Sunday, November 19, 2023

Fall catch-all

I love fall recipes especially all things with butternut squash! I recently made a spicy butternut squash pasta recipe from the NY Times that was so good I made it twice in one week. As the weather changes we are always look for heartier dishes to warm us up. I'm in the middle of planning our upcoming Thursday meal which I now like to call our Un-Thanksgiving or our Grateful Day.  Growing up my family and Greg's family both celebrated the holiday with all the traditional fare and I used to help my mom prepare a turkey and all the sides but then we just stopped.  For many years I prepared other dishes we liked instead such as vegetable lasagna or food from India. The last few years I've made vegan Wild Rice Soup; that and some fresh hot bread from the oven makes a perfect meal. This year the only thing I have my heart set on is skin-on mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy. Otherwise I'm still searching for ideas. Tristan has two vegan pies, apple dutch and pecan, on order from New Pioneer Coop in Cedar Rapids.  

In between cooking I've read: 

Dry by Neal Shusterman because it is on a banned book list and I was curious. My first Shusterman book and I will read more.  (4 stars)

The Rachel Incident by Carolyn O'Donoghue because I heard it reviewed on a podcast. (4 stars)

We are called to Rise by Laura McBride because it showed up in my free library. (3 stars)

Fourth Wing  by Rebecca Yarros because two librarian friends highly recommended it and it was getting a LOT of attention.  I liked it and am happily waiting to read Iron Flame.  You should probably love high fantasy to enjoy this. (5 stars)

Fellowship Point by Alice Elliott Dark because it's our book club choice for November and I am enjoying it but I'm only half way through the 579 pages. (probably 4 stars)

There are a lot of good series to tuck into for fall: 

Everything Now on Netflix - Japhy and I discovered this and loved it. It's about a young girl's struggles with anorexia and a lot of high school drama but it's very real in it's depiction plus it takes place in London. 

All the Light We Cannot See limited series on NF- I loved the book and was looking forward to this. We have one more episode to watch. Mark Ruffalo is amazing as is the young daughter and the young German radio genius. The Nazis are all sufficiently creepy as hell.

Lessons in Chemistry on Apple TV - I loved the book and the series has not disappointed at all. It veers from the book but it is captivating. Brie Larson plays the great Elizabether Zott with zest. 

I've also made a habit of going to yoga a few times a week at Cota Studios and love practicing in person with other people after years of doing yoga alone with Adrienne in my upstairs studio.  Sam is a relaxed and knowledgeable instructor who brings calm and joy into the practice.  I really appreciate the gift of this studio in our community. 

Happy holiday however you celebrate. Do remember the real facts of this holiday in that those First People who came to the table in peace were later tricked through false treaties, tortured, and killed for who they were. Remember all that is going on in our world from sea to shining sea and that while we do have much to be grateful for we must think about how we can help and be empathetic and aware. 

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Austin City Limits

Two weekends ago Groovy Girl and I enjoyed the music, food, and weather of Austin, TX.  We had an amazing time together and are the perfect traveling companions. Japhy approached me last spring when the lineup was announced saying “wouldn’t this be fun!” And after looking into it more I took her up on the idea. We looked into tickets and found out you can split the payments up, we found a small Airbnb and the ball started to roll. A few weeks ago our wristbands arrived and it was a reality. 

We did have some travel glitches but it all worked out in the end even waiting until Saturday morning to get our luggage. I highly recommend flying Delta out of Minneapolis. 

We got in Friday afternoon after our initial delay and picked up our car via my Turo app directions. Have you tried this car borrowing system? I liked it for the most part. Once we had our 2022 Prius we headed for food and our AirBB before venturing off to Zilker Park.  Our first restaurant choice was not our best pick but it had a patio and the food was edible. Our AirBB was as pictured, small but tidy and enough for what we needed. 

Unfortunetly because our original flight was still in Minneapolis our luggage did not arrive with us so we had to journey to the festival with our travel clothes still on. Luckily we had on cool clothes because Austin weather was warm. A friend had pre-warned us that the walk would be long to get to the park and she was absolutely spot on.  And then when we got inside the larger-than-life park there was a lot to traverse to get to different stages, food, etc.  Our band line up was amazing:


The Moss at 5:15 which was pretty amazing to get there after traveling, eating, and checking in
Maggie Rogers right after and she was amazing-she owned that stage!
The Lumineers-also amazing to hear in person and a great way to end our first night
At the end of our night we found a Target so we could get toothbrushes and other essentials for the night. We knew we would be able to pick up our luggage back at the airport in the morning. We found an amazing Korean food truck across the street and had a fried tofu dish for a late night dinner.


We stopped at a VeraCruz, a taco shop that was highly rated and thus very busy but we wanted to eat before entering the gates.

Mt. Joy-Lovely band that I'd never heard of but loved. 
Tanya Tucker- to be honest we saw her so we would be in place for Noah Kahan (Japhy's favorite) and we ended up loving her sass and style.
Noah Kahan-He was definetely a headliner for Japhy and as a treat Mumford and Sons came out and played a song with him.
And then we listened to a bit of the Foo Fighters from afar (the crowd was huge) and headed home.


We found an amazing brunch spot, Another Broken Egg, and had fun sitting at the bar with my now 21-year-old daughter! She had a spiked cold brew comb and I had a Breakfast Blueberry Margarita and then we ordered delicious breakfast items including Smoked Salmon Benedict, cinnamon roll french toast, and a half order of beignets!

Corook- We were at the park much earlier this day and headed across the dirt to hear her sing and commune with her audience, she was very entertaining, funny, and relatable.
Suki Waterhouse-Daisy Jones and the Six keyboardist-she has an amazing voice
Hozier - So fantastic! We saw him at Hinterland a few years ago as well. 

We found a delicious ramen place for dinner that night after the show. We were pretty tired and happy to head home after warm, healing bowls of noodles.

Monday- We had a day of exploring vintage shops, boot stores, and boutiques and ended up at Meteor on Congress for an outstanding butternut squash pizza.  And then we were off to return our Prius and start the journey home.  It is an absolute wonder to have a daughter that makes such a great travel companion.  I feel blessed to have that relationship. I'm still missing my mom, my chest still aches from surgery but there is so many happy memories I've made over the last year and ACL will be one that I treasure as we continue on through the years. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Ribbons and things


What does everyone do with all the extra stuff in your life? I’ve read Marie Kondo and many articles about organizing. I read my Real Simple magazines. I still have lots of extra stuff that I want but in my creaky old house I don’t have walk in closets or basements with rows of shelving. 

I do have lots of amazing treasures though. Tonight I spent time emptying out a drawer (yes, just one drawer) of a three drawer antique dresser that lived in my grandmother’s home. The top drawer is where I’ve stuck ribbons, small jewelry boxes just waiting to be reused, and miniature photo albums filled with my children’s faces at varying stages. This year at Christmas I’m going to bring these little books out and everyone can have fun looking at how cute they were way back when. 

The ribbons from the box I twirled, organized, and wrapped up ready to be used again and again. They’re so shiny and pretty, reminding me of ballet shoes and extravagant gift boxes. Many of them gifted me a memory as I softly wrapped them around my fingers, like Verda’s cream cotton wrap that held together my last Christmas gift. Many were worth saving although I discarded a few ribbons that didn’t bring me joy anymore.  I’m capable of recycling and throwing away. After my mother died we sent many boxes to Goodwill. 

In the drawer I also found two letters from my dad that I will relocate to my “dad” box and this is how we make sense of it all. What stays and what goes. I spent the night sifting through memories, organizing a piece of my life. I’ll use the ribbons when I want something to be festive and I’ve made space as I cleaned out the clutter. Bit by bit I’ll get my life in order even without a walk-in closet. What do you save and what do you lose?

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Ten fabulous books

The last 10 books I've read are all memorable stories and should be read by everyone. Stories are so important and they should be celebrated not shoved aside, stuck in a back closet or banned.They should be read over and over again by people. Here's my awesome list:

1. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab: I heard about this first on the ReadHead podcast and it took me over a year to get to it.  I'm so happy I did. A young woman sells her soul to have a different life and  travel the world and eventually finds her purpose. It's an amazing story. I really wanted to travel with Addie. 

2. Starfish by Lisa Fipps: This story makes you understand why books are windows into another person's life. I gained such a deep understanding about Ellie's life and what it was like to be her as a she deals with bullies, friendship, and her own self image over her weight. This is a novel-in-verse and was a good emotional journey.

3. The Midnight Children by Dan Gemeinhart: An unusually dark tale from one of my favorite authors. You have unknown children living in a house across from you who arrived in a mysterious van late at night. Sounds thrilling!

4. In the Beautiful Country by Jane Kuo: Another novel-in-verse, windows looking into another world when we meet Anna who is so excited to move to America, the beautiful country, only to find out how difficult life is for an immigrant family struggling to make it work. Her parents' restaurant is failing, she is bullied at school, and she longs for the home and family they left behind.  

5. Thirst by Varsha Bajaj: This story takes place in India and gives us a real look at the difficult life of living in poverty in Mumbai.  When Minni's brothers witness a crime and her mother becomes too sick to work Minni must go to work for the wealthy family her mother takes care of and she sees what life is like on the other side. She sees running water from taps in the bathroom and kitchen instead of how she must wait in long lines to get water for her family.  This story shows a real look at how many people live in many countries.

6. The Turtle of Michigan by Naomi Shihab Nye: I read  The Turtle of Oman last. year and loved it. I researched more about the country of Oman and wanted to be there with Aref and Sidi, his grandfather as they navigate life on their own. Aref's parents are in the U.S. and this companion novel takes us on his journey to Ann Arbor. His immigrant experience is very positive, he attends an international school where everyone is from somewhere else and his neighbors are accepting and happy to meet Aref and his family. Lyrically written and perfect for all elementary students. 

7. Playing Through the Turnaround by Mylissa Larsen: Band nerds and misfits take on the local school board as they fight budget cuts that could take out their favorite school clubs. This is told through several different voices and each character is very unique. 

8. A Rover's Story by Jasmine Warga: This story tells the story of Resilence, a rover under construction to explore Mars. Told in alternating chapters between the scientist's daughter and the rover we have a better understanding of how emotional this journey into space is and how it affects those on earth.

9. Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon: Good little mystery by an Oberlin professor with a variety of stories that all come together in a twisted end. This story really kept me reading even though I didn't like any of the characters.

10. Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov: Fabulously well-paced novel about Sergey as he tends his bees, takes care of his home, and tries to make friends with the one neighbor left in his deserted village. During the original Ukraine-Russian conflict Sergey survives one day at a time. 

Enjoy these stories, read them, love them, get them from the library or buy them from a small independent bookstore. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

A tribe of women

I have an old theory about women’s friendships that I think still rings true for me. I think as women our friendships are strong in almost a superpower way. I think with some female friendships we almost fall in love with each other. There is an uncanny tie that binds us together. And some of us learn this early on and for others it takes awhile and during that in-between time we flounder and make mistakes. I was a late bloomer when it came to my early relationships and often made mistakes. I'm lucky I still have friends from that era in my life.  I'm happy to have such strong good friendships.

I've had such a good summer with friends. I've spent time hanging out over good food, beautiful settings, and happy times. I've missed my mom in a reminiscent way thinking "oh I should call her and tell her..." I've read books and watched several movies. The Barbie movie was a perfect springboard to good conversation and most women I know loved it for a variety of different reasons. It had a lot to say about connections and standing up for each other which comes to a halt when Ken takes over "Barbieland". It is such a funny movie and I think everyone should see it for pure enjoyment but also for the message. 

I'm about to head back to school (meetings) tomorrow and I feel grateful to have so many memories from this summer. Last year I spent a lot of time healing, walking slowly around the block, not getting into the water that I feel like I created a big splash this year! 

I finished The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue yesterday and loved it. Such great writing telling a really unique tale.  Otherwise I've read a lot of books for school. My favorite so far was Dan Gemeinhart's Midnight Children. 

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Summer Vacation

Growing up our family generally took a family vacation-a road trip in a van with my parents and three brothers. It wasn't always fun. When our three kids were younger we took them on vacation as well and there were also arguments. "Stop touching ME!" We heard that a lot and from all three at different times. 

Now they are all adults and we have no arguing; they work together and make compromises. They like each other more and there is less sarcasm all around. Thankfully. 

We recently took a long trip with all three kids to the West Coast. Greg, Japhy and I flew to Seattle. Tristan and Kaylee joined us in Portland. We traveled from there through Grant's Pass, Ashland, and continued on through the Pacific Coast Highway to Eureka. We stayed for three beautiful days surrounded by Redwoods. We all love adventure and we love to share good food so at the end of the trip we made a list of our favorite restaurants all along the way. I'm sharing our lists so if you are ever in these fabulous cities you will know a place or two to eat delicious food. 

Japhy: Bao Bao House (Eugene), Mai Kiin Thai (Seattle), Ma Mosa's for breakfast (Grant's Pass), and Geraldine's Counter for breakfast (Seattle)

Tristan: Cornbread Cafe (Eugene), Nosh Eatery (Florence, OR), and Ma Mosa's (Grant's Pass) As a vegan, Tristan was excited for this trip to be in communities where he could find a good variety of choices.  

Kaylee: Ma Mosa's, Screen Door - Southern Comfort food (Portland), Bao Bao House (Eugene), and Nosh Eatery (Florence)

Greg: Min Kiin Thai (Seattle), Cornbread Cafe (Eugene), Bayfront Restaurant (Eureka, CA), Screen Door (Portland)

Me: Cornbread Cafe -best vegan reuben and peanut butter cheesecake, Maa Kiin Thai, Ma Mosa's breakfast and the nearby Los Bagels, and Nosh Eatery - fish tacos caught locally.  

We did more than eat though: we browsed bookstores, we kayaked in the bay near Eureka thanks to HumBoats, we took a trail hike in Trillium Falls, we went to Cascades Raptor Center,  we went to the Globe Theatre in Ashland, OR, and took a Skywalk in the Redwoods surrounding the Sequoia Park Zoo.  It was an amazing trip! We thought about my mom a lot and knew she would have loved all the restaurants and adventures we had. 

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Quick Trips

Two weeks ago my husband and I headed south to Franklin, TN for his Uncle Bill’s funeral. It was an easy decision to go even though my husband was in the middle of a musical theatre production. We wanted to comfort and connect with his family. We stayed one night in St Louis and had the most amazing Indian cuisine at Tumeric and enjoyed strolling through the Washington University area before continuing our journey. The funeral was a two-day celebration with lots of family there to honor Bill. 

A week later he and I headed to Minneapolis to see Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. We had dinner in the North Loop’s Red Rabbit with Marv and Marcia, family friends who have always been a presence in my life. It was great to connect with them over a delicious meal. It’s a joy to have friends who loved both my mom and dad, to listen to stories because those are my last ties to hearing family history. 

The next  day Greg and I headed to a Minnesota Twins game at Target Field. We watched Joe Ryan pitch an amazing game against the Boston Red Sox. I was happy the Twins won. Greg, a Red Sox fan, was not! But he didn’t have long to mourn as we had another leg of our journey. 

Winona, MN is home to The Great River Shakespeare Theatre so we traveled the 2 1/2 hours south, checked in at a beautiful Airbnb right downtown and had just thirty minutes to spare before the show. My husband likes to get the most out of a trip!! The show was fantastic and the next morning after a quick stop for a coffee house breakfast burrito we started for home.


Thankfully he did most of the driving because I was trying to finish Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, our book club choice for July and I was completely engaged. It’s a near perfect tale set in the 1950’s - 60’s that explores women’s roles and relationships. Whatever traveling you might do I hope you have a good book, a good companion, and excellent food! 

Friday, June 2, 2023

School Days/Summer Days


The school year is over! Literally Thank God!  Tough year but also a wonderful year. Fantastic 6th graders I had to say good-bye to ( or really see you again) and some very tough cookies that I'm happy to move along to the next part of their educational journey. 

Summer is here and I'm so happy to have this new summer. Last year at this time I was still healing from surgery and it was a thrilling day to just walk up and down the driveway and then eventually around the block. It was a hard and happy time; this summer I'm ready to take that healing to a new level with lots of yoga, walking, and bike riding. I've also got plenty of days set aside for reading on my patio and meeting up with friends.

We are headed to the Redwood Forest this summer and I'm very exciting as this trip has been on my bucket list for a long time, yes since childhood! I have 6 days for open library time at Hansen this year. I love to see students coming through the door excited to find summer reading material. It's a joy and I didn't get to do it last summer. 

I will reminisce about sitting on the patio with my mom, playing cards with her time after time,  or taking her to Scoopski's for rhubarb crumble ice cream as I make my way through this summer but hopefully most will be happy thoughts and positive reflections. Some days it still seems so surreal.