Sunday, July 21, 2019

What a crazy summer!


This feels like the middle of summer; it's hot and the sweet corn is up and being sold on street corners all over the Cedar Valley. I've packed in a lot over the summer but I need a few more slow days reading in the hammock (when it's not a 100 degrees out) and relaxing with friends.  It's been so busy writing hasn't happened as much as I like; I dream up blog posts but they stay there in my mind.

I did make a big batch of yogurt at the beginning of July. Delicious and creamy, mixed with fruit preserves and pumpkin butter it is the best start to my day. When I make it I don't use the cream in the recipe-I just used good quality, local 1% milk. I recently found a easy (two ingredient) coconut yogurt recipe from Minimalist Baker that I want to try for my dairy-free Groovy Girl.

My husband and daughter have been very busy with our summer musical production of Beauty and the Beast. She's had a great time as an ensemble character; she dances, she plays a wolf, Maria, the baker's wife, and a townsperson.  It has been quite a run, with sold out performances, and today the run is done so life might be a tiny bit quieter. (maybe)

I have made it to yoga more than a handful of times which was on my summer plan. I've recently read several articles talking about the importance of meditation on our brain.  It's a matter of settling our brain from 5-50 minutes; the more we let it rest, the better our mind functions. It makes sense of course just like sleep for our bodies. I've added that to my day even if it is just 5 minutes of quiet breathing in the car before I get out.

I've read quite a few great books already and I still have a full basket to go. Every summer I bring home a crate of books to read. Some are books that students loved and it's my turn to try them and some are books I read to pre-choose the Iowa Children's Choice Awards. I love doing this as I like to make sure there are a lot of well-rounded choices; books with diversity, books that take kids out of their small-town Iowa world, books that expand their minds, books that tell amazing stories.  I've read a few that fit this description:

1. Amina's Voice by Hena Khan - As a Pakistani-Muslim girl in American Amina struggles to mix her family's culture while blending in at school. Luckily she does have one true friend in Soojin who seems more adept at understanding people.  This is a rich story filled with family, food, and new beginnings but also devastating vandalism of her beloved mosque.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is from her brother Mustafa - "It's just so freaking unfair. What kind of person would want to destroy a place where people gather to pray and learn?"  My thoughts exactly.

2. Bob by Wendy Mass - This story is a bit of magical realism more than fantasy to me. Livy and her mom come back to visit her grandmother in Australia 5 years after their last visit. When Livy explores her mother's old room and the room she stayed in when she was little she finds a young greenish creature named Bob in her closet.  Bob remembers everything from her last visit but Livy struggles with these same memories. She makes it her duty to figure out how to get Bob home (wherever that might be?) while her mother is off visiting old friends for a week.  I had trouble getting into this story yet I liked the conclusion of Bob's story.


3. Merci Suarez changes gears by Meg Medina - This excellent title won the Newberry medal this year!  This story resonates with her family's rich family culture as Merci navigates her private school surroundings as a scholarship culture. Eventually she learns that if she stays true to herself all will work out. Her grandfather plays a large role in her life and his world is changing as he ages and this affects the whole family as they learn to deal with his aging mind.


4. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed - Amal lives in Pakistan with her family and she loves going to school and being in her village. Her only dream is to become a teacher. One day she has a heated encounter with her village's horrible landlord and her dreams are quickly disrupted as she learns what it means to have an enemy. I loved this story and learned a great deal about Pakistani culture. I hope she is working on a second book of Amal so we can see if she realizes her dreams.


5. Aru Shah and the end of time by Roshani Chokshi - I'm only about 5 chapters in but am in love with this fast-paced fantasy book about spunky Aru who has awakened a demon in her mom's Indian museum.  This is one from Rick Riordan's new imprint and it is excellent.


I've also read Helen Hoang's two books; perfect, quick summer reads and sexy-not for the prudish. These are modern day romance novels even though the covers do not feature bodice-ripping of any kind. I like the characters which feature people on the autism spectrum. I read this fantastic Washington Post article about Hoang and her desire to write romance novels.  Very sweet, super sexy, and I will read every book she puts out...

How is your summer?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy July!

I'm not a fan of our flag yet I am a happy to have the right to voice my opinions about our country and it's love of symbols. While I'm spouting off about unpopular concepts I am also not a fan of fireworks-especially the kind sold in every parking lot across America leading up to this holiday. They are loud and intrusive and dangerous.

I didn't come here just to complain about holidays though; I thought I'd share some of my top books. Litsy, the book site I play with other than Goodreads, has a thing right now to post your top reads from January to June and these are mine. All excellent reads if you are in need of a new summer title.


I've had some time to enjoy real summer days after my trip to Colorado and yesterday I spent a couple hours reading on our patio. I also was in my pajamas until about 1pm. It rocked. I even had a friend show up with lunch and a cold coffee brew and I stayed in my pajamas.  It's a joy to unwind and take a break. I am taking one class right now about gender and while it is a lot of work to type out the papers I am enjoying the readings that go with the class.  

Take it easy today, remember what our country should stand for and that it has been GREAT for many, many years and spend time with family and friends. Be careful with your fireworks and be kind to the environment~it's the only one we have. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Summer Vacation


{miles and miles of gorgeous forest}

I flew to Colorado last week. I've not flown for years and it always freaks me out a little bit when we take-off, while we fly though, and when we land.  The only part I love is how quickly I get there-that always amazes me! Last summer Groovy Girl and I drove to Denver and it takes us two days, flying, of course, took an hour and 1/2.  Big difference of time yet you do miss all the cool stuff along the way. 


We spent two days in Denver, hanging with my brother and his family. I especially loved just sitting on the patio soaking up the warm Colorado sun. We visited Odell's Brewery and a fresh Mexican restaurant called Lola.  And then after our down time in Denver we headed to Estes Park, one of the gateways to Rocky Mountain National Park. While in the park I saw a very large male moose with a huge rack, several elk, and a baby brown bear. We hiked to Alberta Falls which was a long walk up and luckily we found a shortcut back down. There is something about the fierce rushing water sounds that makes me feel small.  I also love to dream about the first people to come upon something as beautiful as this falls for the very first time. The trails were packed with many other humans and while I'm glad the park is being used it would be so cool to be there by yourself.


We headed to Castle Pines after Estes to stay with Janice and Dean for a night. We ate at Duke's and took a drive to see a whole herd of bison and their babies. The next day we spent the morning sitting out on the porch watching a hummingbird flit back and forth. They've had a mama bear and three cubs roaming nearby and actually captured footage on their animal cam.  This morning Janice let me know that the mother and one of the babies had been shot and killed by a local resident. Why are you up at 1am shooting at a mama bear? I am just sickened by the thought of this on so many levels. Why would you not just call animal control?  I can't get the video to transfer to my laptop so you can see the bear video. I'll keep trying and share another time. 

It was a great trip! I love being in the mountains, I love the view. Blessings to all. 



Saturday, June 15, 2019

Ah summer! Cheers to Brunch.

I've relaxed into my first full week of summer. I've done an equal share of cleaning, reading, and organizing so far. Oh and a little napping tossed in. I've had lunch with a few friends, celebrated two birthdays, had a pedicure, and started each day with yoga.


One major accomplishment was hosting a brunch last weekend.  We have a group of theatre friends and colleagues that we like to get together with to talk about all things theatre and beyond. I like the idea of people sitting around our large kitchen table having interesting conversations about the world. All I needed to do was pick easy yet delicious recipes that I could put together the night before and in the morning. I didn't want to be in the kitchen while guests were arriving or at the table. Sometimes I seek out recipes online but this time I went straight to a a cookbook that I love from The Cottage in La Jolla, CA. I've shared this cookbook before in a post about the amazing Buttermilk Coffee Cake (recipe included) and another post about Blueberry Muffins (recipe also included).  If you love brunch this is the perfect cookbook for you.

I made the coffee cake, Carmel Brunch, an egg dish, and their roasted potatoes and I pre-prepped the egg dish the night before so I had one less thing to mix up in the morning. I put my husband in charge of one dish for the gathering (he is the theatre person in our house after all + he loves jicama!) and I found that recipe, Jicama, Avocado, and Mango Salad in Friendsgiving by Alexandra Shytsman.


Everything turned out well and people ate heartily around the table. One friend brought warm french bread with Wild Blueberry Jam and warm blueberry muffins as well. One friend tried his first Bloody Mary ever and that was a hit. I do love brunch and this was a perfect way to bring friends together.  If you need me to share any of the recipes I used please let me know. Enjoy! Salud!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Talents

This week at school we had two mornings filled with our talent show. It was amazing and as I watched I was overwhelmed by all the talent we have in our school.  We had dancers, very funny comedy routines, dynamic singers, piano players, tiny musicians, and one young man who solved his Rubic's Cube while jumping on a pogo stick. 


As teachers we put together a synchronized routine following these two routines from YouTube. We did a good job of and had lots of teachers involved.


I started thinking about my own talents that I could share and came up with a very short list:
I am a very good reader 
I can mix a great drink
I am an adequate cook

None of these are talent show worthy.  Long ago I was in a small town beauty contest (not my idea) and had to come up with an act. I wrote an interesting parody about friendship and read it aloud; people laughed and I won third place.  Not bad for a brunette. My talents will have to remain low-key. 

I am ready for the year to end but it is always bittersweet; this group of 6th graders were in 2nd grade when I became the librarian at Hansen. There are more than a few of them that I will miss a great deal.  

In other talented news I made this dish, Mediterranean Chickpea Salad, this morning for a picnic and it was delicious.  I'm reading two books right now; The Inquisition by Taran Matharu (the 2nd in the series) and Eat to beat disease by William Li. Recently my husband and daughter watched his excellent TedTalk, Can we eat to starve cancer?,  and I watched What the Health on Netflix one afternoon. I was pretty disgusted how major health organizations are sponsored by meat/diary/fast food companies. If you have a chance both of these videos are worth your time.  

Happy June!


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Guests

(source)

We've had a major weekend here at the Peaceful Reader house. My in-laws arrived on Friday night for Groovy Girl's dance recital on Saturday. Her recital is pretty much an all-day event and you have to really be prepared. We had a delicious breakfast to start our day and by 11 am were waiting at the event venue so we could get good seats.  In between the 1:00 pm show and the 6 pm show we met at one of our favorite healthy joints in the Cedar Valley, Greenhouse Kitchen, so we could make it through the second show.  Unfortunately she hurt her leg during one of the dances, danced two more dances and then gracefully exited the stage after it became unbearable. She's wearing a brace and hobbling around with a borrowed pair of crutches.  Hopefully it heals fast for her. 


Beyond the injury I love having guests to cook for and my in-laws enjoy good food. Here's a smattering of recipes I'm using this week. Tristan and his girlfriend joined us overnight so I needed a few vegan options as well.

Basil Chicken Coconut Curry: delicious and I made a second version with scrambled tofu for our vegan/vegetarians.  The flavor was amazing and I would make this recipe again.


Curried Chickpeas with mint and cilantro chutney:  I made this early in the week for everyone to have for dinner during the busy week. I already had a jar of chutney from an Indian grocery store so I didn't make that part of the recipe. This was so yummy Groovy Girl happily ate it and she is not a fan of chickpeas!  I used two cans of organic coconut instead of the one the recipe called for-it just looked like it needed more.

Cheesy Grits Casserole: I made this easy yet delicious (you can never go wrong with cheesiness) breakfast recipe on Saturday morning. We also had Icon donuts and Milkbox bagels for everyone.  You need to calorie load even when you are just going to watch the day of dance.


Tomorrow night we host book club at our house for Their Eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I'm going to make this Best Black Bean Soup from the New York Times for our gathering.

Bombay Frittata: I have yet to make this but I plan to one day this week for breakfast.

I hope you are cooking some amazing food at your house as well.


Sunday, May 12, 2019

Happy Mother's Day and post-prom bliss



Last night was prom for our local high school and Groovy Girl looked amazing with her crew of friends. Ballet pink is her color! It was pretty chilly but they weathered it well. My husband and I with a group of other happy parents helped with valet parking. It was a cold night and I had a hat and coat on while all the prom goers were without coats, socks, or sleeves in fact. It was fun to be there helping but not in the mix inside of hot sweaty not-really-dancing-young people. It looked like a lot of swaying to me. Times have changed and I loved watching tons of young women arrive on their own in beautiful dresses without a date in sight and I loved seeing several women arrive in very gender neutral attire. There were high heels, Birkenstocks, high tops, Doc Martens, and even someone with sneakers that were an exact match to her floral princess dress.

I've had a lovely Mother's Day as well as I was given the opportunity to sleep in after a busy weekend. Love extra sleep!! We had an easy and delicious breakfast at a local coffee shop.  This afternoon Groovy Girl and I headed to my mom's house and played one of our favorite family card games, Spite and Malice, with her.  We had chocolates and a glass of wine as we played. My mom won which is good because she's competitive and so a sore loser. My son called yesterday and today. My stepdaughter sent me a card and texted. I've chatted with mom friends as we pat each other on the back for our journey into and through motherhood. It does take a village and you have to have a calm and positive crew around you. We walked the dogs and I have two peony bushes to plant. What more could you ask for? Well, if you are asking, WARMER WEATHER would be at the TOP of my list.

I hope your day was just as pleasant! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

May flowers and May Baskets


I remember vividly running around our neighborhood, delivering handmade May baskets when I was a little girl. It was such a thrill to hear your doorbell ring only to find your friend racing away, screaming with delight, after delivering a popcorn-filled basket on your doorstep.  Such fun! Now some classrooms participate in this activity delivering popcorn-filled styrofoam cups around school and it's still cool but it's lacking that genuine thrill factor. Times change. If you want to bring that excitement back here is a fantastic resource, Create Whimsy, which gives many options over popcorn-filled cups like this plant-filled beauty. Next year I'm going to be prepared and start racing around my neighborhood delivering unique treats. 


May is such a busy month as we work to finish out the school year strong, Groovy Girl has her dance recital coming up, we are looking forward to my in-laws visit, and my husband has two shows in the works. Through all these we have to work to breathe, take care of ourselves, go to yoga (me), and get enough sleep (all of us) to be our best. I have my eye on June but I don't want to arrive there exhausted.

I'm working on a slideshow about gender stereotypes for 6th grade students for tomorrow and when I finish that task I have an excellent book, The Novice by Taran Matharu, to read. This is a book that a 4th grade student handed me and said I should give it a try. Now he stops in every morning to ask where I am in the story. We have a delightful conversation about the story and then he heads off to class. The part of the month that I dread is telling students that check out is finished for the year. At some point it's a requirement to get all the books back into the library for the summer yet many of our students are such readers they will resist this news and it fills me with joy and breaks my heart at the same time.

What's inspiring you today?