Saturday, February 27, 2021

What really matters...

Recently I wrote posts on the  love I have for my three children and my passion for politics; now I have food on my mind. This might be my life trifecta: children, food, and politics and intersecting through that is working with students as a librarian. I love my work, enjoy helping students find books, information, and fresh ideas. 

And at the end of most days I love coming home and cooking in my kitchen. My kitchen is too small for a lot of cooks in the kitchen and in fact it is only enough room for Groovy Girl and I to cook together. And we have to do a well-executed dance to not bump into each other. Having music on helps. Usually I just play my own jams but if she steps into the kitchen to help then she she plays her own music. Just like with anything good in life it is most perfect when you have all your ingredients right there and ready. I like a well-stocked pantry and when I have the space and time to put things together, relaxed with a glass of wine.  More often though it's rushed after school but even quick I can pull something together that is unique and delicious. 

{Curried Lentils}

Last week I made Maharajah's Rice from Meera Sodha's Fresh India cookbook and it was very easy to make right after school. I loved the flavors of the basmati rice mixed with the soft apricot, almonds and aromatic cinnamon. It's quite similar to this basmati rice recipe from Analida's Ethnic Spoon.  And while browsing her site I found this chickpea and lentil recipe that I'll have to try soon. A few weeks ago Groovy Girl said she needed some comfort food when she came home the next time; something like lentils she said. That's like a special invitation connecting your children with food. I searched for the perfect lentil recipe and found a curry that we all loved and will make again. She said "this is the perfect comfort food, mama" while holding the bowl up and breathing in the smells and heat. I found that easy recipe, Creamy One-Pot Curried Lentils and Quinoa on Yup..It's Vegan!    That same weekend I also whipped up blueberry lemon muffins for her to take back to school. 

My second favorite place to be in the kitchen is at my brother's house where I can just be the sous to his chef. He has a beautiful kitchen and makes a wide variety of foods. It's nice to relax there and not be in charge of the meal. I can watch him cook or help along the way. 

Now why is Prince gracing this post about food? Because I often listen to music while I write and today I thought he deserved to be on top. Let's go crazy. 

Each and everyone of us are multidimensional and hopefully you've found things in your life to feed your soul. Enjoy! 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Talking about love and other important stuff

We should love one another. We should be accepting of other's thoughts and ideas, be open by way of love with empathy at the core of all we do. This does not seem to be our Republican-led legislators are starting off our new term. We have a host of new bills introduced that take away from our democratic means of living and equality for all. 

Senate File 160: Student First Scholarships; basically vouchers for private/religious schools, taking away  money from public education, a right granted to us in the Bill of Rights. This is a terrible idea for Iowa. (Kim Reynolds) 

House File 222: will reduce funding for any school (K-12 and higher education) for using the 1619 Project created by Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times. Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for the essay that started the project. We should be celebrating her as a fellow Iowan instead of censoring real history.  (Skyler Wheeler -

House File 193: prohibits transgender kids from receiving medically necessary treatment. (Sandy Salmon - Why, just why? 

House File 109: This would give the legislative rule over Supreme Court decisions. Again this is a crazy idea as the judicial branch is purposely separate from the other two branches so as to be fair. (Sandy Salmon)

Senate File 41: would prohibit tenure at all three of our public universities in the state. Also it was proposed that all faculty at these universities should reveal their political affiliation as the Republicans say with more Democratic professors students are getting a biased education. (face plant) Just because we are teaching the truth, history, and independent thinking...(Brad Zaun) 

Each one of these laws is draconian and we need to put up a fight. Please contact your representatives and talk about why all five of these bills would be terrible for Iowa. With such an overwhelming amount of Republicans voted in this last round and with our Trump-loving governor Kim Reynolds we are indeed in trouble here. Send logical help please.  

I sent an email to Skyler Wheeler right before I typed this. Sandy Salmon, bless her heart, is next on my list. 


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Showing UP: a love letter

 I love the three children that grew up in our house together. I tried my best to show up and be a good mama. It didn't happen every day or every moment but I hope my children remember times that I was there for them, that I supported and encouraged them. All three are adults now off in the world doing their own things. 

Kaylee, the oldest of the three and my stepdaughter, produces a podcast, Heavyweight, for Gimlet Media and she lives in Brooklyn, NY. She's been stuck in NY throughout the pandemic learning to live there without the restaurants and live theatre that brought her great joy in previous years. 

Tristan, my first born but middle in our family, manages the McGrath Kia & Hyundai dealership in Hiawatha, IA. He finished a degree in Political Science at the U of I two winters ago and loves working with cars.

Japhy, my youngest and better known here as Groovy Girl, is in her freshman year at U of I in Iowa City. She is learning to navigate college life through a pandemic with virtual classes and a very different dorm life than expected. 

All three children enjoy spending time together, and I hope will continue to seek each other throughout their adult lives. After a few ups and downs with each child I'm most interested in their happiness. I hope they find good life partners who bring out the best in each other. I hope they enjoy their work and lead socially responsible lives. 

I've reflected back recently on my talents as a parent and I realized I am good at cuddling and we spent hours curled up reading or talking together. This makes me a great emotional support animal: you can bring me anywhere. I'm also a pretty good personal chef.  My kids have a wide variety of food they eat and don't eat.  Kaylee eats chicken but not red meat, Tristan went from begging for meat in our mostly vegetarian diet when he was a middle school student and is now a fully committed vegan. Japhy eats a wide variety and loves to cook but learned this summer that she is allergic to eating tomatoes after she did the elimination diet. She has had digestion problems throughout high school and we can't seem to find all the culprits.

I am there for them when they need food or drink-most of the time. I've faltered a few times. In my beginning stages of learning to cook vegan I had some rough patches but as we usually do- we made it to the other side. Forgive me if I can't remember who likes apples, kiwi, cranberries, or extra cheese! I love all three of these amazing adult children with all their unique personalities. I know they will show up for me as well. The empty nest feels strange but I'm happy to share these three humans with the world. 

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Good-bye to January

I'm ready for February, even though we are still in the middle of winter, it puts us a little closer to Spring.  It's very cold here with mounds of gorgeous snow, and I did make it outside for one long walk with the dogs.  I still feel bedraggled many days and overwhelmed on other days but there is still an inching toward feeling healthy and whole again. Soup always makes me feel better!

I made a delicious black bean soup from the New England Soup Factory Cookbook, a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law. This is the second soup I've made from the book and both recipes were easy to follow and tasted delicious. The first recipe I made a few days after Christmas and it fit the bill for how I was feeling: Spicy Chicken and Rice Flu Chaser Soup and my mother had just gifted me several local farm-raised chickens. Look at all the wonderful mothering help I've received! Grateful for that during this tough month. 

This black bean recipe was very easy to put together on a Saturday afternoon and even though I didn't have any sherry in my cupboards it turned out amazing.  We added diced avocados as well because why not?

So, of course, I've been eating well. And reading lots in between creating major lesson plans for school. I had a library hold on The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, which I read an amazing review about and the book is short but worthy. It pokes into some philosophical ideas I've thought about over the last few years. The road less traveled or the road not taken...

Let's dive into February and find ways to educate ourselves and celebrate Black history everyday through February and make it a part of who we are. 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Huge gap

I've been diligent over the past months to post once a week and I've failed on this through this first half of January. What began as, I assumed, a simple cold quickly became so much more and as December ended and the week to return to school approached I decided to get tested for Covid-19. I didn't have the major symptoms of loss of smell or taste but I did have a cold that defied all my natural home remedies and proven in the past methods of alleviating a cold. It was a lot of deep symptoms and the worst was that we were homebound over the holidays and could not pinpoint how we picked up this terrible virus. Not only did I feel terrible physically but I was angry because we've been so careful all throughout this pandemic.  

The only highlight was that we'd made it through the Christmas holiday feeling good. It doesn't matter that I spent New Year's Eve on the sofa in my pajamas with a box of tissues near me instead of a glass of champagne. I did have an extra week off from school because of how I felt plus my positive Covid test. I went back to school last week and made it through the week with fairly flying colors. I did crash once I made it home but that's okay. I wish I could say I feel great but that's not the case; I'm still sneezing, coughing and tired.  My husband shared the same symptoms with me and he still feels exhausted.  Somehow our Groovy Girl did not get sick and really did a fantastic job of taking care of us. She is going to make an amazing healthcare professional when she finishes school. I felt really blessed that she was still home for her winter break. We all know (most) husbands are not great caregivers and mine was busy being sick himself. It was good to have someone else here who has a gentle hand and a thoughtful heart. She'll be gone after next week and I hope by that time I feel 100%.

While I've been sick I've read a few books of course and streamed a little. After watching all of Bridgerton  while I was curled up in bed I set a goal to get caught up on The Handmaid's Tale. I'd lost the thread after a few violent and too close for comfort episodes so I shelved it for quite awhile but recent events got me fired up and I am now finished with season 2 and ready for season 3. With a lot more laughter I finished up Schitt's Creek and will go back at some point and rewatch all of this series. Laughing out loud is a perfect way to recuperate or stay sane through a pandemic! We also enjoyed the adaptation of our favorite author Chris Bohjalian's The Flight Attendant on HBO. 

Right now I'm reading Deathless Divide, the second in Justina Ireland's Dread Nation series and Caste by Isabel Wilkerson.  I would love to see Dread Nation and Children of Blood and Bone turned into movies. 

I'm anxiously awaiting Inauguration Day because I'm very excited for Dems to be in the WH but most importantly for Kamala Harris to be sworn in as our very first female VP. I'm anxious for our country, for the protests but I have to hope for the best. Welcome to 2021.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Best books of 2020


I had a great year of reading - thanks to a world-wide pandemic that kept us home more than usual.  I read more children's literature because I was teaching from home in March reading to students through the magic of Google Classroom. I read 24 adult fiction books this year and nine were five star amazing and one romance book, Wrong Guy, Right Room written by a friend that was very good. At 848 pages, TheWay the Crow Flies by Anne-Marie Macdonald was one of my favorites and I started a ring of other readers from my book club in reading it as well. The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne, also quite long, was well worth the time I put into it. With so many great titles if I had to pick a number one title it would be Richard Powers' The Overstory which blew me away and gave me a greater understanding of the close relationship between the natural world and how humans are mere leaves in the winds of time. 

As a school librarian I usually do quite a bit of reading but this year I was on a quest to read more books written by POC authors to add to our school collection.  I found so many great titles and enriched my own knowledge as well as the joy of recommending them to my students.  From the desk of Zoe Washington, Ways to make sunshine, and New Kid are the most popular with students.  Stargazing and New Kid are my top two graphic novels for elementary. All of these stories act as a windows for students to see into another person's life. Two more titles that surprised me were Efren, Divided and Accidental Trouble Magnet: Planet Omar, both cover the immigrant experience in the U.S. at a dangerous time in our history.  I also really loved Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park, who writes a pioneer story with an an Asian main character.  This story should be read instead of or in addition to Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

I read two fantastic YA books that have been on my reading list for ages and after reading one more rave review over the summer I ordered both from and waited for them to arrive. Both stories were excellent as they showcased a unique look at Black history through zombies in the U.S. -yes, it makes perfect sense, (Dread Nation) and a West African fantasy world (Children of Blood and Bone) I easily immersed myself in both worlds. And now I have the second in each series on loan from the library. If you are looking for great titles for 2021 encourage you to give any of these a try. I'd be happy to book talk with you.  While 2020 was hard in many ways there are always positives to be found.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Holiday Self-Care

At this time of the year I start to feel like I'm on a super light speed treadmill and I can't keep up. Finishing school with students, shopping, wrapping, tree trimming, treat baking, family (Zoom) gatherings, post office runs, holiday cards, it all ads up to a head spinning schedule. This year I've had one thing throughout most of December that I've relied on either in the morning, right after school, or before bedtime that has kept me steady. 

Based in Austin, TX Adriene, and her sidekick Benji, does a monthly yoga journey and Find What Feels Good subscription classes.  She has free yoga classes galore on YouTube, including school resources, and I can find a different one every day to fit my desire/need.  The energy Adriene sends out on emails and in videos is what keeps me coming back. They are low key, kind, and she encourages you to play in your practice. Angelle connected me to these unique videos and Groovy Girl encouraged me to join her for 25 days of yoga during December. From what I understand they really helped her get through the last few weeks of her semester at school. 

Give yourself a self care gift and find one of her videos to just start...once you begin you may not want to stop. It's a little like eating salted caramel saltines or my friend Jim's buttery caramel squares.  Amazing.  
Blessings for a gracious holiday. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Positive Encounters


Last weekend we had a quiet  family outing to pick out a Christmas tree and see Groovy Girl at the same time. We delivered groceries and dark chocolate to her for her first semester finals week, picked her up and headed 20 minutes outside of Iowa City to pick out a tree. I've researched over and over the greenest way to get your tree and it's clear that means buying from a small business tree farm. 

Wilson's Orchard came up as a tree source when I looked for a place close to her and this was a win for me because I've always wanted to check out this orchard's apples and ciders. I admit I always planned to be there during the summer or fall seasons yet we arrived on a rainy, cold Friday night.  Not the best night for picking a tree. It was actually pouring when we pulled up and we drove the long driveway up to a tall barn building that turned out to house their restaurant and bar. We don't really get out much anymore what with the pandemic and all so we were very excited to find out they were serving food and that the place was empty. The hostess/wait person asked if we had reservations and I held myself in check by answering politely that we did not. She was happy to seat us, chatted with us, and moved on. I did notice several other tables that were set up for dining and sure enough within 20 minutes we had four other groups of diners seated at tables well spaced out and with the high ceilings and everyone masked up it still seemed very safe. Funny we have all this to think about now. 

We ordered two different hard ciders and one warm cider for Groovy Girl and then browsed the menu for food offerings. The restaurant, Rapid Creek Cidery, is farm to table, uses a lot of local products, and is expensive yet once we had our food it was delicious. My mind was set on a spicy buttermilk tofu sandwich and hand cut French fries. While we waited for our food the rain turned to big wet snowflakes and while it looked beautiful out the window we could also hear the wind howl.  My only wish was for a large wood fireplace near by. My sandwich arrived and I didn't pay attention to much else after that and I ate the entire thing it was that good. It was almost too spicy with vinegar-soaked jalapeƱos popping up all over the sandwich but the buttermilk-crisped tofu balanced with the homemade creamy dressing pulled it all together. I know my husband and daughter loved their meals as well because there was good eating sounds coming from across the table.  Our waitress was courteous and efficient as she managed take-out orders as well as the four other tables. 

At the end of our meal as she swept my empty plate away I made the off hand comment that I enjoyed the meal so much that I would like the recipe and within minutes the chef was at our table ready to talk food. She shared how she soaked the Iowa City-based tofu in buttermilk and then flour and back and forth to create the layers. It was a joy to chat with her and so very thoughtful of the wait person to send her over to us.  

We made our way out the door and into the winter snow to drive down the lane and to the right for the tree. The staff there also made our visit worth it. We browsed the gift shop packed full of sweet offerings, locally made gift items, books, t-shirts, and gorgeous blankets. We braved the cold again after chatting with staff and then went out to pick our tree and back in as quick as possible. It was dark, cold, and snowy and at the end of our tree and cider transaction I asked Groovy Girl if she wanted an apple cider donut to go and before she could even answer we were handed a giant bag of donuts. They said they were done for the night and at the end of the day a bag of free donuts, a delicious meal, and a lovely tree all made us feel well tended to at Wilson's Orchard. Now after my last week of school I am ready to decorate the tree! May all your holiday encounters be just as bright.