Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Beautiful Books

I've struggled with getting back into writing over the last few months. I'm tired after school, I don't feel like I have much to say, or I can't think of what I wanted to say...

There is such a thing as surgery brain and I feel like I still have it. I've been reading some very good books and cooking a lot especially for tomorrow's family day. We are having a full vegan spread with Tristan and Japhy. I'm in the middle of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz which is so interesting.

Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2022)  : This was an intense story of competition and family connections. Carrie is a not some cute little tennis player that you adore. She's fierce and not interested in making friends on the tennis circuit or in life for that matter. I read this book awhile ago but Carrie has stayed with me. I loved Daisy Jones and the Six which had a different style but just as interesting. Reid goes all in for her characters.

This Must Be The Place by Maggie O'Farrell (2016): I just finished this for book club and enjoyed the story. O'Farrell wrote Hamnet which I loved and so we picked another one of her offerings. This story has a crazy amount of characters but the story of Daniel is well-told and traverses continents.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (1993): I've wanted to read this for quite awhile but I'd read a few reviews of how real this one was so I waited until I was in the right space. Election time seemed to be the perfect time! It freaked me out and I was fascinated with the main character Lauren and how right Butler was about the direction our American society has gone. I want to read the rest of the series when I have time.

Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley (2022): This was beautifully written but so glaringly real and heartbreaking. It's a tough story about Kiara and her brother Marcus who are trying to live their lives in East Oakland after their father's death and their mother's arrest after a terrible grief-driven crime. This story was hard to read but well-worth it as it shined a light on how deep the lack of privilege is for young women.

If you are in need of a good story any of these will do very well. This week I also found a beautiful Native story Keepunumuk; Weeachumn's Thanksgiving Story by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten. This is such a great story for understanding the real story of tomorrow's holiday celebration. I've decided we are going to forever more refer to it as our Harvest Festival. Enjoy...

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Fall Cooking

Two weekends ago I stayed with my mom while her husband traveled out of town. My goal is always to get her out and about which for her can be as simple as a drive thru coffee shop. On Saturday morning we did just that. She’s fallen in love with her local Scooters and it’s about the only choice in her small town. We picked up pumpkin spice lattes and two cinnamon rolls and  sat on her patio to bask in the sun. Because the day was so gorgeous we were able to stay out there for about two hours! We have to hold on to days like that as cold weather approaches. 

The next day our adventure was an Apples on the Avenue about 20 minutes north of her. Another day filled with sunshine but very windy. We were happy to enjoy the weather from inside the car. We picked up two bags of apples and headed home. I used some of those apples to make a delicious dessert to serve at two different events. I would make this again. And eat it again and again. I went to a small pre-Halloween party on Saturday night and we shared this with Grandmother's Sauce (recipe below) and then I served it again on Sunday when I made a birthday lunch for Kristin and Travis. I did give my mother some of the bread pudding as well to celebrate our Sunday outing.

Here is the Honey Apple Bread Pudding recipe by Melissa Clark on New York Times Recipes.  Hopefully you are able to click the link and look at the recipe. I know the whole subscription thing prevents this sometimes so I made a Google copy for you. I used a chunky French loaf instead of the Challah bread. I served delicious "Grandmother's Sauce" over the top and it took this recipe next level.  Also sometimes the sauce is perfect dipped on your finger straight out of the jar!

Grandmother's Sauce (from The Cottage; Casual Cuisine from Old La Jolla's Favorite Beachside Bungalow by Jane & Michael Stern)

2 cups whipping cream
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whip the cream in a large mixing bowl. In a medium bowl beat the egg with an electric mixer until thick and lemony colored. Gradually add the sugar, beating until thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Chill at least 1-2 hours so the sugar is fully dissolved. Makes 5 cups. 

I think you could substitute any fruit for the apples but at this time of the year the apples I picked up were tart and perfect in this dessert.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 14, 2022

The Lake

I love being near the water. Specifically lake water although I don't mind the ocean. I grew up in a family, with a dad, who loved boating. We spent many weekends out on the lake, water skiing or just relaxing with a book.  My dad was always the most relaxed  when he was out on the water. He could let all of his financial and newspaper troubles behind on the shore and take flight into a different world on the water.

Growing up in Minnesota we always lived near a lake and sometimes we took off to the Mississippi River and even once to Lake Superior. Our tiny speed boat on such a huge lake was uncomfortable but also exhilarating. The waves and the huge ships made for an exciting day. 

I don't live near the water anymore and I miss it. I take frequent trips back to Minnesota to experience that feeling again. My younger brother is now the boat master and we venture out on Lake Minnetonka every chance we get. The boat is out for the year but the memories of the summer trips get me through the winter months. The last boat ride of the season was just Jason and I and we had fun tooling around the lake until sunset. We spotted one loon before we headed back to the lift. There is something magical about being out there surrounded by water. I used to love water skiing and spent hours learning how to slalom when I lived in Okoboji. I did learn how to paddle two summers ago and while it is a workout it is  also soothing. I can feel the rhythm of the water as I glide gracefully (mostly) through the calmness.  Water is grace and joy to me. 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

What should I read next?

I have book stacks all over my house as many bookish people do. I use the library quite a bit but I also buy books; sometimes it's because I want to support an author or because multiple members of my family will enjoy the book as well. I am always able to grab a good book of my choice from random places around my house. I use ThriftBooks a lot because I don't care if some of my books are used and I subscribe to Book of the Month Club because I was craving a curated selection of new titles.  I am way behind in reading my book-of-the-month choices. because I have so many other books to keep up on. I read books for my elementary school library and I have a book club with friends that meets once a month. 

I thought this spring and summer I would read a ton of book from my TBR (to be read) stacks but I was caught up in reading a ton of elementary fiction for the Iowa Awards list.  And I read about 27 on their list for next year but that left little time for my own stacks. Right now I am reading Emma Straub's The Vacationeers because I read a review that said it was good - it is.  Next up I have Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley and A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham.  I bought Nightcrawling during the summer because I was interested in this author and I requested A Flicker...from the library because it was featured on the podcast The Readheads Book Club. It's almost (but not quite.) exhausting how many good authors and titles I can find.  What do your shelves look like? Any suggestions on what I should put on the top of my list?  Scan the stacks in the photos; is there a favorite I should read soon?  Advice? 

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Book Talks and a road trip...

 I finished two fabulous books this week both with stand up female characters. One book is an adult fiction, the other an elementary fiction and both celebrate a life worth living!

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry) is about a young woman, Aviva Grossman, who makes a mistake as a 20-year-old by flirting with the congressman she interns for one late night in the office. Even though he turns her down in the immediate he begins an affair with Aviva his intern and former neighbor. They are very private for a long time but one night after a car accident the affair comes out. This idea sounds so cliche like Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy but it is how Zevin changes the trajectory of this young Aviva as she reinvents herself. There is a comment on the back that says this is the best slut-shaming  book around. While it's frustrating to read the mess her life becomes because of this affair (an how his life continues on as a congressman) it is also powerful to see how she transforms that makes this book soar. I really want to read Zevin's new book Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow but the holds are long so I thought I would try another one of her books. Highly recommend. From the public library. (2017)

The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan (I'll be There & Counting by 7's) is the story of young headstrong Sila as she impatiently awaits her mother's return from Turkey. Her mother has been sent back to her home country to retrieve some mis-filed paperwork or risk deportation. She misses her mother a great deal but one day she meets an interesting man, a lottery winner who now owns a vast farm property. Her father is summoned to fix this older gentleman's broken down truck and an unlikely friendship forms between the three. The story takes a surprising twist when an elephant is rescued from a disbanding circus. All the feels for this delicious story of hope, friendship, and a need to make things right for those you love. I love all of Sloan's books. Highly recommend. From my school library. (2021)

In other exciting news I finished the first season of The Lincoln Lawyer and have embarked on the amazing journey of Extraordinary Attorney Woo, both on Netflix. When my husband and I are together in the same room for more than a few minutes we continue to catch up Only Murders in the Building on Hulu. 

Speaking of husbands we celebrated our 21st anniversary this weekend with a trip to Iowa City even though we were married in Galena, IL. I had a library meeting there (always great to talk books for three hours!  Before my meeting we enjoyed a delicious brunch at Goose Town in the Northside neighborhood. Our Groovy daughter works there and we had to try the amazing farm-to-table menu. On Sunday night we ate at ReUnion Brewery also very good especially the hand breaded and hot onion rings. We stayed at a the classically remodeled Highlander Hotel which was a supper club years ago and is enjoying a funky new life. Peace, love, and harmony baby!

Sunday, August 28, 2022

What a week!

School is back in session! And I’m exhausted! Physically tired but also happy tired. It was wonderful to see my students again and to realize once again why I teach. 

This weekend I had the time to really relax. I've taken two naps, read two books, and ordered take-out. I slept in and had hot chocolate with a friend. I brought my mother lunch and visited with her for a couple of hours. I have to be ready for the week ahead; the classes and the days are going to be longer. I have to be mentally prepared for that. 

Many students remembered why I was gone for part of last year and kindly asked about my surgery. I had a few students who just simply said "I'm glad you're back." It feels great to be safely back at school although it feels a little strange to be all together and not wearing masks. Two years in a row we've begun the year with masks on and while it feels great to be able to see and hear students it also feels a bit unhealthy. I know the virus is still around us and I wonder if we'll have a surge in cases as everyone bundles together over the next few weeks. 

I binge watched two shows this weekend while I was resting. The Lincoln Lawyer and Extraordinary Attorney Woo, both on Netflix, and both riveting to watch. Attorney Woo has subtitles so you have to be ready to pay attention but her character keeps you watching as a first year lawyer with autism. 

Taylor Jenkins Reid, one of my favorite authors, has a book about to be released and I finished it recently thanks to an early reader copy on NetGalley. Carrie Soto is Back is a fantastic book about sports, competition, and tennis but even if you're not into sports or tennis this book will keep you reading because Carrie Soto is a fascinating character. You can pre-order it anywhere right now.  

August is one of my favorite months because I love the heat of summer but it also ushers in school. One of the joys of living so close to school is that I can walk or bike to work giving me time outside so I come into school feeling refreshed. This year my husband helped me out by buying me a retro-looking electric bike! So while summer is winding down I'm tooling to school in style. 

Friday, August 12, 2022

Birthday dreams

 At the beginning of August I celebrated my 60th birthday in fine style! I started the festivities at my brother’s in Deephaven, MN. We went for brunch at Josefina’s in Wayzata, and a beautiful afternoon into evening boat ride with my brother, and my sister-in-law, and an old family friend. We had champagne on the boat. 🥂 During that week I also went on a hike with my stepsister Robin, out to dinner with my stepsister Autumn and spent the night drinking wine with Angela a college friend from St. Catherine’s. 

It’s like I turned 60 and want to get everything done! The day before my birthday I drove to Cedar Rapids and met my long time friend Barbara from Indiana and we had an airBB in the New Bohemian area. We had a simple meal of baked Brie and crusty bread with a delicious glass of white wine. And then we walked back to our place and went to bed and read!! On my birthday we got up, did some yoga (thank you Adriene) and went off to Brewhemia for coffee and breakfast. We shopped for  second hand clothes at The Daisy and had pedicures. Groovy Girl joined us partway through the day. That night I had dinner with the family at The QuarterBarrel where we can get amazing pizza that suits everyone and play arcade games like Ms Pac-Man (my favorite!!). 

You see what I mean by getting it ALL done. I’ve had several other dinners with friends, a zoom party with Angelle and Verda and spent the weekend at IrishFest listening to the talented and cute Boxing Banjos.

This is the year of YES! 

This coming weekend I’m headed north with three friends and we are stopping at one of my favorite farm to table restaurants Cafe Mir.

And school is on the horizon; I’ve already had two work meetings and more start next week. I’ve had a fabulous summer even factoring in the healing after surgery in June. I am filled with grace that I’ve survived and thrived through this experience. Huzzah! 

Thank you to my family and friends who’ve helped me through surgery, recovery, and celebrating by birthday in such fine style!! 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Looking for a good book

 I have five chapter book suggestions for young people that I've read myself this summer. With everything happening in the world around us it might be safest to stay home and read. There is plenty of summer left to enjoy a few more great chapter books! 

1. Maya and the Robot written by Eve. L Ewing (2021): A delightful tale of a forgotten robot that finds its way out of the closet and into Maya's life. She figures out how to get it to work just in time for the 5th grade science fair. This is a great story about friendship and overcoming fears of losing all that is familiar. It should be noted that the robot originally belonged to a young neighbor who was killed in a neighborhood shooting is touched on briefly. 

2. Stuntboy, in the Meantime by Jason Reynolds (2021): Portico Reeves has an amazing imagination and he protects those around him with his superpowers as he tries to deal with his parents arguments and impending divorce. Jason Reynolds has a gift of speaking the truth from a young person's opinion. Get a taste of Stuntboy as he reads the first chapter to you. 

3. Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca (2021): an #ownvoice novel in verse about a young Indian American girl whose life is forever changed when her mother is diagnosed with leukemia. Reha is working so hard to balance her Indian identity and traditions with her American school self~it is a lot to handle until the only thing that matters is her beloved mother. 

4. 365 Days to Alaska by Cathy Carr (2021): Eleven-year Rigel loves living in the wilderness of Alaska with her family so when she finds out her parents are divorcing and her mom is moving with the Rigel and her two sisters back to Connecticut to live with her mother, their grandmother she is mad. Getting used to suburb life compared to the wilds of Alaska is a difficult feat and it's hard to make friends and still feel like the strong nature-loving person that she is. This is a fantastic debut novel! Listen to Colby Sharp's review. 

5. The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga (2021): This one hurt my heart with everything happening right now with gun violence. Something needs to happen because it's scary for adults and children. This book, told in alternating chapters is about a school shooting. Parker, Quinn's older brother took a gun to school and killed Mabel, Cora's older sister as well as three other people. We learn this in details as Cora and Quinn, former best friends and neighbors don't talk anymore until Quinn comes up with a plan to go back in time to change what happens. This is a loving story about a frightening and all-too-common situation. How do the girls deal with their guilt, their grief over what happened and find a way to make peace with each other?  I cried at the end. This would make a great read aloud so key discussions could take place. 

I didn't read all day long, I also made some delicious food: 

I picked up two crates of peaches from the Tree-Ripe Fruit Company and they are so delicious as is but I succumbed this afternoon to take a few of the extra soft ones and make this Peach Crumble  from Pioneer Woman. It's bubbling in the oven right now. 

I made a wild mushroom risotto last week and had some leftover mushrooms to use up and even though it is blazing hot outside for Iowa I made soup: Hungarian Mushroom Soup - it is creamy and delicious and I know I will enjoy it with a slice of sourdough tonight for dinner. 

Sweet corn!  My husband brought home 6 ears of corn from one of the many pickup trucks around town and I shucked and boiled them in a little salted water and the flavor is the taste of summer for me. I could probably live on sweet corn and fresh peaches for at least the rest of July!  

Stay safe out there...