Sunday, August 23, 2015

School starts WHEN??

Yes, tomorrow. I'm ready.  I think.  It doesn't make any difference if I'm really ready or not; kids will come through the library doors tomorrow no matter what.  They will be excited to tell me what they did over summer break.  Some will be pleased to share how many books they read over the summer.  Others will be happy to tell me all they things they did BUT read.  Either way I will welcome them in with open arms and hope that I can help the challenging students to find a book they will embrace (could be non-fiction, graphic novel, or a really interesting fiction) and I will help the strong readers to reach for the stars.

Groovy Girl starts 8th grade.  She will be a cheerleader this year for school.  Her best friend just moved around the corner from our house and life can't get much better.  This weekend she's shared her concerns though about school fears. Last year it was a rough beginning to middle school and she's worried that this year she will again have those same troubles.  No amount of talking her down about it seems to work so we'll just have to see how it plays out.

Handsome son begins his second year at our local community college and he's living with friends near school.  I hope for him a great year as well. It's a new experience having a child live in town but not in your house. He stops by to eat, do laundry, and just hang out every once in awhile.

Our oldest daughter, Kaylee, finished at The Salt Institute and is headed to Brooklyn to work for the podcast Reply All in September.  She has her own website and is striving toward life as a full-time writer.  I know she will miss Portland but new opportunities await her.

My husband also started a new job last week as artistic director of our community theatre. Long ago he was the children's theatre director at the same theatre so it is a little like going home for him but with greater responsibility.  His first play, Little Shop of Horrors, opens in October.

Everyone starts something new here and whether it is a new school year, a new job, a new house it's important to remember that home is where you go at the end of the day to feel secure and loved.  We are just going to take one day at a time.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Weekly Recipes 7 (The glorious garden edition)

{Groovy Girl and cousin}

Summer is winding down and school looms in the near future.  It's all good. I'm blessed to have a summer off with my kids and my books. Recently I dropped Groovy Girl in Deephaven, MN at the home of my youngest brother, Jason, and his two sons who are similarly aged, 13 and 11.  She was to have a week of playing with the cousins in their neighborhood and they were able to do a handful of interesting activities while she was there. Tubing and boating, Valley Fair, and the MN Institue of Art were part of the fun.

While she's been gone I've been alternatally reading, writing, and creating in the kitchen. Having my own fun! I had an armload of freshly cut basil from my mom's garden and I turned that into several containers worth of pesto.
{Just one jar left}
I also took a few pounds of our tomatoes and turned it into tomato sauce. Last year my mom canned several jars and gave them to me and I loved using the sauce throughout the winter, dumping a jar into soups, chilis, and curries.  So this year I'm creating my own jars.  I used this recipe to make the sauce and I used this recipe to double check my hot water pack canning method, both from The Kitchn. The sauce is delicious and I look forward to using it during the snowy months to come.

{3 of the 6 jars}

As to the bunches of basil I used a new recipe this year because I'm tired of searching high and low for pine nuts that don't cost a fortune.  My husband found this recipe that uses walnuts and we happened to have a big bag of those already in the kitchen.

Basil-Spinach Pesto with walnuts

1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 cup packed basil leaves (about 2 ozs)
1 cup packed spinach leaves (about 2 ozs)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp diced garlic
1/2 tsp kosher sea salt
pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350*.  Place walnuts on an ungreased baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes; remove and set aside to cool.

2. In a food processor, combine basil, spinach, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, salt and red pepper.  Cover and pulse until coarsely chopped.  Add oil and process until smooth.

3. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to 1 month.  Thaw frozen pesto in refrigerator overnight.  

This is what I did differently: I did not use spinach.  I didn't have any and so I just used extra basil this time - I had that much.  I may try the spinach part next week when I will have another huge batch of basil. I did add my own homemade dried pepper chunks from last year's garden.  My pesto lasts longer in the freezer than this recommendation.  Sometimes I've left the cheese out to freeze but I've found it does not really matter.

I had a pretty big batch made but after using it for an appetizer for a pre-school party and after giving college boy a big container I haven't frozen any yet.  Luckily my mom is bringing me more so I will go through this process again.

What's coming up in your garden?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Summer Reading Recap; June, July and a little taste of August

It's been a fantastic reading summer for me.  I need to bump it up just on the side of school reading but otherwise I'm happy with how much I've been able to accomplish amidst parties, vacations, and family drama.


Swamplandia by Karen Russell:  Didn't love it as much as I thought I should, it felt disjointed and for such an odd story I really needed to love the characters. I didn't.

The Detective's Assistant by Kate Hannigan: Interesting read for middle schoolers, holes in the plot though but kids probably won't notice.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult:  One of my top reads this summer; an out-of-the-box story for Picoult.  She's an excellent writer but her books fall into a pattern, this one didn't.  I loved the characters, loved the plot, and the mash-up, alternating point-of-view chapters. Thank you.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart:  I listened to this one on audible with Groovy Girl and we both loved what it had to say about young women and relationships. Fiesty. Thank you to Angelle for highlighting this author for me after we read Dramarama for our book retreat.


Nightbird by Alice Hoffman:  I love Alice Hoffman's writing.  This one was no exception.  A young boy is cursed with a set of wings and his mother hides him away from everyone including his father who doesn't understand the family magic or curse.  So many intricate levels of this story.  

How to speak dolphin by Ginny Rorby:  Good story about a girl who fights for her autistic half brother after her mother dies.  Elementary girls will love it. And it does bring something to think about to the table: what animals experience in captivity even in what we think might be safe environments.  Food for thought.

{coming soon}

Switch by Ingrid Law:  This is the best one yet which is saying a lot after the overwhelming popularity of Savvy.  Thank you for my copy Ingrid!

A game of thrones by George R.R. Martin:  Yes, he is wordy but the story is a great fantasy.  I don't know for sure if I'll read anymore than this first one because my favorite characters will surely die in the next one or the next one but I liked this one and it kept me turning pages in DC. I can say I've read it.

We were Liars by E. Lockhart:  Listened to this one also on audible; my easy fix for getting Groovy Girl interested.  We had her cousin with us for this one as well as we drove back from the East Coast following the story. This writer has a lot of unique ideas.  The ending took us by surprise.

Bringing up bebe by Pamela Druckerman:  I don't have small babies anymore but I loved Janssen's review of this book.  I've been listening to it on and off for a few monthes.  I took away good hints and I think many of my friends and family that have small children would benefit from reading this title.  Many people fight against the notion that anyone can do something better than Americans but we are at once uptight and too loose with our children.  I loved the French method of eating one snack after school but that snacking was not done 3-4 times a day as it is here. Goldfish at every opportunity! French children sit and eat dinner with their parents, whatever is served.  Also the hour before bedtime trick is one I'm keeping.  Quiet time in their room, no electronics, just alone time. I've already started this with Groovy Girl so we'll be ready for the start of school.  Everyone needs quiet time.

The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer:  I don't know why I resisted reading this one for so long.  I had an ARC of it long ago and let it sit with out cracking the cover! Thankfully it made it on our state award list so I picked it up and was sucked into this creative and fun fantasy world.

The fourteenth Goldfish by Jenni Holm:  I love this author and this book was okay but a bit contrived.  The science idea is great though and will appeal to many young girls and boys.

The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin:  A mystery set in the 1830s in Istanbul featuring Yashim, a eunuch.  I liked the writing but I'm not sure I understood all of it.  I read it for book club.


The Girl on the train by Paula Hawkins:  I liked this one. It was mysterious and I didn't have a lot of empathy for the characters yet I wanted to know what the heck happened!  Kept me reading until I turned the last page.

The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee:  I won this a few years ago and it's been on my coffee table waiting for me to pick it up.  I did and it was entertaining which made it a perfect summer read.  Portia has the gift of knowing and it comes through visions of food. The gift has been passed down from her grandmother, who owned the original Glass Kitchen in TX, and her granddaughters attempt to recreate that magic in NYC.  It's a little kitchy, the romance is a little too perfect, but it was a fun read.  I'm glad Portia was able to save them all.

And now I'm reading All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr for our August book club selection-I like it so far.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

It's August! My month to rule like a queen.

My birthday is tomorrow (two days ago now)!  While birthdays don't hold the same excitement as I've aged-it's still fun to have your own big day

Reflecting back on other birthdays that were full of flair I remember one party that involved our big blue boat, about 9 friends, and our small town yacht club (it did have a swimming pool).  We boated and swam and ate cake.  It remember the joy and the excitement of turning another year older.

I remember another birthday where I felt full of frustration.  The day had been a boring one; no breakfast in bed, friends, or party plans and THEN my mom made me go take a nap.  What!?  Crazy.  I wasn't a baby or even a toddler anymore.  I wish she'd have thought of some other method of distraction but no, off to my room I was sent.  After a couple of hours I was summoned back down where a surprise party had been arranged.  It was fun and I knew that was why I had been sent to bed so party preparations could be made; it was just so unfair to take a nap on what, for kids, is right next to Christmas in celebrations.

Now I'd pay money to have a good nap on my birthday, to be sent to my room for quiet time.  And luckily on my day I did get about 2 hours to just read in the sunshine on my patio.  I also had breakfast in bed, an hour of fun at our local pool, and a lovely dinner out with teenage boy/college son/making his own way young man, Groovy Girl, and handsome husband. After dinner older brother took Groovy Girl home so we could walk down the street for a cocktail with friends.  It was a beautiful day and I didn't mind turning another year older because I think this year could be the best year ever.  Really.  Lots to look forward to and many things to accomplish.  All I have to do is do it.  So cheers to a new year to check things off my list.