Sunday, October 25, 2020

Basics of life

 We've been cooking, reading, and walking the dogs here. The weather has moved into cold Fall making it not as much fun to take lazy, long walks with the two beautiful pups that we love and I've spent more recent time reading than watching.

Groovy Girl was home for the weekend though and we did start a new Netflix series, The Queen's Gambit, which is quite good. It's about a young girl who becomes a chess prodigy during the 1950s. The costumes and the acting are so good and the story is very intriguing. Cuddling on the sofa with her is one of my favorite activities not matter the season. 

I did read an entire chapter book this weekend which is always exciting. I started The only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert during a free read time Friday at school.  The 6th grade class I was in were very book involved (yeah!) and I just pulled this one off the cart because no one picked it up.  I read three quick chapters and pretty much wished I could spend the rest of the day with it. I continued to read it on Friday night and finished it Saturday evening right before I started watching game 4 of the World Series.  What a good book! I started another small chapter book, Planet Omar: accidental trouble magnet by Zanib Mian which is perfect for young 3rd, 4th grade readers and features a Muslim family navigating a new town and school. 


And speaking of the World Series-what an amazing end to that game and Brett Phillips will always be remembered for his hit and the fun he had air-planing around the field. The game was good but became fantastic if you stuck around to the end. It reminds everyone why baseball is so joy-filled. 


In between watching and reading I've made some excellent food! Yes, excellent! Last week I made this Roasted Tomato Soup from How to feed a loon blog and I loved the flavor of late summer really ripe tomatoes and the fresh basil together. This fed me all week at school and we just finished up the last of it for a late dinner last night. My mother-in-law sent me this naan recipe and I made it yesterday afternoon on a whim. Didn't really have a plan for Indian food so we enjoyed the toasted naan with our leftover soup. It will be easy to make these again because the recipe pulled together and the dough had a good rise in about an hour. 

This morning for breakfast I whipped up this Cozy Turmeric Porridge from my favorite Minimalist Baker. A small bowl was so warming to my soul on this chilly morning and I have enough leftovers for the week. I did not have pomegranate seeds on hand but topped our bowls with a little Agave syrup, coconut milk, and cinnamon sprinkles. 

Before Groovy Girl arrived home on Thursday night she said she was excited to come home to eat vegetables!  Wow! How many teenagers say that!?! She says food is less than exciting (bland) and no good veggies at school so I made sure we had tons of good colorful vegetables in our fridge.  She loves sweet potatoes and when she saw me unpacking them she asked if we could make sweet potato fries. I used this recipe from Gimme Some Oven and they were delicious although not as crispy as I would have liked. This week I'm going to make this Pumpkin black bean soup (also from Minimalist Baker) and this Winter Roasted Vegetable Soup also from my mother-in-law. I love soup, it's versatile and gives me a warm yet light lunch at school. 

We are getting closer to the election and while I'm very anxious I also have to be filled with hope.  Make sure wherever you are that you go vote. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Road Trippers



Café Mir is a special restaurant run by two brothers in a very small town called Fertile, IA. My mom introduced me to it probably about 3-4 years ago when she lived near Clear Lake. She asked my husband and I to meet there for dinner then because she read about it and one of the brothers bought some of her fresh herbs at the farmers market. Back then we drove the 1 1/2 hours to get there and took a walk around a bit before our reservation. The backyard of Cafe Mir sits on the Winnebago River and with a bridge that crosses over to a park making it a lovely place to walk before or after dinner.  The restaurant is in a small storefront with the front and back rooms set aside for dining and the kitchen and host area lay in the middle. It's quaint with an eclectic vibe; mismatched napkins and china that all look like they were pulled from various grandmother's cabinets. The food is exquisite in this charming spot, making it worth the drive. It's a little expensive but worth it especially for a special occasion. Because of all this I was determined to make it there again for dinner before winter is upon us. 

(Charles City, Winnebago River view)

My husband is happy to plan day trips especially when beer is involved and I'm happy to ride along as long as there are patios.  Saturday was a gorgeous day, lots of sunshine, too much wind but we didn't blow away. We loaded the dogs into the car (patios are so perfect) and headed north to St Charles City Brewing Company where we shared a flight of beers and hard seltzers. A Filipino food truck was parked behind the brewery so we felt obliged to sample a plate of noodles and an egg roll which were delicious and a perfect snack to tide us over until our 6:30 reservation. We soaked up some sun at their outdoor picnic tables and then took a walk along the river before piling back in the car for our next destination. 

Another 30 minutes or so we took a back road into Osage, IA to find The Limestone Brewing Company on Main Street. This place was a little more crowded but luckily most people were hanging inside which left the outdoor tables to us. There were a ton of fat tire bikes leaning up and down the street with most of the owners inside swigging beer, listening to live music, and eating pizza. Outside there was an eggroll food truck and two long picnic tables.  While the patio situation was not the greatest at least we had a place outside because only staff were masked inside and the place was packed because the beer was good and there had been some major fat tire trail ride earlier in the day. We shared a flight here as well, bought two crowlers, and headed back to the highway.

These two stops broke up the drive perfectly and we arrived at Café Mir 30 minutes before our reservation. Unfortunately the weather had taken a turn and it was pretty chilly walking the dogs around the park. It was toasty inside, the place was bustling, the tables were widely-spaced, staff wore masks, and I wore a mask it still seemed like the virus was a thing of the past for most others. I'm not of that mindset but I also have to live a little before we get totally locked down by the weather. I hope you did something thrilling with your weekend as well. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Time Travel


I feel like I'm time traveling through the month at light speed, forward motion on zoom.  We've been lucky to have Groovy Girl home the last two weekends. We've hiked in the Fall leaves, we've eaten amazing food and cuddled.  Her coming home from college at first was like "hmmm, should we fist bump and call it good?" but now we throw caution to the wind, trusting that we've all been safe during the week, so that we may cuddle on the sofa together to hang out. She and I are "cuddlers", we love to share a blanket, the sofa, anywhere where we can snuggle close and breathe each other in.  She is really good about wearing a mask in her daily life and only goes to one class - ballet - in person (and they wear masks while dancing) with the rest of her classes meeting virtually so from the comfort of her dorm room. 


(source)

Last weekend when she was here I dreamed that I wanted cauliflower tacos and when I googled the recipe I found lots of choices. I had to weed through the recipes because she is allergic to tomatoes.  I found a recipe on Bon Appetit that is so FANTASTIC! I made them again this Friday night. We loved that it was vegan, that it needed no other toppings to make it delicious. We tried to add a little goat cheese and did not like the combined flavors as the taco flavor is so bold that it needs no other accompaniments. We did have some of our garden kale cut in to strips to add on and a little fresh baby greens and those two seemed to be fine additions to offer a little extra fresh crunch but otherwise these tacos are spot on perfect and have found a place in our permanent collection. The two sauces are easy to put together and I had everything already in my cupboards. If you are looking for a meat-free dish that comes together quickly this one will not disappoint. Groovy Girl ate 4 the first night we had them. 


I finished The Guest List and Wrong guy, Right room; both very good. I lost interest in the Guest List halfway through-felt like we really dipped down with sorrowful tales and back and forth memories but the last few chapters really redeemed the tale. Wrong guy, Right room was delightful. I'm now reading Greetings from Witness Protection! by Jake Burt for school; it is on our list for Iowa Children's Choice Awards this year and it's good. I'm still working on Untamed by Glennon and I need to review This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger, one of my favorite authors, for book club this month. After watching the Smithsonian's National Book Festival authors this year all online I am trying to read Marlon James' book Black Leopard, Red Wolf.  It's unique and I'm not sure I'll make it through it but he was interesting to listen to him talk. 



Did you watch the vice presidential debate? I'm super ready for this campaign to be over and a new administration to take office. Please have a peaceful week! 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Choice: Embrace the Possible


 Dr. Edith Eva Eger's memoir is a deep look into what it was like to live through extreme trauma and survive. At 16 Edith was sent to Auschwitz and was herded into one line with her sister and watched as her mother was pushed into another line, one of death. Edith and her sister Magda fight one minute, one hour, one day to make it through their ordeal together. In four parts, Prison, Escape, Freedom, and Healing, Dr. Eger's shares with us what her own experience was like as well as patients she has worked with who have been imprisoned in other ways. She lets her journey be the guiding force to helping others. I enjoyed her family story very much, as well as her work with patients. Several of the patient accounts made me cry.  It is always difficult to read first hand accounts of the Holocaust; the details overwhelming, and painful. I highly recommend her story and want everyone to read it. It's an critical reminder of how important our freedom is and that we should never take it for granted. 

I've discovered that I'm baking more these days and I think it is a stress-reliever. Baked goods for mental health! I made this delicious Czech breakfast cake one morning and shared it with friends and another day I woke up really early and made this French apple cake (Once upon a chef) for a trip to Iowa City to see Groovy Girl (Groovy College Student?). I will make both again. I've discovered a new little recipe spot on Bon Appetit called It's Just that Simple! It's like family recipes that they just talk you through as if they are telling you a recipe over coffee. I made the Desi Omelette one night for a quick dinner and a Korma recipe another night. It's my kind of easy recipe site-like I'm getting them from friends. 

(French Apple Cake)

Reading three books: Untamed by Glennon Doyle, my friend Angelle's book, Wrong guy, right room, a fun romance book-find it here on Amazon, and The Guest List by Lucy Foley.  



Be safe out there. Wear your mask. Stay positive. Do everything you can to get out the vote. Last night's debate was even more proof that our current leader is completely unstable. 


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: a national treasure

(Elle article)


We lost a national treasure this weekend and the loss will impact our lives for a long time. She's been on our minds for awhile now as she went in and out of the hospital, we feared for her with Covid + her own health issues. Over the years she kept working even though it must have been tough and painful - in this she is like our Black Panther hero Chadwick Boseman. I am sure that Ruth had a hero's welcome when she arrived at the gates of heaven. I'm still struggling with this loss and I think about her family and how they are feeling. We may see her as an icon for human rights but they've lost a mother and grandmother, a leader of 

During the very first part of the pandemic my husband and I caught up on some movies and series that we'd missed and one of them was the RBG documentary on Netflix. If you've not yet watched this take time to do watch or re-watch it to remind yourself of what an amazing person she was. We need her passing to light a fire in each of us to do whatever we can and then some more to first insure that our current leadership team not pick a new Supreme Court Justice until we've had a change in said  leadership. Fair is fair and they set the rules on this with President Obama and second insure that as many democrats win across our states, local races and presidential. We need to right the falling tower as quickly as possible. DT is not a president to everyone; he picks and chooses, ridicules, often siding with racists people and ideas. 

I don't know how to get through to people who really, really love him yet we can talk to our friends and neighbors who might be undecided about voting for Biden. Biden was low on my list as was Kamala but this race is vital in so many important ways and those of us that are strong, fervent Democrats need to help others see why it is so important to vote by mail or vote in person; just VOTE for the Democratic ticket. I cannot image another four more years of this man unleashing his own curriculum, his stance against all things science related, voting down everything that we've worked hard for like voting rights and women's rights. We need the Black Lives Matter movement to continue to make change all the way to the White House with someone ready to really help us find a more equitable future. We need our leaders to understand better what we are looking for in our police community; one of working with people without force, to see all people in need of help and understanding  Just like George Floyd became a catalyst for change so to should our grief over Ruth Bader Ginsburg propel us forward into serious  action. After all it is our country we are trying to save. 



My husband recently showed me a video of Trump supporters sharing why they believe Trump was sent by God to help the nation and it makes me wonder how we became so divided as a country. I grapple with understanding how a wide array of Christian people feel that Trump represents them. 

Find a way to stand up for our country and honor Justice Ginsburg with action. Refer back to my earlier voting post to find people to support with donations or volunteer time. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Groovy Girl turns 18...

 

(First trip to NYC)

which is a major celebration! This girl has been featured on this blog almost her entire life. I started Peaceful Reader when she was in kindergarten and now she is a freshman in college.  We celebrated this major birthday with dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant and there were gifts and delicious vegan desserts. She's not vegan but her brother is and everyone wants to share in birthday treats. Because I spent part of the weekend visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Deephaven, MN I had the opportunity to visit a cool vegan bakery/restaurant  Vegan East, and purchased a box full of treats to bring home. They have 3 locations and I stopped by the Uptown shop which took me through some familiar neighborhoods.  I passed by Lake Calhoun, Lake Street, and Hennepin Avenue, and my favorite Walker Art Center; all places I loved hanging around when I lived in Mpls/St. Paul.

She is enjoying her freshman year even with it's unusual Covid-19 restrictions. It's a long list of negatives yet she is making it work and smiling! G.G. and her roommate spend a lot of time in their room and luckily they don't seem to be getting on each other's last nerve, which is fantastic.  Most classes are on Zoom but she has  two dance classes that meet in big studios.  This is great as she is very used to being active and dance + Zoom is not a good combo. 

(Dad ride)

All of our children are unique and inspiring and Groovy Girl, as the baby of the family, brings a level of happiness that is often infectious. She gets very excited and we love her enthusiasm for life. She cares about the world, is empathetic toward others, and will continue to make a difference as she grows. I appreciate that she loves many different styles of food, can cook a great meal, and is willing to experiment with spices and sauces. I'm surviving the empty nest but only because she and I talk at least every other day. She texts me when she needs to talk and we FaceTime when we need to see each other.  Communication is so different now. My husband and I compared our experience of having one dorm phone on each floor!  We had to take turns so I talked to my parents maybe once a week if that.


(Groovy Girl now (r) w/ her roommate Laurel)

When I began this blog I didn't want to use her real name as it is unusual and over the years she has had readers call her "Groovy Girl" which made her feel a little like a blog celebrity. Even though she is a beautiful 18 as of last Saturday she will always be my Groovy Girl!  





Monday, September 7, 2020

September is really here

 and school has been in session for two weeks. No longer am I welcoming students into my amazing library space to talk about books, pick out books, and work on projects. Instead I am pushing my library around on a cart; books and computer riding with me. It is a weird year. Oh did I mention the masks, and face shield, hand sanitizer, wipes-those are all there also. 

Kids are happy to be together and most seem to be okay wearing masks everyday. I feel their strength in the idea that it's better to be together with a mask on than not.  We have one 5th grade student demonstrating irony to us every day with his "Trump 2020" black mask. IRONY. We are in this mess because of that guy. 

We were to stay positive with both students and staff. I did get more books in on Friday and so next week after school will be a little like Christmas as I unpack them and get them in to our system. 

This weekend I've done equal parts relaxing and getting things done around the house. The mess of life spirals so easily into piles on tables, mail clutter, laundry...so I worked to get that under control. I've also made lemon bars (recipe from my Baking Ill. cookbook), a butternut squash and kale soup, both produce from my garden, and an angel food cake recipe for my mom. She is struggling with some health issues and could use a more desserts in her life. 


I am mourning Chadwick Boseman like everyone else in the world. I marvel at his ability to continue to make amazing art while he was very sick. The resiliency of people amaze me. I started to watch the whole Captain America series on Disney so I could understand the story line and see where Black Panther connects up. I also watched the pilot for Lincoln Heights, one of the first shows he did. My husband and I watched a great love story, Always be my maybe with Ali Wong, on Netflix and we started a new show Away with Hilary Swank headed to Mars. We are looking forward to the new series Enola Holmes at the end of September. 

I haven't just been cooking and watching! I am reading The Choice; a memoir by Dr. Edith Eva Eger. My brother sent this to me over the summer and it's been on that stack of to-reads. Resiliency is the theme here today I guess. We are all going to make it through this one way or another. Let's get to November, VOTE, and then keep voting for the good candidates, the ones who can get it done like finding ways to end racist laws/practices and climate change. The list is long...

Peace

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Are we ready?

For school...

Yes and no. I'm excited to see all my student's faces even if behind a mask, I will be happy to hear their voices, and read with them. I am anxious though about teachers and staff getting sick, and the busy crazy schedule for classes. So many regulations and I plan to follow but during our week day on Friday I walked out of the library twice without a mask bc I was busy and thinking about next steps not Covid-19. I've been careful this summer.  I've worn a mask, limited my friend circle, had fun outdoor adventures, and I don't want all that careful time to change. I need to come to grips with staying safe inside school with lots of little bodies. It's going to be a year; unique and filled with joy. Plus my Groovy Girl will be gone having her own school adventure, also trying to stay safe and finding joy on her college campus. 

I recently finished two fantastic fiction books and as usually I still have stacks and stacks to read still. I never get all the books read that I bring home.  My stack this year took a hit because after George Floyd's murder I swerved off my regular reading and picked up lots of current books that had BLM as a theme which means I've read a lot of powerful books this summer and these two are no exception.


From the Desk of Zoe Washington (2020) by Janae Marks: Zoe finds a letter from her birth father on her 12th birthday and she opens it.  She's never met him and she has a stepdad and her mom who love her very much yet something is missing-so she opens the letter, reads it, and hides it. Inside the letter her dad sounds so nice and she didn't think a criminal, a murderer in fact, would sound so good. Zoe decides to investigate with her next door neighbor - friend  Trevor and the two set off on a quest to help her dad prove his case. This book brings up the idea that not everyone in prison is guilty and that sometimes people are convicted because it's easy. I hope Janae Marks writes a continuation because I would love to read more about Zoe and her adventures.


Prairie Lotus (2020) by Linda Sue Park: Wow! This historical fiction book blew my mind a little and I appreciate Park's writing and research. Park's was enamored with Laura Ingalls Wilder series Little House on the Prairie, reading them over and over.  It wasn't until later that she realized the racism that existed in the stories. Inspired to write her own version she sets her story in the Dakota Territories in 1800.  Hanna and her father are running away from her mother's memory in San Fransisco and end up in small town LaForge City. Hanna is half Chinese and knows how people feel about her. Everything from her father's attempt to open up a small dress shop to her ability to go to school with other children from the prairie are hindered by how people feel about her. The racist aggression she feels from townspeople is softened by the simple fact that some people do accept her and she makes a few friends and changes a few minds. 

My mantra this year will be Focus on the positive.  Keep reading, keep smiling.