Friday, December 30, 2016


{G.G.had to take a panorama shot before
we ate thus annoying her siblings just a bit}
I hope everyone had a very merry winter break.  We had a lovely holiday together with all three kids at home. Kaylee came from Brooklyn, Tristan from Iowa City, and Groovy Girl emerged from her lonely only child funk to enjoy her siblings.  It's tough to be the youngest.

I'm enjoying this last little bit of break by catching up on sleep, on a few shows I like (This Is Us, Empire, and Atlanta), and end-of-the-year reading, more about that in my next post.

My refrigerator is full of leftovers so I do NOT have to worry about cooking for a few l-o-n-g days. Everything I made for our Christmas meal was fantastic!  This is unusual my friends. Normally something goes wrong just by the law of averages. Prepping in the two days before helped me immensely. It's a little weird to spread recipe love before you've actually made them so here is what worked:

Turkey brining is always the way to go. I brined it outside for about 24 hours in my grandmother's crock with snow packed around the outside. I let the gorgeous 12-lb bird air rest in the fridge. It cooked in about 2 hours and it was very tender and flavorful with a crispy skin. I also thanked the bird for giving its life for us to sustain us. To counterbalance this meat at our table Tristan's vegan girlfriend brought a Gardein turkey roll with it's own gravy and it was good also. We've always loved to mix up our meals and almost everyone tried some of the turkey roll. I did not follow Emeril's brining recipe to a T; just simplified it to the bare minimum. I did stuff the turkey as per his recipe though.

Wild Rice and butternut squash-huge hit. I will make this again and I have enough leftover for lunches. I forgot how much I like wild rice. The whole carrots-delicious as well.

I did a trial run on the sweet potato dish from Thug Kitchen and while I liked it, I didn't think my people would love it so i scrapped that recipe for simple baked then smashed together. No brown sugar, no marshmallows; just the deliciousness of sweet pots.  Love 'em.

Brussels sprouts were amazing. I just cleaned them, halved them (except for little ones), tossed them with coconut oil and olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and roasted them on a baking pan.  They were good although I would have preferred them crispier. It is a fine line between almost burning them and crisp and I've crossed that line before. I served them with shaved parmesan on the side.

Clam Chowder was a huge hit on Christmas Eve but the oyster stew not as much. I don't know if it was the recipe or just something I did; it was lacking the wow! factor.

Enchilada breakfast dish made everyone happy I think. It might have been the mimosas though. But you have to eat and I did play with this recipe adding in our regular green enchilada sauce and made only a 1/2 batch of the heavy cheese sauce. I didn't need it to be THAT cheesy. We had a whole plate load of toppings as well; sour cream, avocados, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, and our own family-made salsa)

I love it when meals come together. It makes everyone happy to sit at the table and know that we are blessed to share food in the same space for just a few days. We are ready to rock another year even when we are not in the same place.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Menu for this holiday week...WOW!

I like planning and putting together meals that everyone will love through the holidays.  Planning truly is half the fun.

I should be cleaning right now and instead I'm plotting and finding recipes. Tomorrow morning it will be the first meal we all have together since-well, we were all in Chicago for Thanksgiving!  Still it will be special around our big table, ready to start the festivities off.

I'm going to make a french toast recipe in my slow cooker.  I can get up early, pour it all in, and then go back to bed and read for a few hours until the eggs are set and the bread is crusty. Breakfast for Christmas morning is going to be an egg enchilada dish with some grits, fruit, and bacon (husband only).

{breakfast enchiladas}
At Mississippi Market in St Paul I located a MN farm-raised turkey and my husband picked it up today before he picked up our oldest daughter at the airport. Our turkey is now riding home with the two of them-hopefully doing a little un-thawing. I spent days and many phone calls trying to find an Iowa turkey but none were available.  We have not had a turkey for years. I've been creative over the years making meatless or fish meals. While we were in Chicago over Thanksgiving though Groovy Girl mentioned that she didn't remember EVER having had a "traditional" meal. She's exceptional.
{squash and wild rice}
While I'm not one for tradition I thought it would be fun to give it a go for Christmas. I plan to brine the bird just like my mom and I used to do years ago. I'm not even a fan of turkey but we'll see how this one turns out. I hope Groovy Girl will be happy with the results. That meal will be rounded out with cranberries, butternut squash/wild rice dish (if I change the honey for maple syrup it will be vegan), some roasted sweet potatoes (I just found this recipe in the **Thug Kitchen 101, roasted brussels sprouts with shaved parmesan (on the side), regular mashed potatoes and gravy, whole carrots roasted, maybe a small salad (it makes me happy). What a whole lot of love this will be. I plan on dinner lasting at least an hour.  Groovy Son's girlfriend is coming over after work so that is why so many vegan dishes are infused into our meal. I heartily laugh about the fact that she became a vegan as he complained for years about eating mainly vegetarian as a child until we added in sustainable local meat.  I seriously love the universe. Our meals over the years did teach him to be a flexible, more versatile eater which is just a good thing for anyone.

So anxious was I about our amazing meal that I jumped ahead with the Christmas dinner paragraph. Backing up to Christmas Eve; also a tangle of recipes because I grew up with homemade oyster stew and champagne.  I love oyster stew and champagne!  I've never been a vegetarian that couldn't eat a little fish along the way.  My husband happens to be allergic to shellfish.  I know. Almost a deal breaker. I started making clam chowder as a replacement. It does not hold the same appeal though. Clam chowder is like oyster stews' half cousin, twice removed. So this year I'm making a small batch of BOTH! I found a recipe on Epicurious that takes it up a notch or two-no once removed and will see how it fares. Yes. Enough for all to have some of each except the husband. We'll have baguettes and salad to go with this meal.

Are you hungry now?  I am.

**I have this in my house b/c it is the girlfriend's Christmas gift. I read a review somewhere about this book and wanted to check it out anyway and then it appeared on her wish list so win/win. It's definitely cheeky and the recipes are appealing.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Weekly Recipes; Food for thought

I haven't posted any weekly recipe posts for quite awhile because I feel like I haven't been cooking. Of course we've still eaten dinner but with my husband gone every night for rehearsals - Rocky Horror Show - right now so dinner is usually something I can quickly pull together before we head to dance. Making pasta, soup, or the occasional grilled cheese for Groovy Girl allows me to eat dinner how I like which is a small plate of crackers, cheese, and some fruit/veggie or blue chips and homemade salsa.  I tend to be hungry right after school depending on what I had for lunch and I feel better when I eat mini-meals. My husband, the athlete, always-on-the-go, needs a full meal.

That said this morning I was inspired to whip up some waffles.  I have a recipe I've used for years but this morning my head was foggy and I could not recall exactly which recipe book it was in.  In order to not waste precious time I googled for a recipe.  Several links down I spotted Ree Drummond's signature site and clicked to see what she had to say about waffles. Sometimes I just click there to be amused and then move on to different site for another recipe but today hers seemed doable and interesting.  My arm hurts now from whipping up the egg whites but I definitely would make this again and soon with holiday season just a week away.

From Ree's site:



10 Minutes
10 Minutes
8 Servings
  • 2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 3 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1-1/2 cup Milk
  • 2 whole Egg Yolks
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon (additional) Vanilla Extract
  • 1 stick (1/2 Cup) Salted Butter, Melted
  • 4 whole Egg Whites
Preheat the waffle iron to the regular setting.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, 2 egg yolks, and vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients and very gently stir until halfway combined. Pour in the melted butter and continue mixing very gently until combined.

In a separate bowl (or using a mixer), beat the egg whites with a whisk until stiff. Slowly fold them into the batter, stopping short of mixing them all the way through.

Scoop the batter into your waffle iron in batches and cook according to its directions (lean toward being a little deep golden and crisp!) Remove and serve immediately with softened butter and warm syrup.

I know it seems labor intensive with the whole egg white thing but I do think it made ours fluffier.  The two teenage girls on sleeping on the sofa complained about my kitchen activity until I told them I was making waffles.  They wrapped themselves in blankets and moved on over to the table as soon as I plated up pretty waffles. I would have taken a photo before they dug in but I've somehow managed to lose my phone somewhere in the house. Enjoy! 

P.S. I made this recipe exactly as it says except I used almond milk.
P.P.S. I have one last assignment to turn in for my Google class which has been difficult. I'll be glad once again to not have to think about homework.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

December reading

Ah December. I'm almost done Christmas shopping-YES! I'm in the process of decorating; the tree is up but not one ornament hangs on it yet. I'm crazy with homework; this Google advanced class is far more work than I expected. I am learning a lot so that does make it worth it.

With all the homework I've still managed to read two books so far this month and both were "thrillers".  I think I have to move away from this genre though for bedtime reading. One of the books gave me pre-sleep jitters...I got so involved with the characters and would continue to think about the situation while I trying to go to sleep.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (2016); This is the one. Something about Scott's character appealed to me because he was someone who was flawed and admitted it. The first scenes of him in the water with the young boy as they attempt to swim to shore were agonizing for me and I had to keep reading even though it should have been time to put the book down and get some sleep. Each section was a little like that. I appreciated Scott's philosophy throughout the book and felt attuned to the message that we all have a purpose here.  So many interesting characters held together by an excited story line and the political commentary fits so well with what we are experiencing now! Chapters are done in alternating POV so you get to hear and understand from a variety of characters.

Zero Day by Jan Gangsei (2016); I picked this out one afternoon with Groovy Girl at our local library. We were there on a mission to find some good books for her to read, not an easy feat, as she is a picky non-reader. Also she has an English teacher right now who is taking the joy out of the written word. But I digress.

Zero Day takes place in Washington DC and Virginia and is focused on the political scene. Addie Webster, the then Virginia governor's 9-year-old daughter, is kidnapped one day right out of the governor's mansion. Eight years later she resurfaces. Her DNA checks out and she is reunited with her family in the White House.  It's not an easy transition and it is difficult for Addie to realize that her family moved on even without her.  Her kidnapper still has a hold on her though and so while she attempts to fit back into her family she also has to do some weird undercover assignments for her "father/kidnapper" who is the head of an international terrorist group. I like both Jan's writing style and the main idea but it all got a little far-fetched for me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My good reads (fall addition)

What I've read...

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (2016): Perfectly oddball story of a shipwrecked robot who learns to survive on an island with no humans, assimilating into animal culture and ultimately becoming the kindest being there is on the island.  I loved this first chapter book by Brown and hope he has more in the works.  I love his picture book The Curious Garden as well! Thinking about holiday gifts...

George by Alex Gino (2015): debut author Alex Gino writes a beautiful tale of a young boy struggling to be the girl she knows she is. The vehicle Gino uses is George's desire to play Charlotte in their school production of Charlotte's Web.  His best friend Kelly helps to make it happen. This is a quick read and there were tears by the end. Gino has written a near perfect intro to the transgender world for elementary students.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (2016): Woodson is one of my favorite authors and Brown Girl Dreaming is one of her best. I felt like this was a continuation of the author's desire to share stories of what it means to be brown-skinned in America in different eras.  I loved the description of the New York time period with the hair and the shoes and the young friends spoke to each other.

Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos (2014): Time traveling plot twists! This book delves into one family's struggles with being honest about fracking. The issue could be one of many hot bot issues right now and how it's not healthy for people.  Pipelines going under rivers are in my mind right now. Margaret's father has come out on the wrong end of his former employer about fracking and now has been charged with murder on "trumped" up charges.  Margaret has a secret weapon she's been told not to use but her gut tells her it may just be the only way to save her dad. This book had me cheering for both Margaret and her ancestors.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (2016): I've loved this Raven Cycle series.  Blue, her family, Gansey, and Adam and Ronan feel like real people to me as I've followed every step of their quest. I know she says this is the last but I would still love to know how the gang is faring in say 2-3 years as they adjust to life with out the forest and their quest. If you haven't read this fantasy series, you must.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (2012): Book club choice and a quick read. I loved Harold's journey. Yes it was far-fetched (who leaves home without their mobile or good walking shoes) but he was just headed out to the mailbox not a month long journey. I thought Joyce did a wonderful job of feeding us information a little at a time. Harold, his wife, and many of the people he meets along the way were interesting every day characters and every one has a personal quest; Harold and his wife affected me by how much they'd experienced behind the scenes.

The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister (2015): I picked this one up at a recent book sale because the title and the cover intrigued me. As I paged through it the names Janesville and Waterloo, IA flicked past as chapter headings and I knew I had to read it. We read about Ada Bates' life in alternating time-period chapters. Through her childhood on a farm with her mom and stepfather she escapes to the famous Biltmore house to be a maid. She is looking for a different life and as soon as someone offers her the chance to head to NYC she takes it.  Along the way she is abused and lied to by men she meets. Eventually she meets Adelaide who makes her the star of her illusionist show.  Life has a way of circling back on her though and life doesn't go as planned. Ada's voice and the hardships she struggles with kept me reading. I had to know more, just one more chapter.

I've been a busy reader this fall. Now I'm reading Before the fall by Noah Hawley on my Kindle, All the Answers by Kate Messner at school, and Zero Day by Jan Gangsei from the library. What about you?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Day to be Thankful


Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.
Look at these sweet kids. I'm very happy that we will be all together over this holiday weekend.  Today is about gratitude.  

Here's my list:

My family and friends 
Our good health 
The beautiful old roof over our heads
libraries (including Hansen)
Glorious Books
My cup is almost always half full

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Delights

I made a sweet potato pie last night. It looks beautiful.  I have to wait until tomorrow to taste it. It looks simple in the photo but the flavor will be great. The cool thing is that new stove sitting in my kitchen. Love it.

To make the pie I used the best pie crust recipe I have in my files, given to me by my mother-in-law, Phyllis.

Perfect Pie Crust

For a double crust pie:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup Crisco
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cold, cold water

Mix together dry and cut in Crisco with a pastry blender. Pour in cold water and mix only enough to stick together.  Roll out one-half of the dough at a time for double crust pie.

I never fail with this recipe. My sweet potato pie is not a two crust pie so I have the second half of the dough in the fridge waiting for inspiration. I didn't have any Crisco way down in my pantry so I tried a butter/Coconut oil (in solid form) combination and it seems to have worked. The true test will be tomorrow when we eat it.

Sweet potato pie is very easy; a handful of sweet potatoes, baked, then peeled, a little organic sugar, 3 eggs, fresh nutmeg scraped in, and evaporated milk (I used regular after boiling it down).  Work it all together, pour it in the pie shell and bake it at 350* for 45 minutes. The middle won't jiggle when it's all done.  Best served at room temperature with a small dollop of fresh whipped cream seasoned with cinnamon. Can't wait.

Tomorrow night we are having a friendsgiving and I'm making a big dish of vegetable lasagna with some organic, local ground beef thrown in. I found the veggie lasagna recipe at The Pioneer Woman.  Crusty french bread and a large tossed salad will be perfect together. For one guest I'm making homemade mashed potatoes with gravy and some cranberries so it will seem a little more like Thanksgiving. I don't ever really miss the turkey because the side dishes mean more.

Be grateful for everything in your day; the sweet and the sour.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wisdom through the years...

My dad's birthday today. Sorry he's not here with us.  He is a reminder to me all the time of how short life is. I miss him often-

Appreciate the people around you who help you, give you strength, buy you new tires when you really need them and you had a baby instead. My dad was a very understanding sort of guy. He gave my husband good advice before we were married: "Love her and take her where she wants to go..."  My husband does that mostly and he's a great driver while I read in the passenger seat. A win-win for me. 

(Boating-circa 1970's)

When Bush took office the first time I had a negative bumper sticker (something about the red party and their intelligence) on my station wagon and he reminded me not to lump a whole group of people together; that it wasn't fair.  I removed the bumper sticker and found one that was more peaceful and kind thus more thoughtful. He's right, of course, and I keep thinking about that pearl of wisdom but I'm still struggling with this post-election. I just won't add it to my bumper.  I'm already tired of the massive flag-waving that is happening right now in my own "River City". 

I'll try to keep my cool but I cannot say all will be fine. It won't be.
Today though I'll honor my dad and focus on two little spitfire nieces who were born on this exact day-two little dreamers who could easily run the country one day. I hope we don't have to wait that long but we need to keep raising them thoughtfully so they will be ready.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I could be salad girl...

That could be my Superpower...

I love and miss the lovely salad I made a few weeks ago with swiss chard but when the opportunity arose to create another salad for a school event I searched again online.

I found what I was looking for at the Minimalist Baker.  Arugula, dried cranberries, and nuts plus a homemade dressing were all ingredients I had in my kitchen. I followed the directions for the dressing just right; the salad I played around with just a bit.

I used feta cheese instead of bleu, I added some spring greens because arugula can be too peppery for many, and I added a handful of cherry tomatoes and small sliced red and orange peppers just because they happened to be in my crisper.  Why not?

I loved the pecans, toasted and warm, mixed with the tartness of the dried cranberries and the lemony spark of dressing was just the right tang. I will keep this one close as I loved the flavor mix and it was easy to adapt to what I already had.

I started this last night while waiting at dance.  I checked my NYT app several times and lost my entire mind. Today I'm publishing this and will work on a more thoughtful post about last night and today because other wise I might use words that are not peaceful at all.

Be Kind.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Happy Halloween!

{The Princess and the Bee}
We've had a busy celebratory weekend that started Friday at school with the traditional Halloween parade all around the school. So many happy faces-kids just filled with the joy of childhood.

{Groovy Girl and her painted pumpkin}
{Cinderella teaches 2nd grade at our school}
Tomorrow will be a crazy day at school as kids anticipate their evening of trick or treating around their neighborhoods.  They don't have to worry about the upcoming election, all the political ads, all the negativity! They can dress up and enjoy.  It's also really nice weather here which is great for festivities. We had our annual Fall Fest at church today and it was comfortable playing games outside with a sweater on.

{Hay ride around the neighborhood}
I finally finished The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami; interesting tale, took me a long time to read, and I'm not sure I get it. My take away was that he did everything he could to bring his wife back to him; a lot of strange stuff in between. If anyone knows more about the book I'd love to know. I'm now reading Another Brooklyn by one of my favorite authors Jacqueline Woodson and a new library book, Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos.  My 6th grade book club just started The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson and I'm excited to see what they think because it is just so different from what they would normally pick up.

{Hansen goes all out}

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Weekly Recipes 16; October

A friend at school gave me a huge grocery bag full of swiss chard and I've had fun experimenting with it. I've made it only a small handful of times, mostly just wilted in a pan with lemon squeezed. It was less than exciting. But I was very willing to try again. In handing over the swiss chard Kristin gushed about a swiss chard and potato recipe she made and so that very next weekend I googled it and put it together. I found this one from the NYT; Potato and swiss chard gratin.

Mind you it was not something Groovy Girl would stick her spoon into but my husband and I loved the creamy change of pace. After that recipe I still had half a bag of chard but I had other things to cook and forgot about it. I expected to open the bag a few days later, maybe a week, and find wilted, grossness but nope it was still hanging in there. Book club was just around the corner and I felt like a crisp salad.  Googling brought this swiss chard recipe from Alexandra's Kitchen and it was so lemony and delicious. A few days later I was actually craving the crispness of the salad again. So I guess I'll look forward to the next time I find swiss chard. I'm a fan now.

This weekend we had another family over to hang out around our fire pit. The days are getting nippier and soon it will be too cold.  Hopefully this wasn't our last weekend out there but if it is we certainly had fun.  I had some very good brats in my freezer from a local locker that I simmered in two cans of beer and then roasted over the crackling fire.

My friends Marek and Erin recently shared a jar of homemade sauerkraut and we had lots of toppings; spicy mustards, diced red onion, Amy's ketchup, TJ's wasabi mayonnaise, feta cheese. We had our salsa and blue chips and a garbanzo bean recipe from BudgetByte's that I've wanted to try. I served the chickpeas over a bed of arugula from last week's farmers market run. I am a huge fan of garbanzos and I thought this one turned out great; interesting spicy and sweet flavors mixed together. Of course around the campfire we roasted some marshmallows and made s'mores for dessert.

Swiss Chard Salad
Cumin Lime Chickpeas

Even though it's October I haven't made one thing with pumpkin in it. I like to look at pumpkins-the color is so vibrant-but I'm not a pumpkin pie fan. I should maybe try a pumpkin soup. On occasion I like a pumpkin spiced latte or chai.  Maybe in the next week I can get locate a few more Fall flavors.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Books and food and so many other tidbits

Dance has taken over our life and when we are not at dance Groovy Girl is on my computer working on homework. 9th grade honors classes are pushing her and keeping her busy.

School has me super busy as I'm constantly tweaking lessons and working with our young leadership team. In between and sometimes because of school I've been reading some great books. Hansen's 6th grade book club just finished The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich.  This book is underappreciated. A few libraries in our district don't even have copies!

It is a beautifully written story of a young Ojibwa girl and her family as they rotate through the seasons. The accelerated kids in my book club thought it was interesting and the book brought forth a lot of discussion.

At home I finished The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald; a fresh fun story about a young Swedish woman who travels to Broken Wheel, Iowa to meet her bookish pen pal. By the time Sara arrives her pen pal, Amy, has died. The very small town rallies around her and the results are often strange and bittersweet. I enjoyed this tale for its quirky cast of characters and all the book trivia.

My husband and I sometimes read books to each other and we recently finished The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. This is a psychological thriller and I've seen a lot of up and down reviews. We enjoyed it and love trying to figure out where the story is going. This one kept us guessing for a few plot twists. Next up we are going to read a classic thriller by Nancy Price-Sleeping with the Enemy.

I made the butternut squash soup, the potato and swiss chard dish and the butternut tabbouleh from my last blog post. All were delicious. Later tonight I'm going to make my stepmother's zucchini bread for my husband because I have two that are oversized from our school garden. First I'm going to relax with some friends, music, and wine. Just the way to spend a Friday night. Groovy Girl made me dinner also; a veggie wrap using gluten-free wraps from Aldi. Something she watched a YouTube video about...

I'll have to work harder to wrestle the computer away from her so I can write more before the month closes out.

Enjoy the weekend!!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Farmers Market Bounty

I spent two hours this morning standing at an information booth for our soon-to-be co-operative grocery store. Before I settled in to that job though I took a stroll through our lively and beautiful market.

I now have turnips, swiss chard, small potatoes, four bulbs of garlic, 2 butternut squash, and about an hour spent trolling the internet for recipes ideas.  Here's what I came up with:

1. Huff Post article about butternut squash with an easy peel method!

{Naturally Ella}
2. Naturally Ella-butternut squash soup

3. Cookie + Kate-butternut tabbouleh

{NYT Cooking}

4. New York Times Cooking-swiss chard and potatoes au gratin (with gruyere cheese-ohh yes!) I love my NYT teacher subscription.

{well-plated by erin}
5. Well-plated by Erin-Slow cooker butternut squash pulled pork tacos-I'd change out the pulled pork to something else we would eat.

6. A classic family recipe from a Moosewood cookbook-black bean and sweet potato burritos that could be made with butternut squash instead. Just remembered how good they are!

Now that I've made myself really hungry I'm off to eat dinner at a friend's. My recipe pull was heavy on squash but the swiss chard one is a keeper that I'm making tomorrow night for Sunday dinner. I don't want the swiss chard to go all limp on me and the squash saves for a good long time.

Groovy Girl is turning into a kitchen staple. Last night, bored with my idea of leftovers, she took to a recipe site that takes your ingredient list and spits possible recipe choices back out. She found this recipe for chicken broccoli pasta and she made it all herself.  I avoided the chicken and thought the flavor of the recipe amazing.  Lemon-love lemons. Try Zakk's Lemon Broccoli Pasta.

Enjoy!  This post is linked last minute to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking post.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Racism surrounds us still...

One of my down south book BF's recommended we read Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book, Between the world and me, together. I requested it from the library and once I had it in my hand I just couldn't put it down. Sorry V and A; but the good thing is we have much to talk about...

Ta-Nehisi Coates shares with us stories from his life, growing up and as an adult, sharing his experience of being black in America.  He frames it in a personal way as if we are a part of an intimate conversation between him and his son. 

As I read Coates' words I was reminded of Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Both books gave me insight into what it means to be a non-white person in this country that on one hand is so great (filled with freedoms many other countries don't have) but also filled with racist problems where not all of our people feel those basic freedoms.  

While I can't compare stories I do remember in the late 80's while I worked retail in a variety of beautiful malls in Minneapolis/St Paul and suburbs. Friends that might visit me in the store dressed like musicians of the 80's while I was working were often followed into the store by mall security or mall managers. In one of these instances it was boutique mall in Victoria Crossing area of St Paul and the manager came into the store on the heals of my friend Randy.  She clearly stated in front of my friend that "she wanted to make sure I was okay." I remember feeling so indignant like of course I'm okay and I said something to that effect. Randy looked at her and said something like "I know it might surprise you but we're friends." After she walked he kidded me about how I should think about getting different friends that would be "mall-acceptable." I remember several other instances with him and other friends and yet I felt like Mpls/St Paul was more cosmopolitan than most communities and that race problems we experienced must be few and far between but we also never spoke about it much. Now I think I must have only viewed a small portion of what they dealt with on a daily basis. 

To be in an altercation today as a black person with police must be scary and could be deadly. I do know there are many good officers as well. Why does it keep happening? It seems to be getting worse and we need to find a way to make it better together. I appreciate Coates' book for allowing us an insider view of the real struggle. This should be required reading, it made me think more about white privilege, and how this shouldn't exist anymore.  We are still far away from the world Dr. King imagined we could have as humans. 

In the famous words of Dr. King we must band together:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." 

I want to read more of Ta-Nehisi's words and my husband listened to me I guess because the other night he handed me his copy of The Atlantic with an article about O.J. Simpson. I read that, agreed with his thoughts and am ready for more.  We all need our eyes opened to bring about change; it might be a case though of preaching to the choir. 

Bring it on V and A, what are we going to read next...?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sex Object by Jessica Valenti

I felt compelled to order this from the public library a few weeks ago because of a Litsy post. I've heard Jessica's name and her first book, Full Frontal Feminism, before and just hadn't picked it up to read.

Sex Object; A memoir took me by surprise. I don't know why as the title is fairly explicit I just didn't fully understand that I'd be reading about Jessica's sexual escapades and yet I feel calmer having relived some of my own sexaul past through her experiences. For years I felt like there must be something wrong with me; did I have a sign taped to my back that said "abuse me/pick me"?

I've suffered through my own bits of harassment, stalkers, and leering overstimulated "manly" men (creeps). Jessica's story brought that message home; every woman has her own scary tales. Her story assured me that I was not the only one. Even sharing creeper tales with friends I always felt like I won hands down.  That we even have to share stories about this is ridiculous.

Not only do we deal with men's expectations of us but we shoulder a lot of that ourselves. Many of us never feel smart enough, sexy enough, pretty enough. Expectations on whether or not we are pretty both from our own selves and the men that surround us is a universal problem and I hear from my own daughter, which truthfully, is so hard to bear. It's like I went through this already and raised you to BE yourself, to share your opinion, to speak and you still complain that you don't look right, your hair isn't right, you feel awkward.

I feel like I made it through my own swamp of insecurities to get to a place where I have a job that I feel secure in, a husband who loves me no matter what, and children who are beginning to see that I am smarter than they thought.  It's also easier to be a feminist in my own head and heart, in my own home, about my own body.  Jessica's journey has been one of sounding the alarm and putting herself out there loudly speaking about gender and women's issue for most of her adult life. That's impressive to me. And she's been crucified through social media posts about her opinions, what she has to say. It must mean even the haters are listening.

I would love to hear Jessica speak. The book, told in a chaotic, back and forth method, relays her past and present. It's told in un-chronological order yet the last two chapters sort of sum up where she's at today, happily married and the mother of a precocious daughter.

I think to be secure in ourselves is to be complacent and it's really about just finding some bit of peace every day. You-made-it through-another-day feeling whole.  I'm glad to have had a chance to think about my own past/present as I read through Jessica's.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Groovy Girl turns 14

{G.G. and her brother}
Seriously no way. It just can't be possible that my baby born 3' 4 " is now my height and can wear my shoes if she likes them.

{G.G.and her big sis Kalila}
She is a blessing and a miracle. She is lovely and wonderful. She is also disorganized, somewhat spastic, and slightly irresponsible. Yet she keeps track of her contacts~still a mystery to me. Those are all characteristics of hers that are just part of what makes her who she is. Her college roommate will have to help her find her phone, she will probably be the girl turning cartwheels across the quad, happy that she still wears her Nike Pros underneath her dresses and I know she will find someone out there who loves her for all those quirky attributes.

What I dislike are people who make those qualities a negative for her. She had some amazing teachers in elementary school and one of them in particular clarified to me how some kids are just like that; creative, forgetful, absent-minded yet delightful.  Not a negative. I used to feel like I had to apologize a bit for her ability to stray. Her teacher's words to me after Groovy Girl had lost a school project was simply one of reassurance and I've tried to stick with that method.  She is who she is and I am grateful for her kind smile every day.

Happy 14th birthday Groovy Girl~you are an amazing child/young woman/daughter.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Weekly Recipes 15; I love September!

It's my second favorite month. School starts, the weather is amazing. I love what we've always called "Indian Summer"; warm weather with a September breeze.

I'm in my second week of school and it's been a very smooth transition. Groovy Girl is settling into her freshman year; top dog in her junior high. She's already busy with football cheer and soon dance will begin. Then we'll be a whirlwind of crazy.

{G.G. 2nd from the L.}
Today there was a little football activity happening at our kitchen table with my two favorite men. Husband and son were busy drafting their fantasy football teams and I loved listening to them banter back and forth together and with the other online football friends.  Knowing this annual event was taking place and that the 21-year-old headed to our house to draft with his dad like old times I offered to make them brunch. I know, my gifts abound...

At Early Girl in Asheville this summer my husband ordered grit cakes; it was like biscuits and gravy but with cakes made from grits. I took that as my inspiration for today's menu. I googled, looking at a variety of different recipes, and settled on one from Epicurious. It was Shrimp and Grit Cakes though and my handsome husband is allergic to shellfish.  I did have a lovely piece of good farm-raised steak from a local meat locker so I transformed the recipe just a bit.  The grit cakes were so very easy to make and delicious! I need to host a brunch for friends just so I can make this again.

I sliced the steak into bite-sized pieces and created the same sauce the recipe calls for except I didn't add the flour.  I also had three ears of sweet corn calling my name from the vegetable drawer and I cut the kernels from the cob and added that and it blended like it belonged.  On a small plate I plated two grit cakes with the steak, juices, and corn/pepper mix on top and a handful of blue chips tucked on the side. A little Parmesan over the top and it was ready to be eaten! As usual I failed to take a photo before they dug in. The plates looked award-winning and the they were licked clean so I guess I did good.

The recipe made enough that I have leftovers that we can eat for breakfast tomorrow. Tonight I will be whisked away for an anniversary dinner out on the town. Dressing up + no dishes to do = win/win

I'm working on finishing Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam. I have about 6 short fiction books to read for Iowa Children's Choice that I need to finish before my final ratings.

Have a great l-o-n-g weekend.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Summer Reading Recap

{image: the Red Fairy Project}
I am filled with gratitude that I have summers to catch up on some extra reading. As a librarian I spend my school day surrounded by books, ordering books, previewing, books, talking about books and yet I don't always have a lot of spare time to read.

This summer's reading log has far more adult choices thanks to the new app Litsy on my phone. Do you Litsy?  Mostly adult books are discussed and shared and many sound unbelievable good. Thankful I've learned to cross check with my public library to request and check out. So now I'm addicted to Litsy and love getting recommendations for more reading. Find me @Peaceful_Reader.

I do still love Goodreads because it's a great place to keep track of all my reading + my reading journal (I must have a paper copy in case the Internet goes down).

Here are stats so far for this summer and for the year to date.

Number of books: summer = 22 / y-t-d = 41
Pages read: summer = 8,000 (nice round number) / y-t-d = 12,850

I read 8 adult fiction titles, 4 YA books, and 9 elementary fiction books + 1 graphic novel

All of the elementary books I read including the graphic novel were for our Iowa Children's Choice Awards.  I have about 7 more books to read this week/weekend before I score them all and send in my ratings.

My absolute favorite book this summer is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.  I'm happy that I read it and I share the love for it with every adult reader that I know. If you haven't please do. It is pain + joy wrapped together which is just what life is. Jude will forever stay with you.

Other favorites were: Mac Barnett's The Terrible Two (funny), Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (great storytelling), Ruta Septys' Salt to the Sea (amazing historical fiction), The Guest Room by Bohjalian (fiction yet brings the horrible truth of modern day slavery to us), Speed of Light by J.M. Kelly (unique twists) and always Alice Hoffman-her books are magical.

In order I read:

  1. The Doctor's Wife by Elizabeth Brundage
  2. H2O by Virginia Bergin
  3. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
  4. Speed of Light by J.M. Kelly
  5. The Marvels by Brian Selznick
  6. Capture the Flag by Kate Messner
  7. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy
  8. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
  9. Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics by Chris G.
  10. The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett
  11. One Second After by William R. Forstchen
  12. A little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  13. Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
  14. New Kid by Tim Green
  15. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
  16. Audacity Jones by Kirby Larson
  17. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
  18. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  19. The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
  20. The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
  21. Jungle of Bones by Ben Mikaelsen
  22. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamiesen
I have two more books I am set to finish this week; Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam and Odd, Weird and Little by Patrick Jennings.  What did you read this summer?