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.