Sunday, November 30, 2014

Beautiful soup!

I love soup.  If I had to pick a last meal I would pick soup and I'd have to make it myself.  I'm not a fan of canned soup or most soups in a restaurant.  They generally don't excite me-even though I want them to be splendiferous.  When I order a tomato-basil soup I want it to be great-as great as the one I make or better even!

Jason's Deli makes a good soup but we don't have one around here.  We had one in Little Rock when we lived there and used to go after church and have soup, sandwiches, and salads.  I found one in Denver, Colorado when I needed to order chicken noodle soup for my 19-year-old son who was sick- I sent him a delivery person with soup.  I couldn't be there so this was the next best thing.  It's all about the soup.

Soup, glorious soup.  I found a keeper as I scanned through my very special copy of Dinner; A love story by Jenny Rosenstrach. I found myself standing in my kitchen lazily paging through looking and reading many of Jenny's stories (again) when I came upon this soup and I had all the ingredients (Love that!) + I'm under the weather so perfectly in need of a bowl of quality soup.

{Jenny's photo}

Butternut Squash Soup with apples (101-102)

1 medium onion, chopped 
few glugs of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme
1 T. curry powder (optional)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes. (about 4 1/2 cups cubes)
2 apples (Fuji, Macintosh, or Cortland preferred., but just about any except Red Delicious will work.)
3 1/2 cups or more of chicken broth (or vegetable broth-which is what I used)
Garnishes:  Chopped walnuts, chopped chives, sour cream

In a Dutch oven or a large stockpot, brown the onion in oil until wilted, about 3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper, thyme, curry powder and cayenne.  Stir in the squash and apples, then add enough broth to cover it all by about a half inch.  Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes-checking and adding water or broth every 10 minutes or so-until the squash is tender.  Turn off the heat and puree with a handheld immersion blender or in batches in the blender (see warning about spinning hot liquid), adding more water or broth until it reaches desired consistency.  Serve with toppings.  

Hopefully by now everyone has an immersion blender because they are one of the greatest kitchen tools ever invented!  Mine is a Braun and I've had it for about 14 years and it is still going strong.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads; Weekend Cooking meme.  Click her link to find many other food-related posts.  Maybe others are talking about their deep love of soup as well.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

My Wish List

In case any of you want to finish your weekend shopping with a few select gifts here would be my top five choices.  I'm not a holiday shopper but I did take Groovy Girl to the mall yesterday just for fun and to get her out of the house.

These fun items I found all online.

1. 1 liter Bkr bottle: I want to drink water from this glass bottle all day long.  I know my water consumption would increase with this bottle by my side.

2. These Joules boots are adorable and they support bee life.  We eat a lot of honey and have a huge respect for bees at our house and I think it's my purpose in life to sport these rain boots to spread the love.

3. I love these Clark boots.  I have a cute gray pair that are quite similar  but not as sturdy but I know I would wear these a ton in the fall and winter.  I had a pair from Bass for years and years and the sole finely fell off.  It's probably weird that I have two pairs of boots here.  Excessive boot envy.  What I really need is a warm long black coat but I cannot find one that I like or that is a reasonable price.  I found one this year from Kenneth Cole; I like the style but it isn't very warm.  

4. This dress from Anthropologie.  Perfect for school or a night out.  I have a perfect pair of black boots to wear with it.  My ankles would be covered.  It's cold here.  If I wore wooly cream tights I could wear the above gift with this dress.

5. I think this neck warmer is lovely and would keep me toasty warm as I stand outside in near freezing conditions for my 4-times a week recess duty.  Find it on Etsy. The mannequin gives me a bit of the creeps though.

Now enough about me as the season really is about giving to others to be part of the true joy of Christmas.  Here are some of my ideas of fantastic gifts for others:

1. Goldie Blox:  WoW!  What a great idea this is.  If you have a young girl on your holiday list please please think about getting her this fabulous gift.  Groovy Girl and I listened to Debbie Sterling on Ted Talks and we've loved what she had to say.  We are more than just a pink aisle.  Get on the wagon toy manufacturers (and consumers).  This is at the top of my list for my nieces.

2. I would pick a scarf from this selection at that helps to simply feed the world.  This is a basic human right that we take for granted in our home.  Many don't here in the states and in 3rd world countries.  Feed works to eradicate childhood hunger.

3. Heifer International:  We love Heifer and we're lucky to be able to tour their space in Little Rock, AR before we moved North again.  We have a penchant for the bees but we've often purchased other animal gifts through this organization.

 Please give generously.  Skip one Christmas gift for yourself and ask for donations to a local charity this year.  Find ways to give back.  In the land of plenty most of us can afford a little extra holiday giving.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

{Etsy art}

We have much to be thankful for and we shared those thoughts during our husband/dad cooked breakfast this morning.  It is a joy to be alive and feel the fresh, freezing Midwest air fill your lungs as you lope from house to car.  I also said a few blessings this morning as I curled warmly under the blankets this morning as I slept and read until about 9:30.  Glorious.  I'm always sleepy as I just don't get enough sleep anymore.  And I'm in the middle of a good book and it's tough to put it down even as my eyelids blink shut repeatedly.  Holling Hoodhood has just read The Tempest with Mrs. Baker and the cream puffs just devoured by the two escaped rats in The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt so you can see my sleeping/reading dilemma this morning.

All I'm trying to say is the day has started off luxuriously just as Thanksgiving should be.  We did watch a little of the Macy's parade as we devoured the breakfast (biscuits with fruit jam, local bacon, scrambled brown eggs, and orange juice) and then we cleaned.  Yes, we cleaned our family room.  When you work full-time and don't have a full-time maid to help you keep up with it; it all kind of settles and clutters around this main area of space.  We did it together and got it polished up in about an hour.  The table is all clear and ready for our food spread.

We are very untraditional when it comes to our holiday meals.  We don't care what others are consuming (turkey) and even though I have brined and roasted a lovely organic bird a time or two for large family gatherings it wasn't going to happen this year.  We have a perfect piece of Alaskan salmon as our main fare accompanied by sweet potatoes, a tossed green salad, and fresh cranberries cooked to pop with drizzles of maple syrup, honey, and orange zest.   A glorious meal of favorite food for the three of us to share.  I wish I still had some brussel sprouts to roast-they would be perfect also.

What's on your menu?

Sometime we've gone to a movie on Thanksgiving night but tonight we have tickets to a volleyball tournament hosted at our local university.  I don't like to see anybody work  on a holiday such as this but it will be fun to watch two top teams compete.  Better than football for me.

Wednesday I had two opportunities to read my favorite Thanksgiving picture book, A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting, which has Mr. Moose off looking for a turkey who gets to join in the holiday meal instead of the main course. Kids always love this surprise ending and it shares the grand idea that who you are eating with is far more important than what you are eating!

Enjoy!  Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Book Fair is here!

I know this will sound like one big fat commercial from a woman who isn't into commercialism but I love the book fair!  Too me it is one more way to get good books into the hands of unsuspecting kids.  And this book fair is the biggest book fair I've ever watched get unloaded which means it took me several hours on Friday + several more hours on Saturday for me to set up.  It was a lot of work.  I even enlisted my husband's help for part of the day on Saturday.  He created a castle front out of my little sketch for the front of the library.  The them is "The Kingdom of reading..."

So excited to introduce Hansen students and staff to the fun of an amazing Mrs Holt book fair.  There are so many good books scattered throughout the fair that I will be hard pressed to get any work done all week long.  I'll be reading...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Traveling Mercies

(collage by Groovy Girl: G.G. with her super cute cousins)

We spent three days last week in Minneapolis, one of my favorite cities. I lived there for years while I went to college the first time and loved it. Lucky for me I still have family there so it is easy to drive the 3 1/2 hours north to see some of my favorite people.  Sadly I don't make it as much as I'd like to but this time our purpose was to see our new niece born August 13th.  You'd think  (because of my deep love of babies) I would have made the journey before now except that was just about the time school started for me and then it seems that pretty much every weekend after that was filled to the brim with activities.

Somewhere in October I vowed not to fill November weekends up just so we could head north and it worked.  I persuaded my husband to journey with us and he complied by finding a Bluegrass show to sweeten the deal. The show just happened to be on Thursday night so I took a day off from work (oh, so rare) and we headed to Harriet's Brewery after dropping Groovy Girl at my (step)sister Robin's new house.  Her family of four just moved to the Minnehaha neighborhood after living in South Chicago for about 6 years and they are so excited about this move.

Greg and I enjoyed music by The Last Revel at the brewery.  They were fantastic and I would head out of town again to hear them play.  The second band was good also but I can't remember their name.

This was a perfect toe-tapping band and the guys were equally as nice by they way they tolerated chatting with my husband several times about music.

I was a wreck that night for some reason. I got carded coming through the door into the steamy brewery and I could NOT find my driver's license anywhere in my bag.  While I was desperately searching my glasses dropped out of my hand because I'd taken them off due to that steaminess.  They snapped in half and were completely unwearable.  So I couldn't drink the delicious brewed beer or truly see the band.  It was a mess and I still managed to enjoy the evening.  Now I have to buy new glasses and I wasn't ready to do that and I still don't know where my ID is.

(Upside down cousins)
The rest of the weekend was spent at my (step) sister Autumn's home in Eden Prairie.  We walked even though it was chilly. We ate delicious pizza and generally lazed around the house holding her little one. My hope was to give my sister time to sleep and rejuvenate.  Maybe it worked. Sometimes just visiting with each other can make the day solid.  We also had a delicious lunch at a diner in their neighborhood with Robin and family on Saturday before we left town.  I had the best fish sandwich ever. The coleslaw had cranberries in it and the fish had perfect crunch.

Thank you for the alignment of the stars to bring us all together on one weekend even though my glasses and ID decided to jump ship.

We also checked out the construction of my brother's new house.  We can't wait for a return trip in December or January to see the finished product.

(new house)

This picture is all about the cookie.  Groovy Girl wanted to show the size; it is bigger than my face.  My husband is behind me hoping I'm not going to eat that cookie. My glasses in the photo have been super-glued.  That trick only lasted two days. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Amazon Burning by Victoria Griffith

Amazon Burning

This is not your typical Peaceful Reader type of book based on the cover and the title but it does have an environmental aspect that I bit right into and I enjoyed most of it.

What I liked:

The setting is the Amazon rain forest and I enjoyed learning more about the Amazon and the Indigenous people who live there and struggle with the changing landscape.  The ecology of the rain forest is an extremely important issue and one that gets brushed aside by politics but also by everything local that often takes precedence.  It's difficult to care about what goes on thousands of miles away when there is enough causes here in the US to focus our attention on.  This book brings  this issue to the forefront as Emma and her swarthy photographer friend bring to light not only an animal smuggling ring but discover truths about the rain forest they never imagined.  More books including young adult books should be written about this area to keep it in our minds.  The writing for the most part was good.  Ms. Griffith is a journalist, well-traveled, and did a great job with dialogue.

What I could live without:

It's a romance and I'm not a prude but WoW.  I know the word burning is in the title. I get that something had to be burning but I thought it would have been in higher order if the burning was the issue not the sex. The sexy scenes were far too graphic for me and they seemed uncomfortable for the author and her characters as they didn't flow well.  What momentum Griffith created in good dialogue reverted to dime-store romance novel in a second.  I like the mystery of a romance and I think it damages the overall good impact a book like this can have.  At the end of the day are you writing soft porn or saving the rain forest?  I vote rain forest and the book has so much to offer but there are many friends I can't hand this book to because of those very raw scenes.

I also thought the struggle between Emma and her professor was a very timely issue to add in and might have made the perfect reason for her to stay out of the sheets until the end of the book-leaving us with the understanding that her and Jimmy would now be free to pursue their passion for each other.  Emma's ability to shut her professor down makes her a strong and worthy character that might think twice before jumping into bed.  Just my 2 cents worth.  Now you want to read it more than ever just to see what I'm talking about...let me know if you want to borrow my copy of Amazon Burning OR
You can buy it from Astor + Blue's website for $4.99 right now.