Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year's Eve day; welcome to our geekdom.

How do you usher in the New Year?  We hunker down as a family.  Generally we don't go out on the town or even to  parties.  Last year we did go to a family friendly bowling party and we had fun but the kids begged to stay home this year.  We are grateful for this.  In just a few minutes I will be in the kitchen preparing a few appetizers most of which are planned leftovers from friends visiting us the other night. I have homemade hummus and a delicious cranberry salsa dip to share plus Brie cheese to heat up.  Easy.

For dinner I am making a Thai chicken curry using the leftover farm-fresh chicken from our Christmas dinner.
We have some bubbly to share and we'll play a board game or two.  Over the holidays we've played the card game, golf, Scattergories,  Guesstures, and lots of PS 3 Jeopardy.  Tonight will probably  be Mexican Train and Pictionary.  Last night we put together a Christmas gift puzzle of classic baseball cards.  It was  really so much fabulous fun.  As I type though I think there may be naysayers in the crowd who may be thinking "boring" and that's okay we love our inner geek!  I'm happy my kids are happy to be home hanging out.  We also watch crazy movies after Groovy Girl's gone to bed.  That list defies our goody-two shoes image with titles as diverse as The French ConnectionGoodFellas, Pulp Fiction, The Day of the Jackal, and Seven.  My husband loves cinema and wanted the teens to watch specific scenes in each of these movies which involves watching the whole movie of course!

We spend a fair amount of time reading as well.  Oldest daughter is reading Emma while I'm reading Abarat by Clive Barker.  The girls commandeered the television away from the football boys to re-watch the very first Downton Abbey just to begin to refresh.  I want to be ready for the January 6th.

I also have to soak our black-eyed peas for tomorrow's hoppin' john.  Time to get into the kitchen, pour a glass of wine, and start making some magic.

Hey, how are you spending the day?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Weekend Cooking; Almond cravings

I've written in previous posts about my love for lemons but I don't think I've shared how much I love almond-flavored baked goods.  We toss back a lot of almonds as a snack item here and did you know that a handful of almonds may help you sleep better? Yes, it's true.  This bar recipe combines both almond flavor with a nutty topping and they were delicious!

I made them for a holiday party and wanted something that would appeal to adults in the crowd, something a little more sophisticated.

Almond Toffee Bars
KA Baker's Companion
about 48 squares

Cookie Base

1 cups (2 sticks) butter
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt


1 cup brown sugar, packed
5 1/3 T (2/3 stick) butter
1/4 cup (2 ozs) milk
1 cup (3 ozs) sliced unblanched almonds

Preheat oven to 350.

To make the base:  In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream the butter, then add the almond extract and the confectioners' sugar, beating all the while.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir the dry ingredients into the wet.  Press the dough into an ungreased 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking sheet (what my mom calls a jelly roll pan), pushing the dough all the way to the edges and up the side just a little.  Bake the crust 15-20 minutes, until it is golden brown.  Set aside to cool.

Topping:  Combine the brown sugar, butter, and milk in a saucepan  stirring over low heat just until the brown sugar is dissolved and the butter has melted.  Spread this mixture over the cookie base.  Sprinkle with sliced almonds.  This is the only step I veered off recipe.  I already had a mason jar full of whole almonds, I had all other ingredients on hand so when I put together my ingredients previously I just took from the jar and loosely chopped enough to sprinkle over the top.  The end result was they were still delicious and had a more rustic look instead of a finished look.  At the holiday party they were swooped up and talked about by several groups of adults.  We ran out of them even as a table of ladies asked for more.  Huge hit.  Will make again.  No photo exists.

Several other sweets I've enjoyed over the holidays:

I made The Brown-eyed Baker's Salted Caramel for the second time.  A friend of mine from school has been on home rest for about 6 weeks after a nasty spill she took off the roof of her house.  Yes, real women DO clean their own gutters!  She (thankfully) is a daily reader of my blog and had asked many times for this salted caramel recipe.  Yesterday I made it for her and took it to her still warm in the jar.  Enjoy Kay!

I've written several times about my friend Barbara who owns Marilyn's Bakery in Hobart, IN.  She sent us a tin of their to-die for English toffee.  The tin is almost gone (small sob) and December is almost over.  There won't be any more until next December.  Luckily I can always look back on the memory of my husband and I standing in the kitchen as we both read different sections of the newspaper while we nibble at the toffee in the tin.  It was about 9 in the morning.  You could order some for yourself but you'll have to wait, just like us.

Life's too short not to eat delicious things.
Happy Holidays.
This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads where you will find many other food-related posts.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve.

Groovy Girl used this app to humor herself.  You might ask why Teenage Boy has on a crazy Christmas sweater...?  We were at a second-hand store and he tried it on for fun.  Lucky me, he "allowed" this photo to be snapped.

On a quieter note; I've had the house to myself for the last couple of hours. Pure bliss.

The two teenagers are still sound asleep.  My husband is upstairs working on something-I don't know what but probably don't need to disturb him.  I used my time to finish a last grocery list for meals after tomorrow and then decided to not worry about that list until Wednesday.  I whipped up a batch of sweet puffed corn-again with the unhealthy treats, I know! I made about six bags of this addicting treat and am going to disperse to my neighbors.  I'd never had this snack before this year and now that I've made it will be happy to give it all away so I don't have to nibble it's buttery richness as we hang out together tomorrow.  If you need a drink to serve for guests this peppermint treat by Brown-eyed Baker caught my eye this morning.

The plans for the rest of my day: (updated)

-yoga for renewal and balance.
-Read more Abarat by Clive Barker.
-Finish knitting mini-scarf for teenage daughter's plant.
-Take my teenagers on a local adventure
  a. coffee shop (closed)
  b. two new vintage shops

-Take a long bubble bath to prepare for tonight's two services.
-Heat Italian tortellini soup in crock pot to have between services.
-Make bread to share with soup.
-wrap gifts
-talk to Groovy Girl at the end of the day to find out her day's adventures in Florida.

(Created my own from this pin)

I plan to have a very relaxing tomorrow, enjoying my family.  
Peace be with you as you celebrate however you choose to celebrate this wonderful holiday.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A snowy yet green Christmas


I find it difficult to balance holiday cheer while staying true to my earthy self.  There is mass frenzy to get so much done in such a short amount of time.  I am always behind because I'm trying to do so much at school, at home, and at church.  Here's a rundown of my recent compromises that cause me small but real anguish.
Why does it bother me?  I think it is just who I am.

At school:

 All last week Janice and I made cut out Christmas cookies for each student and staff member at Highland.  It is a huge project but so worth it when the classes line up at the end of their library time and see a tray full of cookies ready for them.  They each get to pick one from the tray and carry it back to their classroom to eat.  Too me this is one way to celebrate the wonder of the holiday as kids get to pick up a homemade cookie to enjoy. For me I balance the joy I feel at giving out the cookies with the huge process of cutting out, frosting each cookie with the fact that each cookie I just made has shortening, white sugar, powdered sugar, and dye in it.  I understand it is just one cookie and my own kids have certainly enjoyed holiday treats like this but I cringe at the yucky ingredients that go into such a "treat".  I can't justify the expense of doing an all-organic cookie though and their little taste buds would not care.  I am happy it is a homemade cookie with out anything in it that we can't pronounce!

Another family and I through school has an adopt-a-family to buy gifts for and I finished wrapping my gifts on Wednesday and loaded them into the car, unloaded them at my house (so they would not freeze) and reloaded them back into the car yesterday to drop them off for the family. Luckily my extremely handsome husband drove me there and back because driving in snowstorm-like weather is not on my favorite to-do list.  My hope is always to get the gifts to the family while the children are still at school-it takes a little of the magic away if you watch a young man unload the gifts from the back of an SUV-but since it was a snow day everyone was home and happy to see the gift boxes come rolling in.   We tried to balance fun things for the family with four small children with practical things like shampoo and diapers. It truly is the thought that counts and we did our best and hope they are happy.  My unbalance here came from the fact that I had to walk through the doors of a local Wal-Mart to buy a uniform item for the family.  I haven't been inside a WM store for about 10 years or so.  I felt a little dirty but I made it through.

At home:

I'm trying to finish gift purchasing and every year balance my Target shopping with downtown small store shopping.  I feel much better about the gifts I purchase from local retailers than tapping my toe in the long Target line.  I purchased only three gifts this year using mega-Amazon market place-only gifts that needed to head cross country were purchased through them.  I wish I could be so organized that I'd purchased special gifts all year long and had them boxed up and ready to go by December 1st.  I wonder how my stepmother, mother, and mother-in-law get all this accomplished as all their gifts are already under our tree.  Amazing.

Our meal for Christmas dinner will at least be farm fresh and healthy.  We have a local chicken thawing, cranberries to simmer, sweet potatoes from our local co-op, salad grown locally, and a strawberry-rhubarb pie made in Southern Minnesota by a small local group.

At church:

I am on a committee that will serve breakfast this Sunday, which I love taking part in this community activity.  The unbalance comes from the hot dish "we've" chosen to make for this breakfast.  It uses boxed hash brown patties-which are just disgusting to me.  I am a real potato kind of woman and would prefer to buy a bag of potatoes, shred them, and add them to the egg dish but then each one would not be just like the other.  At least I'm not asked to dump any processed sausage material into the egg dish.  People loved this dish last year and it is difficult to speak up for change for two reasons; I am the youngest on the committee of more formidable church ladies.  It is one of those things I'm willing to let go for the trauma it would cause. No one else is going to want to put that much effort into creating a dish that many will eat in a short amount of time.  Just me. We do at least serve a cornucopia of fresh fruit at the breakfast.  Not seasonal but at least fresh.

The list goes on and on and it is so often difficult to justify my moral ideas of what I want to feed and gift my family compared to the masses.  I don't belong with the masses but often in trying to hold up my own moral high ground I add more work to my list when I should be relaxing with my family.  It's the circle of life with a picture of me yapping at my own tail as I go merrily around and around!

What kinds of compromises do you make to share the joy of Christmas?

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Planting Dandelions; Field notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life by Kyran Pittman

I bought this book because

a. It has a catchy title
b. My yard is a dandelion happy zone.
c. I know people who know people who know Kyran
d. All of the above

It's always d. isn't it?!

I'm not a fan of memoirs, unless they make me laugh, although I would characterize this more as essays on life but who's asking me.  Kyran's lead an interesting and bold life and she easily pokes fun at herself in a nice witty way.  I read her blog now and then, which spurred me to check out the book.  Laughter feels good and this book gave me that rare opportunity to look ridiculous, laughing out loud, while I sat for hours waiting for Groovy Girl to finish bending and bouncing her way through gymnastics class.

One particularly funny chapter, Mom, the musical, had the other gymnastic parents eyeing me warily as I freely giggled along:

When I was a kid, about a thousand years ago, Valentine's Day was all about the valentines, which were painstakingly hand-cut from a book that contained not one licensed, trademarked character.  You chose the plainest, slightly backhanded ones for the kids you didn't like, and the most ornate, gushing ones for the kids you did, and we gave it to each other straight up, without the orgiastic euphoria of corn syrup solids to cloud things. For party refreshments, we had our own tender, young hearts to eat out,  I don't know when that changed, or whether it's an American thing, but every valentine my kids give and receive comes attached to at least one piece of candy.  As if that didn't add up to enough insulin resistance, the room moms mix up a vat of sugar and red food dye and pour it in a feed trough.  Or they might as well, considering what is actually served.  If you've seen video montages of psychedelic "happenings" in the sixties, you've seen something like a modern Valentine's Day classroom party.  On the glycemic disaster index, Valentine's Day is second only to Halloween.  (181)

That's funny because that's me except I would beg to bring in a less-sugary option or organic lemonade only to be met with glares from both room moms and kids. My kid, depending on the day and which kid, would either cheer me on or hang their head in shame.  I hate red dye and skittles too! 

Sliced in between the humor there are many poignant moments of insightful parenting knowledge that only a really good writer can pull from their own daily life.  I kept thinking to  myself-oh, that makes sense, how come I've never thought about that.  

Insightful moment about a dead pet:

In my momnipotence, I sometimes forget that my kids came fully assembled.  When they were infants, I'd marvel over their tiny ears, how intricately formed they were, pink and golden like the inside of a conch.  They were  miraculous to me.  And humbling  because I can't draw an ear, much less take credit for making one.  I lose sight of that from time to time, and delude myself into thinking I'm the auteur of their experience, when actually, I mainly work in catering.  They don't need me directing, feeding them their lines.  They get it.  The script for life and death, grief and joy, is written in their DNA.  (101)

It is difficult to remember that we can step away-our kids do understand at an early age-all the important things that matter and we can be ready for the question and answer segment, which usually comes while we are cooking.  I enjoyed how she shared her relationship with her three boys, they sound like interesting and lovely children.  While this isn't a parenting book it did give me some perspective on taking myself too seriously on the parenting front.

Kyran's theme throughout is that her Newfoundland childhood was unique which fuels her desire for a more ordered life here in the states as she raises her family. Married once in Canada she had an affair with Patrick  and it is he that eventually brings her to his homeland of Little Rock, Arkansas.  Her and Patrick live the vagabond's dream as they wander around Mexico for a while and then return to the States broke but in love.  He plays in a band  and she works as a waitress, high on life and each other until Patrick proposes and the idea of a domestic life looms large over her head, angst follows along with babies.

As a hippie girl myself I try to take the road less traveled and still fit that into my roles of mom and wife.  It is not an easy task and there are daily roadblocks.  I found Kyran's struggles with domesticating herself akin to my own story. I can never (well, hardly ever) just accept things and go with it-it's my cross to bear. Boy Scouts was one example as Kyran writes about the experience of creating Pinewood Derby cars and how turning that block of wood into a finished car with an uninterested husband was quite an accomplishment.  We let Teenage Boy, a 4th grader at the time,  participate for a few months (he begged) before we had to yank him out because my husband and I were so uncomfortable with the zealous flag waving, burning books mentality.   I love my country but not in that way and when we sat down and explained the short list of what we didn't appreciate about the scouting experience he completely understood-as a fourth grader!  

I could easily sit on Kyran's porch and share a story or two with her and her cozy set of friends.  If they'd have me.  It's never easy to leave our roots behind but we have to realize it is exactly those roots that make us the cool, hip parents we are (or hope we are).  This book is fresh and amusing with a perfect amount of reflection to make me look at  my role through keener eyes.  Be forewarned; A fair amount of cursing comes with several of her rants.

Planting Dandelions-the blog.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday; Authors I've discovered

2012 New discoveries for me:
(links take you to my review)

Loved Ask the Passengers.

Ditto for What Happens Next?

Iron-Hearted Violet-excellent.

Liesl and Po!

Patrick Carman
(Groovy Girl and I are reading The Dark Hills Divide together and love it)

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece-timely realistic fiction

True urban tale DJ Rising

Native American reservation fiction in Something to Hold

(knew of her; just had not read any of her books,
loved The Birchbark House series and am now
reading The Round House)

Thank you to all these wonderful authors for brightening my year!
This meme is featured over at The Broke and the Bookish and one day
I will have my post ready so I'm not the thirteen thousand participant!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Weekend Cooking; Pinterest Oatmeal and my dinner plans

We've all been healthier this week and I've made a few good dinners.  It's been busy though and our tree is being decorated in bits and pieces.  Unlike the beautiful ceremonial traditions of decorating the tree together that other families might participate in we've done a little here and there all week long.

Groovy Girl has an electronic addiction and can often be found watching HGTV before anyone else is up.  One day this week we came down and she was watching a redecorating show that not only spruced up a couple's condo but made it ready for Christmas as well.  The couple have no children and were looking for a very neutral/natural look.  Husband, wee girl and I were all transfixed as we ate our cereal and watched how they transformed their space into Christmas without splashing it with red and green.  The next day husband and I chatted with GG about what we liked about the decorations and we formed our own plan.

We created our own natural ornaments using a big tube of green balls from Hobby Lobby.  The matte and sparkly balls we kept and hung but the super shiny more traditional balls we wrapped in a natural oatmeal yarn I had on hand.   We also happened to have a bag of pine cones from my mother's farm and we've hooked those around the tree to blend in also.  My husband hated the idea of spending $15.00 on new lights to decorate the tree so he loosely went round twice on the skirt and left them laying.  Interesting.  It looks great except when it starts to turn dark in the house and the ornaments have nothing to light the way.

What have I cooked this week?

Monday-organic chicken breasts, baked potatoes, steamed broccoli, and salad.  This meal was so "traditional" I felt like I wasn't at my own house.

Tuesday-cheese quesadillas with salad on the side. I had these plated up beautifully but failed to take a photo of them.

Wednesday-$5.00 pizza for Teenage Boy.  I slow cooked garbanzo beans that night though prepping for a later meal.  One day of carry-out is still pretty unusual for us but we have two plays going on and I have forgiven myself already.

Thursday-Husband's night to cook and he made/burritos which were yummy!  I love it when he has a plan and carries it out.  Thank you sweetheart.

Friday-we had leftovers and appetizers as we were all heading to different events.  (I prepped and roasted the butternut squash, which is the last vegetable to be eaten from our garden!) I am always happy with chips and salsa for dinner.

Saturday-I am making a pasta recipe using the golden squash, some spinach, and some of the garbanzo beans based on this recipe from Epicurious and a recipe my mother-in-law sent me.

I made a wonderful baked oatmeal dish this morning that I found as I lay in bed early (like 5 am) and used my time to scroll through pinterest.  At around 8:30 when I actually forced myself to get up I tossed this dish together in my slow cooker and it made the house smell so flavorful!  Groovy Girl dismissed it as too creamy (yes, she is a brunette Goldilocks) but husband and I gobbled it up. He ran a Jingle Bell race this morning and I cheered him on so we were both chilly.  The next time I make it I would chop the apples up more.  I only sliced them using my OXO apple slicer and that was the first thing that bothered GG-huge soft apple slices in the middle of her bowl.  Oh, the horror!  Husband and I will be eating this all week long for an excellent breakfast treat.
(brown sugar, cinnamon, and sliced apples ready for oatmeal)

We are about to eat the pasta, butternut squash, spinach dish. I made large cheese curls from a Parmesan cheese triangle but I also have some fresh Gorgonzola from our dairy because their is something about squash that pairs well with Gorgonzola's pungent flavor.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Click to her link to find other food-related posts.

In other news I really want these gorgeous purple shoes, love the price but hate spending $10.00 on shipping.  What do you do?  I am about half way through Louise Erdrich's The Round House and love her writing.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent Joy!

Happy St. Nicholas's Day!

Our advent season is a little wacky this year because Groovy Girl is spending Christmas in Florida with my mother, brother, and his son, her cousin. I wanted to do something special for her because she loves Christmas (duh, she's a ten year old girl) and I know Florida will be fun but she will miss us here.  We need to do plenty of pre-celebrating so she doesn't feel she is missing things here.

Pinterest has a ton of cool advent ideas which spurred me to create one for her based on the fact that a purchased one would be left unfinished before she left and that is just the kind of emotional dilemma she doesn't need as she leaves us all for the glory of Disney World.  

I took 15 recipe cards one night while watching some television and tried out a few fun ideas for her to do.   My husband found red and white envelopes to put each card in, numbered the cards, and taped them up in a tree design.  

So far she has opened:

1. watch the (original) Grinch movie
2. one trip to Claire's
3. read 3 favorite Christmas books with mama
4. Decorate for Christmas with Christmas music playing
5. make paper snow flakes and hang them.

We've done all of them except the Claire's trip.  We are going to do that one right before she leaves on her trip.  Last night we did the snowflake one using a template I had at work.  She folded them up origami style and I cut them out as the tiny grooves were hard for her to maneuver wielding a scissors.  We now have snowflakes hanging around our house.  No snow on the ground here but we are festive inside.

My stepmother has always sent my kids December 6th gifts to celebrate St. Nicholas Day which was a family tradition in her full German family so today Groovy Girl had an actual box to open instead of an envelope. There were plenty of treats nestled inside.  The true celebration involves boots and St. Nick with a long flowing robe as he checks up on children-adding them to his naughty or nice list, I'm sure.  

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas around here.  How are you getting in the mood?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Weekend cooking; O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree

We went yesterday to get our tree and I wish I could say it was a glorious event but it wasn't. The kids argued for a bit, the selection was low from this summer's drought, and we were in a hurry so husband and Teenage Boy could get to the movie theater to see the new Brad Pitt movie (excellent they said).

Our Christmas tree search is an annual event we do with another family but they blew us off this year with some excuse about too much to do on Saturday.  We understand busy but Groovy Girl was steamed about this as she thought it was "boring" without their rambunctious young kids. She was left with just us and Teenage Boy who made her mad in the car but did get her laughing at the tree farm. What's she going to say when it's just me and her dad with her?  Even more boring, I'm sure. O families!

We did manage to laugh together.  We had glasses of cider inside the lodge while we waited for our tree to be shaken.  We did run into other friends and in general enjoyed shopping for our tree at the same place we've gone for the last four years.  After the movie my husband got the tree in the stand with NO cursing and we toasted the tree with some homemade hot chocolate to top off the day.

Did I cook this week though?  No really.

It was a strange (non) cooking week for me as I spent most of the week down with a cold.  Monday night I sent TB to get a pizza so I would not have to cook.  Tuesday I made a quick Ramen-type meal for them and went to bed. And the week continued like that.

Last week I'd whipped up a big pot of chicken noodle soup using the chicken from our Thanksgiving meal.  I sauteed onions, celery, carrots, and lots of garlic and added the broth from cooking down the chicken bones. Once the broth and the vegetables are together I added big fat eggless noodles.   I make it just like my grandmother made it before me.  I remember watching her fascinated as she picked the meat out of the small nooks of the chicken.  For years I used this same soup method but substituted the chicken for blocks of tofu.  I used Miso paste or vegetable stock and my kids still loved it, especially the thick noodles.  How I got sick after eating this soup all last week is a mystery to me.  Maybe though it is why my cold only lasted for four days!

This week I'm waiting for inspiration. I have sweet potatoes and a butternut squash waiting for me to get creative.  Any ideas?

This post is very loosely linked to Beth Fish Reads weekly cooking meme.  Check out her sight for many more cooking related posts.  She has a fabulous post up about mouth-watering pull-apart rolls.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Magic

I absolutely love it when I am able to see the fruits of my labor come alive. It doesn't happen everyday and somedays it comes in such small doses that you have to look closely to see it. Today though the magic swirled up like fairy dust!

Two days ago the 5th grade girls in my book club-ten of them!- choose Ninth Ward for their next reading choice. I only
had 6 copies so I placed an emergency rush order through my wonderful Scholastic rep, Carmen. I expected the books to come on Monday so I was happily surprised to see them this afternoon in my mailbox. I plopped a sticky note on top of each book addressed personally to each young reader and then took all 10 books down and delivered them.

This is where the magic dust sprinkled down in a frenzy as I delivered the books the girls were gleefully dancing and prancing to get their copy much to the dismay of their classmates NOT privileged to be in the "reading club of cool". I loved hearing the giggles and watching smiling faces of girls just learning to fall in love with reading!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Movie treats!

My husband and I went to a matinee of the new movie, Lincoln.  We eat pretty healthy most of the time but when my husband goes to the movies he loves to get the BIG bucket of popcorn (not the wimpy size pictured above) and a large cherry coke. I even wait in line to get these snacks and sometimes I've even paid for them!  It makes me feel like a hypocrite.  There have been a few exceptions like when we've just eaten a big meal or one time we were at an art house theatre and the snacks were extremely expensive so we skipped it altogether.

It does not matter that my husband religiously reads Runner's World and that we both choose pretty healthy food outside of our theatre time.  So much so that we are now getting a little backlash from Teenage Boy who has taken to buying a secret loaf of white bread when he puts fuel in his car-so yes, gas station bread (blechhh), because he's tired of our 100% whole grain bread everyday.  If he's going to rebel I'd prefer he do it at home instead of next year when he's off at school but really, WHITE bread.  I shiver just thinking about it.  Better than rebelling with a bottle of Boone's Farm wine I guess.

But I digress which often happens when I talk about food.  Back to the bad for you popcorn and syrupy soda.  We don't even have soda at home except for the occasional Whole Foods soda, Jones soda or a yummy root beer,  but all without high fructose corn syrup.  And I make lots of homemade popcorn both on the stove and in an air popper-all delicious-but at the movies you've got to have the big bucket with a little of the fake butter sloshed on-not too much or it's easily overkill.

When we first started going to the movies together I loved to get a box of Junior Mints to share, the salty and sweet made me happy but now the overly sweetness of the Cherry Pepsi is enough for my taste buds. Our theater switched from Coke to Pepsi a few years ago and we both miss the real Coca-Cola tang but did we stop buying a soda?  Nope, we suck down that Cherry Pepsi still but we cheat on it by wishing it were a Cherry Coke.  Luckily we don't go to the movies very often or we'd have to cut back on this  crazy addiction.  Since we don't I think we are safe to indulge in our movie treats.

It's a little like a holiday.

The  movie, by the way, was excellent. The entire theatre watched in near quiet rapport on the edge of our seats hoping the 13th Amendment would pass as we quietly chomped popcorn and slurped our sodas,  Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field and the rest of the cast were impeccable.  This should be nominated and win in many Oscar categories.  If you haven't already made it out to see it, do, and let me know if you had the big bucket of popcorn with it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Weekend Cooking; Thanksgiving Menu

Some people eat turkey every Thanksgiving but I've actually had the opportunity to eat a wide assortment of food as a long time vegetarian and now as a locavore.  As a teenager I ate Thanksgiving meal at my grandmother's table-the same cherry wood table that sits in my dining room-and ate lots of salad and mashed potatoes as my meat-eating family devoured huge birds and ham slices around me.

A few years ago my lanky Teenage Boy begged for meat to have a place at our table.  He, like his dad, is very active athletically on top of being a growing boy.  Many strapping young men can be just fine with tofu but he was not. We live in Iowa where I knew I could locate plenty of healthy meat choices and I think now that is probably true of anywhere in the U.S.  Wherever you live someone is choosing to farm in a more respectful, humane manner, it just takes some research.  I found our sources through friends and our local farmer's market so it was easy to chose the life of a locavore or perhaps even a flexitarian as we transitioned from vegetarian to carnivores.  We eat mostly  meat free meals but we balance with a little farm fresh meat.  This Thanksgiving we had such a simple meal it was exquisite.

One of the easy choices was to stay home and relax instead of traveling to relatives. After driving the 10 hours to Oberlin two weekends ago we knew we needed a break.  I'd questioned the three family members that would be sitting at our table if they were interested in turkey as I needed to place an order with my farmer, Tim Daley of Daley's Shamrock Acres.  My peeps opted out of the turkey choosing instead to go with a more reasonable chicken for the holiday.  

I've used Tim's chickens now for about 3 years and I've tried a variety of recipes.  this year I chose PW's easy roasting method based on the fact that I easily had all the ingredients at hand.  The rest of the menu was rounded out with mashed potatoes, which TB requested to be mashed WITHOUT the skin, so I had to peel the beautiful farm grown potatoes.  What a pain he's becoming-so opinionated!  I don't know where he gets that from?  We had a tossed salad with greens from a local farm.  We always have fresh cranberry sauce-I love to watch them burst as they cook.  I made a cranberry tart for one of our desserts and I surprised my husband with a pecan pie baked fresh at our local co-op.  I had planned to make one myself but after gasping at the price of pecans I thought the $9.00 they were charging for the pie was a terrific price.  I scooped it up.  I make fresh whipped cream for both desserts and our vanilla ice cream came straight from our local dairy farm. My mouth is salivating all over again. 

We went for a nice hike through our nature reserve and then headed home for dinner.
Here are the links to the recipes I followed to create our meal.

We finished off the cranberry tart earlier this evening and we were pretty sad to see it go. I'm happy because a pie has finally been created that all four of us enjoyed!  The pecan pie on the hand is just for husband and I to enjoy together and it was better than I could have done on my own. Truly one of the best pecan pies I've tasted.  It brought back the flavor of my grandmother's pecan pie.  

I love how as we go through this journey we gather new traditions to add to the favorite old ones.  I know that cranberry tart will become one of our new menu additions and that we will probably never go back to a tofu thanksgiving now that we have such a wide range of local options.  And what of your holiday traditions? What came with you from your parent's home and what have you created on your own as a family?

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads weekly food meme-click to her link to find many other food-related posts to check out.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday; I am thankful for these authors...

The Broke and the Bookish host this weekly meme.  Today we celebrate at the proverbial table to give thanks to those whom we love and those that keep us reading.  This was an easy list to create and if you'd like to play along or just read other lists click to their site and find many more authors and books.

I'm thankful for:

1. Barbara Kingsolver-I've read nearly all of her books and loved them all.  We could be friends.

2. J.K. Rowling-She brought magic back to reading and I will always be grateful to her for that. I loved the anticipation of getting a new one in the mail from Amazon and cracking open the cover, not letting go until it was finished.

3. Jodi Piccoult-I've enjoyed her books and her willingness to bring unique topics to light.

4. Kate DiCamillo; Love all of her books especially The Tale of Desperaux, Winn-Dixie, and Edward Tulane.

5. Mildred D. Taylor- As I read about Cassie Logan and her family's struggles I fell in love with historical fiction.

6. Stephen King-In college I read a lot of his books and spent one freezing weekend in a cabin on the outskirts of Duluth and the main source of entertainment was me reading some of his short stories aloud to several friends.  It was perfectly creepy.

7. Maya Angelou-Phenomenal Woman.  

8. David Leviathan-Love his humor and and his memorable characters.

9. Rick Riordan-Like J.K. Rowling I will always be thankful that Mr. Riordan keeps boys (and girls)  reading and hungering for more.

10. Suzanne Collins-Before The Hunger Games there was Gregor and I cheered for him.

11. Cornelia Funke-Just for Inkheart.  I heart this book so much. 

I know I could have come up with more and I'm sure throughout my day I might think of others but off the top of my head this is my list.  Enjoy.  What ten authors are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Chilly weather makes me think of soup!

Last week as the temperatures dropped down, giving me a reason to don gloves and my winter coat as I headed off in the morning, I dreamed of soup.  I had lentils in my pantry and vegetables in the crisper.  I have a usual lentil soup recipe but I wanted to try something different.

I pulled down  Soup; A way of life by Barbara Kafka, one I don't use often even though I love soup.  
I found a delicious soup and I had most of the ingredients on hand. 

Lentil Soup

1 T olive oil
2 strips of bacon, sliced into small pieces
3 large stalks of celery, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled, and minced
1 T cumin seeds, ground
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
3 cups vegetable stock (it called for beef but I still only ever have veg. on hand)
1 1/2 cup brown lentils, rinsed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil and bacon over medium high heat.  Stir in the celery, carrots, and onions and saute a little to soften.  Add garlic, cumin, and chili powder and stir to coat veggies.

Stir in the stock, 3 cups of water, and the lentils.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the lentils are soft.  

Remove from the heat. In a food processor, puree about half the lentils.  Stir the puree back into the pan, add the lemon juice, and black pepper.  Heat thoroughly.  Top each bowl with parsley sprigs.  Can be served with soar cream dollop.  Served with big chunky bread to dip.

The soup was delicious...for my husband and I.  The kids noticed the kick right away and Teenage Boy managed to finish his bowl using the bread to absorb the heat but Groovy Girl, even after stirring in several heaps of sour cream, still couldn't make it through.  She ate two more slices of the fresh bread to compensate.  

The recipe originally called for bacon rind with an explanation of what that was, but I had good, farm fresh bacon in my freezer so I used that instead which pleased the teenager a lot as he has come to believe that every meal should include meat.  So much for his vegetarian start to life.  He is very much in the growing stage though.  Hungry all the time.  

I made this one day and served it the next and so somehow completely skipped the blender part of this recipe.  Next time I will do it because I know it would add a nice thickness to the soup.  I also thought this would be wonderful over brown rice.

Now it is much warmer out and it may stay that way for the next couple of weeks but I'll be ready when it decides to get cold on me again.  

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.  Click on her link and find many other wonderful food-related posts.  I'm not going to think about soup though again until the weather takes another dive.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Brave New World

For ten days I've been blog free-missing all the crazy political disagreements.  We took a road trip to Oberlin, OH soon after  election night.  Long drive.  Parent's weekend.  I still haven't recovered.  Car rides of that length showcase our age limitations as I struggle to unfold my small frame from our small/old Saab each time we stop for fuel and bathroom breaks. At least now we have three drivers so on the way there I didn't have to drive at all. I played with Groovy Girl, read, and did some knitting.  Bliss.

Friday night dinner-probably should have edited out all
that table clutter but hey, it's real life.
My in-laws met us in Oberlin coming from the D.C. area and we had a wonderful time visiting together and exploring Oberlin.  My mother-in-law is an amazing woman, truly.  She is a successfully crafty woman, taking on new projects with gusto, turning out finished projects that look far better than the original picture.  She turns out award-winning quilts, scarves, hats, towels, American Girl accessories, and period costumes for smallish children to wear to colonial villages. I have many of her handmade gifts and I treasure each one.

(Teenage Boy's Graduation quilt)
She made a quilt for our oldest daughter for graduation and completed Teenage Boy's quilt in time for his early graduation.  She sent a photo of the quilt for graduation as they were traveling out of the country at the time so we waited until this weekend to actually pick up the quilt-I wanted her to be able to present the quilt to him.  Isn't it beautiful!  It is a t-shirt quilt.  She wasn't very excited when I told her I wanted a t-shirt quilt for him. Her mind bleeped "tacky", I'm just sure.  But instead of  tossing my idea aside she went to a quilting class and t-shirt quilts just happened to be one of the topics.  I'm pretty sure Teenage Boy will love this quilt forever and for me, it makes me smile and teary as I can look back on all his adorable stages and activities; from the Winnie-the-Pooh theatre shirt, the "I need my space NASA shirt" that he wore for days on end as a four-year-old, to his love for various sports teams, HP, and his travels to Alaska, Montana, and Colorado. It's all there, one pretty great life, wrapped up on a gorgeous quilt.

Every once in a great while I think I could trade my husband in but then I remember how much I love his parents and decide to keep him forever again and again.  

Happy travels...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

I read the best book over the weekend...

Don't you love a sentence that begins that way?  I've been hastily doing all I can for the upcoming election and did some canvassing this weekend for Organizing for America.  I'm very ready for Tuesday to come and go as I'm exhausted from this campaign.  In between family events and chatting up my favorite president to local residents I actually did read the best book!

What Happens Next (October, 2012) by debut author Colleen Clayton took my breath away with how real and wonderful the story was.  Cassidy Murphy, a voluptuous cheerleader, heads off on a school ski club excursion with her two best friends.  She's never skied before and ends up on the bunny slope for the first day while her more experienced friends, Paige and Kirsten, head to the black diamonds remorsefully leaving Cassidy behind.  She's determined to better her skiing skills and while making attempt after attempt meets a hunky older guy, Dax, on the chair lift.  Because of her over-sized chest and shapely figure she's had little experience with men and is an easy target for the suave Dax who wins her over with a few well placed compliments and some coy memory tricks.  He asks her to a party after they've spent the day flirting and laughing as they ski down the easier slopes.  She knows she can't really accept the invite as it would be breaking curfew for the trip and she's pretty sure Paige and Kirsten won't help her but she tries to get them to go along with her party plan anyway.  They turn her down and yes, she sneaks out because this cute boy was nice to her.  Cue the ominous music.

We get inside Dax's condo where there is no party but he does invite her into "his parlor" to watch a movie.  We leave them laughing together and then speed zip to Cassidy waking up in a bedroom by herself, feeling sick like a hangover.  She walks back to the condo where she is bombarded with her friends and the chaperone's disappointment.  Her brain jiggles with worry about the events of the previous night but she can't quite say exactly what happened but her life has altered, tipped a little, keeping her mentally and physically off balance.  Her grades suffer, her friends disappear.  She gets kicked off the cheer leading team, drops out of one class only to be assigned to the AV room as an aide which is where she meets Corey Livingston.  He turns out to be the perfect slacker dude;  someone who is easy to talk to, doesn't ask a lot of questions and has secrets himself.  I could have used a Corey Livingston dream date while I was in high school.

Random quote:

I don't know how it happens.  It just does.  I search and search for clues to tell me what happened, where he is, who else he has done this to.  I find nothing but inner sickness. I get so torn up and panic-stricken that I have to slam my laptop shut and raise my window, stick my head out into the cold night, and try not to scream.  I don't know what to do with it, this lack of peace, this need to know.  I want it to go away but it won't.  
Every night it comes back.
Every night I am searching.  (90)

There is a hint of fairy tale to me with Dax's yellow eyes and Sid's long red locks but this book definitely tells a real life story of what many young women go through as they evaluate themselves harshly, trying to live up to false images of the perfect women while they steer their way through uncertain relationships with men. It's not that every strange man on the ski slope is going to be a Dax Windsor but they are out there.  Luckily Cassidy meets Corey who likes her for who she is which is what all young women deserve.

Just like Ask the Passengers by A.S. King I will recommend this to our high school teacher-librarians as a must purchase!  Review copy received from Zoe at Little, Brown, and Company.  In no way did this influence my review as the book stands on its on merit.

*Just as a warning this book does have a ton of swearing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ghosts of the Titanic by Julie Lawson

Ghosts of the Titanic
168 pages

I plucked this title from the library shelves on a recent visit.  I was thinking of my students who just love anything to do with the sinking of the Titanic.  As I've written about in other posts it is always fitting to find out a book is worthy of its price tag before I buy it for the library.

I wasn't sure this one was going to be with it until I'd made it more than half way through.  I often tell my students that the best part of the book doesn't come until the middle of the book-good thing I took my own advice.  I struggled with the narration, which gave me little empathy for Kevin Messenger, the young man telling the story.  He seemed whiny and filled with negative energy and his relationship with his father is particularly difficult.  But I love stories that intertwine and this one does just that.  Mixed in with Kevin's story is Angus Seaton's tale, a 17-year-old seaman who was on the Canadian ship first on the scene to rescue Titanic survivors.  Through Angus's early actions he forever connects his life to the Messenger family.  This insider look at those days immediately following the Titanic disaster are little known treasures of information and will delight my students.  The fact that this also becomes a real ghost story for Kevin Messenger will make this tale even more thrilling!

Random quote:

Angus had lost count of the number of trips they'd made to the ship.  Ten? Twelve? Back and forth to the ship, pulling hard at the oars or taking his turn at the tiller, breath steaming into icy clouds, the grim task never easing up.  More bodies to be numbered and recorded, more personal effects to be bagged and tagged.  He longed to be back in port, to tear off his clothing, peel away his skin, throw himself into something that didn't scream of death. (36-37)

The difficult task of pulling bodies from the freezing water and then recording their personal items so they could be identified was a horrific experience for this group of seamen and one that affected many for years after.  Angus is overwhelmed and because of his weariness he ends up with an object in his pocket that should have been tagged for one of the bodies.  This object links him to the woman throughout his days and makes him crazy with grief, regret and her ghost.

Pick up this book to find out how Angus and Kevin are connected through time.

Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Weekend Cooking; What's good and right.

The family gathered.

Last week while the book fair was taking up all my waking hours I got a phone call from Teenage Boy, which is big in the first place as he texts but doesn't "talk".  The reason for his anxious phone call was about dinner; specifically where everyone was for dinner?  His voice belied that he was a teenager at all but more like the middle school boy I think of fondly.  He was concerned that he was at home by himself and it was dinner time.  At first I was less than amused because I thought he was asking why I wasn't home to make his dinner.  I kindly reminded him that he could easily make himself dinner, was quite capable of making a good meal for himself and tried not to sound annoyed.  To that his response was "No, I can make my own dinner, it's just that I didn't know where everyone was and we usually eat dinner together."  Oh, yea, right.

We do usually eat dinner together.  It does feel odd when one or more of us is missing from our vintage (old) linoleum table.  And even though I think he's listening as my husband and I make plans for the week he's not always tuned in to the hum drum of what will transpire this week, like I'm won't be home until after 8 on Tuesday and Thursday and my husband says I won't be home Thursday night either and I'll bring Groovy Girl to you at school.  How he misses all that at said table I don't know but we are making a new resolution to alert him to scheduling issues that will affect him.

The greater idea though was that he missed all of us being here at the same time, sharing a meal together. It is a tradition he's had for the part of his life he remembers and I appreciate that this is important family time to him.  He often is the one to start the "So what was the best part of your day?" even though when it comes back around to him he shrugs his teenage shoulders leaving that as his answer.

I made him happy this week by leaving 1/4 of a pan of these brownies at home when I made them for my 5th grade book club.  Book club boys fought over the chocolate ones-I'd interspersed blondies I'd made for a funeral at church and Teenage Boy was thrilled to hear me say they were so easy I'd make more this weekend.  He and his sister polished off the leftover goodies after school, leaving none for their dad much to his dismay. I guess I need to make sure big Daddy gets his fair share from this next batch.

I'm off to scrub potatoes for tonight's dinner and once I have those boiling I will whip these up for late night happiness.  What is your dinner hour like?  Are you able to eat together or is it in shifts?

From The Mom 100 Cookbook by Katie Workman

Fudgy One-Pot Brownies

Makes 12 huge or 24 reasonably-sized brownies

1 cup (2 sticks, unsalted) butter, plus butter for greasing the baking pan
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar ( I used turbinado since the color wouldn't matter)
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 T pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (unbleached) flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Butter a 13 X 9 baking pan.
2. Place butter sticks and chocolate squares in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat and let melt, stirring until smooth.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cocoa powder, sugar, and salt, then blend in the vanilla.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, stirring to mix quickly so they don't have a chance to cook at all.  Blend in the flour.

3. Scrape the thick batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula.  Bake until the edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and a wooden toothpick comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.

4. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack.  When completely cool, cut them into 12 or 24 squares.

(It should say hold the family back while they cool-they made the house smell delicious and people were hanging close to the kitchen.)  Enjoy...

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking post.  Click to her link to find many other eclectic food-related posts.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weekend Cooking; Recipes Galore

My new trick is searching for recipes on my Kindle while standing in my kitchen.  Who knew this would be my new favorite thing?  My only wish is that I could figure out how to put a pin-button on my kindle-there must be a way so if any of you smarties out there know how it's done I would be pin-happy!  It's been a busy week and yet I've accomplished some good meals throughout-even some that everybody liked.

Last Sunday I cooked the last of our farm chickens from Shamrock Farms.  We had a very traditional meal of roasted chicken, baked potatoes, and a salad.  I love grabbing potatoes from our pantry in the basement. They arrived a few weeks ago as my mother dug the last of her potato piles up, tossed them in a box, dirt and all, and brought them to me.  I have a hard time ever purchasing store bought potatoes after our supply runs out.

From the leftover chicken scraps I made this Chicken Alfredo which made the family absolutely swoon.  They were mesmerized by the carbs and chicken combination as I don't usually make this dish.  It was far from the overly-drenched saucy thing I picture in my mind, the recipe was easy to follow, and it took me less than 30 minutes to make since the chicken was already cooked.  I didn't have fettucine noodles but I didn't let that stop me and just substitution another pasta shape and I'm pretty sure my peeps didn't even notice.  Obviously not my photo then above either for those quick thinkers. On the side we had these delicious zucchini oven chips-which took longer to make than the pasta but were pretty worth it.  It was our last zucchini from our very own garden also so we celebrated that.

My mom brought me venison steaks from well, a deer, my step-father shot with his manly bow and arrow last season.  For a girl who's been vegetarian her whole life this was a reach but  you can't get more local than his farm so I gave it a try.  Other than some jerky he shared with us last year none of us had ever had venison before and yet it was a winner.  I found this great marinade recipe and soaked the four steaks overnight.  My mom gave me very specific instructions that I should cook them only 3 minutes on each side or they get too dried out and I didn't listen. Or more accurately I didn't believe her.  I did 5 minutes but I think the marinade counter-balanced that a little bit because except for the smallest piece they were all moist and readily eaten up even by the ever-picky Groovy Girl.  I only ate half of mine, choosing to focus on the leftover salad from Monday.  If my mom chooses to share again I will take them because the family ate them up, especially Teenage Boy.  I thought they were gamy tasting but then I'm happy with salad and potatoes.

Yesterday I used the chicken bones and made a delicious chicken noodle soup for dinner.  I had my own recipe in my  head and yet I have to admit I googled a recipe just to check if I was missing anything major and found this great post and Hyacinth's recipe  @ PW.  I might go back to that recipe next time I want to make broth-I loved that she left the onion skins on!  Bold move.

I also whipped these cookies up last Sunday night to serve at our Teacher Preview book fair event. I made these into stars with yellow frosting for the theme of Every Reader's a Star!  I wanted a super easy recipe that would not require two hours of refrigeration and this recipe rocked.  Making Christmas cut-outs will be so much easier this season.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Click to her site to find many other food-related posts.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Where cooking conversations lead...

It happens so easy, a conversation about books and food leads to the inevitable discussion of cookbooks which is exactly what happened this morning when our school's lead, Mrs. Spratt, stopped in to pick up her saved book pile which included a cookbook.   We've discussed our mutual love of food and recipes before and she happened to mention that another cookbook at the book fair, The Mom 100 Cookbook by Katie Workman had been written about in Cooking Light magazine.   Interesting I said.

Now I'm spending all my free moments paging through it reading Ms. Workman's cooking stories.  I might have to purchase this one.  Naturally I started paging through it back to front and the dessert section had several recipes I would love to try this weekend like a caramel sauce or the  chocolate peanut butter squares.  Yes.  I can hear my kids now.

As we chatted more about food I explained about a recent baking fail I had with a cinnamon roll recipe that failed to rise.   She said I need to google Ree Drummond's cinnamon rolls.  She said they are easy to make and make a lot.  Just what I need.  Don't you just love that kind of gossip.  I'll be googling it later today.
What's got you and your coworkers chatting today?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

3 Sweet Picture Books

Like many book lovers I adore the public library for many reasons one of which is it gives me the chance to preview books! I can fill my library bag up with all kinds of picture books from the new shelves, read them slowly at home, and then put my favorites on my order for our school library.  If I could figure out how to make a button I would make a button flair for the public library.

Yes, I love buying books with the school's money but with dwindling budgets every dollar is precious and I'm wary about ordering books at expensive prices before I've thumbed through them. There are many authors that I trust to give me a good product but I've had my share of bad order mistakes.

Groovy Girl, with her keen eye, has become a big help in this process. She weeds out the top few for me to focus on. I always page through to make sure she hasn't overlooked something but she is generally right on about what students will like. Here are our top four picks from last week's library bag:

Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? by Susan A. Shea and Tom Slaughter. (2011)

Love this book. Bright, beautiful paintings created by Slaughter showcase comparisons like if a duckling grows into a duck then does a car grow into a truck? The illustrations are big with pages that open and I can see a use for this on many different levels. As I lesson planned this past weekend I considered "borrowing" this book and using it as part of a lesson. I decided to wait until our own copy comes in as I will get excited about it all over again when it does and then students will actually be able to check it out.

Jane Brocket's Clever Concepts; Spotty, Stripy, Swirly (What are patterns?). (2012)

Another brilliantly cool book and this one sits on the nonfiction shelf. The bold photographs make this stand out as the author explains the difference between chaos and order. When things are set in a specific order or repeated they form a pattern. We-and by we-I mean, kids like patterns and repetition and this book shares a huge variety of unique patterns; from knitted stocking caps to garden lettuce, everything can be put in order.  Even the title, according to Groovy Girl, has a rhythmic funky pattern to it!  As I browsed the author's website I was intrigued by several of her other concept books like Ruby, Violet, Lime; a book about colors.  I can see pre-k, kinder and 1st grade teachers using her books frequently.

ABC Dentist; healthy teeth from A to Z by Harriet Ziefert and Liz Murphy. (2008)

This book makes the dentist seem fun instead of the pain center it really is.  This would make an excellent tool to talk about the visiting dentist that spends a day or two at our school.  Alphabet books are wildly popular especially when we create  them on the computer.  We do a lot of comparing and contrasting of ABC texts.  And who knows there might even be a kid or two, like Hermie, who want to be a dentist! I see on good reads this duo have another catchy title-ABC Doctor.

Take it from Groovy Girl and I these three titles are worth the bucks you would shell out to add them to your  home or school library.