not know that Miles Davis plays Stella by Starlight, check it out! I'm sure Sharon M. Draper did.


The second book I'm excited about this week is The dog, Ray by Linda Coggin.  I found this gem at the public library while browsing the shelf for a teacher request.  It just struck me and I brought it home and it traveled to dance with me for a long rehearsal and I finished it in one day. Yes.

This is the story of 12-year-old Daisy, killed in a car accident, in the first few pages. She is whisked up to some kind of job central and lands back on earth as a...yes, a dog. So sweet. The entertaining part is that she went through the wrong shoot and she can remember her "Daisy" life. She is adopted first into a neglectful, crabby kind of family which makes her take off after a kind homeless man she meets while tied to a bench at the park. Eventually, she meets a young orphaned and homeless boy, Pip. His mother recently died and he's trying to find his father who does not know he exists. What a journey. Pip is a delightful Oliver Twist-like young man determined to find a forever home and he and Ray find their way together. This story is filled with an interesting cast of characters and will have you turning pages rapidly.

I wish I had a song to go with this one but go back and listen to that fantastic Miles Davis tune!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Reading and Recipes

I made yogurt this weekend after one failed attempt. Truth: It takes the whole damn day-you've got to be prepared for that and I don't always have a full day to spend with yogurt so I try to sandwich it between things which is why every once in a while it doesn't work for me. This time I had one failed attempt-stayed milk-poured it right back into the Hansen's jug used by my husband for his morning cereal. Second time-score-creamy, happy yogurt ready for my morning breakfast.

I also made a curry dish today and soaked chickpeas for the recipe. I found the cauliflower chickpea recipe on The Wholesome Fork and read about the proper method to soak chickpeas on Inspired Taste.  I like it when I can prepare a whole meal without opening a bunch of cans. I used fresh tomatoes and some leftover coconut milk saved in a jar in my fridge. It was good and spicy and there's enough left for lunch tomorrow. While blog surfing I found this great post about my chickpea love just a few months ago.

I picked up a book, Shadow Mountain; a memoir of wolves, a woman, and the wild by Renee Askins, from one of my TBR piles that I'd purchased a few years back while visiting Yellowstone National Park. Nonfiction is not my thing but I loved Terry Tempest Williams' book Refuge and she is mentioned twice on the back cover blurbs. I'm sure that's what inspired me to purchase Renee's book at the Yellowstone gift shop. I'm more than 1/2 way through and I love her story. It makes me feel a little guilty because while I was goofing around in Denver, Co, causing trouble, going to Dead shows, Askins was living her passion, striving and working hard to reintroduce wolves back into Yellowstone. A life well-lived. My passion came later; a late bloomer as my mother loves to say. If you love being in nature, the call of the wild, I highly recommend both books!


Have a good week. We've got some changes happening here at our home/sanctuary and I feel I'm going to feel 1000 % percent better when it happens. Ciao!


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

May Day! May Day!


No May Day baskets this year. I asked and Groovy Girl was like "I'm too busy, I'm too tired!"  It is a stressful time for a sophomore, her first year in high school. We used to always do May baskets that we would deliver to a set group of friends before school began. I delivered May baskets when I was young as well and it is one of those wonderful traditions that I love to see continued. I was very happy to see a kindergarten class making May baskets to deliver to a 6th-grade class.

I did bring her some treats today after grocery shopping; some french bread, a Mexican coca-cola, and a small bag of Bob's Chia seeds - odd treats, yes, but she loves them.

It's really the thought that counts. But if I want this tradition to continue I'm going to need to work a little harder myself. Already I'm thinking of little friends that I (we) could quickly deliver to near us. It would put a smile on their little faces and the tradition would continue in some fashion. Did you do May baskets growing up? 


May Basket traditions (NPR)

Monday, April 30, 2018

The end of the month is trudging along

What an unusual April it has been!  I've made some good food, read some interesting books, and watched some interesting shows/movies with my family.


A long walk to water by Linda Sue Park (2010): This is a fictionalized story of one boy caught up in the Sudanese conflict with alternating sections sharing a young girl's story as she spends her days carrying water. The stories come together in such a meaningful way; I finished this one in the car as I was waiting for my teenage dancer.  If you were watching you would have witnessed me crying in my car. Highly recommend for many readers of all ages.


Green Angel by Alice Hoffman (2004): A short dystopian tale of a young girl left behind after her parents and younger sister take a trip into the city to sell vegetables never to return. The language and descriptions are beautiful and it is an amazing story of Green's rebirth.


Lost in the sun by Lisa Graff (2015): I read this a few years ago and didn't love it, then I assigned it to 6th-grade book club and read it again. I liked it much better this time around. I enjoyed Trent's character more and understood the angst. The parents in the story left me wondering why they did seek help for him and especially thought the dad was an insensitive character.


Choosing Civility; The 25 rules of considerate conduct by P.M. Forni (2003): Forni teaches at the university level and saw a need for an introduction to manners for students. This book is a wonderful refresher course on rules we know but often don't put into practice. Buy it for yourself or for someone you think could use it.

Curried Lentils: Delicious and easy. We had them with rice first and then another night wrapped in tortillas and heated.  Oh so good. She has a similar recipe for curried chickpeas as well.

Chicken & black bean Enchiladas: I made these at the beginning of last week so we would have a few easy dinners. Groovy Girl is really good at making her own food but that takes time and right now she is short on that ingredient so I whipped up this batch of enchiladas so she wouldn't have to make anything for a few days. I left out the pumpkin this time and used free-range local chicken from our meat market.

Atypical (Netflix)-watched by myself, then with Groovy Girl, and now want to watch with husband. Tells the story of a young autistic named Sam and his crazy yet also normal family. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Sam's mom. We love his sister, Casey and her boyfriend, Evan.
Everything Sucks! (Netflix)-We only watch this one altogether.  It's about high school students at Boring High, OR. And in doing some googling discovered this show has been cancelled after one season-that really sucks Netflix. Everybody rush to watch this first season...
On my block (Netflix)-Groovy Girl and I watched this series in one night and cannot wait for more. I plan to watch again with husband when his schedule frees up a little. A small group of LA teens who live on the same block try to focus on surviving their neighborhood. Excellent performances by all!
The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)-yes, I'm still watching. I waited to read the book and then I've tried to take it slow. It is a tough show to watch and gives me the chills.

Speaking of chills we went yesterday on a family outing to see The Quiet Place.  I loved it and I am not a fan at all of anything scary.  No Jason for me, no slashers, no creepy houses, etc. This one was more of a scary dystopian with loveable characters. John Krasinski wrote, directed, and produced this one and his talented wife Emily Blunt plays his wife. Give it a try; truthfully I only closed my eyes once or twice and I brought headphones (one reviewer said this might help) but didn't end up using them much.

This post sums up my whole month except for some major family downs, two road trips, lots of dance classes, and a few friend celebrations. What do you have to share back with me?



Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Fragile by Lisa Unger


A friend lent this thriller to me and in between reading YA and elementary fiction, I slipped it in needing a dose of adult fiction. Lisa Unger is a new author to me and I liked her style. This book is about a small tow where everybody knows everybody. And everybody has a secret, and some of the secrets are pretty big.

This book spoke to me in a resounding voice about families and the strength they hold. How willing are you to believe in those that you love, your children or your spouse?  Maggie, a psychologist, and her husband Jones, a detective on the local police force find out that Charlene, their son's girlfriend and the daughter of an old high school classmate is missing and the search for her brings out all manner of long-forgotten ghosts.

There is a wide array of interesting characters involved including Marshall, the son of the town bully, who waits for his dad's approval even as a high school student and even though he's only ever been disappointed and hurt by his father. As the story plays out we discover bits of history and we come to understand that a classmates' disappearance during high school has everyone reflecting on choices they've made. In alternating moments we have the opportunity to hear from several characters which help to paint a good picture of this town.

"She sat in her ticky-tack room, in her ticky-tack house, painting her nails iridescent green. She hated the tract house with all its perfectly square rooms and thin walls, identical to every third house in their development. It was like living in the box of someone else's limited imagination. How could someone reach the height of her creativity in a drywall cage? She couldn't. And she wouldn't. She would be eighteen in six months. After graduation, she was so out of here. College? Another four years of indentured servitude, living by someone else's arbitrary rules? No way. (Charlene, 19)

"Now that Marshall was nearly the same height and almost as strong as his father, Travis didn't hit him often; Marshall wasn't physically afraid of his father. It was the things he said that lay like bruises on Marshall's skin, damaged his organs, poisoned his blood. That voice that was in his head all the time. He just couldn't get it out. Even the competing voices-Aunt Leila, Mr. Ivy, Dr. Cooper-weren't loud enough to drown him out lately." (Marshall, 63)

"Because that was what it was, wasn't it? Not just anger. Not a need to control in a way we most often mean it. Not a lack of love or understanding for their boy. It was fear. Fear that, after all the years of protecting his health, his heart, his mind, setting bedtimes and boundaries, giving warnings about strangers and looking both ways before crossing the street, it wouldn't be enough. Fear that, as he stood on the threshold of adulthood, forces beyond their control would take him down a path where they could no longer reach him. (Maggie, 15)

I don't know how or why some families have a tough road. Each child, each situation is different and it's never easy to know what to do except love them unconditionally, both parents and children. This book is filled with flawed, interesting characters and a story that kept me turning pages. 



Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dr. King's Legacy


It was 50 years ago; April 4th, 1968 at 6:05 tonight.  It's chilling. I think of how far we've come for there has been progress. Signs for "Whites Only" are gone, people of all races, colors, and genders are given their right to vote, outright segregation is no longer present.  Yet we've not come far enough. There is still segregation hidden by poverty and neighborhood, by opportunity. We're still waiting for a certain amount of change in this country.  At least many of us are. Dr. King did bring us to the mountaintop and I think of the bodies lined along the way; not only his but Robert Kennedy, Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, and Malcolm X, but Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Stephon Clark, Eric Garner, Samuel DuBose, Freddie Gray, Natasha McKenna, and Christian Taylor, just to name a few-the list is too long. 

Last night I attended a staged reading about the last night of Martin's life as he talks with a maid at the Lorraine Motel. It was a good look at Dr. King in a very humanizing way. He wasn't perfect but he was an amazing speaker who loved all people, who wanted to see the good in what could happen. As I talked with friends before the play my friend Rita made an interesting comparison to the weather we are all humbled by-very winter weather at the beginning of April-she said it was like we were in Narnia. Quickly we made the leap to Trump as the White Queen. So much change still to be made and a madman in the White House who considers gun violence a local issue and continues to offer his "thoughts and prayers".

We need stricter gun laws (and we don't mean your hunting or handguns appropriately used and registered. We are talking about guns that should not be covered by the 2nd Amendment. This president ~ not going to do it.

We need better immigration policies, DACA to continue, and this president is going in the opposite direction.

This list is long but I see hope in the students of Stoneman Douglas as they lead the march, I see hope in the #MeToo movement as women insist on calling out those who use power as a weapon. I see hope in the Black Lives Matter Movement as they fight back against police brutality and twisted realities. I see hope in my 15-yr-old daughter as she rants to the radio over Trump's immigration plans and quotas that rush people through an already dismal situation.

Keeping Dr. King's dream alive should be every person's mantra out there every day as you fight for civil rights in your neck of the world and beyond. Hold your own candlelight vigil tonight as 6:05 ticks by...

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter


Happy April! Happy Easter!

I hope everyone communed with family and friends today, enjoyed a good meal together, searched for eggs, maybe had a lovely basket delivered by somebunny.

Spring started on March 20th and it is still freezing here. I must be having a bit of seasonal depression (or just depression) because the cold weather is very much affecting me this year. I see what looks like warm sun out there but the moment you walk out the door 33 degrees and wind will hit you. All week long it's going to be like this and I'm not sure I'll make it. I did make more bread yesterday and pizza dough as well. We had a delicious spinach, tomato, goat cheese, pesto and basil pizza last night for dinner.

I'm reading short stories by Flannery O'Connor and while I find them insightful and deep; the "N" word is really hard for me to read over and over. In front of a warm fire, I read and watch the birds (especially this one very bright red cardinal) flock to our backyard birdfeeder which is a good reminder that Spring will show up and the birds' dance and play as they wait patiently just as I should. Happy living everyone.