Saturday, October 13, 2018

Beautiful October...

Greetings! I've had this blog post milling about in my head since October 1st and I just didn't take the time to get it down in this format. It seems that is a tough leap to make for me some months.  The ideas are there yet they stay swirling around in my head. I'm making a promise to myself to do better; my goal for the month.

This month I took a class entitled It takes a Family from the Safe Schools Academy. The coursework was great and doable and part of one assignment was video chronicling an LGBT celebration at a Quaker school in New York. What a different world we would live in if every school could celebrate diversity this way. There are other classes I want to take from this group including one, On Wednesdays we wear pink: understanding the politics of girl world. Each class is only one graduate credit yet the interesting social justice issues are more relevant than many other grad credits. Each class I take leads me to something else, some other big moment in my constant life-long learner journey.


This video by Courtney Ferrell popped up while watching the Quaker school celebration.  I want to pass it along because it is just how I feel about empowering young woman. We all need to "Girl Up" ourselves so we can pass that deep love on to others in our families and community. But we can't just "Girl Up"; we also have to Man Up because we cannot leave our young men behind allowing them to think they can make disrespectful decisions just because they are young, drunk, or just didn't know better. It's up to us to teach them to be an important connection in our community. We need to hold hands with other women to create change for ourselves. We also need to connect with men in a deeper way as well so we can be our allies.  What an amazing world we could live in if women and men learned to work together for the greater good-like real solutions for climate change instead of the male-dominated world we now try to exist in.  And it's important to always have some mad money tucked in our bra just in case...

No disservice to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at all because what she did was very brave but the girls of today need to speak up right away. Tell someone. This situation would look very different if Ford had shared this story with one adult or mentor. So women of today speak out to one adult, your roommate, someone at school so the facts are there. In this instance, the current administration wasn't looking for a real solution but if one woman did have it on record of Kavanaugh's behaviour his career would have looked very different.

This morning I shared the video with Groovy Girl and her response was "I know all that and it isn't easy"-I agree but you have to keep trying.  Here's another Courtney Ferrell TedTalk to keep you motivated and energized. I like how she empowers one person from the audience by bringing them into her space on stage. Have some kind of creative day today!



Sunday, September 30, 2018

Small thoughts

It's cold and rainy here and I miss summer already. I am taking another class which I thought would be easy to fit in but there is more to it and the homework takes a lot of deep thinking. Just like my summer classes though it will push me to be a better teacher.


It is taking me forever to finish Stephen King's 11/23/62 time-alternating look at Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy assassination. I feel like I've been reading it for months now, really just August and September.  Luckily I found a DVD at the public library of the series which helped me when it came time to discuss at book club but I was committed to still finishing the book.  The series with James Franco was very good and I highly recommend it as I do the book-if you don't want to read an 849-page book though feel free to check out the series. It does stream on Hulu as well.

I have a lot of elementary fiction I need to get back to though as my students are serious readers and are constantly recommending books to me. I have stacks of new books from Follett that I want to bring home and read so I need to finish and move on.


I'm in shock that tomorrow the calendar turns to October, that it is already cold here, and that I have a pumpkin decorating my table. My mindset is still back in the hot days of August. At least we have baseball for a few more weeks. And we have the Cubs!

I've watched bits and pieces of the Kavanaugh hearings and am disgusted that he is still very much considered to be a great candidate for our most important court of the land. What a joke. Although when we consider that Trump is not too far from Kavanaugh's privileged and ridiculous behavior than it all makes some sort of reverse universe sense. If women have any pull in the universe this man will be done and we won't hear any more from him. Watching the hearings should give us all pause in that we are being led by many old white men set in their chauvinistic ways. We need more women, more young people, more people of varying shades of color.  Pasty old men need to go.  Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley-be gone.
And what if in time we can time-travel back to change all of this ala Stephen King-what and how would we change it?

That's my rant for the weekend. Drink more tea, take care of yourself as the weather changes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

School is in full swing and I'm spinning just a bit...

We have a new schedule this year and it makes my head spin just a little. We went from a 6-day cycle to a 4-day cycle. This means classes of students rotate into the library (or art, P.E. & music) every 4 days.  Because they are rotating quicker my days are filled with 7 classes almost every day, leaving very little prep time or time to work on library projects like processing new books.  The elementary school where I work has the most students in the district and to create balance I have two other librarians with smaller populations who come to my school for equity purposes; one teaches a solo class of kindergartners, the other teaches two afternoons of k, 1st, and 2nd grades, which does give me time to work independently sometimes.

Seeing students more frequently gives me the opportunity to explore new avenues with them. I've gone back to reading chapter books aloud. I'm reading The Map Trap by Andrew Clements to 3rd grade, Wish by Barbara O'Connor to 4th grade, Liberty by Kirby Larson to 5th grade, and Horizon by Scott Westerfeld to 6th grade.  We have book discussions and still have time to do a short lesson on a skill plus check out books. I'm enjoying my time with students and implementing some of the ideas from my summer classes- a lot of which involves bringing more JOY to their day.

The great downfall is that we've built a fantastic set of readers at my school.  They use the library when they finish a book, not waiting until their next library time, to find their next great read. I love that kids are pumped about reading. My first few days of school were filled with writing down recommendations from students of books they'd read over the summer and want to have here.  You say "what's the downfall in all that?" Well, it has two sides; I spend a good portion of my day helping students find books and checking them out in our system because I've raised readers! - usually, this is during times when I'm supposed to be planning or eating lunch so my day gets all mixed up and I miss those days when I'd only have 3-4 classes with breaks in between to get work done. I feel a little more rushed at certain parts of the day and more laid back while students in our library space. It's an adjustment and I'm adjusting.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Summer Reading List 2018

I managed to do quite a bit of reading this summer and as we just turned the calendar page from August to September I'd love to share what I read.


June:

1. A spool of blue thread by Anne Tyler - okay
2. Tangerine by Christine Mangan -interesting locale, predictable story
3. Real Friends by Shannon Hale - beautiful and brilliant graphic novel
4. The self-driven child: the science and sense of giving your kids more control by William Stixrud - excellent advice, easy to read
5. Secrets of Bearhaven by K.E. Rocha - odd, kids may like it
6. Heart Talk by Cleo Wade - loved it and I'm going to her workshop
7. The adventures of a girl called Bicycle by Christina Uss - cool adventure
8. Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova - loved it!


July:

9. The honest truth by Dan Gemeinhart - loved it as much as I loved Some kind of courage by Gemeinhart
10. The tea girl of hummingbird lane by Lisa See - really interesting story
11. The Formative Five by Thomas Hoerr -school work yet interesting
12. The mysterious moonstone by Eric Luper -surprisingly good for a beginning chapter book, plus a shout out to libraries!
13. Everything, everything by Nicola Yoon - Interesting story, a major surprise, and a strong female character
14. Creative Schools by Ken Robinson -school work and I learned a lot
15. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm - great, emotional story

August:


16. All Rise for the honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Conner -loved it
17. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng - excellent story
18. Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai - wonderful story to help anyone understand the conflict in Syria
19. The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson - quirky mystery with a look at the past
20. Horizon by Scott Westerfield - twisted sci-fi and I'm now reading it to 6th-grade students


20 books in one summer is great even with all the homework I did. Hopefully, you might find something here that will appeal to your own reading tastes.







Thursday, August 30, 2018

Jason Mraz


Last weekend I took my husband to a Jason Mraz concert for our anniversary. It was simply fantastic! He and his band put on a show filled with love and joy and had us swaying our arms and dancing in our aisles. Mraz's band plus Raining Jane, an all-female foursome of talented musician/singers made it really vibrant! His opening band, Brett Dennen, was new to us and we loved his relaxed Southern California vibe. The whole night was meant to fill us up and bring us "Good Vibes" and it certainly accomplished that for both of us and the hundreds of others sitting outside with us.

{Chris Schorn Photos}

Here is a little Mraz playlist and Brett Dennen via Spotify for you to enjoy.

With all that love flowing around us it was hard to watch one woman one row ahead of us who spent the concert alternately flipping through Facebook posts and videotaping whole segments of the show and then listening to them right after. Peace, love, happiness and all that; I know she has the right to watch the show in her own way. It was distracting and annoying and yet just a small blip of an otherwise magical show. We left singing and smiling...

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Back to school


The end of school vacation is here. {try not to sob} 

Summer remains-I prefer a long summer. This summer was the busiest I've had in a long time. Two grad classes to spark my imagination and recreate my classroom and two lovely vacations to relax my brain and prepare for the year ahead. I'm ready to celebrate more JOY at school and at home. I've finally fallen head first back into my yoga practice and feel ready to keep that going every day with intention.  Today as I practiced my mind took me back to Loon Lake in Northern Minnesota. A perfectly calm place to be.


Groovy Girl is back at the dance thing and we'll spend 4 nights at the studio each week. We've picked up a small batch of school supplies here and there. Today she managed to choose a new backpack (difficult b/c of ALL the choices) but she prefers to wait until her classes begin to see what she really needs. I'm freaked out about the need for a $180.00 graphing calculator...?   I'm also shocked that my baby is a junior in high school and my firstborn is about to graduate from college! My - how time flies. It seems like yesterday that I was rocking my way through library grad school with a 6-year-old and a baby. And now I'm in my 16th year of teaching.


This past week I've made new binders for myself, got a little organized, mentally prepared my brain, and made a new batch of my homemade salsa.  My mom has huge batches of tomatoes and I wanted to remind myself of all the steps so I did it alone one night this week; chopping onions, banana peppers, jalapenos, and skinning 20 cups of hot tomatoes while listening to music. It was magic in motion and a whirlwind of hot, spicy, and a few tears shed to get to the final-6 jars of salsa!


I made a simple dinner tonight with farmers market fare and I've had a lovely glass of pinot noir. I ate an amazing dark chocolate bar with blackberry sage and I shared with G, J, and K. In a few minutes, I'm going off to do a little bedtime yoga. This year is going to fly by and I want it to begin (and end) with flare. Are you ready for school?


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Slow August Day in Fertile

{Cloth napkins-YES!}
We had an lovely vacation getaway in Northern Minnesota the past long week. It was spectacular and I have many stories to tell but on the way home, we stopped at an amazing restaurant, Cafe Mir, in the small town of Fertile, IA. Honestly, I'd never heard of Fertile before today. Now I'm a fan and I will be back. I was impressed that they have their own small public library.

My mom's garden provides swiss chard to the chef and they use sustainable, local ingredients when possible. Not hard to do when you're in Iowa; we have so much produce and organic farmers raising sustainable meat. While many restaurants are on this bandwagon not always is the food as amazing as the concept. Everything we ordered was delicious. There were 5 of us and we ordered a sauteed eggplant dish as a starter, and as meals, we had a pork and beef lasagna, a braised leg of lamb, Hrbek's ribeye steak, and a wood-fired Margherita pizza for Groovy Girl. I had a "cornucopia salad for dinner, the lighter eater that I am, which is roasted sweet corn, feta, mixed hot and sweet peppers, cilantro, and lime.  It was such a refreshing combination and a perfect amount. We had rhubarb pie for dessert and they make their own fresh bread as well. 

{rhubarb pie}
The table was interesting with a lot of mismatched glasses, plates, and bowls giving it an authentic old farmhouse appeal. Also, they used real cotton napkins which just warmed my heart. I don't know when I'm going to take the time to drive an hour and a half north to dine again at Cafe Mir but I know there are other treats on the menu I want to try. Road trip anyone...?  I'm also curious to see what they will change seasonally. 

{unassuming front of Cafe Mir}
After being on vacation I am realizing that my need for real food, homecooked, slow-cooked grub plus my natural inclination to eat small meals is often confounding to people. I just like to know where my food comes from and I've purposely spoiled myself. I like real greens not iceberg lettuce in a salad. Why bother? I'm not a meat eater and I prefer small batches of food compared to large platefuls. I'm not trying to be a pain; I just like what I like.   

Monday, July 30, 2018

Highlights of summer

I finished all the assignments for one of my grad classes and am on the homestretch for the last class, Creative Schools. My major goal is to finish before my birthday which is just around the corner! I've done some deep learning and am excited to implement changes in my library this next year based on the two books I read.

(Source)
My stepsister, Robin, and her family came to town for a weekend.  I made these delicious dairy-free rhubarb-pecan muffins for breakfast one morning. I liked that the recipe had orange juice and orange zest as ingredients and I substituted lemon zest because that's what I had. They were really easy to pull together and came out nice and soft. Diana, my niece was my assistant baker and took care of all the mixing and measuring. I found lots of great rhubarb recipes and these muffins at Thyme and Love look really good to try too.

I'm on the last legs of a major summer cold, luckily it's lasted just about a week. We've gone through a major amount of kleenex between G.G., husband and myself. Which by the way he finished RAGBRAI on Saturday in good spirits. I'm happy to drop him off for his start and I'm happy to pick him back up again, safe and sound. Ragbrai is his happy place.

Yesterday I hosted my 2nd annual Croquet & Cocktails game and it was perfect weather for it. We had snacks and margaritas and hit the balls around with heavy mallets in thick grass. It was a perfect summer break with teacher friends especially because that morning I'd finished the 3rd module of this last class. Today I started on module 4 and should be able to finish in the next few days. I'm school obsessed right now.

What have I been reading other than Creative Schools and Formative Five you ask? I finished Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon.  Thanks to Verda and Sela for the push to read it. Now I have to find time with Groovy Girl to watch the movie. She was dubious about the story; she liked it, read it just a few days, but was like, that wouldn't really happen. Maybe she is more of a nonfiction, biography reader?  I loved the story and yes, it is somewhat unbelievable but that's what fiction is! 
If you haven't read it please pick it up from your local library. 


Quick review: Madeline is sick and she cannot handle outside germs so she has been inside her (fancy) house for years. One day a new family moves in next door and she meets a boy, Olly, through the window. Her house nurse, Carla, conspires with her so the two can meet inside her airtight, vacuum sealed house.  Young love-it can't be beat. What would you do for love and how do you protect those you love? 


I'm now reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Until I finish the very last homework assignment I only have a few minutes to read at night. This one is very good though and I'll read more by both Ng and Yoon.

What are you reading? What have you filled your summer up with so far? 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Summer classes

I have two grad classes this summer and they are not easy; lots of homework, and projects. The good thing is I am learning quite a bit and the two books assigned are both very good.


The Formative five: fostering grit, empathy, and other success skills every student needs by Thomas R. Hoerr

This book explains how schools need to get back to the "basics" of teaching a deeper thought process so our students will be better achievers in the job market.  Grit, embracing diversity, integrity, empathy, and self-control encompass the skills they need to be successful. The book breaks down each skill and shares methods to integrate into every day. This was an easy read and I will use the new ideas with students. I've already compiled lists of picture books to use with students that highlight each essential word. 


Creative Schools by Ken Robinson, Ph. D.

I've watched Ken Robinson's Ted Talk "Do schools kill creativity?" and the book extends that thinking. The book shares many examples of schools and programs that are reaching beyond the normal school day.  Like Thomas Hoerr, Ken Robinson is looking for a different type of education for all of our students.  His ideas are radical and very interesting to me.  The book makes me want to set my classes up differently and not sweat the small or big stuff; students need to enjoy school more to keep their creativity and the joy of learning alive! 


Outside of my summer studies, I read The tea girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See for book club. See does an amazing amount of research for her books and this one is no exception. This one has great characters, lots of information about the Ahka hill tribe in China, and the tea industry. If you are looking for a good, thrilling read-give this one a try.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Inspired food

(Fuji Mama 1-hour bread)
Last week I offered to make a meal for a theatre set designer and old friend who traveled from St. Paul, MN to come and help put his design into action and work with my husband.  Because we haven't seen this old friend for awhile I offered to make him dinner so we could relax and talk together. I made a pasta sauce from one of my Giada cookbooks, a simple salad and this bread from Fuji Mama -Simple One Hour Homemade Bread

You see I'd forgotten to pick up a baguette to round out this Italian-inspired meal and I knew I needed bread or the meal would feel incomplete to our guest.  When I shared my concern with Groovy Girl, she said: "just make some bread!" What!? but of course, I know how to make bread and have many recipes to follow for wonderful crispy loaves yet they all take at least a couple of hours to create. I had less than 2 hours.  Her answer to this: "just Google it". So simple!

After a quick search for fast homemade bread, I found Fuji Mama's easy recipe and we loved it. It makes 2 peasant loaves that cook in 25 minutes. They were crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, the perfect combo. 

Here is Giada's Bolognese Sauce that I tossed over fettuccine noodles. The meal was delicious, the conversation lively, and ended with another mutual friend's treat of cookies. 

I'm short on time for everything I do this summer.  Two grad classes are keeping me seriously hopping.  The two books I'm reading to go along with each class are interesting, The Formative Five by Thomas R. Hoerr and Creative Schools by Ken Robinson, but the assignments cause me to think HARD for hours at a time-not my favorite summer activity.  I just want to be reading chapter books for school, hanging in my hammock, or cooking.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy 4th of July

(cool image via Etsy)

I am grateful to live in this country, a country where I have the freedom to write what I want.  We still have the ability to dissent, protest, and resist although there have been recent repercussions which are reminiscent of older repercussions. We still have the opportunity to be ourselves. One can even easily "converse" or respond back to the very man who sits in the White House via his Twitter account. But don't let this fool you into thinking we live in a perfect country-we do not. Not if you are black, brown, gay, female, poor, or an immigrant...many are the downtrodden. It's not perfect but at one time I felt (under a different administration) that we were moving forward and now we are moving backwards in time and all I hope is that we are able to recover from the mess being made today.

Everything matters now; choosing a new supreme court justice is proof of how much change one person will make and the overwhelming waterfall effect that will have on our America. Destruction at the EPA, climate change/weather-related issues not being taken seriously, and Yellowstone Grizzlies removed from the endangered list and perhaps hunted once again for sport. This issues alone worry me a great deal.

For today be appreciative of this country but also be aware; if you've been lazy about politics in the past, now is the time to step it up. I have only to look to The Handmaid's Tale to know our beautiful America can look very different with a solid Christian, right-wing Supreme Court, presidency puppet, and Congress.  This November we need to vote for change once again.  We need to be "fired up and ready to go"...and go and go and go.

I think about young women like 28-yr-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from Queens elected because of her left-leaning ideas. This gives me hope.  And I need that.  Celebrate today.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Cooking with L-O-V-E

On Father's Day - way back on June 16th - I made some delicious flaky biscuits to serve as the base for my husband's favorite Southern breakfast.  I cooked the whole meal in about an hour that Sunday morning so both of these recipes are worth it and they tasted delicious according to him.
(My very own flaky biscuits)
Grandma's Flaky Buttermilk Biscuit recipe came from Ann at Cooking Maniac.  She talks a lot about how wonderfully flaky these biscuits are and they did not disappoint. They were very easy to split open and serve with our favorite toppings; Groovy Girl and I had ours with vegan butter and jam; he had homemade sausage gravy. I would definitely go back to her website when looking for authentic homemade recipes. I searched and searched for a good homemade gravy recipe and I found the perfect one on the Food Network from (not a surprise) Ree Drummond.  My husband enjoyed several helpings and there was enough for leftovers for him to eat two other mornings.

(See link below)
I created another special meal for longtime friends of ours. Tim is retiring and moving to their cabin home in Maine while his wife, Lynne will remain here and teach for another year or two at UNI. We wanted to have them for dinner before the major move. I made this perfectly summery Lasagna with spinach and roasted zucchini; a recipe I found using my NYT food app.  It was light with minimal cheese and fresh sauce and it didn't feel wintery heavy.  I had a fresh pea shoot salad and fresh baguettes for everyone. I love to cook and browse recipes so much that this app is better than Instagram for me.
(See link below)
Last night we had a Cedar Falls Food Co-op potluck at 2nd State Brewery downtown and Groovy Girl and I made a really delicious pot of Quinoa and Wild Rice Salad with Ginger Sesame Dressing.  This was a last minute recipe and I did not want to run to the grocery store during a perfectly good lazy summer day and after all, I had most of the ingredients. I did not have cilantro, or fresh lime, spring onions/scallions, or Asian sesame oil. I substituted fresh basil from my porch pot, Rose's Lime Juice (hey, it worked), left out onions and sesame oil.  Our dressing instead was a spicy ginger-lime with a little cayenne and curry compliments of Groovy Girl. She can't help herself with the spices - she just goes to town with our well-stocked spice cabinet. I would definitely make this recipe again and we had lots of wild rice and quinoa left over to repurpose.

Have a delicious rest of your week!

Monday, June 25, 2018

June; thank you so much.


Wow - this month has flown by.  Groovy Girl and I started the summer off with a road trip to Denver, Co.  We stayed with family and just had a lovely time. We hiked in the area and saw deer, bison + baby bison, and pronghorns. From Iowa, it is about an 11-hour drive and we did it in 2 days.

Our favorite things were Sushi Ronin, Little Man ice cream both in the Highland area of Denver and I loved the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse and we both loved hiking at Chautauqua in Boulder, walking the 16th Street Mall, and dipping our feet into Boulder Creek. We also had a great afternoon hanging out in Washington Park just enjoying.

We had dinner with friends and family we have not seen for years and it felt great to reconnect.  It is very important to keep lines of communication open in friendships and family circles. If not nurtured in some way they can easily wither away. Sometimes that can even mean a place and I definitely enjoyed connecting with Denver/Boulder again and I'm happy my daughter loved our experiences as well. I wished on the trip that I'd had the foresight to take each child on a high school road trip. There are a lot of skills learned on a road trip that you don't get if you take a 4-hour flight to the same destination. Different lessons.  The talking and the navigation were the best parts; I'm trying to teach her to put down the phone as we drive so she can look out the window and daydream, think or just unwind.  Unplugging is a huge challenge for all of us with smartphones.


This trip was also a challenge to myself. I used to make this trek back and forth frequently when my son was younger and the trip was longer because I was often driving back to Minneapolis/St. Paul or Rochester area.  I wanted to prove to myself that I could still make it happen and get myself around. And I did it. Bravo to me. My life can now continue!


I've been lucky enough to call a variety of states home but Colorado will always hold a very special place in my heart. As we drove into the state and you can see your first glimpses of the mountains in the distance; my daughter said "hello mountains; its been too long". I agree. Our souls are better now.

And then I'm just as happy when my little black Prius pulls us back into our little corner of Iowa and we are home; happy to sleep in our own beds and kiss the ground with happiness for a safe trip.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Hello June

There are some people in our lovely little house making a movie, creating art. About 7 people and my husband, shooting, holding a boom mike, and going over lines. Groovy Girl and I have sequestered ourselves on the second floor, in our rooms, doing homework and reading. Not what I expected to do with my day, ALL day, but such is this life.

It is a fairly gorgeous day out and I did take the dog for a long walk. It seems like it would be a perfect hammock day but I cannot for the life of me find where I stashed them over winter. I always keep them in one particular place for safekeeping and they are not there. I think the husband must have taken them down and stored them and he needs to find them. We are missing precious hammock lazy moments.


So with lots of time on my hands, I finished Anne Tyler's A spool of blue thread, a good solid story that tells the tale of the Whitshank family of Baltimore. It doesn't have a major plot upheaval and yet generally that is how family stories often are in life. Just a straight line with many zigs and zags up and down. This was my first Anne Tyler and I would read another. With that one done I've started Tangerine; a novel by Christine Mangan plus reading more of Cleo Wade's Heart Talk, a very inspirational book of wisdom.


I love it when a friend orders a book based on my recommendation. It happened this morning; I raved about a book, News of the world, to my friend Tim at our church picnic and sent him a photo of it when I returned home. He responded back a few minutes later with "Just ordered it from Amazon!"

We have just 2 1/2 days left of school!  The year has flown by and in a few short days, it will truly be summer. Groovy Girl and I are taking to the road, headed to Denver, CO to stay with family for about a week. It's been quite a few years since I've made this road trip myself and while G.G. will keep me awake, she isn't able to drive just yet so it will be all me. Generally, my husband does most of the driving (while I read) but I used to make this trek at least once a year when I lived there before there was a husband so it's a challenge for myself. Bring on the Red Vines and blue chips, the loud music and the laughs.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Not my best week...


I tipped over last Sunday and injured myself. I didn't trip or fall, I didn't feel myself go over. One minute I was walking and the next I was picking myself up from the pavement.  It was weird. In my right hand, I was holding a glass water bottle which smashed against the pavement and into my hand. My left wrist took the brunt of my fall.  It was slightly embarrassing as it was broad daylight (4pm) and there were people around. I'd come out of a play and was saying goodbye, and walking and thinking at the same time. It made me feel a little old and at the same time resilient.

I drove home with a wad of wet wipes in my hand to stave the blood flow from my hand and I made dinner for people that were coming to my house for a cast party. Both hands were in great pain and Groovy Girl was off with friends.  As soon as she got home she bandaged my right hand and helped me clean but by that time I had the Mexican Lasagna recipe already cooking. I even whipped up my own fajita seasoning spice mix for the recipe.  The kitchen looked like hell as I could just barely open bottles and didn't have the energy to try to recap and put away. And I'm usually a-clean-as-I-go kind of cook. Everyone enjoyed the cast party and the lasagna. I had someone request the recipe; they'll have to supply their own blood drips and pain.

I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend. I have a little school work to do. I have a couple of great books to read; I'm halfway done with The Self-driven child, a fantastic life book I wish I'd had when my kids were younger, my book club read News of the world by Paulette Jiles, and from my mom A spool of blue thread by Anne Tyler.

And while browsing around on Epicureous I found this great article about cast iron skillets which I use frequently in our kitchen.

Here's to a better week ahead!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Two books for you to read...

There is something magical that happens to me when a student says "You've GOT to read this book Mrs. Holt" as they clutch said book tightly in front of them and add "It is soooo good!" (eyes sparkling)


This recently happened with a new-to-Hansen 5th grader, Gabby, and she said all this about Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper, which was on our Iowa Children's Choice list this year. I always intend to start that book straight away yet that actually rarely happens.  That sweet book sat at my desk for a few weeks and finally I finished a stream of other books and picked that one up and brought it home. I am so excited to return to school tomorrow and march right up to Gabby and tell her thank you for recommending this book to me!  I loved it as much as she did so now I'm holding it out to you and telling you, my fine reader, to go find this book at a library or a bookstore and take it home, settle yourself on the sofa or outside in a hammock and be prepared to be transported to Stella's world.

Stella is living in Bumblebee, NC and she tries to write in her journal outside at night because she catches her best thoughts in the quiet.  One night she spots men in white robes and a cross on fire right across the pond from her. The Klan is active and creates terrible tension for her small community and her family. Her father joins two other men from the community to register to vote in town and Stella goes along "to be his rock". When the Klan burns down a house belonging to one of the brave men who registered to vote the town comes together, both black and white to help.  Stella is a brave, smart, kind, and enjoyable character that eventually learns to trust her own talents as a writer. 

Did not know that Miles Davis plays Stella by Starlight, check it out! I'm sure Sharon M. Draper did.


The second book I'm excited about this week is The dog, Ray by Linda Coggin.  I found this gem at the public library while browsing the shelf for a teacher request.  It just struck me and I brought it home and it traveled to dance with me for a long rehearsal and I finished it in one day. Yes.

This is the story of 12-year-old Daisy, killed in a car accident, in the first few pages. She is whisked up to some kind of job central and lands back on earth as a...yes, a dog. So sweet. The entertaining part is that she went through the wrong shoot and she can remember her "Daisy" life. She is adopted first into a neglectful, crabby kind of family which makes her take off after a kind homeless man she meets while tied to a bench at the park. Eventually, she meets a young orphaned and homeless boy, Pip. His mother recently died and he's trying to find his father who does not know he exists. What a journey. Pip is a delightful Oliver Twist-like young man determined to find a forever home and he and Ray find their way together. This story is filled with an interesting cast of characters and will have you turning pages rapidly.

I wish I had a song to go with this one but go back and listen to that fantastic Miles Davis tune!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Reading and Recipes

I made yogurt this weekend after one failed attempt. Truth: It takes the whole damn day-you've got to be prepared for that and I don't always have a full day to spend with yogurt so I try to sandwich it between things which is why every once in a while it doesn't work for me. This time I had one failed attempt-stayed milk-poured it right back into the Hansen's jug used by my husband for his morning cereal. Second time-score-creamy, happy yogurt ready for my morning breakfast.

I also made a curry dish today and soaked chickpeas for the recipe. I found the cauliflower chickpea recipe on The Wholesome Fork and read about the proper method to soak chickpeas on Inspired Taste.  I like it when I can prepare a whole meal without opening a bunch of cans. I used fresh tomatoes and some leftover coconut milk saved in a jar in my fridge. It was good and spicy and there's enough left for lunch tomorrow. While blog surfing I found this great post about my chickpea love just a few months ago.

I picked up a book, Shadow Mountain; a memoir of wolves, a woman, and the wild by Renee Askins, from one of my TBR piles that I'd purchased a few years back while visiting Yellowstone National Park. Nonfiction is not my thing but I loved Terry Tempest Williams' book Refuge and she is mentioned twice on the back cover blurbs. I'm sure that's what inspired me to purchase Renee's book at the Yellowstone gift shop. I'm more than 1/2 way through and I love her story. It makes me feel a little guilty because while I was goofing around in Denver, Co, causing trouble, going to Dead shows, Askins was living her passion, striving and working hard to reintroduce wolves back into Yellowstone. A life well-lived. My passion came later; a late bloomer as my mother loves to say. If you love being in nature, the call of the wild, I highly recommend both books!


Have a good week. We've got some changes happening here at our home/sanctuary and I feel I'm going to feel 1000 % percent better when it happens. Ciao!


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

May Day! May Day!


No May Day baskets this year. I asked and Groovy Girl was like "I'm too busy, I'm too tired!"  It is a stressful time for a sophomore, her first year in high school. We used to always do May baskets that we would deliver to a set group of friends before school began. I delivered May baskets when I was young as well and it is one of those wonderful traditions that I love to see continued. I was very happy to see a kindergarten class making May baskets to deliver to a 6th-grade class.

I did bring her some treats today after grocery shopping; some french bread, a Mexican coca-cola, and a small bag of Bob's Chia seeds - odd treats, yes, but she loves them.

It's really the thought that counts. But if I want this tradition to continue I'm going to need to work a little harder myself. Already I'm thinking of little friends that I (we) could quickly deliver to near us. It would put a smile on their little faces and the tradition would continue in some fashion. Did you do May baskets growing up? 


May Basket traditions (NPR)

Monday, April 30, 2018

The end of the month is trudging along

What an unusual April it has been!  I've made some good food, read some interesting books, and watched some interesting shows/movies with my family.


A long walk to water by Linda Sue Park (2010): This is a fictionalized story of one boy caught up in the Sudanese conflict with alternating sections sharing a young girl's story as she spends her days carrying water. The stories come together in such a meaningful way; I finished this one in the car as I was waiting for my teenage dancer.  If you were watching you would have witnessed me crying in my car. Highly recommend for many readers of all ages.


Green Angel by Alice Hoffman (2004): A short dystopian tale of a young girl left behind after her parents and younger sister take a trip into the city to sell vegetables never to return. The language and descriptions are beautiful and it is an amazing story of Green's rebirth.


Lost in the sun by Lisa Graff (2015): I read this a few years ago and didn't love it, then I assigned it to 6th-grade book club and read it again. I liked it much better this time around. I enjoyed Trent's character more and understood the angst. The parents in the story left me wondering why they did seek help for him and especially thought the dad was an insensitive character.


Choosing Civility; The 25 rules of considerate conduct by P.M. Forni (2003): Forni teaches at the university level and saw a need for an introduction to manners for students. This book is a wonderful refresher course on rules we know but often don't put into practice. Buy it for yourself or for someone you think could use it.

Curried Lentils: Delicious and easy. We had them with rice first and then another night wrapped in tortillas and heated.  Oh so good. She has a similar recipe for curried chickpeas as well.

Chicken & black bean Enchiladas: I made these at the beginning of last week so we would have a few easy dinners. Groovy Girl is really good at making her own food but that takes time and right now she is short on that ingredient so I whipped up this batch of enchiladas so she wouldn't have to make anything for a few days. I left out the pumpkin this time and used free-range local chicken from our meat market.

Atypical (Netflix)-watched by myself, then with Groovy Girl, and now want to watch with husband. Tells the story of a young autistic named Sam and his crazy yet also normal family. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Sam's mom. We love his sister, Casey and her boyfriend, Evan.
Everything Sucks! (Netflix)-We only watch this one altogether.  It's about high school students at Boring High, OR. And in doing some googling discovered this show has been cancelled after one season-that really sucks Netflix. Everybody rush to watch this first season...
On my block (Netflix)-Groovy Girl and I watched this series in one night and cannot wait for more. I plan to watch again with husband when his schedule frees up a little. A small group of LA teens who live on the same block try to focus on surviving their neighborhood. Excellent performances by all!
The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)-yes, I'm still watching. I waited to read the book and then I've tried to take it slow. It is a tough show to watch and gives me the chills.

Speaking of chills we went yesterday on a family outing to see The Quiet Place.  I loved it and I am not a fan at all of anything scary.  No Jason for me, no slashers, no creepy houses, etc. This one was more of a scary dystopian with loveable characters. John Krasinski wrote, directed, and produced this one and his talented wife Emily Blunt plays his wife. Give it a try; truthfully I only closed my eyes once or twice and I brought headphones (one reviewer said this might help) but didn't end up using them much.

This post sums up my whole month except for some major family downs, two road trips, lots of dance classes, and a few friend celebrations. What do you have to share back with me?