Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Let's catch up...


September is flying by and I had the crazy thought today; I can understand the appeal of a ghost writer to very busy authors. I feel like I could use one every now and again.

What's happening in my world?

School:

I'm having a magical year so far. This is my fourth year and I feel much more confident overall. This class of 6th grade students were 3rd graders when I arrived and we have a unique and trusting relationship. Even kindergarten this year has impressed me with their amazing excitement for library.

Home:

Japhy has settled into her high school classes and dance started last week. She is busy, happy, and still filled with so much love for me that our life together is smooth. She loves to lay with me and just hang out.  My husband just finished directing an amazing play, The Man who shot Liberty Valance, which I knew nothing about until he picked it for this current season.  I'm not a fan of westerns but this one, never having read the book or watched the movie, struck me with it's very modern issues of good vs. bad.

The only part of my idyllic home life that is not going as planned is how difficult it is for Anton to understand how to be part of a healthy, high-functioning family. It is literally an every day struggle which is a major impact on the rest of us. He doesn't understand why he needs to check in with us, he doesn't understand about keeping regular hours, about respect or graciousness, about empathy for other humans and as of yesterday how to talk to another person after a fender bender. (Clue: YOU DO not yell at the person you just rear ended) He has not been able to save a single dime even though he only has two bills to pay. It is mind-blowing and heart-breaking to watch someone struggle and continue to lose any momentum mostly because he flat out doesn't want to listen as a 22-year-old.  The poverty cycle is hard to break.  He's never had anyone "parent" him per se or have expectations for him to follow. On the plus side he loves the community college and the digital media program he is enrolled in and loves taking and editing photos and videos.  We hope and pray that he will get over a major hump and realize the gifts he is being handed and how far he can actually go if he listens and learns.


Books:

I hosted book club last night and we discussed The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.  Excellent read. I loved the magical realism, making it an actual train with stations.  It helped me to experience the claustrophobia and fear of traveling to someplace better than where you came from hopefully. We had a good discussion, delicious food, and lots of wine. The extra bonus of hosting was that I deep cleaned many corners of my house that spiders had otherwise been living and dying in.

I'm almost finished with Eowyn Ivey's new book, The bright edge of the world.  Love it. Written in journal entries, it tells the story of Colonel Forrester as he explores the Wolverine River into Alaska, and his wife as she restlessly waits for him to return. She begins taking photographs, which in 1885, was quite a process.  Set against the beautiful backdrop of Canada and Alaska their stories are captivating. I loved The Snow Child and this one uses a touch of magical realism as well through several Indigenous tribal legends and myths.

I hope you are having an amazing September as well! Life is good.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Homemade Kitchen

{Bouquet of basil}
I have an old kitchen surrounded by a few new appliances. At some point I hope I'm able to update the the cabinets, the floor, and the sink.  I am someone who spends a great deal of time in my kitchen and it's a hallway kitchen so it's not easy for anyone more than me to be in there.  The next two days will be the toughest days for me and my kitchen as I get ready to make a big batch of salsa and a big batch of pesto.


Every year my mom shares her garden bounty with me so I may turn it into salsa and pesto; two items I love to have all year around for pure food happiness. Even though it's an all day process and hot.  My husband is a great help with the salsa part and I love that.


I've been looking for a good new pesto recipe that doesn't use pine nuts. So expensive, those pine nuts. I found a good one on Epicurious.com that uses pecans. If you want my salsa recipe check out this fabulous post with a tiny Groovy Girl front and center.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Solar Eclipse Journey

video

Just a week ago we made the trek to Missouri to be in the path of totality. It was exciting stuff to be on the road headed to such a monumental event and one that, in our lifetime, we may not be able to see again. My husband started plotting this adventure back in April and was shocked to find all campgrounds in the area to be booked.  He did find a hotel in Columbia, MO for the night and then we'd head to Boonville, MO to be right in the path. He even had a large park picked out that would be perfect for hanging out and waiting for the moon to cross over the sun in the middle of the day.
{Harley Park-same location-after eclipse}
Somehow he managed to take care of many details except to find the appropriate glasses. This is the part that stunned me. Here we are making this 5 hour journey to watch an amazing moment in time and not prepared with the right equipment. We might be left looking like Mr. Trump squinting into the sky. Once we checked into the hotel I made this my priority. Luckily the University of Missouri book store had ordered more than enough paper glasses and were selling them at a reasonable rate. We were set for the next day. We had fun at Cosmo Park with an eclipse themed party; live music, food trucks, and fresh local beer.  After that Groovy Girl picked a place for dinner; Babbo's Spaghetteria!  We headed back to the other side of town, near the U of M, and found this place in a highly traffic commercial area-not our usual dining preference but it's what she'd picked.

This is the thing with road trips that I love.  If it is a new destination for you; you have know idea what you're going to get. The place from the front looked like a glorified Olive Garden but what was inside was a different story.  Our dining experience was delicious. I had a strawberry salad that was the perfect size with great flavor. And Greg and G.G. both had pasta dishes they loved as well. We shared a bottle of wine as our excellent server informed us the bottles were on sale AND we could take the rest of it with us. I think that's a great rule.  We had a leisurely dinner, enjoying the staff, the food, and the ambiance even though we were in a fancy strip mall. A good reminder to never judge.

Harley Park after eclipse}
The next day we hung out in Harley Park with our own snacks and beverages. The park service of Missouri were extremely helpful and polite, using golf carts to help ferry people and their chairs, coolers, and bags up and down the hills.  Super hospitable.  After the amazing event we hung around a bit, waiting for the rush to leave the park. And in order to hopefully miss much of the highway traffic we hung around in downtown Boonville doing some vintage shopping.

Our drive home was l-o-n-g. In other words we DID NOT miss the traffic. In Hannibal, one of our favorite little cities, we decided we needed a dinner break. We trawled through town looking for something interesting other than fast food and one of our phones brought up the Rustic Oak (motto: best food by a damn site). It had an interested front-like an old west saloon and we walked in. This is again just part of the road trip experience but let me tell you flat out that this place sucked. It's tough to be a foodie in the real world of restaurants on the road.

Oh the waitress was okay and the decorations were interesting to look at but the food-total bomb.  It had an extensive menu, with many pages to look through. At the appetizer section both my husband and I spotted fried okra, which we both love. We ordered that with our waters while we continued to browse the menu. I finally spotted fish tacos and felt pleased that I'd found something. I'm usually pretty happy with just an app or a salad but this was the kind of place that included meat on every salad. Blech. A good salad does not need meat. Just fyi. Eventually Greg and GG found things they were excited about and our order was placed. Oh how I wish I could take it back.  We knew we were in trouble when the okra showed up looking like hard little puff balls straight from a freezer box.

We waited a long time for the rest of our food to arrive and when it did we should have sent it all right back. There was something off-tasting in my tacos-I still don't know what it was. It wasn't spoiled or rotten but it was on the way. It might have been the cole slaw or something in the fish batter-but I had to stop eating after a couple of bites. Greg agreed after one bite that I was right. He had a burger (the meat was good) but the lettuce was like the limpest piece of bottom of the bag that should have been tossed away, the bun was stale and GG's chicken parmigiano was gooped with a bunch of really plastic cheese.  We laughed at all of these things although we did turn the fish tacos back in to the waitress.

You just never know and that's what adds to the excitement and fun. We have so many memories like this as a family. And we are lucky to have them. The Rustic Oak will live in infamy when we joke about crappy food.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

We need diverse books

I heard some guy interviewed on NPR today discussing recent events in Charlottesville, VA. He ended the discussion with an admonition that everyone should invite a family of a different color, religion, belief system over for dinner; that through personal interactions such as a simple family meal we could end racial strife.


It sounds good. And I do have diverse people to my house for dinner. I want to know who's going to volunteer to have the neo-Nazi family over though?  Not me. Maybe I would IF I thought I could magically unwrap their hatred.  I'd rather have Tina Fey over for dinner though and I'd serve a sheet cake at the end. And then we're just preaching to the choir.


Quite awhile ago (before the election ended so tragically) I ordered a stack of books from Amazon.  I'd read a review about Angie Thomas' new book that enticed me and two other books were suggested to me by that handy Amazon tool.  In a rare moment of frivolousness I ordered all three-very unlike me. I read The Hate you give pretty quickly and LOVED it. I promote it all around town and on twitter. Loved it. She wrote an interesting story with genuine characters on a timely topic. The second book was Renee Watson's book Piecing me together; an excellent coming-of-age tale about tough choices and being yourself.  I discovered I had an ARC of an earlier Watson book, This side of home, about a set of twins coming into their own as separate young women, which I then devoured as well. The 3rd book took me a bit longer to get to-I don't know why-but it set on my dining room table for months. I packed it for vacation though and read it on the road. Ibi Zoboi's American Street.  Unlike the other three this one is not about the black experience in America but a Haitian immigrants experience as a young high schooler trying to learn how to be American amidst family strife.  This one I enjoyed yet I struggled with decisions made and lack of consequences for Fabiola's cousins.  I look forward to other stories she may have to tell. Another one I just finished that can be added is Ghost by @JasonReynolds83, a powerful tale about a young man trying to make good choices in his life.

In an attempt to explore new human experiences any of these titles would fit the bill. Feel free to invite them to dinner, follow these authors on twitter, and pay attention. I believe in the library but buying diverse books sends a message to publishers: #weneeddiversebooks


@acthomasbooks
@reneewauthor
@ibizoboi

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Vacation

I have a few great vacation photos to share with you.  It fills me with great joy to get together with family and I am blessed to have such an amazing extended clan on my husband's side. We traversed through D.C., NYC, Brooklyn, and Rochester, NY.  Whew. I'm tired just thinking about it and am happy to be home.


Three handsome Holt men, happy to be together, talking politics.


We toured the new National Museum of African American History and Culture and it was spectacular and overwhelming. So much information on 5 floors.  I need to go back and look at all that we missed but it was a great first look.  Japhy and Sophie enjoyed walking around together.


We made it to the top to view the Lincoln Memorial-it was a struggle and really sweaty (temps were in the 90's). Anton enjoyed his first look at D.C. and the National Mall area.


My mother-in-law wins the "best" MIL award.  She always makes our time together special with food, wine, stories, and lots of hugs. I am very lucky to have Allen and Phyllis in my life. This is our last meal together before we head off to Brooklyn to see Kaylee.


We all enjoyed School of Rock on Broadway as our friend Joel Waggoner (@joelwags85) rocked several roles in this kid-friendly show. We loved our backstage tour, meeting a few cast mates, and dinner with him.  If you are headed to NY anytime soon-this is a show to see. Greg and I also saw Waitress, which is not kid-friendly, and was excellent!


Joel and Tristan right outside vegan sushi place, Beyond Sushi. Tristan and I loved this place-the flavors were delicious!


We took a quick side trip out to Coney Island and it was a perfect afternoon. Not too hot, nice and breezy, we enjoyed the beach and the boardwalk before heading back to Brooklyn to meet up with friends at Drummer's Grove in Prospect Park.

Sunday morning we had a delicious Blessings brunch with live jazz playing right behind us. We loved getting to see Kaylee's neighborhood and the Gimlet Media office area. We also had a great dinner at Frankies in Brooklyn.



And our last stop was Rochester, NY for a Red Wings game (AA for MN Twins). We loved Rochester and would have loved to explore more.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What a beautiful day

It's my birthday.  All day.  I still like my birthday. This morning I did a gray hair check and I still don't have any, much to my husband's irritation.  I'm in the age range where there should be at least a few and it's not like I've had a completely stress-free life. I've not. Family and financial problems are always near.

Here are a few things I'd like for my birthday:


1. Hydro Flask - In researching water bottles I decided stainless steel is the way to go. I've had several glass bottles and both broke within a short amount of time.  I'm not a huge fan of drinking out of plastic but my Tupperware bottle from Target has lasted the longest.  I like that stainless will keep my cold water cold just as my Cup of Joe stainless keeps my hot water + lemon hot for long time.

2. Black Dansko clogs - My last pair's heel broke at the end of the school year which was really unfortunately. These are my go to shoes for just about any casual event or school. At some point I'd love to have a funky pair as well but for now I'm happy with the classic.

3. Birkenstocks - I'm on my 3rd pair and Groovy Teen is a recent convert. My black pair of clog style are really worn down and I'd like to trade them in for a brown pair of suede two straps.  So comfortable.

As you can see my feet are very important and I'm happy wearing sandals well into September or October weather-permitting. Plus I like quality over quantity.


4. Pink cocktail ring from Sundance - I have two beautiful rings from Sundance and I'd like to add this one to my finger.

5. Books, Books, Books - I was able to browse today at one of my favorite bookstores, Politics and Prose.  Day is complete. I didn't even buy anything for myself.

Except tonight we eat at Jewel of India so my day is far from finished.

I'm happy with hand made cards and hugs from my kids though. And considering we are on the East Coast visiting family I'll happily take hugs from everyone.



Monday, July 31, 2017

July is almost over...

It's been an amazing summer so far! It's always hard to see summer melt away. And I'm one of the lucky ones in that I have days off to enjoy and sit in my hammock and read.

I met a friend at the farmers market this morning and I bought beets. She had a great time exploring-it was her first time at our downtown market-and she bought sweet corn, a huge tomato, and a berry pie. I'm sure they've finished at least half the pie by now. It looked delicious.

I met another friend at the library and we talked books for about an hour and a half. She's also a librarian and she makes it to Book Expo so she is always far and ahead of me on what is new and great.

Book I finished yesterday:

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson (2016): An excellent read about three boys who try to make their cancer-stricken teacher have a great last day before she leaves for treatments. Perfect for elementary and middle school.

In my bag now:

The Impossible knife of memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (2014): Recommended by a friend and I love Anderson's work.


Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn (2017): Read about this one in an article about post-apocalyptic novels and after reading American War I decided this one sounded interesting as well. (RT update-I read almost the entire book in the car yesterday)

The Island of Dr. Libris (2015): Need to read for school, highly recommended.

The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill (2014): I loved Iron Hearted Violet and more recently The Girl who drank from the moon!

Recommended by my friend:

This is how it always is by Laurie Frankel
The stranger in the woods by Michael Fink
We were the lucky ones by Georgia Hunter
Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak
Small great things by Jodi Picoult

I'm excited to check some of these out from the library. After waiting and waiting for a copy of Alex and Eliza to come in at the library I finally downloaded it only to get a notice the VERY next day...#lessonlearned

Friday, July 21, 2017

More summer reading...


I finished the second book in the 5th Wave series by Rick Yancy. My school kids always ask, when I recommend a series, if I've read the whole series and the answer is almost always no. Time is the only reason. I read the first one in this series awhile ago so as I read this second it took me some mental processing to pull the story back into my brain. I'm drawn to dystopian stories and yet find them to be rather gruesome, this one was no exception.


I was at the library the other day, looking for Alex and Eliza, which was checked out already. I managed to find a whole stack of other choices, mostly from the YA section. While I was shelf shopping another librarian handed me a book and said, "oh Michelle, you should read this" and she had that book glow on her face. You know the look so...well, of course, I had to check it out. And then I read it in 2 days. Boom. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf was the book she handed me. I was unfamiliar with this author and am now interested in all things written about Holt, CO. I thought the story was sweet and enduring yet thought-provoking.  How we treat people as they age (ageism) and the variety of relationships one might have all through your life made for an interesting read. Life can begin again at any age. I'm going to have to thank that librarian friend next time I see her!

I cooked this chicken recipe a few days ago and Anton and Japhy loved it. She was dubious about the spinach part and then she tried it. She prefers her spinach raw. Anton loved his because it tasted like good cooked greens. I buy my chicken at Steege's Market downtown and they have lovely breasts, meaning they are small and not all plumped up like you would get at a regular grocery store (even when they say "all natural")I thought the spinach part was so good I made it a second time to go with something else I made. Cumin, coriander, and cinnamon spiced the cooked spinach up perfectly.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Lazy summer days with yoga...

I'm in the middle of the only free days I'll have for summer. I've done a little nannying, helped at a friend's bakery, and in August we go on a little vacation.
{Society6}
So on these free days I'm simultaneously trying to deep clean my house as I can't ever seem to get ahead of the clutter; while I also do some deep relaxing.  I have a stack of books for school to read, I'm spending time with Groovy Teen, and I'm working on my yoga. I love yoga but I fall behind during the school year. My husband created a wonderful workout space in our basement and this summer I've used it almost ever day.

Anyone can do yoga from home because there is a huge amount of free sequences on youtube. I have a Pinterest board dedicated to yoga and the other day before I did my regular go-to video I clicked on an article I'd saved awhile back. Pinterest is, of course, only as good as it should be if you actually use it. I think of mine as a large filing cabinet most of the time but then there are folders I reach into constantly. 8 free yoga channels caught my eye this time and by clicking on the article I found some very good new teachers to try. If you do yoga at home try each of these unique channels for something new. My goal is to try several by each teacher to see which one fits. I've gone through three and loved how it changed up my regular routine. I tried a sequence with Boho Beautiful and I was (good) sore for days.

Be inspired - try something new this summer. Looking out into my backyard as I type this; it may be an outdoor yoga kind of day...

Namaste~

Monday, July 3, 2017

July is starting off with a bang....

Literally. Fireworks are now legal in IA and it's a horrible idea. It's loud, sounds like gunfire continuously, just popping with no pretty after glow. At all hours of the day.  I could be out back enjoying my hammock life, reading, dreaming, napping about mid-afternoon and pop, pop, pop; my peaceful moment is robbed. Tomorrow should be even more crazy. I have typed the word "chill" into my calendar for tomorrow so that's while I'll be doing no matter the sound affects around me.

Sweet Isabella
We did a tough thing today. We put our sweet Izzie to sleep. Toughest decision every. Many think we should have done it awhile ago but I think there is no right time. She wasn't deathly ill, she was in pain and had trouble motoring around. The last few months she'd started this odd and consistent woofing that we thought was dog for "I'm not feeling like myself-can you fix it?" And we tried all her favorite treats and a round of pills but nothing seem to alleviate her pain.  So we helped her along. Taking a page from the Dog Whisperer I treated her like a queen this past week. May she be romping pain-free tonight on some grassy knoll.

Between the fireworks popping everywhere and our sweet dog it's been a rough beginning to the middle month of summer. I do have a delicious menu planned for tomorrow as we CHILL. Wild Caught Salmon, arugula salad, a raw corn salad, baked beans (Anton's must have for any BBQ) and I'm making a strawberry rhubarb pie tomorrow.  Groovy Teen and her quest to be dairy-free really misses ice cream so I've made her an almond milk version that I hope will turn out. It's in the freezer as we speak.

Speaking of rough times-my Groovy Girl has requested in strong terms that I stop referring to her on this blog with that every so cute blog nickname. I call my other kids by their names but hers is unique and I like to hide her identity and she's still under age. So I've been blandly calling her Groovy Teen in the last few posts. It just doesn't have the same ring to it. Any suggestions...

Friday, June 30, 2017

June book reviews for YOU (happy reading)

I've only read three books this month. They were really good books though.  Technically I finished four but the Bill Browder book, The Red Notice, was a crossover from May. I'll still tell you about it though.


1.  The Red Notice; a true story of high finance, murder and one man's fight for justice by Bill Browder (2015): Born into a communist-leaning family Browder grows up seeing what it is like to rebel against the norm but to rebel even further Browder chose a career path profession just to annoy his dad; he picks commerce.  The first half of the book Browder tells his family story and how he rose to be the first major investor of Western money into Russia and the second half of the book deals with the downfall of this great plan and the imprisonment and eventual death of his friend and lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.  I enjoyed this memoir, even though I thought Browder wasn't the greatest story teller. Reading this book gave me a clear mindset on why Putin felt the need to tangle himself into U.S. elections and will continue to torment and push buttons just because he's found a way.


2. Eragon by Christopher Paolini (2003): Tristan read this years ago and devoured the series. I've always wanted to read it but who knows why? I didn't pick it up until this summer after 2 teachers raved about it to me after a teacher meeting. They were shocked that I hadn't read it; That was the push I needed so I brought it home that very last week of school. I loved it. I dig fantasy and this book was no exception. Eragon, Brom, Saphira, Murtagh and Arya were all interesting characters and I look forward to reading the next two in the series.  Even though Paolini was young when he wrote this I think it stands the test of time.


3. The Girl who drank from the moon by Kelly Barnhill (2016):  I loved this fairy tale {and that gorgeous cover art} in which Xan and Luna save themselves and change the world together.  Centuries ago a world was created by evil people and the unwitting townsfolk believed the stories that were told to them about an evil witch who needs a sacrificial baby each year so as not to destroy the town. Xan is this witch but she rescues the babies and takes them to new families because she thinks they've been abandoned.  And so it goes for many years until one family fights back and one mother doesn't give up hope. A good reminder, from a fairy tale world, to not believe all that you are told!  Read more great things about this book at NYTEW, and the Washington Post.


4. American War by Omar El Akkad (2017): I read a NYT article about great new dystopian books and this one was at the top of the list. Like fantasy, I'm a big fan of the altered worlds created in good dystopian novels. This one lacks the gruesome gore of The Hunger Games but certainly lays out how a fight over energy and ravaged ecosystems could separate the North from the South in a way that causes longterm war within our own border. Read other great reviews here on NPRSF Chronicle, and the Washington Post. I'm not quite finished with this one yet and plan to finish today.

In Madison I did purchase several books and I have stack of books to read for school. What are you reading this summer?

Monday, June 26, 2017

A trip to bountiful...


We signed our young dancer up for a dance intensive in Madison and I have to admit it was something I was equally excited about it because I would have to spend the week there with her.

(James Madison Park)
We felt like we were in the land of plenty; surrounded by our people. Everyone seemed quirky, a bit earthy, polite, and healthy; bike riders and walkers were evident in every neighborhood. Traffic was expected to make way for pedestrians and bicyclists which was so refreshing. Plus we had many diverse cuisines to choose from. We made a pact to eat only local and found a lot of suggestions from this post. In order we ate at all these fabulous restaurants which showcase much of what Madison has to offer.

1. Maharana Restaurant: We found this gem after we stopped at Target to get a few things we forgot (like bread for her lunches-whoops) and through the magic of our GPS this Indian restaurant came up and it was just around the corner. She had Chicken Tikka Masala and I had vegetable somosas and a cup of coconut soup. At the end of dinner our waiter brought out complimentary ice cream. This restaurant, for the first night of our adventure, was amazing.

2. Monty's Blue Plate Diner: This was number one on the list and after we left the dance studio it was POURING/HAILING on us and the Prius. We made it into this bright blue beacon and were greeted by friendly staff as we shook off like wet dogs. I had a delicious artichoke sandwich and the starving dancer had a roasted chicken, bacon, and herbed goat cheese sandwich. There were about 12 menu items I was interested in so I'll have to go back and it shows what a diverse menu Monty's offers. (I mean lots of vegan and vegetarian choices)

3. Ha Long Bay: Vietnamese and Thai combo in an eclectic neighborhood and it was packed on a Tuesday evening. We ate dinner almost every night right after dance class at 4:30; she was starving after a long day of exercise. We shared tofu spring rolls and two excellent main dishes. We both thought it was comparable to our favorite Ginger Thai here.

4. Fair Trade Coffee House: After three such amazing meals we opted for something smaller on Wednesday.  Each day I hung around downtown or at James Madison Park, writing, reading, napping, exploring, walking, and researching our next meal but on this day I walked up and down State St. just looking in windows and checking the downtown scene. The smells from this shop lured me in and I sat and enjoyed an iced chai tea.  On the daily chalkboard a chickpea curry soup was advertised and I knew that's what I wanted for dinner.

5. Alchemy: Everyone picks a dud at some point. I read about this one and dragged her there and she was dubious-it wasn't on our list and the name didn't speak to her.  I told her they had sweet potato fries and we agreed if she didn't like anything on the menu we would just get the fries and be done.  We had the fries, which turned out to be chips, and while the sauces were amazing, many of the fries were burned. I also ordered a cocktail here b/c it sounded refreshing (fresh blueberry kombucha mojito) and it sadly tasted watered down. We looked out the window and I spotted Tex Tubb's Taco Palace that I'd also read about and we hopped over there instead.  Groovy Girl had an amazing burrito and we know we'll go back to the Taco Palace again.

6. Taste of India: We liked the first Indian restaurant so much but found this one and decided to give it a try. It was equally as good and by this time Greg had joined us for one night and he is a connoisseur of Indian food and he was thrilled they had Lamb Korma and Groovy Girl had another chicken dish. I tried the sauce for both and liked the spice.  I was happy that both Indian menus had extensive vegetarian choices.

(Madison Public Library-downtown)

It was a great week of food and fun, living out of a suitcase with my favorite 14-year-old. I spent time enjoying the lakes, the views and the literary scene via the Madison Public Library and two bookstores, Mystery to me and A room of one's own, all independent and thriving reading communities. After every adventure it is always wonderful to be back home, in my own bed, my dogs and my house projects to finish.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day...to all dads


Dear Dad;

You'd be so happy to see how all your children have turned out. Well maybe; we might have happy separate lives but a few of us don't have much of a relationship. You would have worked hard to help us mend that because you had faith in family. You knew it was important to let the little things go and the big things to because no matter what family is family and they are your first source for love.

Grandkids are good too. You'd be proud of Tristan at University of Iowa, studying and applying himself to make a difference. His major is political science and you would have loved to talk current events with him. He has a real handle on how the world is and loves discussing the bigger picture. My Groovy Teen (the artist formerly known as Groovy Girl) begins 10th grade in the fall.  She is a bright light, a dancer, a imaginative thinker, a designer, a friend, a messy multi-tasker, a foodie, and struggles with her idea of perfection. You'd be beyond proud of Kaylee; she still shines in photos and is making it in the big city!  She is thoughtful, loves theatre, has an amazing sense of humor, and writes and interviews like a pro.  Her posts, tweets, and podcasts keep us all amused.

I've talked many times about how much I miss you as evidenced by this Father's Day post from 2010 and 2016 version and this birthday post from 2016. You are missed. Damn that cancer.

Today as we celebrate my husband with a delicious brunch I'll be thinking of you, wishing you were here at the table with us, touching my hair, and throwing me that smile that tells me everything is going to be okay.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Goodness it's June


It's hot and sticky; feels like August and yet it's the beginning of summer. I've traveled twice to Indiana to work in the bakery.  Fun but hot and sweaty and not as profitable as we thought. You win some, you lose some. The donuts were still amazing as was the strawberry rhubarb pie. I'm very happy to be home though in my own little abode with my relaxing backyard. I took a nap, a bath, and then read in the hammock in that order after I pulled into my driveway.

I'm making preparations for Father's Day Brunch at my house for my husband. Kids will be here and I need to make a combination of vegan and non vegan food. So standard fare is pretty easy; scrambled farm eggs (I still have a good supply from a farmer/teacher friend) and bacon for the dad; grits, fruit, and vegan waffles for the diary-free, vegetarian crew. I also found a recipe for vegan cinnamon rolls so I'm thinking of making those also. With all that bread-iness filling the table I'm going to balance with lots of fresh fruit.

Of course, we are beginning the day with a Bloody Mary bar and so the meal will be necessary to combat all that vodka. How else do you really make fathers feel special than to liquor them up before breakfast? I know my handsome husband will be happy to enjoy this day of rest in his otherwise crazy busy schedule.

How is the beginning of your summer?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

3 amazing reads all in a row.


1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood ( 1998): You enter the sterile and odd world of The Handmaid's Tale and you get an eery feeling like you should look over your shoulder.  While this seems so far removed from our world now, it feels like it would only take about 2 steps backwards to be in Atwood's world. For those that haven't read The Handmaid's Tale it relays the events of a woman, Offred, of child-bearing years who's been pulled from her own life and inserted into another family in order to bear an older man's child(ren).  The change from one life to the next happens slowly but also in a blink of an eye.  Imagine in your life time that you could live one moment with your husband and beautiful child; only to be repurposed in a retraining camp where you learn to surrender your will to this next family.  There are so many details of this new life mixed with her memories of before. If you like dystopian or politics; this is a fantastic read. I stayed up way too late each night to read just a little more. Other days I slammed the book down in disgust. I am searching for the original movie with Natasha Richardson (it's not on Netflix or Amazon Prime) before I start streaming the new Hulu series. Here is a great NYT article by Atwood herself discussing her novel.


2. A man called Ove by Fredrik Backman (2014): I am watching this one Amazon Prime.  The book was an amazingly funny read. I laughed out loud many times and when I neared the end of this sweet tale I cried. I love a book that brings about that much emotion. Ove is a curmudgeon at best; an absolute old grump and yet we love him for it because he emerges a changed man. Even when he's at his worst he's an interesting character. Ove is ready to end his life, ready to join his beautiful Sonja in the afterworld. He even thinks about what he should wear so she'll be happy when she sees him coming through the pearly gates.  The unexpected happens though when a new family moves in next door and the wife pulls Ove into her own life. All the hype about this book is true.


3. This side of home by Renee Watson (2015): This is a delightful tale about two twins, Nikki and Maya, living in Portland with intellectual parents surrounding them with love. What is ever-changing though is their neighborhood which is being gentrified rapidly and their high school as well. The neighborhood, high school, friends and family all provide a wonderful backdrop to the life experience of Nikki and Maya as they learn to accept each other as more than just a reflection of each other. My one and only complaint is about the cover; neither girl has the loose hair of the girl pictured on the front. She's brown-a good start-#weneeddiversebooks BUt it would be a reflection of the character if her hair was braided.  Maya repeatedly talks about her hair in braids down her back; Nikki with pressed hair and sometimes loose and free. Neither girl is represented by the photo on the cover except by skin color. #rant

Now I'm reading Bill Browder's Red Notice for book club. I'm not a fan of nonfiction but his tale of intrigue has me reading.  I also just finished this short article about White Fragility that's worth reading. Someone sent it to me to remind me of a conversation we had about Ta'Nehisi Coates' book.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Happy, Happy Weekend!


I love a long weekend.  I even gifted myself an extra day by taking a personal day on Friday. I had lunch with a former student at the school where I used to teach and watched part of their talent show. I also had a late lunch/early dinner with my husband at a new local place. I purposely did not make many plans for this weekend - I could tell I need to replenish and revive myself with a little down time so I can begin this last week of school with joy.


Today I started my day at the farmers market.  It is a vibrant and lively place with as many crafty stops as farmers selling wares. I picked up asparagus, radishes, and a bag of salad greens. As I finished my errands today I spotted a new Filipino food truck by our local dairy store.  I stopped and bought enough to feed people at home.  My fish taco was amazing-super spicy- and Groovy Girl and my husband finished up the chicken, rice, and noodles I'd picked out for them.


Tonight I'm making a dirty rice recipe for dinner. My husband bought some steaks wrapped in bacon at Aldi - he just does not fully embrace my idea that meat I eat needs to be locally grown/organic.  I'm not eatin' one of those steaks but the dirty rice and grilled vegetables will be delicious and enough for me. I found the recipe at Bob's Red Mill website.  I had to go out and search for TSP and wonder if I'll like this additional protein or if I can leave it out next time.

{I spotted these pretty chickens today}
The weather is amazing right now. A little rain here and there but yesterday was a brilliant sunshine yellow.  I look forward to seeing what the next two days bring...

What's everyone else cooking this holiday weekend?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ugh! I'm back.


Google, Blogger, and I have a love/hate triangle going on right now. This is the second or third time I've been locked out of my peacefulreader blog. I pay for a domain name and somehow about a year ago Google decided that all paying domains would be part of G-Suite and it's been nothing but trouble for me. In other words it's not hitting my sweet spot.

Tonight, while I do have homework and a good book to read, I felt the need to solve the problem. I'm tired but it suddenly dawned on me that somehow it was not "reading" my G-Suite admin account.  I tried a few more times to log in with no luck.  One of our school techie's advice is about turning the computers off, really off. So I logged everyone off my laptop, which should NOT be a family computer but is, and shut the whole thing down. While I was logging off it seems that Groovy Girl had herself logged in on a second Google page with Netflix up as well.  So even though I was logging myself in as myself and then also as an administrator it was not really logging me in.  The thread of her was being pulled from another page.

Once I turned the whole system back on and logged myself back in it didn't even ask for the admin information it just let me back in.  Whew. I feel so much better, less out of touch. Speaking of being in tough, I've spent the last two nights watching movie with Anton.


Gold with Matthew McConaughey and Will Smith in Collateral Beauty were two very thoughtful and exciting films. We've been having a conversation in our house about gaming, movies, and books - different kinds of entertainment. I'm not a fan of gaming-it leaves me flat-although the one time of the year that I enjoy having a controller in my hand is at Christmas when Kaylee, Tristan, Greg, and I compete in heated games of Jeopardy. Most people that love gaming find the idea of this silly but we have so much fun. 


A movie or a book can help you see a bigger picture, give you empathy, make you laugh, or think, or dream. Same with a book. Video games are only going through repetitive motions.  And even streaming shows can now get to an addictive phase I still think the lure of gaming for hours on end can be harmful. Those that are avid video gamers can probably argue this with me.  I'll take a book or movie for entertainment any time.

I have a whole 'nother post I was working on about The Handmaid's Tale before the shut out occurred. I'll get back to that in a day or two. We have dance recital this Saturday-that's an all-day event.  And I'm working on grading library assignments and assessments in between teaching classes and adding in new books.  I was able to spend the last of my budget money on a trip to our local Barnes and Noble last night.  It was incredible-especially as kids pawed through the 2 boxes today looking at treasures.  Seven of the books now have sticky notes denoting who gets what first.  The joy of book lovers!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

May Flowers


We've just returned from a lovely little road trip north to see my brother for his birthday. He lives in a suburb with a beautiful lake and today we went out in his boat for a long ride along the shore looking at the amazing architecture. I love being on the lake, the wind, the smell, the sounds, the feeling of skimming over the water. We saw a muskrat, a loon, and many sailboats catching the breeze. It was chilly so we were wrapped in coats, blankets and hats. It was a perfect way to spend a Sunday morning, communing with nature.

On Saturday night we traveled the few minutes to downtown for drinks and dinner. We parked near an old hangout of mine, Runyon's, so we stopped in, had a drink, and watched the Kentucky Derby.  Then we went around the corner for dinner at 112 Eatery.  I'd never eaten here before but would go again. The food was delicious. I had a carrot and sweet pea risotto with Humboldt fog. I had to look it up but Humboldt fog is a cheese. The combo was amazing and I'm a little sad I left my to-go container in the their fridge. We also enjoyed the Tres Leches cake and a Key Lime Pie with coconut. Dessert is my favorite. Anton was with us and he enjoyed people watching and trying new foods/drinks with us.

I spent the ride home reading and sleeping.  I started The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. It's been on a stack by my bed for a few years and now with the new series I picked it up right after I finished Zadie Smith's The Autograph Man.  I like Zadie Smith's writing but I had trouble feeling anything for the main character, Alex-Li.  The Handmaid's Tale, on the other hand, has me reading quickly. It's a bit creepy and a lot of back and forth to learn the past and the present of the story. I've also never seen the actual movie starring Natasha Richardson and Faye Dunaway.  So that is on my massive to-do list.

Happy May everyone!  Enjoy and celebrate the sun.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Recipes + Books

That's what it's really all about.

I made a lovely dinner a few nights ago after dance.  I had extra ricotta cheese from our big shells recipe and after a quick search I found this Lemony Ricotta Pasta (from The Kitchn). Groovy Girl loved it. She is working on eating less cheese/dairy and certain items seemed to trigger more. Ricotta cheese doesn't seem to be a problem. Pizza, though, huge problem much to her huge dismay!

I had to laugh today as I discovered this post from long ago (2014) as I searched for a pie crust recipe for my mother. Good to know we like what we like!! Do take a moment to click back; it's worth it.

This was not a stellar reading month for me. Only two books. I did watch all of Season 1 and 2 of The 100, a dystopian drama series.  I highly recommend it but it did get in the way of my reading.


1. Piecing me together by Renee Watson (2017)- What a gorgeous cover that is. I want to know that young woman. Jade struggles with the two worlds she is part of; one with her mother where there are never enough money or groceries at the apartment she shares with her mother and uncle. Jade attends a private high school on a scholarship and she pushes herself to take every opportunity to get ahead. When she is asked to be part of a new Woman to Woman mentor program she starts to see clearly what she wants from her life even as her mentor struggles with her own path.  Jade's character is strong with an artistic flair. Renee Watson has a few other books out that I am now interested in. Jade's coming-of-age tale of friendship, survival, finding your own wings should be enjoyed by many.


2. The Autography Man by Zadie Smith (2002)- As I've carried this book around to dance classes, church, coffee shops, and brew pubs over the last few weeks I've had many ask me how I like the book. My answer has been the same; weird.  The autograph man is Alex-Li Tandem and he is drifting through life, drugs and alcohol are his entertainment, and his friends are merely bystanders as Alex messes one thing up after another, including his long-term relationship with Ester.  On a buying trip to NYC through a chance encounter he meets the woman of his dreams. She's now 70 but he loves her anyway. As he makes plans to bring Kitty Alexander back to England with him, it's unknown whether this will help him recoup the life he's wasted. It's an interesting journey. I like Zadie's writing.  I'm just not sure I feel invested in the autograph man's story.

I'm really ready for May. And some warmer weather.  Although after seeing this photo sent to me yesterday by a Colorado relative I'm glad I'm not there. It only feels like winter here.