Sunday, August 25, 2013

Weekend Cooking; A few recipes from our week

"Welcome to the weekend!", is just what I said on Friday afternoon as I headed out of school.  It is exhausting getting back into the swing of school days.  Now that it is Sunday afternoon and I still have a bucket-load of work to do I'm trying to reel Friday night back.  It's okay, I'll get it all done after a little nap.

Our oldest daughter, my step-daughter, Kaylee, spent the week with us in-between her job as a camp counselor in WI and before she heads back for her senior year at Oberlin.  I cannot even wrap my head around the fact that she will graduate this year.  We did have fun while she was here though and that will have to last us as we won't see her again in person until Christmas.

The first night she arrived I made an easy taco bar with seasoned rice and black beans as the main ingredients.  We had fresh lettuce, chopped tomatoes from the garden, salsa, and some shredded cheese to decorate our flour tortilla shells.  This is often my go-to meal on busy week nights.  I probably make a variation of this theme at least once a week. I'm glad my kids like rice and it is a perfect meal for self-expression as everyone can design their own taco ideas.

Another night we went to a new local Thai restaurant.  It was packed and busy but once our food arrived we were all very happy with the flavors.  I had a tofu red curry dish and Kaylee had a coconut chicken noodle dish.  I have leftovers to eat today!

We also made fresh Iowa sweet corn one night using this new method my mother-in-law turned me on to through this video:

The corn does come out VERY hot so make sure you have an oven mitt on your hand.  I didn't the first time I did it and I almost dropped the ear of corn getting it to the cutting board.  The corn comes out if you help it along and it tastes delicious.  I think of all the years of boiling a big pot of water to feed my summertime sweet corn love.

We made my friend Stephanie's margaritas (recipe is at the end of this long-winded post but well-worth the scroll) last night after we'd spent the day at a downtown festival.  Happy hour rushed right into dinner as I sipped and pounded meat at the same time.  We had the chicken cutlets from Dinner; A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach.  This has become Groovy Girl's all-time favorite meal.  She not only ate her cutlet but begged for the rest of her dad's when he was resting between bites.  "Can I have that?" as she pointed at his plate.  He raised his eyebrows in a funny way and said, "I'll split it with you" and she took him up on it.  I'm not making this every night yet it is a delight to have her eat heartily and not pick. Find that cutlet recipe at this previous blog post.

She and I biked to the farmer's market in the morning and we picked up a bag of green beans, a big bunch of beets, and some eggplant.  We found a new type of eggplant and had to bring some home.  The grower says it will be good in a stir-fry so that will be on the menu for this coming week.

{Aren't they cute!}

{Beets, of course}

{Japanese eggplant}
Groovy Girl and I carry our own bags to the market (really, where ever we might shop) hardly ever accepting despicable plastic grocery bags.  The ones we do pick up on occasion are reused to pick up doggie poo. It kind of annoys me that all these growers hand out plastic bags with every little thing, just like the big box stores.  I wish they could be motivated to move beyond the bag-offer a discount-for anyone going bag free.  I know not everyone comes prepared yet it seems we are enabling the customer to be lazy.  In my utopia plastic bags would be outlawed.  Just my little green soap box for today...thank you for listening.  I'm sure I'll feel better now.  Do you carry your own shopping bags?  If not, this is such an easy thing to change as so many retail places offer their own variety of canvas bags.  The ones I carry around in my purse fold into their own little sack, making it easy to take them everywhere.  Mine look a little like this example. 

We were somewhere this summer (on the East Coast) where they were NOT giving away bags-you had to pay for a bag and I was in heaven.  Enjoy the produce photos.  Eat healthy this week.  Try the cutlets just because Groovy Girl loves them.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking meme.  Click the blog link to view many other food-related posts and join in with one of your own.  And now that I've typed about food for over an hour I find myself a bit peckish.  Roasted beets or leftover Thai?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back-To-School Story Ideas

I've been back to school for two days now, attending meetings, planning with teachers, and cleaning up the library.  On Monday I was exhausted by 10 am and ready for a nap.  No kidding.  Even though I've worked in my house over the summer somehow back-to-school wore me out.

How do you think the kids are going to feel those first few days?  Worn out.  Ready for a nap.  Itching for their handheld electronics or endless amounts of television viewing.  Teachers have to have their game on as kids enter their classrooms.  Kids might come in thrilled for the new year yet it won't take much to lose them if we aren't centered and focused.

Here's a short list of books that I think are perfect for the first few days of school.

1. First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg: I love this story as it has a bit of a twist that will make kids smile, maybe even giggle and the conversation after reading it is always enlightening.  Sharing this book will show your students that YOU, the teacher, has a sense of humor.  Busy Teacher's Cafe has activities for this book-click their name to pull up website.   And if you want a digital tie-in here is a video clip. The video ends just short of the surprise ending which leaves a window for students to make predictions. Find more teaching resources for this book at Unique Teaching Resources.


Pete the Cat; Rocking in my school shoes by Eric Litwin and James Dean: This jazzy title gives a quick and fun rundown of what the school days will be like and shares a quick trip around the school.  It does not matter what your school shoes look like because once I introduced Pete the Cat last year and I plan to keep him rocking this year as well.  The positive message won't be forgotten. Video to share:

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn:  This one is nearly a classic to teachers and children alike.  Every year though I'm surprised by students who've never, ever heard the story.  This is especially appropriate for pre-k, kinder, and first grade students who may have trouble letting parents go on the first days of
school.  In my home copy I was lucky enough to have a page of heart stickers inside the book so every time I read it with my own kids I could grace their palm with a sticker.  Make Learning Fun has activities to compliment this title. Share this collection of videos.

I hope everyone has a cheerful school beginning-we all deserve that, teachers and students alike. As teachers we have the ability to lift our students up and bring a positive message to their education.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Usually my school begins before Groovy Girl so I miss the first day send-off.  This year it is reversed so I was able to be here and take just a few photos.  Allow me to share my little love:

{this is about when she got tired of the paparazzi}

{6th Grade Beauty}

Now I have three days to get a summer's worth of work done!
I can honestly say though that this has been a very relaxing summer and
I've spent a lot of my time hanging out with her.  #love

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Weekend Cooking; Garden produce

We have a beautiful garden this summer.  My husband and I compost lots of kitchen scraps and we dump them into a large ball composter that looks a lot like this one.  This year when we rolled it from one end of the garden to the other (it IS heavy and it takes both of us to push it around, thus moving the scraps around) we had a really nice fertile (mucky) batch of compost.  My husband dug down about a foot and we layered in a batch of compost, which looks  like wet dirt, and then cover that layer back up with dirt.  It's a little like burying a treasure!

We have about 5 tomato plants, three robust basil plants, one acorn squash plant, one cucumber plant, and one zucchini plant and they are all producing for us this year.  I love it when I can go out and gather a small handful of tomatoes and fresh basil  and then turn it into a simple and delicious lunch.

From this:

to this:

Fresh roma tomatoes, snipped basil still warm, a little mozzarella cubed, sea salt and pepper, oil drizzled plus a scoop of homemade pesto there in the corner to add even more flavor.

I found this zucchini in the garden the other day and plan to shred it and make bread with it.  Anyone have a great zucchini bread recipe to share?  I have one I plan to use but I always like to find new ones.

Groovy Girl was so amazed by the  mammoth size of the zucchini she had to have a comparison photo.  Won't that be delicious in some bread!

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

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Picture Book Frenzy

In between road trips Groovy Girl and I have spent a lot of time at the library this summer.  It is one of our favorite places in our quaint downtown area.  We love to browse and talk to the librarians about what we are reading or plan to read or are thinking of reading.  It is a great thing to surround our children with this book talking, especially over the summer.

The last time we were browsing I went crazy down the new book shelf of titles.  While Groovy Girl searched the new chapter books I picked up picture books galore.  I even added one into the pile that i thought my handsome husband would enjoy.

1. The True Stories of an amazing all-brother baseball team; Brothers at Bat by Audrey Vernick and Steven Salerno (2012) :

This is a great family story with very retro artwork. The book shares the story of the Acerra brother; 12 brothers, 1 baseball team during the 1920's, 30's, and 40's.  We love a good baseball story and through this text we learn more about life during this era.  The 12 brothers played ball for years; their high school team had an Acerra on it twenty-two years in a row!   The story shares the troubles the family experienced as well as the many good times they had together.  Eventually the 6 older boys get pulled away to WWII.  The very lucky thing is that they all come back alive! This is the book I brought home thinking my husband would like it; and he did!  I found him one morning, eating his breakfast, reading through the pages.

2.  No Ghost Under My Bed by Guido Van Genechten (2010):

While not so new this is a charming little book that reminded me exactly what it was like to have a little one struggle with bedtime.  Jack is ready for bed, all tucked in but he hears a sound coming from under the bed.  Dad comes each time to calmly check it out, assuring Jack that ghosts do not exist.  The father penguin is calm each time and checks to make sure that all is secure.  Very sweet story with beautifully subdued pictures in tones of gray and peach.

3. The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson and Eleanor Taylor (2012):

I adore Peter Rabbit and think Emma Thompson would be the perfect person to imitate her in person or in writing.  This story takes Peter on a new adventure to Scotland where he meets Finlay McBurney, a large black rabbit, and his clan.  This book also included a CD with Ms Thompson reading the tale to us.  Very, very sweet!

4. If waffles were like boys by Charise Mericle Harper and Scott Magoon (2011):

A very simple book that takes me back to my own dear son, now a teenager, and definitely not the rambunctious young lad he once was.  Now more shy than bouncy I remember easily how he went from activity to activity and that inanimate objects were incorporated into play.  This book celebrates that which makes boys, well boys.

5. Hello My Name is Bob by Linas Alsenas (2009):

Bob is a bear.  He thinks he is boring.  He likes to sit.  He likes to hum or count toothpicks.  He is quiet. Lucky he has a friend, Jack, who is a bit more thrilling, according to Bob.  Jack likes to do wacky stuff like surf, and paint.  This story is endearing and brings out the best part of friendship; it is often the differences in each of us that bind us together.  This one was a Groovy Girl favorite and really the only one in the stack she was interested in.

What are you picking up at the library?

Monday, August 5, 2013

One White Dolphin by Gill Lewis (2012)

Groovy Girl and I just finished reading this one together.  We had a massive read-a-thon to finish it this morning as it is surprise, surprise...overdue!  It left us both thrilled, exhausted, and a little teary.


That Wood clan needs to be stopped.  Save the reef? What a joke.  What kind of family loves fish and dolphins more than community?  dredging the reef will mean fishermen can reel in more money.  That's what the town needs.
What the town gets, though, is an albino dolphin calf that washes ashore after being caught in some old nets.  It will take help from an unexpected new kid, a daring, helicopter rescue, and a pod of dolphins, but Kara Wood won't back down.  The calf must be saved and so must the reef.  (inside blurb)

There is a lot to take in in this 338 page novel which is what really makes it a slice of life.  Bullying by adults and kids alike, economic strife, death,  survival, and at the heart of it; how we are taking care of the earth for future generations play a part in One White Dolphins message.  All these varied topics were solidly weaved in to make a believable and interesting tale.  The chapters are relatively short which makes for an easier read-aloud which always leaves Groovy Girl begging for more each time I stop to tuck her in.  This year she begins 6th grade and my plan is to keep reading together before I tuck her in.  She's my last one until I have grandchildren which, truthfully, is quite a ways away!

A sample from One White Dolphin:

Moana slices through the water on a course set for Gull Rock.  We're running fast and smooth.  Mr. Anderson and I have to lean right out to balance her.  I run my hands in the bow waves that furl along Moana's sides. Her sails above us are curved and taut like birds' wings.  We're racing through the water. It feels as if we're flying almost.  

I look back again to see Dad and Felix , big grins stuck on both their faces.  That pang of jealousy hasn't gone away.  It's not because of Dad, this time.  It's because of Felix.  For someone who's never sailed before, he's good at sailing. (119)

Find Gill Lewis at her website.  She's a former veterinarian living in the United Kingdom who transforms her love of animals and the earth into really lovely stories.  

Friday, August 2, 2013

Beautiful Colorado

{Way to go Jen!}

Groovy Girl and I just returned today from a week long road trip to Colorado.  We cheered my friend Jen on as she ran her first half marathon.  She is gearing up to run the Chicago Marathon in October and she looked so calm during the race that I think she is going to be ready!

This year we did not make it any farther than Denver but had lots of fun in the city.  We ate mussels at Le Central, had margaritas on a patio, and had lots of dinners together with family and friends.

Enjoy these few photos as I head to bed.  Not only are road trips harder as you get older but I have to be ready to celebrate my 51st birthday tomorrow.  I know breakfast in bed is coming early as I have a board retreat for a foundation I am working with from 8-12.  My husband and daughter have lots of fun activities planned for the day.

{Penny's Diner pit stop in NE}

{Jen's daugher, G.G.'s friend}
{Double rainbow from margarita joint)