Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My good reads (fall addition)

What I've read...

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (2016): Perfectly oddball story of a shipwrecked robot who learns to survive on an island with no humans, assimilating into animal culture and ultimately becoming the kindest being there is on the island.  I loved this first chapter book by Brown and hope he has more in the works.  I love his picture book The Curious Garden as well! Thinking about holiday gifts...

George by Alex Gino (2015): debut author Alex Gino writes a beautiful tale of a young boy struggling to be the girl she knows she is. The vehicle Gino uses is George's desire to play Charlotte in their school production of Charlotte's Web.  His best friend Kelly helps to make it happen. This is a quick read and there were tears by the end. Gino has written a near perfect intro to the transgender world for elementary students.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (2016): Woodson is one of my favorite authors and Brown Girl Dreaming is one of her best. I felt like this was a continuation of the author's desire to share stories of what it means to be brown-skinned in America in different eras.  I loved the description of the New York time period with the hair and the shoes and the young friends spoke to each other.

Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos (2014): Time traveling plot twists! This book delves into one family's struggles with being honest about fracking. The issue could be one of many hot bot issues right now and how it's not healthy for people.  Pipelines going under rivers are in my mind right now. Margaret's father has come out on the wrong end of his former employer about fracking and now has been charged with murder on "trumped" up charges.  Margaret has a secret weapon she's been told not to use but her gut tells her it may just be the only way to save her dad. This book had me cheering for both Margaret and her ancestors.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (2016): I've loved this Raven Cycle series.  Blue, her family, Gansey, and Adam and Ronan feel like real people to me as I've followed every step of their quest. I know she says this is the last but I would still love to know how the gang is faring in say 2-3 years as they adjust to life with out the forest and their quest. If you haven't read this fantasy series, you must.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (2012): Book club choice and a quick read. I loved Harold's journey. Yes it was far-fetched (who leaves home without their mobile or good walking shoes) but he was just headed out to the mailbox not a month long journey. I thought Joyce did a wonderful job of feeding us information a little at a time. Harold, his wife, and many of the people he meets along the way were interesting every day characters and every one has a personal quest; Harold and his wife affected me by how much they'd experienced behind the scenes.

The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister (2015): I picked this one up at a recent book sale because the title and the cover intrigued me. As I paged through it the names Janesville and Waterloo, IA flicked past as chapter headings and I knew I had to read it. We read about Ada Bates' life in alternating time-period chapters. Through her childhood on a farm with her mom and stepfather she escapes to the famous Biltmore house to be a maid. She is looking for a different life and as soon as someone offers her the chance to head to NYC she takes it.  Along the way she is abused and lied to by men she meets. Eventually she meets Adelaide who makes her the star of her illusionist show.  Life has a way of circling back on her though and life doesn't go as planned. Ada's voice and the hardships she struggles with kept me reading. I had to know more, just one more chapter.

I've been a busy reader this fall. Now I'm reading Before the fall by Noah Hawley on my Kindle, All the Answers by Kate Messner at school, and Zero Day by Jan Gangsei from the library. What about you?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Day to be Thankful


Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.
Look at these sweet kids. I'm very happy that we will be all together over this holiday weekend.  Today is about gratitude.  

Here's my list:

My family and friends 
Our good health 
The beautiful old roof over our heads
libraries (including Hansen)
Glorious Books
My cup is almost always half full

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Delights

I made a sweet potato pie last night. It looks beautiful.  I have to wait until tomorrow to taste it. It looks simple in the photo but the flavor will be great. The cool thing is that new stove sitting in my kitchen. Love it.

To make the pie I used the best pie crust recipe I have in my files, given to me by my mother-in-law, Phyllis.

Perfect Pie Crust

For a double crust pie:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup Crisco
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cold, cold water

Mix together dry and cut in Crisco with a pastry blender. Pour in cold water and mix only enough to stick together.  Roll out one-half of the dough at a time for double crust pie.

I never fail with this recipe. My sweet potato pie is not a two crust pie so I have the second half of the dough in the fridge waiting for inspiration. I didn't have any Crisco way down in my pantry so I tried a butter/Coconut oil (in solid form) combination and it seems to have worked. The true test will be tomorrow when we eat it.

Sweet potato pie is very easy; a handful of sweet potatoes, baked, then peeled, a little organic sugar, 3 eggs, fresh nutmeg scraped in, and evaporated milk (I used regular after boiling it down).  Work it all together, pour it in the pie shell and bake it at 350* for 45 minutes. The middle won't jiggle when it's all done.  Best served at room temperature with a small dollop of fresh whipped cream seasoned with cinnamon. Can't wait.

Tomorrow night we are having a friendsgiving and I'm making a big dish of vegetable lasagna with some organic, local ground beef thrown in. I found the veggie lasagna recipe at The Pioneer Woman.  Crusty french bread and a large tossed salad will be perfect together. For one guest I'm making homemade mashed potatoes with gravy and some cranberries so it will seem a little more like Thanksgiving. I don't ever really miss the turkey because the side dishes mean more.

Be grateful for everything in your day; the sweet and the sour.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wisdom through the years...

My dad's birthday today. Sorry he's not here with us.  He is a reminder to me all the time of how short life is. I miss him often-

Appreciate the people around you who help you, give you strength, buy you new tires when you really need them and you had a baby instead. My dad was a very understanding sort of guy. He gave my husband good advice before we were married: "Love her and take her where she wants to go..."  My husband does that mostly and he's a great driver while I read in the passenger seat. A win-win for me. 

(Boating-circa 1970's)

When Bush took office the first time I had a negative bumper sticker (something about the red party and their intelligence) on my station wagon and he reminded me not to lump a whole group of people together; that it wasn't fair.  I removed the bumper sticker and found one that was more peaceful and kind thus more thoughtful. He's right, of course, and I keep thinking about that pearl of wisdom but I'm still struggling with this post-election. I just won't add it to my bumper.  I'm already tired of the massive flag-waving that is happening right now in my own "River City". 

I'll try to keep my cool but I cannot say all will be fine. It won't be.
Today though I'll honor my dad and focus on two little spitfire nieces who were born on this exact day-two little dreamers who could easily run the country one day. I hope we don't have to wait that long but we need to keep raising them thoughtfully so they will be ready.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I could be salad girl...

That could be my Superpower...

I love and miss the lovely salad I made a few weeks ago with swiss chard but when the opportunity arose to create another salad for a school event I searched again online.

I found what I was looking for at the Minimalist Baker.  Arugula, dried cranberries, and nuts plus a homemade dressing were all ingredients I had in my kitchen. I followed the directions for the dressing just right; the salad I played around with just a bit.

I used feta cheese instead of bleu, I added some spring greens because arugula can be too peppery for many, and I added a handful of cherry tomatoes and small sliced red and orange peppers just because they happened to be in my crisper.  Why not?

I loved the pecans, toasted and warm, mixed with the tartness of the dried cranberries and the lemony spark of dressing was just the right tang. I will keep this one close as I loved the flavor mix and it was easy to adapt to what I already had.

I started this last night while waiting at dance.  I checked my NYT app several times and lost my entire mind. Today I'm publishing this and will work on a more thoughtful post about last night and today because other wise I might use words that are not peaceful at all.

Be Kind.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Happy Halloween!

{The Princess and the Bee}
We've had a busy celebratory weekend that started Friday at school with the traditional Halloween parade all around the school. So many happy faces-kids just filled with the joy of childhood.

{Groovy Girl and her painted pumpkin}
{Cinderella teaches 2nd grade at our school}
Tomorrow will be a crazy day at school as kids anticipate their evening of trick or treating around their neighborhoods.  They don't have to worry about the upcoming election, all the political ads, all the negativity! They can dress up and enjoy.  It's also really nice weather here which is great for festivities. We had our annual Fall Fest at church today and it was comfortable playing games outside with a sweater on.

{Hay ride around the neighborhood}
I finally finished The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami; interesting tale, took me a long time to read, and I'm not sure I get it. My take away was that he did everything he could to bring his wife back to him; a lot of strange stuff in between. If anyone knows more about the book I'd love to know. I'm now reading Another Brooklyn by one of my favorite authors Jacqueline Woodson and a new library book, Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos.  My 6th grade book club just started The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson and I'm excited to see what they think because it is just so different from what they would normally pick up.

{Hansen goes all out}

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Weekly Recipes 16; October

A friend at school gave me a huge grocery bag full of swiss chard and I've had fun experimenting with it. I've made it only a small handful of times, mostly just wilted in a pan with lemon squeezed. It was less than exciting. But I was very willing to try again. In handing over the swiss chard Kristin gushed about a swiss chard and potato recipe she made and so that very next weekend I googled it and put it together. I found this one from the NYT; Potato and swiss chard gratin.

Mind you it was not something Groovy Girl would stick her spoon into but my husband and I loved the creamy change of pace. After that recipe I still had half a bag of chard but I had other things to cook and forgot about it. I expected to open the bag a few days later, maybe a week, and find wilted, grossness but nope it was still hanging in there. Book club was just around the corner and I felt like a crisp salad.  Googling brought this swiss chard recipe from Alexandra's Kitchen and it was so lemony and delicious. A few days later I was actually craving the crispness of the salad again. So I guess I'll look forward to the next time I find swiss chard. I'm a fan now.

This weekend we had another family over to hang out around our fire pit. The days are getting nippier and soon it will be too cold.  Hopefully this wasn't our last weekend out there but if it is we certainly had fun.  I had some very good brats in my freezer from a local locker that I simmered in two cans of beer and then roasted over the crackling fire.

My friends Marek and Erin recently shared a jar of homemade sauerkraut and we had lots of toppings; spicy mustards, diced red onion, Amy's ketchup, TJ's wasabi mayonnaise, feta cheese. We had our salsa and blue chips and a garbanzo bean recipe from BudgetByte's that I've wanted to try. I served the chickpeas over a bed of arugula from last week's farmers market run. I am a huge fan of garbanzos and I thought this one turned out great; interesting spicy and sweet flavors mixed together. Of course around the campfire we roasted some marshmallows and made s'mores for dessert.

Swiss Chard Salad
Cumin Lime Chickpeas

Even though it's October I haven't made one thing with pumpkin in it. I like to look at pumpkins-the color is so vibrant-but I'm not a pumpkin pie fan. I should maybe try a pumpkin soup. On occasion I like a pumpkin spiced latte or chai.  Maybe in the next week I can get locate a few more Fall flavors.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Books and food and so many other tidbits

Dance has taken over our life and when we are not at dance Groovy Girl is on my computer working on homework. 9th grade honors classes are pushing her and keeping her busy.

School has me super busy as I'm constantly tweaking lessons and working with our young leadership team. In between and sometimes because of school I've been reading some great books. Hansen's 6th grade book club just finished The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich.  This book is underappreciated. A few libraries in our district don't even have copies!

It is a beautifully written story of a young Ojibwa girl and her family as they rotate through the seasons. The accelerated kids in my book club thought it was interesting and the book brought forth a lot of discussion.

At home I finished The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald; a fresh fun story about a young Swedish woman who travels to Broken Wheel, Iowa to meet her bookish pen pal. By the time Sara arrives her pen pal, Amy, has died. The very small town rallies around her and the results are often strange and bittersweet. I enjoyed this tale for its quirky cast of characters and all the book trivia.

My husband and I sometimes read books to each other and we recently finished The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. This is a psychological thriller and I've seen a lot of up and down reviews. We enjoyed it and love trying to figure out where the story is going. This one kept us guessing for a few plot twists. Next up we are going to read a classic thriller by Nancy Price-Sleeping with the Enemy.

I made the butternut squash soup, the potato and swiss chard dish and the butternut tabbouleh from my last blog post. All were delicious. Later tonight I'm going to make my stepmother's zucchini bread for my husband because I have two that are oversized from our school garden. First I'm going to relax with some friends, music, and wine. Just the way to spend a Friday night. Groovy Girl made me dinner also; a veggie wrap using gluten-free wraps from Aldi. Something she watched a YouTube video about...

I'll have to work harder to wrestle the computer away from her so I can write more before the month closes out.

Enjoy the weekend!!