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.