Sunday, January 22, 2017

Cooking keeps me sane

Recently I've made some amazing recipes that I should share. It's been a wild last couple of days. My brother visited last week. Inauguration. My husband's performance of Rocky Horror opened on Friday night. And our son came back from school for the weekend to see last night's show.

I'm much like my grandmother in that I cook for people when they come to my home although I was caught a little unprepared when my brother and his family hung out with us last Sunday morning. I didn't let the same thing happen for this morning's brunch. The show was very late last night so Tristan and Heather slept in which was perfect. It gave me the time to do some morning yoga and then prepare food without a rush. Heather's vegan and my son follows suit when they are together. I found several new recipes that I was happy to try.

My initial inspiration came from this post, 30 Vegan Breakfast Recipes, by Sam at It doesn't taste like chicken.  Breakfast is one of our favorite meals and it was great to have so many wonderful choices all in one spot. There are several more on this list that I plan to try like the breakfast sandwich but for today's breakfast I picked the biscuits and gravy and potato hash. I served those two with grits, grapes, sliced oranges, and fresh orange juice. I'm terrible about snapping pictures of my plated food; trust me that the food looked delicious.

Simple Vegan Breakfast Hash-This recipe was very filled with flavor. Peeling the potatoes and cutting them into bite-sized chunks took some time but they roasted to such hot perfection that I was pulling the crusty parts right off the pan. Mine had a more prominent mixture of sweet potato!
{Minimalist Baker}
Best Damn Vegan Biscuits- I thought I'd get ahead of the game by preparing these last night before I went to bed.  I must have been overtired as I mixed up the measurements for baking soda and baking powder.  They baked up beautifully and it was lucky that I tried one hot out of the oven. They were H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E!  Really heavy flavor of soda. So I redid the recipe this morning and they turned out just right. This is a very easy recipe to follow with minimal ingredients.
{Minimalist Baker}
If you're going to have biscuits then you should probably whip up some vegan gravy. I've made vegetarian gravy many times but had no clue how to make a vegan recipe that would taste good. Again I turned to Dana's recipe at the Minimalist Baker.  Her gravy is packed full of mushrooms giving it a hearty quality. I even wonder if I could pass this recipe off on my husband instead of that jarred gravy he sometimes uses in a pinch. Give it a try: Vegan Breakfast Gravy

I didn't get to march yesterday but was there in spirit. I did manage to slip in some reading; My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante and Pax by Sara Pennypacker, both interesting stories of friendship.

I host book club on Monday night and I've made another great recipe for that: Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup, a very easy and flavorful recipe. I love soups and this one has a nice kick to it. 

Happy Week! February is truly just around the corner. We are at the halfway mark for winter. One step closer to spring is what I think.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Happy birthday to Dr. Martin Luther King; what would he say now?

What a mess we are in and yet I see hope everyday-we've got to stick together and make a difference. Children today have spent the last 8 years with a black president-a graceful, well-spoken, thoughtful, intelligent, and well-educated president. I know, for the most part, this is my "opinion"-stating things like this can start a small twitter war with all kinds of hateful comments. I will miss the Obama family in the WH.

I am not looking forward to a Trump presidency; he has no backbone, is only focused on his own opinion, uses bluster and smoke instead of facts and clear thinking, and lives in opposite land with a silver spoon clutched in his fist. His nickname should be Puff Daddy but that insults the actual Sean Combs. A rooster, maybe. With the flurry over comments made by Congressman John Lewis about the legitimacy of Trump's presidency based on Russian hacking (which I agree with btw) and DT's response all during Dr. King's weekend. It's hard to see how we are moving forward cuz we some days we aren't. We are moving ten to 1,000 steps backwards and that is scary folks.

Generally we are a family that does something to commemorate this holiday, even if it is just a discussion about Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement. I had a planned volunteer opportunity this year, packing food boxes, at The University of Northern Iowa.  It was cancelled due to extreme icy weather. We took that open time to see "Hidden Figures" to enlighten ourselves. We did slide down our driveway in our little Prius but the roads were okay. Groovy Girl and our second "daughter", her best friend, came with us. The movie is well-done and we came out filled with discussion. What if we'd known their story in the 60's/70's; it could have changed the playing field a long time ago for women and POC in stem. Reading this NPR article confirmed my thoughts-we should have known their stories years ago but at least we have them now. Frankly we can use the inspiration right now!

From the article:

Johnson, who became a high school freshman at age 10, says she always liked learning. She's concerned about today's youth relying so heavily on the Internet for information. "They're hurt and don't know it," she says quietly. "They're not using their brain. ... And you've got to use your brain for it to grow and for things to be learned."

As a teacher/librarian I couldn't agree more with this thought shared by Johnson, a 98-year old mathematician. We need kids to realize the damage they are doing by staring at screens nonstop and expecting Siri and Alexa to answer the questions.  

Go see this movie, keep an open mind, educate yourself, be kind and thoughtful, do not take the bait, be ready to speak up, and remember, always remember, the peaceful path Dr. King took even while he was jailed and mocked. What would his tweets look like today?

I just finished Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes (excellent elementary fiction about Reconstruction era) and am now reading Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad (harsh but  a very gripping tale).  

Friday, January 6, 2017

Cool products I've discovered

Happy Friday!

I've been writing this post for about a month or so in my head. If you are a fellow blogger you know what I mean. For every one post I write I've written ten in my head; they just don't always make it from my mind to the keyboard.

I just received some amazing soap in the mail and that is the catalyst to push this from head to hand to you.

1. Soapy Soap Company or My stepdaughter works in Brooklyn as a producer for Gimlet Media podcasts and recently Reply All did a show featuring the guys in Indiana who created this company.  She and I talked about how cool it would be to design our own soap and then we just got on the computer and did it. We both picked different products for our soaps and we each bought the white oak soap rest (it was on sale that day, what can I say).  It was fun to sort through the different bases, essential oils, and add-ins (think oatmeal) and then you get to make your own label. It's all organic so this is like my next birthday gift to everyone on my list. She sent me a message yesterday and said hers arrived and it smelled fantastic-she even had a nice little thank you note in her box. Mine arrived today (jumping up and down and whiffing the box and it smelled lovely even from outside. I love good soap and good smells and this is perfectly priced. There were freebies inside my box as well.

2. Native Deodorant: Another cool product that I read an article about listing it as the best deodorant around. I've always used an organic brand and never needed it much or gave it too much thought. In the last few years as I've AGED I noticed that I was a bit more stanky after a day at work and my clothes were not happy. Most recently I'd been using a cute little bottle of spray by Honest and honestly it wasn't working. So after reading this article about the top ten best deodorants I ordered and switched. I've never been happier about wisping this under my arms-it smells amazing and I smell good all through the day. No more stinky as I pull my dress over my head. We're all a little happier when that happens right? I bought two scents (lavender/rose and coconut/vanilla) and they've lasted quite awhile. I think I've had them for about 6 months. All natural + free shipping and made in San Francisco.
3. Shea Moisture Lotion: One day while browsing at our local Walgreens my lovely daughter always on the lookout for new face products picked this brand up, read the label (she does this with everything!-I'm so proud), and stood up to tell me all about it. The company is based in Sierra Leone which is a country close to our hearts because my husband spent time there as a young child while his parents worked with Inter-University Council for Higher Education Overseas. It isn't a stable country and one that desperately needs help so if I can help in this tiny way by supporting a local company I'm in. The anti-aging cream for me has frankincense and myrrh extracts added. It smells lovely and my face is smooth.

I'm not a fan of advertising running all over my blog and am easily annoyed by ads on other blogs. This is my little bit of free advertising for companies that are independent and environmentally-friendly. Give them a try.
My own design:

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A new year of books! But first here's my favorites from 2016.

I am always amazed when I look back through my books on Goodreads for the past year. I can easily reminisce about what I've read, liked, disliked! As a book lover I loved to be pulled back into the stories and think about each book, the characters and how much I cared about each story. I encourage you to look any of these books up at your local library or book seller and give it a read...

My stats: 

Number of books: 66
Pages: 19,827
Longest book: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (720 pages of excellent writing)
Shortest book: Peter and the Winter Sleepers by Rick de Haas (I hardly ever include picture books on my GR account as it is part of my job everyday)
Most Popular: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (544,388 others read this one)
Highest GR rating: Between the world and me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (completely agree with this; I gave it to both my young adult children for xmas)

My 2016 favorites 
(so many great stories here)

Adult category:
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
The Magician's Lie by Greer Macalister
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
Jewelweed by David Rhodes

Young Adult:
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (GN)

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett
George by Alex Gino
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
The Porcupine Year by Louise Erdrich
Capture the flag by Kate Messner
The thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Between the world and me by Ta'Nahisi Coates

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Usually I read more YA and elementary than adult but this has been the inverse this year and I credit the Litsy community for pushing my reading in new directions.

I have started 2017 reading off with a bang in Amy Stewart's Girl Waits with Gun (already reading) and on deck, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, two books by Elena Ferrante, and Pax by by Sarah Pennypacker at school.

What are you reading this year?