Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Let's catch up...


September is flying by and I had the crazy thought today; I can understand the appeal of a ghost writer to very busy authors. I feel like I could use one every now and again.

What's happening in my world?

School:

I'm having a magical year so far. This is my fourth year and I feel much more confident overall. This class of 6th grade students were 3rd graders when I arrived and we have a unique and trusting relationship. Even kindergarten this year has impressed me with their amazing excitement for library.

Home:

Japhy has settled into her high school classes and dance started last week. She is busy, happy, and still filled with so much love for me that our life together is smooth. She loves to lay with me and just hang out.  My husband just finished directing an amazing play, The Man who shot Liberty Valance, which I knew nothing about until he picked it for this current season.  I'm not a fan of westerns but this one, never having read the book or watched the movie, struck me with it's very modern issues of good vs. bad.

The only part of my idyllic home life that is not going as planned is how difficult it is for Anton to understand how to be part of a healthy, high-functioning family. It is literally an every day struggle which is a major impact on the rest of us. He doesn't understand why he needs to check in with us, he doesn't understand about keeping regular hours, about respect or graciousness, about empathy for other humans and as of yesterday how to talk to another person after a fender bender. (Clue: YOU DO not yell at the person you just rear ended) He has not been able to save a single dime even though he only has two bills to pay. It is mind-blowing and heart-breaking to watch someone struggle and continue to lose any momentum mostly because he flat out doesn't want to listen as a 22-year-old.  The poverty cycle is hard to break.  He's never had anyone "parent" him per se or have expectations for him to follow. On the plus side he loves the community college and the digital media program he is enrolled in and loves taking and editing photos and videos.  We hope and pray that he will get over a major hump and realize the gifts he is being handed and how far he can actually go if he listens and learns.


Books:

I hosted book club last night and we discussed The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.  Excellent read. I loved the magical realism, making it an actual train with stations.  It helped me to experience the claustrophobia and fear of traveling to someplace better than where you came from hopefully. We had a good discussion, delicious food, and lots of wine. The extra bonus of hosting was that I deep cleaned many corners of my house that spiders had otherwise been living and dying in.

I'm almost finished with Eowyn Ivey's new book, The bright edge of the world.  Love it. Written in journal entries, it tells the story of Colonel Forrester as he explores the Wolverine River into Alaska, and his wife as she restlessly waits for him to return. She begins taking photographs, which in 1885, was quite a process.  Set against the beautiful backdrop of Canada and Alaska their stories are captivating. I loved The Snow Child and this one uses a touch of magical realism as well through several Indigenous tribal legends and myths.

I hope you are having an amazing September as well! Life is good.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Homemade Kitchen

{Bouquet of basil}
I have an old kitchen surrounded by a few new appliances. At some point I hope I'm able to update the the cabinets, the floor, and the sink.  I am someone who spends a great deal of time in my kitchen and it's a hallway kitchen so it's not easy for anyone more than me to be in there.  The next two days will be the toughest days for me and my kitchen as I get ready to make a big batch of salsa and a big batch of pesto.


Every year my mom shares her garden bounty with me so I may turn it into salsa and pesto; two items I love to have all year around for pure food happiness. Even though it's an all day process and hot.  My husband is a great help with the salsa part and I love that.


I've been looking for a good new pesto recipe that doesn't use pine nuts. So expensive, those pine nuts. I found a good one on Epicurious.com that uses pecans. If you want my salsa recipe check out this fabulous post with a tiny Groovy Girl front and center.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Solar Eclipse Journey

video

Just a week ago we made the trek to Missouri to be in the path of totality. It was exciting stuff to be on the road headed to such a monumental event and one that, in our lifetime, we may not be able to see again. My husband started plotting this adventure back in April and was shocked to find all campgrounds in the area to be booked.  He did find a hotel in Columbia, MO for the night and then we'd head to Boonville, MO to be right in the path. He even had a large park picked out that would be perfect for hanging out and waiting for the moon to cross over the sun in the middle of the day.
{Harley Park-same location-after eclipse}
Somehow he managed to take care of many details except to find the appropriate glasses. This is the part that stunned me. Here we are making this 5 hour journey to watch an amazing moment in time and not prepared with the right equipment. We might be left looking like Mr. Trump squinting into the sky. Once we checked into the hotel I made this my priority. Luckily the University of Missouri book store had ordered more than enough paper glasses and were selling them at a reasonable rate. We were set for the next day. We had fun at Cosmo Park with an eclipse themed party; live music, food trucks, and fresh local beer.  After that Groovy Girl picked a place for dinner; Babbo's Spaghetteria!  We headed back to the other side of town, near the U of M, and found this place in a highly traffic commercial area-not our usual dining preference but it's what she'd picked.

This is the thing with road trips that I love.  If it is a new destination for you; you have know idea what you're going to get. The place from the front looked like a glorified Olive Garden but what was inside was a different story.  Our dining experience was delicious. I had a strawberry salad that was the perfect size with great flavor. And Greg and G.G. both had pasta dishes they loved as well. We shared a bottle of wine as our excellent server informed us the bottles were on sale AND we could take the rest of it with us. I think that's a great rule.  We had a leisurely dinner, enjoying the staff, the food, and the ambiance even though we were in a fancy strip mall. A good reminder to never judge.

Harley Park after eclipse}
The next day we hung out in Harley Park with our own snacks and beverages. The park service of Missouri were extremely helpful and polite, using golf carts to help ferry people and their chairs, coolers, and bags up and down the hills.  Super hospitable.  After the amazing event we hung around a bit, waiting for the rush to leave the park. And in order to hopefully miss much of the highway traffic we hung around in downtown Boonville doing some vintage shopping.

Our drive home was l-o-n-g. In other words we DID NOT miss the traffic. In Hannibal, one of our favorite little cities, we decided we needed a dinner break. We trawled through town looking for something interesting other than fast food and one of our phones brought up the Rustic Oak (motto: best food by a damn site). It had an interested front-like an old west saloon and we walked in. This is again just part of the road trip experience but let me tell you flat out that this place sucked. It's tough to be a foodie in the real world of restaurants on the road.

Oh the waitress was okay and the decorations were interesting to look at but the food-total bomb.  It had an extensive menu, with many pages to look through. At the appetizer section both my husband and I spotted fried okra, which we both love. We ordered that with our waters while we continued to browse the menu. I finally spotted fish tacos and felt pleased that I'd found something. I'm usually pretty happy with just an app or a salad but this was the kind of place that included meat on every salad. Blech. A good salad does not need meat. Just fyi. Eventually Greg and GG found things they were excited about and our order was placed. Oh how I wish I could take it back.  We knew we were in trouble when the okra showed up looking like hard little puff balls straight from a freezer box.

We waited a long time for the rest of our food to arrive and when it did we should have sent it all right back. There was something off-tasting in my tacos-I still don't know what it was. It wasn't spoiled or rotten but it was on the way. It might have been the cole slaw or something in the fish batter-but I had to stop eating after a couple of bites. Greg agreed after one bite that I was right. He had a burger (the meat was good) but the lettuce was like the limpest piece of bottom of the bag that should have been tossed away, the bun was stale and GG's chicken parmigiano was gooped with a bunch of really plastic cheese.  We laughed at all of these things although we did turn the fish tacos back in to the waitress.

You just never know and that's what adds to the excitement and fun. We have so many memories like this as a family. And we are lucky to have them. The Rustic Oak will live in infamy when we joke about crappy food.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

We need diverse books

I heard some guy interviewed on NPR today discussing recent events in Charlottesville, VA. He ended the discussion with an admonition that everyone should invite a family of a different color, religion, belief system over for dinner; that through personal interactions such as a simple family meal we could end racial strife.


It sounds good. And I do have diverse people to my house for dinner. I want to know who's going to volunteer to have the neo-Nazi family over though?  Not me. Maybe I would IF I thought I could magically unwrap their hatred.  I'd rather have Tina Fey over for dinner though and I'd serve a sheet cake at the end. And then we're just preaching to the choir.


Quite awhile ago (before the election ended so tragically) I ordered a stack of books from Amazon.  I'd read a review about Angie Thomas' new book that enticed me and two other books were suggested to me by that handy Amazon tool.  In a rare moment of frivolousness I ordered all three-very unlike me. I read The Hate you give pretty quickly and LOVED it. I promote it all around town and on twitter. Loved it. She wrote an interesting story with genuine characters on a timely topic. The second book was Renee Watson's book Piecing me together; an excellent coming-of-age tale about tough choices and being yourself.  I discovered I had an ARC of an earlier Watson book, This side of home, about a set of twins coming into their own as separate young women, which I then devoured as well. The 3rd book took me a bit longer to get to-I don't know why-but it set on my dining room table for months. I packed it for vacation though and read it on the road. Ibi Zoboi's American Street.  Unlike the other three this one is not about the black experience in America but a Haitian immigrants experience as a young high schooler trying to learn how to be American amidst family strife.  This one I enjoyed yet I struggled with decisions made and lack of consequences for Fabiola's cousins.  I look forward to other stories she may have to tell. Another one I just finished that can be added is Ghost by @JasonReynolds83, a powerful tale about a young man trying to make good choices in his life.

In an attempt to explore new human experiences any of these titles would fit the bill. Feel free to invite them to dinner, follow these authors on twitter, and pay attention. I believe in the library but buying diverse books sends a message to publishers: #weneeddiversebooks


@acthomasbooks
@reneewauthor
@ibizoboi

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.