Sunday, February 10, 2019

Freezing temps mean lots of delicious soups

The weather is still chilly here and this morning there were big fat flakes floating down. It looked lovely but I was too bleary-eyed to snap a photo. We made it through the week without one snow day though which will help us in June. We'll see what this week brings with more snow predicted.

[From Minimalist Baker}
I made two hearty dishes to keep us all warm and full this week. On Monday I whipped up Minimalist Baker's Rich Red Curry with roasted vegetables.  We played with the ingredients and added tofu and regular brown lentils and left out the cabbage. This I will make again - the red curry sauce was delicious and would pair well with many vegetables. I used a mix of broccoli and cauliflower and swapped yellow potatoes for the sweet.  We love sweet potatoes here but Groovy Girl does not like them mixed in with other ingredients. This recipe made enough that we had leftovers for the next few nights and even added it with brown rice into a tortilla for an on-the-go dinner.  

[Gimme some oven]
Yesterday I was craving fish and found some raised-in-the USA cod, fresh in the glass case. It's very difficult to find quality fish-I don't want my fish to come from China-sorry China but you're not known for good fishing practices and I like my food to be a little more local. I already have issues about eating fish and pollution  in the ocean and depleting numbers of fish in the ocean and for the most part have stopped buying fish and ordering fish when I'm out just for this reason yet yesterday I guess I was in the mood. I bought $20 worth of nice fat pieces of cod.  It was delicious, tender and flaky with a little cracker crust and a lemon squeezed over the top.  I loosely followed this recipe. 
We had baked sweet potatoes with our flaky cod fillets plus I made this lemon lentil soup for an appetizer but we ended up eating all at the same time. I got held up making the soup as I scoured my kitchen for my immersion blender which is missing.  I love my Hamilton Beach immersion blender and I'm confused as to where it's gone. Anyway we used the big Ninja blender instead (more parts to clean) and this soup, Lemony Lentil Soup, was fantastic.  

To match with my two new recipes I also I have two books to share.  Cold weather always makes it easier to lay on the sofa and read, except lets be honest, any season has me sitting/laying somewhere and reading. I wouldn't be adverse to springing ahead to some hammock-time soon. 

Less by Andrew Sean Greer ( 2017): The comical tale of Arthur Less, an accomplished author, who feels less than all the time. His current lover has left to get married in Sonoma and he takes this opportunity to plan via a few author invites for teaching abroad and odd award ceremonies to get away from his current Bay Area life. What follows is a wonderful travel journey in much the same vein as Kerouac's On the road but with planes instead of cars and gay lovers and wine instead of copious amounts of drugs. This is my first Andrew Sean Greer novel and I'm happy to be introduced. I can't wait to discuss this with my book group.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (2017): Recently I was able to break away from dance mom week to see If Beale Street Could Talk which is a beautifully done film almost in an old noir style, slow and steady with great acting and a good background jazz beat. This book has a similar story line probably all too common in the racist world we live in. We have to realize this happens far more than we can ever imagine. Celestial and Roy, married for one year, find themselves separated by a prison door after one woman's rapid complaint against Roy who is innocent.  Jones' writing is very easy to read and I'll have to go back and read Silver Sparrow. 

Stay warm where ever you might be. I have friends headed to Mexico today and friends who just came back from a cruise.  All I can do is bask in the winter sunshine flowing through the library windows.  

Sunday, February 3, 2019

February Peace

It's here and it's brought warmer weather so I'm happy. I'm not foolish enough to think that the cold snap or #PolarVortex won't return yet for now I'm happy to see snow melting all around us. Drip Drip

(Sally's Baking Addiction)
I made cinnamon rolls for an event yesterday. Insomnia had me up at 5am  and I thought "I should get up and make rolls" for the state speech event we volunteered our time at yesterday morning. We didn't get to try the rolls as they were whisked off for the judges' break room and making them was super easy so I plan to whip them up again real soon. Just maybe not at 5am.

Last week was a crazy school week; we had school on Friday only. I was pretty lazy and did a lot of reading. Some cleaning (Maria Kondo on Netflix is great motivation) but mostly reading.  I have several books to recommend to you.

Heads of the colored people by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (2018): Excellent short stories that lifted me and educated me.  Nafissa has an amazing array of characters in these 12 well-crafted tales including two mothers who sling insults at each other through notes sent back and forth in the backpacks of their daughters, Marjorie, a woman who tries therapy because of her anger issues, Riley, a young man headed to Comic -Con, a young woman obsessed with men who've become amputees, and a young woman struggling with social media likes and suicidal thoughts. Here's a great article form Electric Lit highlighting these stories and an interview with Thompson-Spires. I enjoyed this book so much I'm going to order my own copy and probably give it as gifts this year. Thank you to Verda for bringing this book (and the next one) to my attention.

Black Girls must die exhausted; a novel for grown ups by Jayne Allen (2018): "The day I turned 30, I officially departed my childhood. Not the pigtail braids, devil may care, 'don't get your Sunday church clothes dirty' kind of childhood. At 30, I just knew it was the end of the dress rehearsal. I was officially grown."  So begins our journey with Tabitha as she navigates relationships with her friends and men, and the growing demands of her television reporter position and what it means to be the only one in the office with "black perspective" as she moves up into a lead position. I felt connected to Tabitha and held her pain throughout the book which most affected me when she  argued with her girlfriends and when she was pulled over by the police car.  The raw fear of what might happen juxtaposed against what actually happened was mind-boggling for me and for Tabitha. It made it very real and highlighted, even though her experience was pleasant, very easily can go the other way. good cops/bad cops situation. I loved this casual story and look forward to reading the second.

So make some cinnamon rolls and cuddle up with a good book as February brings us one month closer to Spring.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Freezing temps ` blowing snow `

It's another snow day here in Iowa; a good day to get caught up.  With all the bitter cold weather we've heated up the kitchen a time or two with some great recipes. 

German Pancakes ~ delicious, a good mix between a regular old pancake and a French crepe.  We covered ours with berries, syrup, and a little dusting of powdered sugar. Groovy Girl and I made it, baked it, and ate it in short order.

{NYT version}
Rhubarb Pound Cake ~ I made this for a small birthday gathering for our new minister's wife.  Baking is not always easy for me as you have to follow the directions perfectly. Unlike making dinner where a little of this and a little of that can work even with changing out key ingredients; baking not so much. I had rhubarb in my freezer so right away that changed the recipe and how it baked but really it turned out...better than expected!  I will definitely make this again, maybe even in the summer time when I can use fresh rhubarb.

{my cake~half eaten}

Lentil white bean Chili ~ By the way it has been a very cold winter so my slow cooker is living on my countertop. I whipped this chili up last weekend to keep us warm. I specifically looked for a chili that had lentils and bless the internet this one popped up.  This was a delicious recipe with lots of flavor ~ I opted to make this meatless and it was still great!  My family, used to eating many meatless meals,  didn't feel like anything was missing.

Brown Rice Risotto ~ I made this for book club because I wanted something new and different for a beautiful butternut squash I had.  I would make this again but I would alter it a bit by roasting the squash first and adding it in after the rice has cooked through. The squash was pretty flavorless after soaking with the rice. I'd also add in more goat cheese.

I got up early this morning, even though it was a snow day for us, because it was the BIG American Library Association award announcements at 8am (Pacific time) only to realize that meant 10 am our time. I curled up and went back to sleep for a little bit before watching the official webcast live. I always just look at the announcements after because it takes place while I'm teaching so this was a treat. I was happy to note that I had quite a few of the award titles already and will order the few that I don't have over the next few weeks. Good books, good food - this is how we survive winter.  Plus a roaring fire helps.

Monday, January 21, 2019

My heroes

I don't know the whole story of the stand-off between the young "Make America Great Again" hat wearing Catholic student, Jake Sandmann and Native American, Vietnam Vet Nathan Phillips or any of the other students involved but what I can recognize is a clear smirk on Jake's face and his choice to stand as close as possible to Nathan, which to me is a sign of disrespect. He is attempting to stand down and act superior to the Native elder person in front of him. It's just one more unbelievable moment in time showcasing how much work we have before us. It feels like it is a constant battle whether peacefully done or not. I bare witness to it in school when young people choose to leave the one black student to sit at a table on their own, or when head-scarfed young mothers have trouble fitting in to our school culture. Will it always be this way? I am one who is filled with an unbearable amount of hope and yet I wonder.

I have a few heroes that I look to when I wonder.  How would Dr. King view our world today? Would Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, or Maya Angelou feel we've made positive strides compared to their early days or would they feel like I do that we are traveling back in time. I see a new slew of representatives in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kamala Harris, Hodan Hossan (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MN); these are women who quite possible can make a change in government.  Right now with our current administration we need ALL the help we can get and it's more than just good representation. We need a mindset shift so the haters don't get out of hand. Everything Dr. King tried so desperately to teach us had to do with the power of love.  How am I carrying that torch? What are we doing as a nation to carry the torch? the first step would be to end the current administration, the entire lot. Or we could build a wall around the White House.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Just do it!

I'm happy to share that I've made it to a yoga class the first Saturdays of January.  State Street Yoga  has a new teacher, Corinne, on Saturdays at 10:30, which is a very good time for me, because I can't roll myself out of bed too early on a day off.  Corinne is slightly unconventional, with a very soothing voice, good energy, and I've learned some new poses from her.  New learning is always good. So I'm happy to have started again and found someone interesting in that process.

I'm reading several books right now, trying to read more than watch, which is a struggle especially because Groovy Girl introduced me to Grey's Anatomy. I didn't pay attention when the show aired originally but now I'm genuinely interested in the characters and what's going on. It's a bit like watching General Hospital while I was in college.

Books I'm reading:

The Library by Susan Orlean - so beautifully written, would not have thought I'd enjoy a nonfiction book about a library fire.

Endling by Katherine Applegate - I am just about 6 chapters in and curious about where the story is going. This morning I had the book in my arm at church and a precocious 10-year-old reader told me she thought the story was great. That recommendation alone should keep me going...

Code Girls: the untold story of the American women code breakers of WWII by Liza Mundy - This is for book club and I've cracked the cover twice and read a total of one page.  I'm not encouraged to read this whole (572 pages) book.  I'm a fiction girl at heart and struggle with titles like this. I'll take a fiction book about this topic any day. If you loved this title, let me know...

My hands (and the house) smell all spicy from chopping onions, garlic, and ginger for a big batch of chicken korma.  Friends are coming over for a beer tasting first and a bite to eat after. I'd already planned the korma dinner for family; I just had to double the batch. It smells delicious.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year, New Me

Not really. Why would I want a new me? I like me, most of the time and I've had a really pretty great 2018 so I say more of the same in 2019.

{Happy graduate with his two sisters}
Psychologically at this time last year, I had a major life meltdown. Things were not good in my family of 5 and we had a breakdown in communication. I bring this up only as a way to say we worked through it and we made it. That kind of life event does take a toll and I forced myself to find a therapist. I wasn't sure how it could ultimately help but I needed someone to talk to other than family. It took two tries to find the right one and with that came the realization that talking to someone, sharing your inner struggles and concerns, is about wellness; not about being broken. While this life concern was resolved positively (thank the mighty universe) I am still happily visiting my therapist's office every few weeks. I might choose to close that door soon but I know I can go back to it at any point.

{Celebrating Anton's 24th birthday together}
In the midst of that family struggle, I worked hard to get our fostered adult Anton out on his own. While he really disliked living with us with our reasonable family rules and expectations he was afraid of how hard it was going to be in the real world on his own. He lived with us for 16 months trying to begin a different life. He was a community college student for two semesters, he held down a job for almost a year, and he learned (sort of) he was not a great money manager. He also learned once he was fired that finding another job is no easy task and that once you have a job it is so very important to treat it with care and respect. The world is filled with rules and expectations, ideas and norms that many people never grow up understanding. 

It's not that collectively we all need to know the same things but it is important for your own personal survival to understand how to get along. And the better you are at code-switching the better you are going to get along. I mean simple things like how to address an envelope, put on a stamp or pay a bill, how to dress up for a job interview no matter what position you are applying for, how to not bend rules at work to make it easier for you, how to get along and work with others who you might not like, oh the list is endless. Thankfully this young man is now living in our community with his friends trying to make it work. I'm glad that I still see him and can help him out when I can. I'm also very happy that he isn't living in our guest room anymore. It was adding a great deal of undue stress into my family life. All I can do is remember that we did our best to help him create a new life; one where he can see past cyclical poverty and unemployment, even if he doesn't understand those recurring roles in his life. Thank you to these lifelong friends for helping me through this tough journey. And for all my friends who support me.

My goal for the year is to bring yoga back into my life as it was the one thing I let go of in the wake of last year. I chose sleep over yoga but I have to find a way to have both.  Other than that more writing and reading, more time for being tranquil. Peace and love my friends and hello to a new year.

Monday, December 31, 2018

My Best Books of 2018

I surpassed my reading challenge on GoodReads by 8 books, reading 58 books in 2018. Here are my 14 5-star book choices.

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Horizon (#1) by Scott Westerfield
Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai
All rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
The tea girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
The honest truth by Dan Gemeinhart
Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
The Self-Driven Child: The science and sense of giving your child more control over their lives by William Stixrud
Real Friends by Shannon Hale
News of the world by Paulette Jiles
The dog, Ray by Linda Coggin
A long walk to water by Linda Sue Park
Echo by Pamela Munoz Ryan

My list includes 10 books written by female authors, two graphic novels, and 9 elementary fiction books. Only one nonfiction made my list which is okay because on average I don't read very much nonfiction. I read 16,735 pages!

Here are a few more that, even though they did not recieve a 5-star rating, were also very good.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn was good historical fiction.
Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins and Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes shared a unique perspective.
Best book handed to me by a student was Watt Key's Hideout.

My two most unusual books were both by Stephen King. I haven't read any of his books for years.  My book club picked 11/22/63 and it was good. It was also my longest book in 2018. Elevation was had a unique premise and was short but very interesting.

2018 was great in all ways except politics. It is a constant struggle to balance technology, reading, and family time but I hope for a good year in 2019. I was excited to hear Elizabeth Warren's announcement this morning, I'm not sure if she is my ultimate choice but I hope lots of women throw their hats into the ring with her.

Right now I'm reading Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart, The Library Book by Susan Orlean, My absolute darling by Gabriel Tallent, Liberty by Kirby Larson and Wish by Barbara O'Connor, the last two are books I'm reading with students. As an early prediction, I am pretty sure The Library Book will be on my top list for 2019. I'm on my way to the library now to pick up two new books as well.

Happy New Year to you and may 2019 be your best reading year yet!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

What's next?

The packages are all unwrapped and the leftovers are wrapped up for another day. Our holiday together as a family was magical as I predicted. We played Spite and Malice, a family card game that we love, we watched all kinds of Christmas movies, we ate a lot of treats, hung out with our dogs, and just had fun together. We stayed in our pajamas pretty much all day long even when we left the house to go to the movies.

The food I made all turned out including the several vegan items. This french toast recipe  (My Darling Vegan) was delicious and I will make it again although I had to figure out how to make chickpea flour. It was easier than I thought and I'm happy my coffee/spice grinder worked for the task. Even though I would find it very difficult to be a full-time vegan I love that I have to learn new skills as our family's chief chef.

Now I am ready to kick back and enjoy my break with a lot of reading, flying the sofa with my two beautiful dogs, and hanging out with my husband as he has a bit of break as well.  I focused my reading attention on Reconstructing Amelia and the mystery of it has me rushing off to read.  I do have a little lesson plan idea to work on before we go back to school.  Groovy Girl and I, after eating such delicious snacks over the holiday, are going to cut w-a-y back on sugar for at least the month of January. We both love dessert so this will be hard but good to push ourselves.  I'm not a big fan of resolutions yet I do feel we all can benefit from a time of renewal and change.

Peace and love everyone...