Wednesday, October 13, 2021

My feet are cold and I need a cup of tea

 I'm under the weather as temperatures change here. I have the bare essence of a cold. My ears itch, my chest is a little raw, and I'm blowing my nose like crazy. In the midst of  a pandemic being sick takes on new meaning. I sneeze at work at my students look at me like "ewww" and I wear a mask most every moment at school. 

I take a wide array of cold remedies; most of them are on the natural side. At the first hint of something coming on I start with the Emergen-C packets in a glass of water and I take regular vitamin C by tablet as well. My friend Jen turned me on to Gypsy Cold Care Tea years ago and I still use it religiously.  For some reason I now have to order it online because many stores just don't carry it. No idea why. I also have NutriBiotic GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) liquid concentrate which I take by squeezing 8-10 drops into a small glass of water. While I do use all these very natural remedies I also use Vick's VapoRub all the time. I can't help it because it works for me. I do love a good hot bath when I'm not feeling well. I know even without testing that I don't have Covid because when I had it last winter I was so, so tired all the time. 

I did get an amazing amount of reading done last weekend just because I had a sleepless night on Friday so I read The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave-it was so good! I read until 11pm (late for me) and then I tried to sleep but was still awake at 12:30 so I read a little more and that's kind of how the rest of the night went. I really enjoyed the mystery and Hannah Hall and Bailey's relationship as they started to work together.


Now I'm furiously reading Dear Pink written by Michelle Angelle so that I can begin the next in (maybe) a series with connecting characters. Until Next Year just came out and both books are fun, romance novels with sexy main characters!


Stay healthy out there and happy reading.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Farewell to September

 I can’t believe October begins tomorrow. Summer is my favorite weather season because I like the heat of the sun, the warm days on a boat or patio, and easy summer foods and beverages.  Many people love all that about Fall; the pumpkin spiced everything, the sweaters, the leaves falling. We’ve had amazing weather throughout September and I hope October brings more of the same. Truthfully all the seasons provide something to love but when we veer towards winter I dread feeling chilled all the time. As with every month I’ve done a fair amount of cooking and reading this last week. Right now I'm enjoying Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, the 2nd in the series. 

Last weekend I cleaned up an area of my living room and went through a stack of books. Weird right, that I would have a stack of books sitting right on the floor in any of the rooms in my house? As I sorted this particular stack of books I found a note from a friend inside the front cover that said “I’m going to want this one back” which is code for “this was very good!” so I promptly started to read it. 

The Plot was amazingly good and written by Jean Hanff Korelitz, an author I was completely unaware of until now. I read the book in 4 days and while it has some creepy moments it isn’t over the top because I can’t handle scary. It has great plot twists and interesting characters. Now I want to read other stories by this author. She is a playwright and started an online book group, Book the Writer, that pairs authors with readers. Check out the EventBrite page to see upcoming authors. I would love to sit in on one of these sessions even though technical they all take place in NYC apartments. (After browsing the list I signed up for the online group with Jhumpa Lahiri and her new book Wherabouts.  I'll have to check if the library has a copy as I made a promise to myself about book buying after I moved that stack of books from one spot to another. 

{Half-Baked Harvest image}

Sometimes my brain works overtime and I try to prepare something for book club that relates to the book we read. This is not always easy but reading Anxious People by Fredrik Backman the food question was very clear. The characters all eat pizza together in the apartment with the bank robber/kidnapper and so I made Roasted Mushroom Kale Pizza from Half-Baked Harvest and it was delicious. There were no leftovers. Last night I made Roasted Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna and it is amazing. We had it for dinner tonight with a salad and we had to force ourselves to stop picking at what remained in the pan. Two pieces is plenty...but oh, so good! I do want to make her Vanilla Chai Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew soon as well...I mean tomorrow is October after all. 


Now I'm off to do a little bedtime yoga with Adriene and get myself mentally prepared for Friday. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Reasons for happiness

{NPR-Source}
On Monday we will start back to school with everyone masked up again and I couldn't be happier! I really dislike wearing a mask; it makes it hard to hear students and hard for me to read books aloud to students. You miss the emotions, the smiles, the glee. You can see joy in their eyes but I miss my students faces; all 650+ of them! On the other hand it will keep us safe from the virus (and other germs) which is important because we have young students who don't have the opportunity to get vaccinated. We have kindergarten students missing school because of positive Covid tests or due to exposure. I don't want to get sick and I don't want our students to get sick or miss school either. I know there will be complaints but bear with us. This too shall pass-eventually!


I recently had a chat with another teacher during a staff breakfast and she relayed that she was going to be away from school for over a week for surgery. She leaned in and asked me if I'd read any good books lately? Why of course I have! I love the start of a good book conversation and she took my two book recommendations with a smile on her face. I'm sure her foot surgery won't be fun but I do know she'll be set up with good reading material. What did I recommend? Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly And Lisa See's The Island of Sea Women


Over the weekend I've had a chance to really relax with nothing major on my agenda. I had a good talk with my mother-in-law. My husband and I strolled through our local Farmers' Market on Saturday morning, I read Six of Crows in my bright orange hammock for over an hour while listening to the chickens cluck around me. I watched a little Netflix after the sun went down. I did an hour's worth of yoga. Today I'm about to embark on a long walk with my dogs. I feel like some weekends we go non-stop but this kind of weekend really helps me settle. What's on your agenda?

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

What is your love language?

We are living in a rough environment right now. So much that surrounds are daily life are colliding. Emotions, government, lifestyles, masks/vaccinations, climate developments. I've discovered that when I'm struggling emotionally I connect with food. I've made a wide variety of recipes the last few weeks. And then I'll completely stop making food and just eat snacks for dinner; cheese, crackers, and a cluster of grapes. It's back and forth. For awhile I was really focused on my at home yoga practice with Adriene but I've slacked off - like way off. I haven't done a lick of yoga throughout September except this morning. I was awake too early and decided to spend some of that time blinking my eyes open and reconnecting to my mat. It felt great and I know I can get back on track but I still feel a bit off kilter. I'm going to make the promise to show up though and as she's says that's what's important. 

(Buffalo Chickpea Salad)

Here's a smattering of what I've cooked to connect to myself. I made this  Quinoa Enchilada Bake after I discovered Jamie and her Dishing out Health on Instagram. I've made several of her recipes now and love every one. Many are vegan or can easily be with minimal switches. I made this Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup to split with Tristan and my husband "accidentally" had a bowl after work and loved it.  I made this Buffalo Chickpea Salad with Yogurt Ranch Dressing  which was so easy and packed a little heat! And to combat allergies and the cooler Fall weather I made this Immunity Boosting Tumeric Chicken Soup because I had leftovers from an farm-raised chicken.

And because I love dessert I made this Easy S'mores Dip to share with friends. It was amazing and days later I was still scraping chocolate and toasted marshmallows crusts from my Lodge skillet. Last night after a meeting I came home and made this easy brownie recipe to share at school for a teacher friend's birthday. Just for fun I added chopped up marshmallows and broiled the pan for just about 5 minutes. The brownies were dense and delicious all on their own but the browned marshmallows added extra birthday zing! This recipe truly was easy and I'll make it again when in a pinch for a chocolate treat. 

This is the love I share with my family and friends. I feed them. It's an old tradition that stems from my grandmother who loved to offer visitors a meal or at least a sandwich!  I just finished the very quirky Anxious People by Fredrik Backman which I loved even after a rocky start. And I'm trying to spend as much time outside as I possible can to soak up the wonderful weather before it gets too cold. Recently I was lucky enough to connect with my dearest friend, Verda, and we walked her dogs, shopped at crafty local stores, ate good food, and talked about the world. I guess maybe my recent blue period is because I want that to be my every day. I love teaching and connecting with students but I'm constantly worried about getting sick. Even though I know I'm in a much safer category after having Covid and getting vaccinated but it is still a major worry. 

"Find what feels good" ~Adriene and try and remain calm - this is my new mantra. Say it with me...

Monday, August 30, 2021

Summer Books

 I've read a ton this summer and I want to share these titles with you so you can read them also. All of these are perfect for upper elementary and middle school except for the last one on my list. All are worth a read even as an adult. Pick your topic and find them at a library near you. 

The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm: Life on Mars as told by Bell, an orphan growing up on this solitary space station. America is at war with other nations over Antarctica and even on Mars the U.S. team is not speaking to the other settlements (so like American) and the kids save the day. 


A Whale of the Wild by Rosanne Parry: Told from the point of view of Vega, an Orca Whale, as she shares her life journey with her extended Orca pod. Deals with environmental changes that affect our water, climate change, family relations, and a darkly humorous insight into humans.

Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim: Yumi wants to perform and finds her way to a comedy camp through a hilarious mix-up. Her parents want her to study hard for a scholarship as they try to safe their restaurant. Great friendship and family story about what really matters. 

Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander: A novel in verse mixed with prose takes us through Cassius Clay's early life. He is a peace activist hero of mine and I loved this story. This is an important but quick read. 

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson: ZJ lives with his parents as they begin to navigate his father's head trauma from playing professional football. It's very difficult to see your hero become angry and confused by every day life with no answers from the medical world. Made me cry and wonder why we don't just play flag football at all levels!

The Amelia Six by Kristin L. Gray: Fun mystery that takes place in Amelia Earhart's childhood home. I learned a lot about Amelia and her flying career as the girls uncover an unusual plot to steal the aviator's favorite goggles. 

The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy: Rahul Kampoor, a gay Indian American boy, growing up in the Midwest and is anxious about the upcoming school year. He takes his grandfather's advice to be good at just  one thing...but what if he can't find anything to be good at. I loved the multigenerational story, the characters were outstanding, and was emotional in love with his struggle. Most of us understand this struggle. 

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley: I think I've already said multiple times how much I loved Boulley's story; a family mystery set on a reservation in Michigan. Drug use, FBI informants, romance, athletes, all mixed with Native lore and traditions made this my favorite summer read. This one is for young adults. 

Summer may be waning but there is still plenty of time to find your hammock and read any one of these fabulous books. 



Sunday, August 29, 2021

If I was in charge of the world rant


 I’ve always loved this poem by celebrated author Judith Viorst and I recently found an old copy clipped from a magazine that I'd stuck away long ago. 

If I were in charge of the world
    by Judith Viorst

If I were in charge of the world
I'd cancel oatmeal,
Monday mornings,
Allergy shots, and also
Sarah Steinberg.

If I were in charge of the world 
There’d be brighter night lights,
Healthier hamsters, and 
Basketball baskets 48 inches lower.

If I were in charge of the world
You wouldn't have lonely. 
You wouldn't have clean.
You wouldn't have bedtimes,
Or "Don't punch your sister."
You wouldn't even have sisters.

If I were in charge of the world
A chocolate sundae with whipped 
    cream and nuts
    would be a vegetable.
All 007 movies would be G.
And a person who sometimes forgot to brush.
And sometimes forgot to flush,
Would still be allowed to be 
In charge of the world.

I love the child’s perspective but as I read it over several times the day I discovered it in an old notebook of mine I couldn’t help but reflect on how I see it now because I'm taking in all the news of the world and struggling with it. I'm thankful to have a Democratic president in the WH and he makes mistakes but right now there is an overwhelming amount of terribleness happening even beyond Covid-19. Here's my version; not as much fun yet it fits all my worries in just as Viorst's young character has his list of annoyances. 

If I were in charge of the world 

If I were in charge of the world
we would have never gone to Afghanistan in the first place
But because we did invade I certainly would have pulled Afghan families 
who helped us out of the country first, we owe them a safe place to live.

If I were in charge of the world
I would help Haiti, the tiny island country
That the French and Americans historically have ravaged
I would write a decree that these two wealthy nations would
build a workable infrastructure that will withstand the weather.
The Haitian people should build alongside us at living wages so they might prosper
And have a real chance to recover. 

If I were in charge of the world
Marijuana charges would be dropped and factory farms would be shuttered forever. 
Real farms would thrive and high fructose corn syrup would be a distant memory.
Higher education and health insurance would be affordable for all. 

If I were in charge of the world
Donald Trump would be already in prison for tax evasion,
inciting the insurrection on January 6th, and
for mocking the  pandemic and wearing a mask.
A health crisis that could have been a means to unite us
turned into a political shit storm.

Raging fires and massive storms
too many to count. Climate change
Maybe Greta Thunberg would be my #1
If I were in charge of the world
I wouldn't be able to stop or fix all of these things
but I'd have empathy, I'd listen and try to help as much as possible
with new solutions and out-of-the-box thinking.

The end (but literally the list could go on and on)

As a highly empathetic person it is hard to bear everything in the world today. And I'm back in school which is wonderful on one side-great to see all the students but also worried for outbreaks with all of us together. Most students are not masked up and I didn't want to go back to school with a mask on but I am wearing it as much as possible to stay safe and model that we do hard things to keep others safe. The world is a mess and it is also filled with beauty. 

When I feel all of this I have to seek out my community of friends and I find my way to the mat with Adriene. My yoga quest continues and that all helps. So does cooking up a storm. I also imagined I left for Haiti one day...

August is ending. Maybe the softer temperatures of September will bring relief. 


 


Thursday, August 12, 2021

Natural Wonders


This summer I’ve been lucky to see a lot of natural beauty around me. I took a kayak day trip down a beautiful river with friends, looking up at gorgeous cliffs. And just yesterday I returned from 10 days on the road from Iowa to upstate New York and many cool places along the way. One of our first stops was South Bend, IN so I could check out Brain Lair Books and just to be in former Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s homeland. We had a delicious dinner there and then went onward across the country. Near Buffalo we veered over to see Niagara Falls for the first time. I’d only thought of this as a major tourist attraction and was delighted to behold the actual beauty of the water and the power it held. It roars over the edge but before that as you walk over the bridge you witness an almost ethereal blue color in the water. It was difficult to leave but the masses were starting to descend and we spent all of our vacation trying to keep ahead and away from the crowds.

We witnessed another amazing wonder at the Watkins Glen State Park in upstate New York. This gorge is a beautiful masterpiece carved into rock from erosion. The layers are striking as the waters rush through from up top. We hiked all the way up which took us behind two waterfalls and many, many wet steps up. It took us half the morning to climb up and then we spent the rest of the afternoon on a rental boat in the south side of Seneca Lake looking up at the rolling hills and waterfalls. Our trip out into the lake was cut short when a rainstorm rushed us back to the marina but we had fun tooling around on the boat and jumping into the chill lake in the time that we had. Some of our group went horseback riding into the hills and others traveled into the town of Corning to enjoy museums. Vacations are like that; there is something for everyone. Including wine slushees and Grateful Dead cover bands - thanks Hazlitt Vineyards.  We had a fantastic time exploring the great outdoors and when we had to go indoors  we masked up. 




Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Summer Pie is a gift

(Food52 Pie Crust)
Who doesn't love a delicious fresh baked pie? There are probably some who prefer cake but in our house we love pie. Especially rhubarb in any configuration. I set out to make just that recently and pulled out my mother-in-law Phyllis' pie crust recipe and realized I didn't have Crisco on hand so I Googled alternative choices and found Food52's vegan pie crust to be an almost exact match to Phyllis' but with coconut oil instead of Crisco. It went together easy and rolled out easy -win, win! My pie crusts, even using her recipe, have always been a little crumbly but something about the solid coconut oil helped my crust.  Now mind you mine is not as perfect as the picture above but I'm okay with that. 

The pie recipe I used came from Sweety Pies; an Uncommon collection of womanish observations with pie by Patty Pinner that I picked up from the book fair one year. Each pie recipe comes with a short story of history about the pie. Here is the recipe I used:

Miss Maude McCracken's Rhubarb Pie (103-104)

One 9-inch single layer pie crust; rimmed and crimped

1 1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose (use unbleached) flour 

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp grated orange rind

1/4 cup orange juice

2 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

4 cups trimmed red rhubarb stalks, sliced 1 inch thick

Crumb Topping

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

Makes one 9-inch pie

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare the crust and set aside.

Combine the sugar, flour, and cloves in a medium sized saucepan and whisk until well blended. Stir in the orange zest and juice, and the butter. Cook over low heat stirring, until thickened and bubbly, then add the rhubarb. Stir to coat the rhubarb, then remove from the heat and spoon the filling into the crust. Place in the oven and bake until the rhubarb is tender and the juices bubble, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the crumb topping. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, work it into the dry mixture until pea-sized crumbs form. 

Take the pie out of the oven and sprinkle evenly with the topping. Return to the oven and bake until the topping is golden brown, 10-15 minutes longer. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.  

{My pie}

You could serve it with a dollop of whip cream or ice cream but honestly it doesn't need anything else. Because I'd made the crust vegan I decided it was an easy switch to make the filling vegan as well by substituting the butter for vegan butter. Also I did not have an orange on hand that day so I used lemon zest instead of orange and in the topping I used brown sugar instead of white sugar (I use Turbinado sugar for white). The pie tasted delicious and the rhubarb was particularly TART! Maybe because I pulled it so late in the season? It was super vibrant red and I couldn't let it go to waste. The recipe was easy as...well, pie! I liked it so much that I tried it again. I whipped the pie crust out and added  sliced fresh Georgia peaches to two cups of rhubarb. Groovy Girl suggested the combo. I've never had a peach / rhubarb pie but I think it's going to be delicious. I'm waiting for this second pie to come out of the oven as I type. 

We ate half of the first pie ourselves and then last Sunday I took the other half down to our son in Cedar Rapids -  the empath who chooses vegan bc he cares deeply about the earth and the animals that inhabit it with us and because of this I am pushed to try new (vegan) recipes. He liked the pie. And it was good to sit for more than a minute to eat pie with him as we talked about life. When pie is shared you know the conversation is going to be relaxing and down-to-earth.  You don't rush through a piece of pie...

Other interesting recipe included in the Sweety Pie cookbook:

Carolyn Bennett's Grandmother's Key Lime Pie

Miss Claudette Cotton's White Potato Pie

Sister Curry's Orange Tang Pie

Mamie Short's Lemon Sponge Pie

Ava Joy's Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Sister Shirley Woods' Navy Bean Custard Pie

Miss Bradley's Cottage Cheese Pie

The list goes on and on and you get the idea. Let me know if you want to borrow the book...

I'm also reading the third GrishaVerse novel Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo as well as Neither Wolf nor Dog: on forgotten roads with an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn. 

Peace and love as we get ready to close out July and head right into my birthday month!