Thursday, August 10, 2017

Vacation

I have a few great vacation photos to share with you.  It fills me with great joy to get together with family and I am blessed to have such an amazing extended clan on my husband's side. We traversed through D.C., NYC, Brooklyn, and Rochester, NY.  Whew. I'm tired just thinking about it and am happy to be home.


Three handsome Holt men, happy to be together, talking politics.


We toured the new National Museum of African American History and Culture and it was spectacular and overwhelming. So much information on 5 floors.  I need to go back and look at all that we missed but it was a great first look.  Japhy and Sophie enjoyed walking around together.


We made it to the top to view the Lincoln Memorial-it was a struggle and really sweaty (temps were in the 90's). Anton enjoyed his first look at D.C. and the National Mall area.


My mother-in-law wins the "best" MIL award.  She always makes our time together special with food, wine, stories, and lots of hugs. I am very lucky to have Allen and Phyllis in my life. This is our last meal together before we head off to Brooklyn to see Kaylee.


We all enjoyed School of Rock on Broadway as our friend Joel Waggoner (@joelwags85) rocked several roles in this kid-friendly show. We loved our backstage tour, meeting a few cast mates, and dinner with him.  If you are headed to NY anytime soon-this is a show to see. Greg and I also saw Waitress, which is not kid-friendly, and was excellent!


Joel and Tristan right outside vegan sushi place, Beyond Sushi. Tristan and I loved this place-the flavors were delicious!


We took a quick side trip out to Coney Island and it was a perfect afternoon. Not too hot, nice and breezy, we enjoyed the beach and the boardwalk before heading back to Brooklyn to meet up with friends at Drummer's Grove in Prospect Park.

Sunday morning we had a delicious Blessings brunch with live jazz playing right behind us. We loved getting to see Kaylee's neighborhood and the Gimlet Media office area. We also had a great dinner at Frankies in Brooklyn.



And our last stop was Rochester, NY for a Red Wings game (AA for MN Twins). We loved Rochester and would have loved to explore more.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What a beautiful day

It's my birthday.  All day.  I still like my birthday. This morning I did a gray hair check and I still don't have any, much to my husband's irritation.  I'm in the age range where there should be at least a few and it's not like I've had a completely stress-free life. I've not. Family and financial problems are always near.

Here are a few things I'd like for my birthday:


1. Hydro Flask - In researching water bottles I decided stainless steel is the way to go. I've had several glass bottles and both broke within a short amount of time.  I'm not a huge fan of drinking out of plastic but my Tupperware bottle from Target has lasted the longest.  I like that stainless will keep my cold water cold just as my Cup of Joe stainless keeps my hot water + lemon hot for long time.

2. Black Dansko clogs - My last pair's heel broke at the end of the school year which was really unfortunately. These are my go to shoes for just about any casual event or school. At some point I'd love to have a funky pair as well but for now I'm happy with the classic.

3. Birkenstocks - I'm on my 3rd pair and Groovy Teen is a recent convert. My black pair of clog style are really worn down and I'd like to trade them in for a brown pair of suede two straps.  So comfortable.

As you can see my feet are very important and I'm happy wearing sandals well into September or October weather-permitting. Plus I like quality over quantity.


4. Pink cocktail ring from Sundance - I have two beautiful rings from Sundance and I'd like to add this one to my finger.

5. Books, Books, Books - I was able to browse today at one of my favorite bookstores, Politics and Prose.  Day is complete. I didn't even buy anything for myself.

Except tonight we eat at Jewel of India so my day is far from finished.

I'm happy with hand made cards and hugs from my kids though. And considering we are on the East Coast visiting family I'll happily take hugs from everyone.



Monday, July 31, 2017

July is almost over...

It's been an amazing summer so far! It's always hard to see summer melt away. And I'm one of the lucky ones in that I have days off to enjoy and sit in my hammock and read.

I met a friend at the farmers market this morning and I bought beets. She had a great time exploring-it was her first time at our downtown market-and she bought sweet corn, a huge tomato, and a berry pie. I'm sure they've finished at least half the pie by now. It looked delicious.

I met another friend at the library and we talked books for about an hour and a half. She's also a librarian and she makes it to Book Expo so she is always far and ahead of me on what is new and great.

Book I finished yesterday:

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson (2016): An excellent read about three boys who try to make their cancer-stricken teacher have a great last day before she leaves for treatments. Perfect for elementary and middle school.

In my bag now:

The Impossible knife of memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (2014): Recommended by a friend and I love Anderson's work.


Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn (2017): Read about this one in an article about post-apocalyptic novels and after reading American War I decided this one sounded interesting as well. (RT update-I read almost the entire book in the car yesterday)

The Island of Dr. Libris (2015): Need to read for school, highly recommended.

The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill (2014): I loved Iron Hearted Violet and more recently The Girl who drank from the moon!

Recommended by my friend:

This is how it always is by Laurie Frankel
The stranger in the woods by Michael Fink
We were the lucky ones by Georgia Hunter
Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak
Small great things by Jodi Picoult

I'm excited to check some of these out from the library. After waiting and waiting for a copy of Alex and Eliza to come in at the library I finally downloaded it only to get a notice the VERY next day...#lessonlearned

Friday, July 21, 2017

More summer reading...


I finished the second book in the 5th Wave series by Rick Yancy. My school kids always ask, when I recommend a series, if I've read the whole series and the answer is almost always no. Time is the only reason. I read the first one in this series awhile ago so as I read this second it took me some mental processing to pull the story back into my brain. I'm drawn to dystopian stories and yet find them to be rather gruesome, this one was no exception.


I was at the library the other day, looking for Alex and Eliza, which was checked out already. I managed to find a whole stack of other choices, mostly from the YA section. While I was shelf shopping another librarian handed me a book and said, "oh Michelle, you should read this" and she had that book glow on her face. You know the look so...well, of course, I had to check it out. And then I read it in 2 days. Boom. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf was the book she handed me. I was unfamiliar with this author and am now interested in all things written about Holt, CO. I thought the story was sweet and enduring yet thought-provoking.  How we treat people as they age (ageism) and the variety of relationships one might have all through your life made for an interesting read. Life can begin again at any age. I'm going to have to thank that librarian friend next time I see her!

I cooked this chicken recipe a few days ago and Anton and Japhy loved it. She was dubious about the spinach part and then she tried it. She prefers her spinach raw. Anton loved his because it tasted like good cooked greens. I buy my chicken at Steege's Market downtown and they have lovely breasts, meaning they are small and not all plumped up like you would get at a regular grocery store (even when they say "all natural")I thought the spinach part was so good I made it a second time to go with something else I made. Cumin, coriander, and cinnamon spiced the cooked spinach up perfectly.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Lazy summer days with yoga...

I'm in the middle of the only free days I'll have for summer. I've done a little nannying, helped at a friend's bakery, and in August we go on a little vacation.
{Society6}
So on these free days I'm simultaneously trying to deep clean my house as I can't ever seem to get ahead of the clutter; while I also do some deep relaxing.  I have a stack of books for school to read, I'm spending time with Groovy Teen, and I'm working on my yoga. I love yoga but I fall behind during the school year. My husband created a wonderful workout space in our basement and this summer I've used it almost ever day.

Anyone can do yoga from home because there is a huge amount of free sequences on youtube. I have a Pinterest board dedicated to yoga and the other day before I did my regular go-to video I clicked on an article I'd saved awhile back. Pinterest is, of course, only as good as it should be if you actually use it. I think of mine as a large filing cabinet most of the time but then there are folders I reach into constantly. 8 free yoga channels caught my eye this time and by clicking on the article I found some very good new teachers to try. If you do yoga at home try each of these unique channels for something new. My goal is to try several by each teacher to see which one fits. I've gone through three and loved how it changed up my regular routine. I tried a sequence with Boho Beautiful and I was (good) sore for days.

Be inspired - try something new this summer. Looking out into my backyard as I type this; it may be an outdoor yoga kind of day...

Namaste~

Monday, July 3, 2017

July is starting off with a bang....

Literally. Fireworks are now legal in IA and it's a horrible idea. It's loud, sounds like gunfire continuously, just popping with no pretty after glow. At all hours of the day.  I could be out back enjoying my hammock life, reading, dreaming, napping about mid-afternoon and pop, pop, pop; my peaceful moment is robbed. Tomorrow should be even more crazy. I have typed the word "chill" into my calendar for tomorrow so that's while I'll be doing no matter the sound affects around me.

Sweet Isabella
We did a tough thing today. We put our sweet Izzie to sleep. Toughest decision every. Many think we should have done it awhile ago but I think there is no right time. She wasn't deathly ill, she was in pain and had trouble motoring around. The last few months she'd started this odd and consistent woofing that we thought was dog for "I'm not feeling like myself-can you fix it?" And we tried all her favorite treats and a round of pills but nothing seem to alleviate her pain.  So we helped her along. Taking a page from the Dog Whisperer I treated her like a queen this past week. May she be romping pain-free tonight on some grassy knoll.

Between the fireworks popping everywhere and our sweet dog it's been a rough beginning to the middle month of summer. I do have a delicious menu planned for tomorrow as we CHILL. Wild Caught Salmon, arugula salad, a raw corn salad, baked beans (Anton's must have for any BBQ) and I'm making a strawberry rhubarb pie tomorrow.  Groovy Teen and her quest to be dairy-free really misses ice cream so I've made her an almond milk version that I hope will turn out. It's in the freezer as we speak.

Speaking of rough times-my Groovy Girl has requested in strong terms that I stop referring to her on this blog with that every so cute blog nickname. I call my other kids by their names but hers is unique and I like to hide her identity and she's still under age. So I've been blandly calling her Groovy Teen in the last few posts. It just doesn't have the same ring to it. Any suggestions...

Friday, June 30, 2017

June book reviews for YOU (happy reading)

I've only read three books this month. They were really good books though.  Technically I finished four but the Bill Browder book, The Red Notice, was a crossover from May. I'll still tell you about it though.


1.  The Red Notice; a true story of high finance, murder and one man's fight for justice by Bill Browder (2015): Born into a communist-leaning family Browder grows up seeing what it is like to rebel against the norm but to rebel even further Browder chose a career path profession just to annoy his dad; he picks commerce.  The first half of the book Browder tells his family story and how he rose to be the first major investor of Western money into Russia and the second half of the book deals with the downfall of this great plan and the imprisonment and eventual death of his friend and lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.  I enjoyed this memoir, even though I thought Browder wasn't the greatest story teller. Reading this book gave me a clear mindset on why Putin felt the need to tangle himself into U.S. elections and will continue to torment and push buttons just because he's found a way.


2. Eragon by Christopher Paolini (2003): Tristan read this years ago and devoured the series. I've always wanted to read it but who knows why? I didn't pick it up until this summer after 2 teachers raved about it to me after a teacher meeting. They were shocked that I hadn't read it; That was the push I needed so I brought it home that very last week of school. I loved it. I dig fantasy and this book was no exception. Eragon, Brom, Saphira, Murtagh and Arya were all interesting characters and I look forward to reading the next two in the series.  Even though Paolini was young when he wrote this I think it stands the test of time.


3. The Girl who drank from the moon by Kelly Barnhill (2016):  I loved this fairy tale {and that gorgeous cover art} in which Xan and Luna save themselves and change the world together.  Centuries ago a world was created by evil people and the unwitting townsfolk believed the stories that were told to them about an evil witch who needs a sacrificial baby each year so as not to destroy the town. Xan is this witch but she rescues the babies and takes them to new families because she thinks they've been abandoned.  And so it goes for many years until one family fights back and one mother doesn't give up hope. A good reminder, from a fairy tale world, to not believe all that you are told!  Read more great things about this book at NYTEW, and the Washington Post.


4. American War by Omar El Akkad (2017): I read a NYT article about great new dystopian books and this one was at the top of the list. Like fantasy, I'm a big fan of the altered worlds created in good dystopian novels. This one lacks the gruesome gore of The Hunger Games but certainly lays out how a fight over energy and ravaged ecosystems could separate the North from the South in a way that causes longterm war within our own border. Read other great reviews here on NPRSF Chronicle, and the Washington Post. I'm not quite finished with this one yet and plan to finish today.

In Madison I did purchase several books and I have stack of books to read for school. What are you reading this summer?

Monday, June 26, 2017

A trip to bountiful...


We signed our young dancer up for a dance intensive in Madison and I have to admit it was something I was equally excited about it because I would have to spend the week there with her.

(James Madison Park)
We felt like we were in the land of plenty; surrounded by our people. Everyone seemed quirky, a bit earthy, polite, and healthy; bike riders and walkers were evident in every neighborhood. Traffic was expected to make way for pedestrians and bicyclists which was so refreshing. Plus we had many diverse cuisines to choose from. We made a pact to eat only local and found a lot of suggestions from this post. In order we ate at all these fabulous restaurants which showcase much of what Madison has to offer.

1. Maharana Restaurant: We found this gem after we stopped at Target to get a few things we forgot (like bread for her lunches-whoops) and through the magic of our GPS this Indian restaurant came up and it was just around the corner. She had Chicken Tikka Masala and I had vegetable somosas and a cup of coconut soup. At the end of dinner our waiter brought out complimentary ice cream. This restaurant, for the first night of our adventure, was amazing.

2. Monty's Blue Plate Diner: This was number one on the list and after we left the dance studio it was POURING/HAILING on us and the Prius. We made it into this bright blue beacon and were greeted by friendly staff as we shook off like wet dogs. I had a delicious artichoke sandwich and the starving dancer had a roasted chicken, bacon, and herbed goat cheese sandwich. There were about 12 menu items I was interested in so I'll have to go back and it shows what a diverse menu Monty's offers. (I mean lots of vegan and vegetarian choices)

3. Ha Long Bay: Vietnamese and Thai combo in an eclectic neighborhood and it was packed on a Tuesday evening. We ate dinner almost every night right after dance class at 4:30; she was starving after a long day of exercise. We shared tofu spring rolls and two excellent main dishes. We both thought it was comparable to our favorite Ginger Thai here.

4. Fair Trade Coffee House: After three such amazing meals we opted for something smaller on Wednesday.  Each day I hung around downtown or at James Madison Park, writing, reading, napping, exploring, walking, and researching our next meal but on this day I walked up and down State St. just looking in windows and checking the downtown scene. The smells from this shop lured me in and I sat and enjoyed an iced chai tea.  On the daily chalkboard a chickpea curry soup was advertised and I knew that's what I wanted for dinner.

5. Alchemy: Everyone picks a dud at some point. I read about this one and dragged her there and she was dubious-it wasn't on our list and the name didn't speak to her.  I told her they had sweet potato fries and we agreed if she didn't like anything on the menu we would just get the fries and be done.  We had the fries, which turned out to be chips, and while the sauces were amazing, many of the fries were burned. I also ordered a cocktail here b/c it sounded refreshing (fresh blueberry kombucha mojito) and it sadly tasted watered down. We looked out the window and I spotted Tex Tubb's Taco Palace that I'd also read about and we hopped over there instead.  Groovy Girl had an amazing burrito and we know we'll go back to the Taco Palace again.

6. Taste of India: We liked the first Indian restaurant so much but found this one and decided to give it a try. It was equally as good and by this time Greg had joined us for one night and he is a connoisseur of Indian food and he was thrilled they had Lamb Korma and Groovy Girl had another chicken dish. I tried the sauce for both and liked the spice.  I was happy that both Indian menus had extensive vegetarian choices.

(Madison Public Library-downtown)

It was a great week of food and fun, living out of a suitcase with my favorite 14-year-old. I spent time enjoying the lakes, the views and the literary scene via the Madison Public Library and two bookstores, Mystery to me and A room of one's own, all independent and thriving reading communities. After every adventure it is always wonderful to be back home, in my own bed, my dogs and my house projects to finish.