Sunday, June 20, 2021

We all need to connect


Happy Papa's Day to everyone out there who takes their parenting job seriously. There are a lot of deadbeat dads out there but I'd say most are trying to do their best. I salute you. My dad was a good dad when I was growing up, he cared and was a good listener, and he often offered solid advice. He was not perfect by any means. He was a writer who always had a cigarette in his hand and life often beat him down. That's him above with 3-year-old Tristan in the Grand Canyon. 

My husband is a caring, funny father because he likes to entertain his three children and loves to tell stories. Groovy Girl is off to work today at the water park and Kaylee is out there in Brooklyn living her cool life. She sent a lovely handwritten letter that he opened this morning. Tristan surprised Greg by showing up in person. He works a lot and Sunday is his one major day to rest and recuperate yet he made the hour drive to show up. Luckily I had a heads-up that he might show up and I whipped together this potato breakfast scramble so we could eat together. This is a recipe I found a year ago on Instagram from vegan influencer Tabitha Brown and I love that she seemingly throws easy, on-hand ingredients together to make comfort food. She has a calm spirit and a sense of humor just like my yoga guide Adriene. 

There is so much good stuff out there and even though I miss my dad I have lots of other dad-like influencers that I have come to rely on. My dad's friend Marv, my friend Mike W., Rocky P. and Steve T. who died just a few months ago are all people who are just a bit older and have that dad wisdom that we all could use now and again. My brother, even though he is younger, is someone I can rely on for help. We all need people to care about us, to listen, and offer free good advice. Be a dad to someone. 

I also made a non-vegan breakfast that we scarfed up earlier, that should have been served to friends but the timing just didn't work out. It was delicious; like having your eggs and toast in one. I loved that I could put it altogether last night and then bake it this morning. I sprinkled bacon on half of it instead of using sausage so that the vegetarian (me) in the house could enjoy it. And the father in this house loves the bacon! And I shook up two Bloody Mary's too. Oh, yeah, summertime brunch. 

Enjoy. Hug all your people.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Summer food and a few books

 I am loving my solitude this summer. Groovy Girl goes off to work at the water park and the husband goes off to make a movie or direct a show and I have the day to myself. I have been to work several times and it is so quiet there that it is easy to get a lot accomplished in a short amount of time. I am almost finished with inventory for the year. My goal for meals is to have something ready for my two worker bees; it's the least I can do for them after they've labored out there in the world especially the teenager as she is out in the hot sun for a good 9 hours.  I want to have good food ready for them. 

I made this vegan corn chowder  even though it is way before sweet corn season but I had a large bag of white corn in the freezer and soup to me is always good even on hot days. I am in the process of making this pasta dish tonight with fresh cut basil from my garden. I roasted some broccoli and I put together a fresh salad using greens a friend who shared part of her CSA for the week.  I'm looking for easy meals that I can put together and they can eat late when they come through the door.  Easy for me, easy for them. 

Our girls

I've browsed through a new cookbook, The Fresh Egg Cookbook, that my friend MK gave me. She is honestly one of the best gift givers. She went to the Decorah Seed Saver store and found this cookbook for me in celebration of the beautiful chickens that grace my back yard. There are some really good recipes in here as well as chicken tips. We are on our fourth round of chicken parenting and we love it! They are quirky characters that roam our backyard and provide us with eggs. 


I finished the first, Shadow and Bone, in the GrishaVerse trilogy today which was recommended to me be  a family of former students. I have to pace myself though before I start the second one. My mother-in-law recommended How the Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior and I picked it up yesterday from the library. Before all that I finished my Book of the Month Club May pick; Things we lost to the water by Eric Nguyen, which was a very compelling story of immigration, New Orleans, Vietnam, and Hurricane Katrina.  

You may wonder if I am getting ANY homework done...?


Monday, June 7, 2021

It's over (for now)


I'm not talking about the pandemic naturally but the 2020-2021 school year. What am I going to do with all this time on my hands now, you ask...? People have this assumption that teachers sit by a pool and day drink through the summer.  That may be how some educators spend their time and it doesn't really matter. I would love to be that free! 

My time will be spent doing homework for two classes from Advancement Courses. One is on kindness and the other is on questioning. Lots of homework, lots of thinking, lots of writing. Hopefully I'll have great finished products and plenty of new learning. I am looking for new skills to get me through the next 8+ years of teaching! 


I am also doing something totally new this summer-I'm going to have our Hansen Library open five times during the summer. I'm excited about this new challenge and also fighting the urge to cancel it. As a teacher-librarian I love my students and I love my books! It's like I've created my own living nightmare and I shake myself awake only to find out that all the books have gone missing.  Ugh. But it's going to be okay because they're just books and their kids! It's all part of the deal. A few missing books won't hurt.  

I have a lot of summer reading to do as well; books on my nightstand, dresser, bookshelves, etc that have been waiting to be read and books that I need to read for school for our Iowa Children's Choice Awards. 

I've made a promise to myself and others that I will complete 13 writing pieces this summer and I'm going to work on that as well. I have far more than thirteen so it's just a matter of picking and editing. I will crack open a bottle of champagne when this becomes a reality because it's about time. 

Throw in a vacation and a few road trips and that about sums up my summer.  I promise I still have time for day drinking by the water-a lake preferably!  What about you?




Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorable Memorial Weekend

{Minimalist Baker}
I love a good three day weekend! I've accomplished quite a few things over the last three days but the best parts were several social occasions seeing friends and hugging people in my circle. We had an engagement party last night and a graduation party today. We also had lunch with friends on their patio. I made these strawberry rhubarb margaritas for the occasion. The recipe is from Minimalist Baker and they were delicious, so refreshing and tart.  

Last week I tried a new recipe because I just couldn't figure out what to make for dinner. We recently have had a lot of pasta and I'd made tacos and salmon other days so I just was looking for something different to try. A friend from school mentioned that she'd made lentil sloppy joes and so I searched and found a vegan recipe to try. I made them on Friday night and I loved them. Because of Groovy Girl's tomato allergy I switched out the cans of tomato and used one 28-oz can of pumpkin. I feel like I could add in sweet potato to replace tomatoes as well. I had lovely brioche buns that I broiled in the oven first because I like them a little crispy/crunchy. Both my husband and I loved them and GG, well, she was not quite as in love because it had onions (next time I would make sure to really dice up the onions) but she ate it. I liked that it was a super easy slow cooker recipe that I put together and it was done in about 3 hours. Here is the recipe I used from Yummy Mummy Kitchen and here is another one I plan to try next time from again the amazing Minimalist Baker.  



I did do some gardening this weekend as well, channeling my lovely Grandma Bruch. I think of her so much as I cook and plant as those are two areas she excelled at in life. She loved geraniums and irises and planted lots of vegetables. My love of rhubarb comes from her as she had a several large plants and did a lot of baking and jam making with the stalks. She was an amazing and wonderful grandma and I miss her very much. I'm glad my son was able to spend so much time with her and I'm sad that she never met my daughter. I can still hear her voice calling my name. I wish she and I could play one more game of spite and malice, our family card game. I can still hear my dad's voice as well and I wish I could play one more game of backgammon with him. 

How did you spend your weekend? 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

We are oh, so close!

Kim Reynolds decided on Wednesday night just around midnight that she would tell school children (and their parents) in the state of Iowa that is was optional to wear a mask around school. At midnight on a school night this was decided. I mean I get that she's never really believed in the pandemic and she IS all about free choice for Republicans but this still seemed a little extreme to me because we are so, so close to closing out the school year. We have two weeks to go! And unless you actually work or teach in a school you may not know how this would play out on a Thursday morning. Our district in an attempt to be open sent an email out alerting parents of this new decision by the governor.  Some parents read this email or knew about the decision handed down but other parents might not have had the luxury to see their email and don't follow late night decisions from Des Moines state house. They sent their kids to school with masks as they have every damn day of this year. Other parents celebrated this and sent their kids happily to school finally free of the damn mask. Still other parents sent their kids to school with a mask asking them to still stay safe. There was bullying in the first few minutes within our school walls until teachers could get students in their classrooms for a calm and inclusive morning meeting. Havoc. Pure havoc and one more way to politicize the wearing of masks and the pandemic in general. Thanks Kim. Cannot wait to work against your re-election campaign. 


In other news I finished Ground Zero by Alan Gratz. This book caused a major stir when it first came in. Lots of students wanted it. I found one of my copies on the shelf the other day and I decided to bring it home to read. It was so riveting I read it in 2 days. The story centers around 9/11 and the war on terror that was the aftermath of that major tragedy. Alan Gratz does not sugar coat the history either which I very much appreciated. I remember watching the towers come down on the news that morning and I was a graduate student at the time and turned on the news because someone at my son's school mentioned the weird thing of a plane hitting the first tower.  I remember what it looked like to  see it crumble and it was terrible and the aftermath of what we did as a nation was awful.  What ever age you are read this book for a comprehensive look at the reality of that time in history and be ready for a gripping tale told in alternating points-of-view. 

I'm taking two classes this summer; one is on questioning and the other is on kindness which are both great topics to introduce more of and next year I will be ready for fresh perspective.  After experiencing this election cycle and George Floyd trial with students and the negative comments I want to have some new tools in my school bag. Bring on the kindness and positive discussion!

(Cookie + Kate)

I've made a few good recipes recently including this rhubarb crisp from the NYT. My mom gave me some rhubarb stalks. I love rhubarb but cannot grow it for some quirky reason. This crisp was delicious and I will make it again as soon as I locate more rhubarb. I also made this red lentil curry soup from Cookie and Kate tonight and we all enjoyed it with toasted sourdough bread. 

I really still want it to be Saturday and not Sunday night but there we have it. I need to get ready for my day tomorrow. I probably should shower as I spent a lot of today with my hands in dirt weeding and planting flowers and herbs around the yard and in my big pots. It was the first good hot day and it didn't rain. Rain is important but sunny skies help my mood. Peace and love to you...

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

May Celebrations


The weather is chilly here, I am still wearing a warmer coat to walk the dogs, and haven't planted anything yet because it gets too cold at night. Every once in a while the sun is strong in the afternoon and feels nice and warm. I'm ready for the intense heat of summertime. I'm also ready for my school students to run wildly out the door, to be free for the summer, to put this year behind. I don't know what next year will look like but these kids need a summer break. 


Yesterday I drove back home after visiting my brother and sister-in-law in the Minneapolis area. It was cold there also. Friday night we had an excellent dinner with this chickpea soup prepared by both my brother and his wife and old family friends helped as well.  I feel like I've known them my whole life and there is something so reassuring about having people in your life that knew you as a young person.  Marv was one of my dad's best friends and Marcia still remains one of my mother's besties. It was wonderful to watch the two of them talk at the table together, heads leaning in. My mother broke her hip in a recent fall and uses a walker right now and Marcia has her own. Marv recently recovered from a very serious heart surgery as well. We are all getting older.  Yep. The night was magical though and it was lovely to visit with both Marv and Marcia, sharing and listening to their life stories. My nephew Beckett interviewed Marv about his Cold War experiences guarding the Berlin Wall. I loved hearing Marcia's stories about childbirth in the 1970s where she had to argue to have her husband in the delivery room. We've come a long way baby.

The next day we had a lazy morning (I slept until 9:30!) and then went to Excelsior, browsed and had lunch at Coalition.  We celebrated Mother's Day all weekend and my brother's 49th birthday. We had four different delicious desserts over the course of two days. And then I made fresh cinnamon rolls for Sunday brunch before we left town.  I should think about giving up sugar for a few weeks. My brother is an amazing chef and really enjoys planning a menu and sharing food with friends and neighbors. 

And then we had to come home, back to reality, back to lesson planning and waking up early. I did come home to a lovely daughter, and another calling me to leave a happy message from Brooklyn, and a son who took time to call and chat about everything. I felt loved all weekend long and even more so pulling into my own driveway, reaching my home destination because my family was happy to see me and my dogs were so excited to see me. I could tell because of the full body tail shake! 

I finished The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich, an excellent read, Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, the author of Homecoming, another excellent read. Now I am reading The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, author of The Mothers, both wonderful stories. I'm trying to squeeze in lots of adult fiction before summer hits because I'm taking two classes and I have lots of award contenders to read before August. Librarian Life. Enjoy...







Friday, April 30, 2021

Let’s touch base...


It's the end of April! We’ve had a fantastic month of poetry for most of my students at school. I mean of course there are a few hold-outs who just can’t get into it but that’s okay. We did some borrowed poetry with Kwame Alexander and my littles did a few acrostic and concrete poems about trees, the weather and Earth Day. We read a lot of poetry together and kids of all ages love the You Read to me; I’ll read to you series of poetry books by Mary Ann Hoberman. Reading a poem out loud to a group of your peers is a brave thing to do and reading it with a friend just makes it easier. 5th and 6th graders are doing a mash-up with The Hill We Climb by the amazing Amanda Gorman, poet laureate. We listened to her recite this poem and through Google Classroom each student has their own copy to edit how they choose. Ms. Gorman has many beautiful and meaningful phrases and some students were really able to conceptualize what Amanda’s intention was in this piece. The poem they compose with me will then be illustrated with our beautiful art teacher.  





Last week I made a really delicious sweet potato dish from the NYT with wild rice that gave me lots of great lunches for school. I made some yummy m & m bars last night for a student party today at school and at the beginning of the week I made a chocolate vegan birthday cake for our son’s birthday. He took all the cake with him (or we gave him all the cake?) but I’m still thinking about the rich dark chocolate flavor. I am ready for the weekend, ready to relax and prepare mentally for the last month of school. Groovy Girl is almost finished with her freshman year of college and I’m ready for her to be home and in a summer routine. 

And tomorrow is May Day! Ya’ll have your May Day baskets prepared yet? We don’t either but will do them tomorrow for maybe an early evening delivery time. Let’s head into May with a positive mindset and  good weather for spending time outside. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Today and tomorrow


I  anxiously awaited the end of the Chauvin trial, as millions of others did, because I wanted a trend to be set and I am very happy with the outcome. In fact I cried. If we can convict one police officer then it can happen again and hopefully start a fire burning for better policing. City and state budgets need to be spent on training for officers on how to de-escalate with more emphasis on better understanding and compassion. Long live the memory of George Floyd! It's one tiny step to restorative justice in these United States.

I finished The Night Watchman Louise Erdrich’s excellent novel which recounts the story of her grandfather in 1953.. There has been no time in our country’s history where we’ve treated the First People with the respect they deserve and this book recounts the “emancipation bill” created by Senator Arthur V. Watkins, a Mormon, of Utah. This bill was set to relieve the Native people of their status as a tribe and force integration into bigger cities like Minneapolis/St Paul. Watkins pushed this idea as the Emancipation Proclamation for Natives. Erdrich’s ability to weave facts into her beautifully-written prose makes this a majestic book to read. I strive to read whatever she publishes.  My favorite quote from The Night Watchman: 

"We're from here," said Thomas. He thought awhile, drank some tea. "Think about this. If we Indians had picked up and gone over there and killed most of you and took over your land, what about that? Say you had a big farm in England. We camp there and kick you off. What do you say?" Barnes was struck by this scenario. He raised his eyebrows so fast his hair flopped up." I say we were here first!"

Many aren't aware that Erdrich has a historical fiction series that begins with The Birchbark House for elementary students. This 5 book series is a wonderful look into Native life as they attempt to survive while European explorers and settlers encroach on their land and way of life.


I'm feeling burned out from school and look forward to summer. I will be happy to have Groovy Girl back home and hope for somewhat of a "normal" summer with threads of pre-pandemic moments.  I am taking my worries to my yoga mat and have challenged myself to show up everyday for at least 20-30 minutes with Adriene. I thought I would have so much extra time this year and I just ended up juggling more work and stress. I always have hope and know this is temporary. Be good to yourself.  Peace be with you...