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.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Lazy summer days with yoga...

I'm in the middle of the only free days I'll have for summer. I've done a little nannying, helped at a friend's bakery, and in August we go on a little vacation.
{Society6}
So on these free days I'm simultaneously trying to deep clean my house as I can't ever seem to get ahead of the clutter; while I also do some deep relaxing.  I have a stack of books for school to read, I'm spending time with Groovy Teen, and I'm working on my yoga. I love yoga but I fall behind during the school year. My husband created a wonderful workout space in our basement and this summer I've used it almost ever day.

Anyone can do yoga from home because there is a huge amount of free sequences on youtube. I have a Pinterest board dedicated to yoga and the other day before I did my regular go-to video I clicked on an article I'd saved awhile back. Pinterest is, of course, only as good as it should be if you actually use it. I think of mine as a large filing cabinet most of the time but then there are folders I reach into constantly. 8 free yoga channels caught my eye this time and by clicking on the article I found some very good new teachers to try. If you do yoga at home try each of these unique channels for something new. My goal is to try several by each teacher to see which one fits. I've gone through three and loved how it changed up my regular routine. I tried a sequence with Boho Beautiful and I was (good) sore for days.

Be inspired - try something new this summer. Looking out into my backyard as I type this; it may be an outdoor yoga kind of day...

Namaste~

Monday, July 3, 2017

July is starting off with a bang....

Literally. Fireworks are now legal in IA and it's a horrible idea. It's loud, sounds like gunfire continuously, just popping with no pretty after glow. At all hours of the day.  I could be out back enjoying my hammock life, reading, dreaming, napping about mid-afternoon and pop, pop, pop; my peaceful moment is robbed. Tomorrow should be even more crazy. I have typed the word "chill" into my calendar for tomorrow so that's while I'll be doing no matter the sound affects around me.

Sweet Isabella
We did a tough thing today. We put our sweet Izzie to sleep. Toughest decision every. Many think we should have done it awhile ago but I think there is no right time. She wasn't deathly ill, she was in pain and had trouble motoring around. The last few months she'd started this odd and consistent woofing that we thought was dog for "I'm not feeling like myself-can you fix it?" And we tried all her favorite treats and a round of pills but nothing seem to alleviate her pain.  So we helped her along. Taking a page from the Dog Whisperer I treated her like a queen this past week. May she be romping pain-free tonight on some grassy knoll.

Between the fireworks popping everywhere and our sweet dog it's been a rough beginning to the middle month of summer. I do have a delicious menu planned for tomorrow as we CHILL. Wild Caught Salmon, arugula salad, a raw corn salad, baked beans (Anton's must have for any BBQ) and I'm making a strawberry rhubarb pie tomorrow.  Groovy Teen and her quest to be dairy-free really misses ice cream so I've made her an almond milk version that I hope will turn out. It's in the freezer as we speak.

Speaking of rough times-my Groovy Girl has requested in strong terms that I stop referring to her on this blog with that every so cute blog nickname. I call my other kids by their names but hers is unique and I like to hide her identity and she's still under age. So I've been blandly calling her Groovy Teen in the last few posts. It just doesn't have the same ring to it. Any suggestions...

Friday, June 30, 2017

June book reviews for YOU (happy reading)

I've only read three books this month. They were really good books though.  Technically I finished four but the Bill Browder book, The Red Notice, was a crossover from May. I'll still tell you about it though.


1.  The Red Notice; a true story of high finance, murder and one man's fight for justice by Bill Browder (2015): Born into a communist-leaning family Browder grows up seeing what it is like to rebel against the norm but to rebel even further Browder chose a career path profession just to annoy his dad; he picks commerce.  The first half of the book Browder tells his family story and how he rose to be the first major investor of Western money into Russia and the second half of the book deals with the downfall of this great plan and the imprisonment and eventual death of his friend and lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.  I enjoyed this memoir, even though I thought Browder wasn't the greatest story teller. Reading this book gave me a clear mindset on why Putin felt the need to tangle himself into U.S. elections and will continue to torment and push buttons just because he's found a way.


2. Eragon by Christopher Paolini (2003): Tristan read this years ago and devoured the series. I've always wanted to read it but who knows why? I didn't pick it up until this summer after 2 teachers raved about it to me after a teacher meeting. They were shocked that I hadn't read it; That was the push I needed so I brought it home that very last week of school. I loved it. I dig fantasy and this book was no exception. Eragon, Brom, Saphira, Murtagh and Arya were all interesting characters and I look forward to reading the next two in the series.  Even though Paolini was young when he wrote this I think it stands the test of time.


3. The Girl who drank from the moon by Kelly Barnhill (2016):  I loved this fairy tale {and that gorgeous cover art} in which Xan and Luna save themselves and change the world together.  Centuries ago a world was created by evil people and the unwitting townsfolk believed the stories that were told to them about an evil witch who needs a sacrificial baby each year so as not to destroy the town. Xan is this witch but she rescues the babies and takes them to new families because she thinks they've been abandoned.  And so it goes for many years until one family fights back and one mother doesn't give up hope. A good reminder, from a fairy tale world, to not believe all that you are told!  Read more great things about this book at NYTEW, and the Washington Post.


4. American War by Omar El Akkad (2017): I read a NYT article about great new dystopian books and this one was at the top of the list. Like fantasy, I'm a big fan of the altered worlds created in good dystopian novels. This one lacks the gruesome gore of The Hunger Games but certainly lays out how a fight over energy and ravaged ecosystems could separate the North from the South in a way that causes longterm war within our own border. Read other great reviews here on NPRSF Chronicle, and the Washington Post. I'm not quite finished with this one yet and plan to finish today.

In Madison I did purchase several books and I have stack of books to read for school. What are you reading this summer?

Monday, June 26, 2017

A trip to bountiful...


We signed our young dancer up for a dance intensive in Madison and I have to admit it was something I was equally excited about it because I would have to spend the week there with her.

(James Madison Park)
We felt like we were in the land of plenty; surrounded by our people. Everyone seemed quirky, a bit earthy, polite, and healthy; bike riders and walkers were evident in every neighborhood. Traffic was expected to make way for pedestrians and bicyclists which was so refreshing. Plus we had many diverse cuisines to choose from. We made a pact to eat only local and found a lot of suggestions from this post. In order we ate at all these fabulous restaurants which showcase much of what Madison has to offer.

1. Maharana Restaurant: We found this gem after we stopped at Target to get a few things we forgot (like bread for her lunches-whoops) and through the magic of our GPS this Indian restaurant came up and it was just around the corner. She had Chicken Tikka Masala and I had vegetable somosas and a cup of coconut soup. At the end of dinner our waiter brought out complimentary ice cream. This restaurant, for the first night of our adventure, was amazing.

2. Monty's Blue Plate Diner: This was number one on the list and after we left the dance studio it was POURING/HAILING on us and the Prius. We made it into this bright blue beacon and were greeted by friendly staff as we shook off like wet dogs. I had a delicious artichoke sandwich and the starving dancer had a roasted chicken, bacon, and herbed goat cheese sandwich. There were about 12 menu items I was interested in so I'll have to go back and it shows what a diverse menu Monty's offers. (I mean lots of vegan and vegetarian choices)

3. Ha Long Bay: Vietnamese and Thai combo in an eclectic neighborhood and it was packed on a Tuesday evening. We ate dinner almost every night right after dance class at 4:30; she was starving after a long day of exercise. We shared tofu spring rolls and two excellent main dishes. We both thought it was comparable to our favorite Ginger Thai here.

4. Fair Trade Coffee House: After three such amazing meals we opted for something smaller on Wednesday.  Each day I hung around downtown or at James Madison Park, writing, reading, napping, exploring, walking, and researching our next meal but on this day I walked up and down State St. just looking in windows and checking the downtown scene. The smells from this shop lured me in and I sat and enjoyed an iced chai tea.  On the daily chalkboard a chickpea curry soup was advertised and I knew that's what I wanted for dinner.

5. Alchemy: Everyone picks a dud at some point. I read about this one and dragged her there and she was dubious-it wasn't on our list and the name didn't speak to her.  I told her they had sweet potato fries and we agreed if she didn't like anything on the menu we would just get the fries and be done.  We had the fries, which turned out to be chips, and while the sauces were amazing, many of the fries were burned. I also ordered a cocktail here b/c it sounded refreshing (fresh blueberry kombucha mojito) and it sadly tasted watered down. We looked out the window and I spotted Tex Tubb's Taco Palace that I'd also read about and we hopped over there instead.  Groovy Girl had an amazing burrito and we know we'll go back to the Taco Palace again.

6. Taste of India: We liked the first Indian restaurant so much but found this one and decided to give it a try. It was equally as good and by this time Greg had joined us for one night and he is a connoisseur of Indian food and he was thrilled they had Lamb Korma and Groovy Girl had another chicken dish. I tried the sauce for both and liked the spice.  I was happy that both Indian menus had extensive vegetarian choices.

(Madison Public Library-downtown)

It was a great week of food and fun, living out of a suitcase with my favorite 14-year-old. I spent time enjoying the lakes, the views and the literary scene via the Madison Public Library and two bookstores, Mystery to me and A room of one's own, all independent and thriving reading communities. After every adventure it is always wonderful to be back home, in my own bed, my dogs and my house projects to finish.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day...to all dads


Dear Dad;

You'd be so happy to see how all your children have turned out. Well maybe; we might have happy separate lives but a few of us don't have much of a relationship. You would have worked hard to help us mend that because you had faith in family. You knew it was important to let the little things go and the big things to because no matter what family is family and they are your first source for love.

Grandkids are good too. You'd be proud of Tristan at University of Iowa, studying and applying himself to make a difference. His major is political science and you would have loved to talk current events with him. He has a real handle on how the world is and loves discussing the bigger picture. My Groovy Teen (the artist formerly known as Groovy Girl) begins 10th grade in the fall.  She is a bright light, a dancer, a imaginative thinker, a designer, a friend, a messy multi-tasker, a foodie, and struggles with her idea of perfection. You'd be beyond proud of Kaylee; she still shines in photos and is making it in the big city!  She is thoughtful, loves theatre, has an amazing sense of humor, and writes and interviews like a pro.  Her posts, tweets, and podcasts keep us all amused.

I've talked many times about how much I miss you as evidenced by this Father's Day post from 2010 and 2016 version and this birthday post from 2016. You are missed. Damn that cancer.

Today as we celebrate my husband with a delicious brunch I'll be thinking of you, wishing you were here at the table with us, touching my hair, and throwing me that smile that tells me everything is going to be okay.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Goodness it's June


It's hot and sticky; feels like August and yet it's the beginning of summer. I've traveled twice to Indiana to work in the bakery.  Fun but hot and sweaty and not as profitable as we thought. You win some, you lose some. The donuts were still amazing as was the strawberry rhubarb pie. I'm very happy to be home though in my own little abode with my relaxing backyard. I took a nap, a bath, and then read in the hammock in that order after I pulled into my driveway.

I'm making preparations for Father's Day Brunch at my house for my husband. Kids will be here and I need to make a combination of vegan and non vegan food. So standard fare is pretty easy; scrambled farm eggs (I still have a good supply from a farmer/teacher friend) and bacon for the dad; grits, fruit, and vegan waffles for the diary-free, vegetarian crew. I also found a recipe for vegan cinnamon rolls so I'm thinking of making those also. With all that bread-iness filling the table I'm going to balance with lots of fresh fruit.

Of course, we are beginning the day with a Bloody Mary bar and so the meal will be necessary to combat all that vodka. How else do you really make fathers feel special than to liquor them up before breakfast? I know my handsome husband will be happy to enjoy this day of rest in his otherwise crazy busy schedule.

How is the beginning of your summer?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

3 amazing reads all in a row.


1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood ( 1998): You enter the sterile and odd world of The Handmaid's Tale and you get an eery feeling like you should look over your shoulder.  While this seems so far removed from our world now, it feels like it would only take about 2 steps backwards to be in Atwood's world. For those that haven't read The Handmaid's Tale it relays the events of a woman, Offred, of child-bearing years who's been pulled from her own life and inserted into another family in order to bear an older man's child(ren).  The change from one life to the next happens slowly but also in a blink of an eye.  Imagine in your life time that you could live one moment with your husband and beautiful child; only to be repurposed in a retraining camp where you learn to surrender your will to this next family.  There are so many details of this new life mixed with her memories of before. If you like dystopian or politics; this is a fantastic read. I stayed up way too late each night to read just a little more. Other days I slammed the book down in disgust. I am searching for the original movie with Natasha Richardson (it's not on Netflix or Amazon Prime) before I start streaming the new Hulu series. Here is a great NYT article by Atwood herself discussing her novel.


2. A man called Ove by Fredrik Backman (2014): I am watching this one Amazon Prime.  The book was an amazingly funny read. I laughed out loud many times and when I neared the end of this sweet tale I cried. I love a book that brings about that much emotion. Ove is a curmudgeon at best; an absolute old grump and yet we love him for it because he emerges a changed man. Even when he's at his worst he's an interesting character. Ove is ready to end his life, ready to join his beautiful Sonja in the afterworld. He even thinks about what he should wear so she'll be happy when she sees him coming through the pearly gates.  The unexpected happens though when a new family moves in next door and the wife pulls Ove into her own life. All the hype about this book is true.


3. This side of home by Renee Watson (2015): This is a delightful tale about two twins, Nikki and Maya, living in Portland with intellectual parents surrounding them with love. What is ever-changing though is their neighborhood which is being gentrified rapidly and their high school as well. The neighborhood, high school, friends and family all provide a wonderful backdrop to the life experience of Nikki and Maya as they learn to accept each other as more than just a reflection of each other. My one and only complaint is about the cover; neither girl has the loose hair of the girl pictured on the front. She's brown-a good start-#weneeddiversebooks BUt it would be a reflection of the character if her hair was braided.  Maya repeatedly talks about her hair in braids down her back; Nikki with pressed hair and sometimes loose and free. Neither girl is represented by the photo on the cover except by skin color. #rant

Now I'm reading Bill Browder's Red Notice for book club. I'm not a fan of nonfiction but his tale of intrigue has me reading.  I also just finished this short article about White Fragility that's worth reading. Someone sent it to me to remind me of a conversation we had about Ta'Nehisi Coates' book.