Monday, December 30, 2019

Christmas menu; save for future please

We always wish we had more down time with our three children; there never seems to be enough and often times when everyone was younger we didn't always cherish the time because we were together more often. Now at best we are a family of five maybe twice a year and that seems not enough. Everyone has work schedules and time lines of their own and we haven't even added more family into the mix. The blessing is that when we do get together everyone gets along!  I'm happy they've turned into adults who care about each other. There is something very special about siblings because you have all this shared history; some good, some bad, some awesome experiences that all can relate to in shared conversation. We always have some moments of shared stories, "remember that time..." and it's good to be able to laugh about even the bad times, the tough times we came through as a family.

That's what Christmas has become to me. Add some fantastic food and a couple of gifts and I'm quite merry!  The past three years my son and his girlfriend have been eating vegan and each year I'm a little more successful for creating a diverse menu that everyone will like. I don't like a table where sides need to be separated; vegan/non-vegan. So to break it down we have one no-red meat eater, one mostly only chicken eater, one who eats everything but is allergic to garlic and shellfish, the two vegans, and myself, a flexitarian/vegetarian. We make it work.

This year I had three Alaskan sustainable-fished salmon filets, and three Beyond Burgers for our main course. And then my two friends helped with  the sides: Jaime Oliver's smashed potatoes and his make-ahead vegan gravy, and Giada's Mediterranean couscous with apples and cranberry was a huge hit. Jaime Oliver says something like we all need to get used to a little more plant-based cooking because at everyone's table there is probably a veg-head or  two and a vegan, throw in a gluten-free cousin and you've got an amazing adventure in menu-planning. Everyone loved the smashed potatoes as an alternative to mashed; we loved how crispy the edges were and next time I think I'd leave them in even a little longer. Several of us loved the couscous and I would make this again especially for book club. Enjoy the above sexy food video for gravy recipe. When I heated our gravy back up the next day I added a bit more flour to get it to the right consistency. It was amazing. Jaime has about 40 vegan recipes on YouTube so if this is a food choice you are interested in take a look.

{my brother and sister-in-law
I hope everyone else found merriment over the holiday. After a fantastic and relaxing two-day trip to Minnetonka to visit my brother and his family it is time to put the house back in order and get ready for our Iowa caucus.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Hello Winter Break!


I've taken quite a break from blogging without meaning to but grief works in strange ways for everybody and I just took a step back from certain parts of my own life.  I've still helped with the Mayor Pete campaign although I missed a few events and I've obviously headed to work every day which truly brings me such great joy. I love seeing the faces of all my students even the tough ones.  School is good and now I'm on winter break which is fantastic. The holiday season is in full swing.

My shopping is almost done and I just have some local things to shop for + groceries to purchase. As my kids get older we really focus on the JOY of spending time together over ripping into tons of gifts. Last year we spent time reading all our favorite Christmas picture books to each other. Something about reading Corduroy's Christmas or Dream Snow by Eric Carle that ushers in a warm and cozy feeling. We also love to watch Christmas movies together-Love, Actually is one of our favorites and this year we plan to watch Klaus together. We generally go see the new Star Wars movie as a family after Christmas. I'm looking forward to all of it.

Last weekend I went to a soup exchange hosted by a friend.  I made this delicious sweet potato curry soup I found on my NYT cooking app. They each made a soup and we came together and shared.  I brought home at least 4 jars of homemade soup; a tomato tortellini and an au pistou (a French soup) and both were delicious.  And we had a drink I was unfamiliar with (shocking!) - it was We are hosting a Christmas party game night for friends on Sunday night and I'm going to make the tomato tortellini soup for them b/c it looks so festive. Enjoy this weekend, this holiday, hug all those that surround you with love and even the awkward folk who don't love a hug but treasure your smile. Just spend time with your people.  Namaste.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Grateful hearts

Before i could release 
the weight of my sadness
and pain, i first had
to honor its existance
~yung pueblo

don't run away
from heavy emotions

honor the anger;
give pain the space 
it needs to breathe

this is how we let go
~yung pueblo

[Stan on the left]
Two weeks ago the earth tilted off course for a brief moment and a friend of mine, Stan Crossland, died as he tried to change a tire on the shoulder of a highway in California. It's been a painfully sad two weeks yet I've also had this amazing flood of memories. This post is one of mourning but also gratitude for the time we spent together. Stan was an effervescent guy, filled with laughter and good vibes. He loved to travel and had been to a crazy amount of countries. He loved good food and we often ended our evenings with chocolate chip cookies dunked in a mug of milk. He was filled with surprises and thoughtfully showed up on Valentine's Day with a heart-shaped pizza for me at the end of my wait shift. We hosted several Friendsgiving events and played football in the snow before dinner. We both love music and were often out dancing to a variety of local Denver bands in and around the city.
We traveled to Las Vegas in May 1993 with friends to see Sting and The Dead play; we had so much fun tromping around the glittery all-night city, cocktails in hand. Just the other day I had a flashback memory of finishing our hotel breakfast and heading toward our car through glass patio doors where we saw the beautiful pool and took one look at each other and soft dove right into that pool with clothes on. It was a wet first few hours back in the car but we laughed about that for a long time. So smug were we.

I loved him and he loved me; we had each other’s backs. That same year we took another trip just the two of us heading out of Denver for Salt Lake City where we stayed with my brother, Mike for a day or two, then headed to Lake Powell to see friends of his on holiday from the U.K., and then on up to San Francisco for a New Year's Eve Dead show at the Oakland Coliseum. I remember Stan watching me as this massive dragon puppet controlled by dozens of people underneath paraded around the floor level. It was an amazing sight that I'd forgotten about for years. Oh, the magic, the mystery, the delightful times we had together.

[Halloween shift at Chives in Denver]

Dearest Stan-

You are an amazing soul and I'm sure you are dancing in heaven, playing with the band. Even though I am happy to connect with you in Chicago just a few years ago I am so sorry to have lost touch with you.  I settled down and you went off for more adventure.  For the years we were together I am forever grateful for pushing me into new and wonderful experiences. You were the first man I knew who really appreciated me and all my quirks.  You totally let me be me.  Everyone should have a friend like that in their life.  I'm so proud of you for writing a book, taking care of your mother, and continuing to travel, for diving into yoga and meditation. Next time we meet we can get our yoga flow on.  Our journey together reminds me of one of my favorite books, Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. I know I will find you again, maybe with root vegetables in your backpack, so I will just say "until we meet again dear friend"                   ~with great love,  me

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Let's get political!!

One day last Spring while folding laundry I channel surfaced looking for something to grab my attention.  I found this guy that I didn't know at all speaking with Trevor Noah, one of my favorite people, and I stopped to listen and was so moved I had to know more. If you are on the fence or simply need to know more here is that interview:

In Iowa as in other caucus states we are inundated with candidates, their messages, their meetings, and their staffers. It's hard to get away from yet as I canvassed the other day I met more than a few people who had never caucused ever and who really had no interest in candidates that were running. This was a little shocking to me except I've always been interested. Politicians have everything to do with our daily lives even though people may not realize it. I think this presidency has a least been a much needed sometimes brutal wake-up call on how influential a candidate can be. Think of the tidal wave of inhumanity caused by the person in the White House now. From immigration to climate change this person continuously is on the wrong side of history.

Mayor Pete for me is the ideal presidential candidate; he is extremely smart, well-spoken, balanced, with a healthy love of country that does not bypass the rest of the world. I believe he will be a great president for all Americans because he has a concern for everyone. He is empathetic and I see this at events when he speaks one-on-one with people and with how he weights issues.  His youth appeals to me as I think that is what we need to move us forward in a big way.  I encourage you to look into Mayor Pete if you have any hope to change our current presidential situation. I have in the past been on the Bernie bus and at one time was an Elizabeth Warren fan; at this present moment though I believe Pete is the one to win and change our entire political climate.  And we need that. We don't need same old, same old. We need brighter and better. If I've nudged you at all please take a look at Mayor Pete's website and let me know your thoughts.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

An education for all...

(stock photo - 1970)

To be a teacher today you have to be a psychologist, play therapist, mediator, mother/father figure, and humorist all rolled into one. It's not the easy job it once was; not to belittle teachers of the past but I think of the teachers I had growing up and they didn't need to have quite the skill set we do now. I've interviewed some retired teachers to check my thinking on this and they agree. Teaching has changed; the pay has not.  We work damn hard for our money and leave exhausted every day. Many of us work an hour (and sometimes more) at the end of the day to be ready for the next day and many of us spend weekend afternoons to plan for the week. It's a lot of planning to keep kids interested in what we teach. We have to figure out ways to integrate technology but not too much.  I don't want to give kids the perception that everything fun happens on a screen. I stress books, reading, board games, and lots of time outside and that is true for in school and out. I want students I work with to enjoy school both in the library and in their classroom.

(image - JennyXYoung)
My daughter - Groovy Girl - is in high school now, a senior! When I started this blog she was just beginning elementary school, which she loved!  She adored many of her teachers and was excited for the variety of activities they did. She hates school now and it crushes me.  She loves learning and watches a lot of cool educational documentaries for fun. She is opinionated and understands a great deal about the world around her.  So why do we squeeze the fun out of school at the middle and high school level? 

She is sleepy every morning as she trudges off to school.  She is tired from dance the night before and often stays up to midnight to finish homework.  As a parent I've questioned why are we still doing dance when it leaves very little time for homework yet it is her absolute JOY. How can I take that away from her? I can't. So we struggle through and she worries about if she'll make it in college based on her high school experience. She gets little help from school counselors and her teachers. She's smart, yet has to work hard, and she questions her ability all the time.  Sometimes when she takes a test (1-4 performance-based grade) and doesn't do well she has nowhere to turn. The class just moves on except technically they are supposed to reteach if kids are struggling.  I want her to be able  to retake a test to help her learn more.  I want her teachers to reach out and see her even if she is the only one struggling with concepts. Our system at least in high school fails in this.  She  feels horrible when she doesn't succeed and while I know the real world is often dog eat dog most jobs you learn as you go and you keep moving forward. We should allow failures to blossom into growth in all levels of education.

I am aware in all this that technology plays a role in her life and is often a HUGE hindrance in getting things accomplished.  She can access homework on her phone and uses it for flashcards and learning apps like Quizlet but often that leads to checking IG, watching SnapChat videos from friends, the list is endless. After a recent conversation she deleted some of her time-wasting apps, which made her happy; to be pro-active but then said she filled that time with dancing around the house instead of more homework!  I wish I had the answer or magical words to help.  I don't.  Do you?

Teachers and students of today have a mixed bag of trouble and triumph.  I hope she (and I) can make it through this year and that she will flourish in college. I want to enjoy this last year with her not spend every day helping her work out her frustrations and encouraging confidence in herself.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Best Books (so far) 2019

It was a beautiful day today-the sun was shining and it felt warm even though the wind was a bit brisk. I can feel summer winding down and even though I Fall weather is lovely and I love a good sweater I always miss summer.  I'm a t-shirt and sandal kind of person and love being outside.

Fall weather does bring it's own joy with it as well. Sweaters, boots, beautiful leaves falling, and warm beverages-ohhh, and backyard fires. Good times!

Over the last few months I've read quite a few books from April-August and some of them you should definitely add to your reading lists.  I have two different lists; one with adult reads and one with children's literature.  They are all worth reading though whether you are young or older...

Adult Fiction:

Daisy Jones and the Six (2019) by Taylor Jenkins Reid - This was the book that made me jump head first into Book-of-the-month club! This read like it was real, so much so that I googled it to see how I'd missed this band.  Billy Dunne, Daisy Jones and the rest of the cast all make for memorable characters that stayed with me. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll, baby! She's an author I want to read more of soon.

Their Eyes Were Watching God (2006) by Zora Neale Hurston - We picked this one as our "classic" for book club and I was so satisfied reading this excellent novel.  It felt like I was back struggling with the Joad (Grapes of Wrath) family in college.  Janie's life is a rough and joyous journey as she tries to stay independent and enjoy life along the way.

Normal People (2018) by Sally Rooney - This second novel was a very interesting tale of friendship and love between Marianne and Connell while in high school and at Trinity College in Dublin.  the characters are very memorable and the story was so intriguing. I also read Rooney's first book, Conversations with friends, and liked it as well.

The Kiss Quotient (2018) and The Bride Test (2019) by Helen Hoang - These two little books are w-a-y too sexy for most but oh, so good. They rate like 12 stars from me. Stella Lane and Khai Diep both resonated with me as characters on the spectrum struggling with their emotions.  Sexy and fantastic; Hoang is writing a 3rd and I can't wait! Also I did find both at my local library!

The story of Arthur Truluv (2017) by Elizabeth Berg - What a beautiful story of Arthur as he works through the death of his wife and learns to form a new family of sorts with a young and lost teenage girl and his bothersome and moody next door neighbor Lucille.  Family is truly what we make of it when we need it and Arthur opens up his heart to help those around him even though he still feels devastated. Thank you to Jen and Chris for passing this on to me this summer. I'm waiting for the second one to arrive.


Educated (2018) by Tara Westover - Amazing read! I was so intrigued by her family struggles and Tara's desire to rise above.  I was appalled at some of the problems she had to overcome from her own family but her own independence was even more breath-taking because of it.

The shortest way home; one mayor's challenge and a model for America's future (2019) by Pete Buttiegieg - Also an Amazing read!! Mayor Pete is a wonderful writer and his story flowed from his family life, his public life, and his road to love. I was already part of the #PeteWave but after this I feel like I know him personally. I'm totally rooting for him.

I am a fiction reader for the most part so the fact that I have not one but two excellent memoirs on my list is pretty amazing. Honorable mention would be The Saboteur (2017) by Paul Kix which tells the story of Robert de La Rochefoucald who was part of the French Resistance during WWII.  We read this for book club and I found out Kix has a podcast, Now that's a great story, and it is quite good! Not that I need another podcast b/c I can't keep up with what I have downloaded so far.

Young Adult and Children's lit:

On the come up (2019) by Angie Thomas - Her second novel focuses on 16-yo Bri as she strives to make it the rapper world; a world that her father was king of before his death. I have to admit Bri was a bit brazen for me yet I understood where her anger boiled and spilled over from as she deals with life in her neighborhood.  I look forward to what ever Angie brings forth in her 3rd novel.

The Novice (2015) by Taran Matharu - High fantasy and a fun escape book that a student recommended to me.  Fletcher and the other cast of characters in this magical world of summoners was easy to get lost in and I quickly read the second one as well, The Inquisition.  My friend Wyatt did give me the 3rd one a few weeks ago and it is still sitting on my desk. I have a stack to finish here before I'll be ready to bring it home.  

Gracefully, Grayson (2014) by Ami Polonsky - Grayson's story is an amazing journey of acceptance as she learns to accept who she is and share her true identity with her adopted family. Grayson's parents died years ago and she is being raised by his uncle.  As Grayson reads some old family letters she begins to understand that this is who she has always been. This is wonderfully written debut novel about friendship and acceptance. 

Amal Unbound (2018) by Aisha Saeed - Amal desires to be a teacher one day until an event in her small Pakistani village takes her dream away. When she gets angry at the local landowner for his rude behavior he teaches her about power as he forces her parents to send her to him as a servant. Amal's fierce independence never lets her accept her fate as she fights for a way to break free. I loved this story and hope to find more of her stories to come. 

Merci Suarez changes gears (2018) by Meg Medina - This is a feisty school story with Merci and her family struggling to make it through middle school as a scholarship student and as a sunshine buddy to the cute new boy, all while watching her beloved grandfather begin to suffer from bouts of confusion. 

Amina's Voice (2017) by Hena Khan - Amina is struggling with middle school as her best friend, Soojin begins to hang out with one of the popular (and unkind) girls.  It is so hard to figure out how to stay true to yourself but also fit in with the friend you love. Amina worries about her friendship and her strict uncle coming to stay with them which is already enough to handle when the mosque her family attends is vandalized.  When the community comes together for them Amina learns to understand how to be herself. 

Aru Shah and the end of time (2018) by Roshani Choksi - Aru totally stretches the truth to her classmates (and to herself, really) as she deals with her absent and busy mom and their life living in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art.  When three classmates stop by to accuse her of more lies she breaks a vow to her mother and she lights an ancient lamp to placate her classmates. When time is literally stopped she must unlock the mystery of her family's history in order to put life back in motion. I must make time to read the second book in this series. 

Walking with Miss Millie (2017) by Tamara Bundy - Alice is not happy that her mom has moved the family to the exact small town where her mother grew up just so they can take care of her aging grandmother. She misses her dad and her old life.  When she is forced to spend time with her grandmother's aging nieghbor Alice learns that life in a small town can be filled with all kinds of interesting characters. I liked the slower pace to this as Alice learns to navigate some life lessons. 

Ohhh. That's a lot of books. I hope you find something interesting to read from my list. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019


I've been into listening to podcasts for awhile. Our oldest daughter Kaylee works for Gimlet Media and had us listening to Reply All early on. Now she is the producer for Heavyweight hosted by Jonathan Goldstein who gets involved with a "heavy" situation; like one episode about Skye who was bullied  by her own group of friends in high school and she wants to find out why. The stories are good and I always feel completely drawn in.

I still listen to Heavyweight (their 4th season is about to drop) and I also listen to The Yarn hosted by Travis Jonker, an elementary librarian and Colby Sharp, 5th grade teacher extraordinaire. I love their banter and they interview some of my favorite authors like Kate DiCamillo.  I love Dax Shepard's podcast Armchair Expert because he seems to be talking off the top of his head for most shows. I loved his interview with Ben Platt from Dear Evan Hansen.  I've listened to Goop's podcast and I spent several road trips listening to many episodes of Oprah's Super Soul Conversations which have the tendency to really move me to tears. I'm not very good at listening to audible books because I lose track of the story line as my mind wanders but podcasts seem to work. My commute is super short though so I have to fit them in at other opportunities like cleaning the house.

Because I listened to so many this summer I decided to make this happen in the library as well. I charged up a small handful of iPods and mini iPads that were gathering dust in my backroom after I'd received an official cart of kid-friendly iPads for student use. I downloaded about 15 kid-friendly podcasts and set up a table station with headphones, iPads, iPods and a charging cord. Students seem excited about it and rush to finish check out so they can get one of the iPods (which are popular b/c at first they thought they were phones). There are so many podcasts for kids out there that talk about books, science, stories, animals, travel adventures, and meditation activities; something for everyone!

Also major kudos to all the students willing to take a stand tomorrow and walk out of school for climate change!  Use your voice. Thanks to Greta Thunburg.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Happy Birthday Baby!

(Upside down in Maryland)
(In Virginia)
My youngest child turns 17 years old tomorrow!  I truly can't believe it. This is her senior year and after that she will fly the coop and I'll have to find new things to do with my time. I've been chasing after her for so many years I won't know what to do with myself.  I mean I will but it just feels so lonesome to contemplate.

(in Central Park)
She has always been full of positive energy with a quick laugh. She also can be brutally hard on herself especially when it comes to her dancing skills. She loves to be in motion, dancing, yet she pushes herself and still never feels like she gets to where she wants to be. I say let it go and enjoy the beauty that is you. She gets a little tired of my ability to spin everything to the positive saccharine. level. Each and every one of us has our quirks and at some point in our lives it's best just to play to your strengths and let go of what isn't working. I wish I could give her a boost of real confidence for her birthday gift so that she would truly believe in her abilities and help her move forward when things are rough. I think it has to do with developing resilience. We could all use a little dose of that right now in our world- that and patience. And those skills take time to develop...

Groovy Girl was a beautiful baby and she is a stunning young woman; I love snuggling with her at any time of the day.  She has always loved baking and creating in the kitchen and now her "concoctions" are delicious Indian dinners that we can devour together. She is thoughtful and insightful, a champion for all kinds of inclusive causes. 

(Look at her beautiful tiny face)

Happy birthday my dear little one!  You are greatly loved and appreciated. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

School Bells are ringing...

My seniors!
As August draws to a close I’m celebrating not only the beautiful summer I had but the new school year that is upon us. The happy small faces filled our clean hallways last week on Backpack Night and you could feel their excitement. Hugs were tossed about like confetti, hellos and high fives passed up and down. They were ready to be back in their routines. Students were happy to announce all the books they read and I had about five former students stop by to say hi and get a quick hug.

Now we’ve had a full week back and it’s been the same excitement level as that first night. Students were thrilled to be in the library, checking out books, and seeing some changes. I purchased a large colorful story carpet from Scholastic, I’ve created a puzzle corner, and added an iPod/iPad corner so students can listen to podcasts. Our TedTalk Wednesdays will begin again next week. Lots to look forward to in the year. There’s a lot of fun mixed with important messages. Our school theme is “Adventure Awaits!” And my library theme is manners. We’ve already had one very telling conversation about cell phone use and how hard it is to get a parents’ attention away from their phone. We’re going to delve into all this deeper as we go about our regular library business. 

Our 5th and 6th graders are soon to begin a collaborative graphic novel project between the library and the art room. We are super excited to start this first time project and the students have no idea yet! Our graphic novel section is popular and I’m thrilled to be able to introduce this project to them. 
What has you excited for the coming year?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Democratic candidates

On Friday I was lucky enough to be able to go to Clear Lake's annual Democratic Wing Ding event which featured almost all of the 2020 hopefuls. We have a Mayor Pete staff member living with us and he encouraged me to go and I brought along two friends.

We spent two hours cheering for our candidate on the street in front of the famous Surf Ballroom.  While Elizabeth Warren's team was the largest and matching in a light sea breeze color t-shirt with some even sporting tutus to match other groups had fun vibes as well. Tulsi Gabbard had drumming and Hawaiian music from her stand, the #YangGang had their math signs, and the Mayor Pete group had an amazing high energy dance crew!  Delaney's group left us all with an unfortunate sadness as they kept driving their large bus up and down the street; waste of gas and energy! 

We have a lot of serious problems here starting with climate change, racial tension, and women's rights.

My favorites:

Mayor Pete - He just sounds so intelligent, self-assured, and knows we need to start over on many issues facing our country today.  We need different not the same old...
Plus he really, really enjoyed the heck out of our state fair! And Pete with Trevor Noah

Kristin Gillibrand - I appreciate that she's been a leader in getting things pushed forward in Washington. She's lead the fight for veterans, gun violence, women's rights, and human rights. I think she is feisty and interesting.

Steve Bullock - This guy reminds me of a Western Montana Kennedy! He was very real and positive about all the change he's been able to make in the RED state of Montana. He was enjoyable to listen to on stage.

Elizabeth Warren - I've liked her for years! She is intelligent, has a lot of history of getting things done, and would make a great president if elected as would everyone else on my list. I especially appreciate when she keeps it positive. I'm tired of people just reminding us how awful DT is; we already know that, really. We want you to tell us about what needs to be done differently in our country. Trevor Noah with Warren

Andrew Yang- he does make so much sense about money. Why are we spending so much money on Amazon and they pay no taxes?  Our downtown and mall stores are closing as we spend more money online and this affects our communities! It's kind of ridiculous. Andrew yang makes sense and I hope someone gives him a cabinet position. Andrew Yang on gun violence

I was not excited by Joe Biden who rambled, John Delaney -too full of himself, Joe Sestak, or Kamala Harris. I know I live in LaLa Land or a big let's get along bubble but I think these Democratic candidates need to get together, decide who is TRULY electable, pick a vice president from the group and then make everyone else (except for my list above) cabinet members/advisors. The good ones all have wonderful ideas and clear paths to getting things done.  Let's move forward by working together.

Who are your favorites? It's time to start looking at the candidates and find out more information. We love to caucus in Iowa but we need to be ready to pick the right candidate, the one who will excite the rest of you to get out and VOTE!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

How is it August already?

This summer is flying by...

Even when I was a young school girl I knew that as soon as August rolled around it wouldn't be long before school started again. I love summer.  I like to have equal time to relax and get things done in a very balanced summer way. This summer I've not had as much downtime as I would have liked. The one day I had time to lay in the hammock and read I broke the hammock trying to get Ruby the dog in with me! Luckily the crash was soft as the tree trunk timbered slowly down and didn't hit me.

I spent my birthday weekend with Groovy Girl, her BFF Katy and Katy's mom, Beth in St. Charles, IA for Hinterland Music Festival. We saw Hozier, Kacey Musgraves, Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile, The Wood Brothers, Jade Bird, Maggie Rogers, and St Paul and the Broken Bones just to literally name a few. I had so much fun listening to music under the sun and the moon.

We camped and thankfully it didn't rain. Camping in the rain is just not fun yet the weekend was super sunny and we all about suffered from heat stroke. Sunday afternoon we took a little break and headed into Winterset for a little lunch and a lot of air conditioning. We found a wonderful Mexican restaurant open and then found the Winterset Cidery where we relaxed with a flight of delicious ciders and a game of cards with the girls. Once we soaked up enough cool air we headed back to the festival to hear the last 4 musical acts. Maggie and Brandi were the last two singers and they were both amazing performers. Brandi is a natural storyteller and I love how she openly shares about her family.

I've had two teacher-librarian meetings this week and have a bunch of projects to work on before school begins.  I'm going to have to cut out my summer naps from now on I guess. I still have a lot of books on my to-read stack (but really - who am I kidding-that stack grows more than it dwindles!)

Happy last weeks of summer..

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Wish you were here...

Right now in my kitchen. I'm making lemon poppyseed muffins and I just made a batch of cold brew. The smell is pretty great! I'm listening to India. Arie and the feeling in my kitchen right now is fairly groovy. I also have a wine glass of sparkling crisp apple cider (Loon Juice from 4 Daughters Winery).  It's been a good day.

All the above recipes are from Cookie + Kate, a vegetarian blog that I keep bumping into and finding amazing recipes there. Find the cold brew tutorial and the lemon poppyseed muffin recipes and then poke around her website to find many more delicious things to make!  Her videos and her writing are very professional yet fun. I can feel her personality come through and would love to share a muffin and some cold brew with her on this lovely summer afternoon.

I made myself a very Iowa, summer friendly-brunch this morning and ate it while listening to a tech presentation. That is a (very) fresh egg on sourdough toast with goat cheese and spinach and yes, an ear of corn.

I'm participating in an online tech conference-Teach with Tech Conference 2019 and I love it. I can watch in real time FB videos and comment and ask questions all in my summer pajamas. I can also go back later and re-watch something I've missed. I've learned more about Google, FlipGrid, Bee-Bots, Teaching with Tolerance standard ideas so relevant for today, and how to use Google Earth and Maps to connect my students to the world they live in. It was not expensive ($30) for three days and I have access to the videos for a year. My favorite so far was Gary Gray, a teacher in Singapore at an international school who spoke on using technology to teach social justice. He was an out-of-the-box presenter and I'm sure his students love him.  He has a new YouTube channel-check him out.

Yesterday I drove to Kalona, Iowa en route to Fairfield, IA to meet my husband for an Indian dinner.  Kalona is known for it's creamery and I needed a driving break so I went in and browsed. I ended up with a "calf-sized" ice cream cone of vanilla swirled with expresso and caramel. It was amazing-the creamiest ice cream I've had for years.  It was worth the trip- so was the Indian restaurant.

On a funny note; this morning while reading in my favorite hammock (taking a break from the tech presentations) I tried to pull my dog Ruby in with me and the tree snapped and Ruby and I (pretty gently) landed on the ground.  That is my knee, the tree stump we had it tied to, and the corner of the hammock. Luckily I was not injured in the fall. 
I'm still reading Aru Shah, Brene Brown, Eat to Beat Disease, and Sharon Draper's Blended.

That's all the news from here.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

What a crazy summer!

This feels like the middle of summer; it's hot and the sweet corn is up and being sold on street corners all over the Cedar Valley. I've packed in a lot over the summer but I need a few more slow days reading in the hammock (when it's not a 100 degrees out) and relaxing with friends.  It's been so busy writing hasn't happened as much as I like; I dream up blog posts but they stay there in my mind.

I did make a big batch of yogurt at the beginning of July. Delicious and creamy, mixed with fruit preserves and pumpkin butter it is the best start to my day. When I make it I don't use the cream in the recipe-I just used good quality, local 1% milk. I recently found a easy (two ingredient) coconut yogurt recipe from Minimalist Baker that I want to try for my dairy-free Groovy Girl.

My husband and daughter have been very busy with our summer musical production of Beauty and the Beast. She's had a great time as an ensemble character; she dances, she plays a wolf, Maria, the baker's wife, and a townsperson.  It has been quite a run, with sold out performances, and today the run is done so life might be a tiny bit quieter. (maybe)

I have made it to yoga more than a handful of times which was on my summer plan. I've recently read several articles talking about the importance of meditation on our brain.  It's a matter of settling our brain from 5-50 minutes; the more we let it rest, the better our mind functions. It makes sense of course just like sleep for our bodies. I've added that to my day even if it is just 5 minutes of quiet breathing in the car before I get out.

I've read quite a few great books already and I still have a full basket to go. Every summer I bring home a crate of books to read. Some are books that students loved and it's my turn to try them and some are books I read to pre-choose the Iowa Children's Choice Awards. I love doing this as I like to make sure there are a lot of well-rounded choices; books with diversity, books that take kids out of their small-town Iowa world, books that expand their minds, books that tell amazing stories.  I've read a few that fit this description:

1. Amina's Voice by Hena Khan - As a Pakistani-Muslim girl in American Amina struggles to mix her family's culture while blending in at school. Luckily she does have one true friend in Soojin who seems more adept at understanding people.  This is a rich story filled with family, food, and new beginnings but also devastating vandalism of her beloved mosque.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is from her brother Mustafa - "It's just so freaking unfair. What kind of person would want to destroy a place where people gather to pray and learn?"  My thoughts exactly.

2. Bob by Wendy Mass - This story is a bit of magical realism more than fantasy to me. Livy and her mom come back to visit her grandmother in Australia 5 years after their last visit. When Livy explores her mother's old room and the room she stayed in when she was little she finds a young greenish creature named Bob in her closet.  Bob remembers everything from her last visit but Livy struggles with these same memories. She makes it her duty to figure out how to get Bob home (wherever that might be?) while her mother is off visiting old friends for a week.  I had trouble getting into this story yet I liked the conclusion of Bob's story.

3. Merci Suarez changes gears by Meg Medina - This excellent title won the Newberry medal this year!  This story resonates with her family's rich family culture as Merci navigates her private school surroundings as a scholarship culture. Eventually she learns that if she stays true to herself all will work out. Her grandfather plays a large role in her life and his world is changing as he ages and this affects the whole family as they learn to deal with his aging mind.

4. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed - Amal lives in Pakistan with her family and she loves going to school and being in her village. Her only dream is to become a teacher. One day she has a heated encounter with her village's horrible landlord and her dreams are quickly disrupted as she learns what it means to have an enemy. I loved this story and learned a great deal about Pakistani culture. I hope she is working on a second book of Amal so we can see if she realizes her dreams.

5. Aru Shah and the end of time by Roshani Chokshi - I'm only about 5 chapters in but am in love with this fast-paced fantasy book about spunky Aru who has awakened a demon in her mom's Indian museum.  This is one from Rick Riordan's new imprint and it is excellent.

I've also read Helen Hoang's two books; perfect, quick summer reads and sexy-not for the prudish. These are modern day romance novels even though the covers do not feature bodice-ripping of any kind. I like the characters which feature people on the autism spectrum. I read this fantastic Washington Post article about Hoang and her desire to write romance novels.  Very sweet, super sexy, and I will read every book she puts out...

How is your summer?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy July!

I'm not a fan of our flag yet I am a happy to have the right to voice my opinions about our country and it's love of symbols. While I'm spouting off about unpopular concepts I am also not a fan of fireworks-especially the kind sold in every parking lot across America leading up to this holiday. They are loud and intrusive and dangerous.

I didn't come here just to complain about holidays though; I thought I'd share some of my top books. Litsy, the book site I play with other than Goodreads, has a thing right now to post your top reads from January to June and these are mine. All excellent reads if you are in need of a new summer title.

I've had some time to enjoy real summer days after my trip to Colorado and yesterday I spent a couple hours reading on our patio. I also was in my pajamas until about 1pm. It rocked. I even had a friend show up with lunch and a cold coffee brew and I stayed in my pajamas.  It's a joy to unwind and take a break. I am taking one class right now about gender and while it is a lot of work to type out the papers I am enjoying the readings that go with the class.  

Take it easy today, remember what our country should stand for and that it has been GREAT for many, many years and spend time with family and friends. Be careful with your fireworks and be kind to the environment~it's the only one we have. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Summer Vacation

{miles and miles of gorgeous forest}

I flew to Colorado last week. I've not flown for years and it always freaks me out a little bit when we take-off, while we fly though, and when we land.  The only part I love is how quickly I get there-that always amazes me! Last summer Groovy Girl and I drove to Denver and it takes us two days, flying, of course, took an hour and 1/2.  Big difference of time yet you do miss all the cool stuff along the way. 

We spent two days in Denver, hanging with my brother and his family. I especially loved just sitting on the patio soaking up the warm Colorado sun. We visited Odell's Brewery and a fresh Mexican restaurant called Lola.  And then after our down time in Denver we headed to Estes Park, one of the gateways to Rocky Mountain National Park. While in the park I saw a very large male moose with a huge rack, several elk, and a baby brown bear. We hiked to Alberta Falls which was a long walk up and luckily we found a shortcut back down. There is something about the fierce rushing water sounds that makes me feel small.  I also love to dream about the first people to come upon something as beautiful as this falls for the very first time. The trails were packed with many other humans and while I'm glad the park is being used it would be so cool to be there by yourself.

We headed to Castle Pines after Estes to stay with Janice and Dean for a night. We ate at Duke's and took a drive to see a whole herd of bison and their babies. The next day we spent the morning sitting out on the porch watching a hummingbird flit back and forth. They've had a mama bear and three cubs roaming nearby and actually captured footage on their animal cam.  This morning Janice let me know that the mother and one of the babies had been shot and killed by a local resident. Why are you up at 1am shooting at a mama bear? I am just sickened by the thought of this on so many levels. Why would you not just call animal control?  I can't get the video to transfer to my laptop so you can see the bear video. I'll keep trying and share another time. 

It was a great trip! I love being in the mountains, I love the view. Blessings to all.