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!





Saturday, July 17, 2021

Storms

(The Patch)

What if today was the last day I saw my daughter? If she blew away or I blew away. Would she know how much I love her?

The dog sits on high alert trembling next to me. The sounds are shooting all around us. It's dark as dusk out even though it's only 4pm. 

I went down the wrong way on a one -way street last weekend and my mind keeps repeating this. Accidents happen so quickly.

I was hit once going through an intersection. T-boned they say, like the steak. Our Volkswagen Jetta station wagon tipped over and was pushed a foot or so up the street but the police issued me a ticket. They waited while I was in the emergency room. I'd just picked my daughter up from after school care at her school. She had blood on her arm and kept saying "It's my mommy's blood" after they pulled her out the back window. Scared and crying; "It's my mommy's blood" on repeat. 

Years pass. Has the storm passed? The dog is calmer listening to Alexa's piano selections. I refuse to turn on the television just to hear all the flashing weather reports. I can hear it outside. I refuse to go to the basement also although I did go down just to take the laundry out. There are no comfy spots to relax with the scared dog and the old dog so I'm upstairs in the family room. Listening to the rain come down hard and the wind blowing the trees on the side of the house. 

I was in another accident years ago in my 20s. It was dusk and an elderly man stopped confused by the red turn light even though he was in the lane with a green light. It was an icy Minnesota winter night and four cars behind him slide into each other, boom, boom, boom, boom on the bumpers. No one was hurt although I think the man's ego was severely bruised. 

Clear across town my daughter texts "on my way home" through the torrential rain and I think about the water rising on the roads and the teen drivers all leaving the water park. I would ask her to stay put but I know she is anxious to be home, here with me on the sofa with the dogs listening to piano muzak. 

I see my Prius in the dark driveway getting a free carwash. I'm still thinking about the tall trees that surround the house, most of the time like a protective forest but now like a timber ready to take us out. 

Driving doesn't look safe as I check the front window, water filling the roadway as cars swoosh their way through. 

What if today was the last day I saw my daughter? If she blew away or I blew away. Would she know how much I love her?

I recently read a stream-of-conscience novel and I wanted to try that style of writing as an experiment. We had heavy storms the other night with  49 tornadoes touching down in this area. I wrote this in the dark with a flashlight in the back of an old book because I didn’t want to disturb the shaking dog. Enjoy.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Bestseller Diverse Books for everyone


Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley  took my breath away. I was mesmerized by the young protagonist Daunis, her family & friends and simultaneously pulled into the romantic relationship with Jamie plus the mystery of drugs surfacing around the tribe. I have a deep respect for Native life and enjoyed all the history, traditions, and language that Boulley sprinkled generously throughout the story. I think this is an amazing debut by an author who had the idea at 18 and held on to that idea for many years. Bravo for this  book the world should read. I was very excited to hear that the Obamas are helping to launch this as a Netflix series. I would love for a second in the series to follow Daunis on the next part of her journey because I'd like to hang out with her more. I can see why Reese picked this as one of her club's summer reads.


The Other Black Girl written by Zakiya Dalila Harris is such a brilliant concept and because of that cool idea, which I will not share with you because it will ruin the surprises in store, it will make a fabulous series on Hulu.  What I don't understand is why an editor didn't correct some of the glaring issues? This book sold for a million dollars (literally WTF?) at auction. Everywhere I turn there are positive reviews except one that doesn't mention the actual writing as well.  Little discrepancies, changes in narration, unnecessary chapters that pop up, and so much extra description really surprised me. There are many good moments but I just couldn't wrap my head around why this book is getting so much attention. It's the idea that's interesting but the writing didn't follow through and I wanted to edit this and tie up a few loose ends. 

I read both books back to back and while one left me in awe the other left me scratching my head. Please read both and let me know your thoughts. 


Now I'm reading The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd for July book club and am enjoying the story of Eliza Lucas as she makes her way handling her father's plantations at a time when ladies were to be needlepointing not planting and cultivating.  She is a pioneer in many things she takes on in the 1700s including treating her father's enslaved people with consideration as she attempts to grow indigo to create dye using their expertise. 

Picked up more than a peck of peaches recently and in order to keep up I've shared and baked a little. These peach muffins from Inspired Taste are simple to make and delicious to eat. I made this peach crumble which was  perfect with a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  I hope everyone survived the 4th and are prepared to fully enjoy the rest of July because summer is cruising fast into ...(BTS) can't say it yet. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

It's flying by...

It's the last day of June which means tomorrow begins July.  Summer is what's flying by ... I am working hard on appreciating every day whether I'm alone working on homework, writing, reading, or cooking in my kitchen or if I'm hanging out with family it's all good. I just always want more...

While I was in Rochester a week or so ago my step-mother sent me home with a bag filled with really good chocolate chip cookies and we ate those, loved having them around for an easy snack or dessert. Then I had to make more...have I mentioned that we are working out a LOT this summer! And not just our arm muscles. I browsed through Jenny Rosenstrach's cookbook to find a recipe and decided to try this one switching out the candy for straight up chips.

M&M Cookies
Reprinted from Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach
Makes 24 cookies (I doubled it)

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup good-quality chocolate chips (such as Ghirardelli)
2 1.69-ounce bags M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. (from JR: It was somewhat life-changing when I found out whisking was just as effective as sifting, so that’s what I usually do.) In a separate bowl and using a wooden spoon or electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the egg and mix until well combined. Add the vanilla and stir. Using a handheld mixer, add the dry mixture to the wet mixture gradually until all the dry mixture has been worked into the batter.

Fold in the chocolate chips, and using two spoons, scoop small rounds of dough onto the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart from each other. Pour the M&Ms into as many bowls as you have kids (it’s important for each helper to have his or her own bowl) and ask them to stick the candies into the dough rounds until they are all gone. (Sometimes I use my fingers to make the balls rounder on top—it makes for prettier cookies.)

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden. Cool on a rack.  

Jenny uses this recipe as a fun activity for kids which my kids loved to do also when they were younger. I did not have any kid assistance but I handled it well on my own and then my husband arrived home and he did a great job of tasting and/or stealing cookies.  We all loved how the brown sugar became like a caramel base in the cookie. Will make again.  Now onto yoga...


Work-outs - Me and  (Yoga w/) Adriene have kept our yoga dates ALL through June and I am pleased as a puppy dog that I've followed through and had fun with this as a personal challenge. If you ever thought you might add a little yoga into your life this is the yogi to watch. She is funny, quirky, and gets deep into the feel of yoga.  I hope to continue this through July and August. Her YouTube channel has a variety of styles and times. If you only have 15 minutes she's got you.  Love in, Love out...


I've also done a good amount of reading for pleasure in-between homework assignments and yoga time.  I've read 5 elementary - middle school fiction & graphic novels and my favorites were The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy and Three Keys by Kelly Yang. Both tell great stories about being true to yourself as you struggle to get through school, friends, and all that life can throw at you even as a young person. I highly recommend both of these stories. 



Now are you ready for July?







Sunday, June 20, 2021

We all need to connect


Happy Papa's Day to everyone out there who takes their parenting job seriously. There are a lot of deadbeat dads out there but I'd say most are trying to do their best. I salute you. My dad was a good dad when I was growing up, he cared and was a good listener, and he often offered solid advice. He was not perfect by any means. He was a writer who always had a cigarette in his hand and life often beat him down. That's him above with 3-year-old Tristan in the Grand Canyon. 

My husband is a caring, funny father because he likes to entertain his three children and loves to tell stories. Groovy Girl is off to work today at the water park and Kaylee is out there in Brooklyn living her cool life. She sent a lovely handwritten letter that he opened this morning. Tristan surprised Greg by showing up in person. He works a lot and Sunday is his one major day to rest and recuperate yet he made the hour drive to show up. Luckily I had a heads-up that he might show up and I whipped together this potato breakfast scramble so we could eat together. This is a recipe I found a year ago on Instagram from vegan influencer Tabitha Brown and I love that she seemingly throws easy, on-hand ingredients together to make comfort food. She has a calm spirit and a sense of humor just like my yoga guide Adriene. 

There is so much good stuff out there and even though I miss my dad I have lots of other dad-like influencers that I have come to rely on. My dad's friend Marv, my friend Mike W., Rocky P. and Steve T. who died just a few months ago are all people who are just a bit older and have that dad wisdom that we all could use now and again. My brother, even though he is younger, is someone I can rely on for help. We all need people to care about us, to listen, and offer free good advice. Be a dad to someone. 

I also made a non-vegan breakfast that we scarfed up earlier, that should have been served to friends but the timing just didn't work out. It was delicious; like having your eggs and toast in one. I loved that I could put it altogether last night and then bake it this morning. I sprinkled bacon on half of it instead of using sausage so that the vegetarian (me) in the house could enjoy it. And the father in this house loves the bacon! And I shook up two Bloody Mary's too. Oh, yeah, summertime brunch. 

Enjoy. Hug all your people.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Summer food and a few books

 I am loving my solitude this summer. Groovy Girl goes off to work at the water park and the husband goes off to make a movie or direct a show and I have the day to myself. I have been to work several times and it is so quiet there that it is easy to get a lot accomplished in a short amount of time. I am almost finished with inventory for the year. My goal for meals is to have something ready for my two worker bees; it's the least I can do for them after they've labored out there in the world especially the teenager as she is out in the hot sun for a good 9 hours.  I want to have good food ready for them. 

I made this vegan corn chowder  even though it is way before sweet corn season but I had a large bag of white corn in the freezer and soup to me is always good even on hot days. I am in the process of making this pasta dish tonight with fresh cut basil from my garden. I roasted some broccoli and I put together a fresh salad using greens a friend who shared part of her CSA for the week.  I'm looking for easy meals that I can put together and they can eat late when they come through the door.  Easy for me, easy for them. 

Our girls

I've browsed through a new cookbook, The Fresh Egg Cookbook, that my friend MK gave me. She is honestly one of the best gift givers. She went to the Decorah Seed Saver store and found this cookbook for me in celebration of the beautiful chickens that grace my back yard. There are some really good recipes in here as well as chicken tips. We are on our fourth round of chicken parenting and we love it! They are quirky characters that roam our backyard and provide us with eggs. 


I finished the first, Shadow and Bone, in the GrishaVerse trilogy today which was recommended to me be  a family of former students. I have to pace myself though before I start the second one. My mother-in-law recommended How the Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior and I picked it up yesterday from the library. Before all that I finished my Book of the Month Club May pick; Things we lost to the water by Eric Nguyen, which was a very compelling story of immigration, New Orleans, Vietnam, and Hurricane Katrina.  

You may wonder if I am getting ANY homework done...?


Monday, June 7, 2021

It's over (for now)


I'm not talking about the pandemic naturally but the 2020-2021 school year. What am I going to do with all this time on my hands now, you ask...? People have this assumption that teachers sit by a pool and day drink through the summer.  That may be how some educators spend their time and it doesn't really matter. I would love to be that free! 

My time will be spent doing homework for two classes from Advancement Courses. One is on kindness and the other is on questioning. Lots of homework, lots of thinking, lots of writing. Hopefully I'll have great finished products and plenty of new learning. I am looking for new skills to get me through the next 8+ years of teaching! 


I am also doing something totally new this summer-I'm going to have our Hansen Library open five times during the summer. I'm excited about this new challenge and also fighting the urge to cancel it. As a teacher-librarian I love my students and I love my books! It's like I've created my own living nightmare and I shake myself awake only to find out that all the books have gone missing.  Ugh. But it's going to be okay because they're just books and their kids! It's all part of the deal. A few missing books won't hurt.  

I have a lot of summer reading to do as well; books on my nightstand, dresser, bookshelves, etc that have been waiting to be read and books that I need to read for school for our Iowa Children's Choice Awards. 

I've made a promise to myself and others that I will complete 13 writing pieces this summer and I'm going to work on that as well. I have far more than thirteen so it's just a matter of picking and editing. I will crack open a bottle of champagne when this becomes a reality because it's about time. 

Throw in a vacation and a few road trips and that about sums up my summer.  I promise I still have time for day drinking by the water-a lake preferably!  What about you?




Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorable Memorial Weekend

{Minimalist Baker}
I love a good three day weekend! I've accomplished quite a few things over the last three days but the best parts were several social occasions seeing friends and hugging people in my circle. We had an engagement party last night and a graduation party today. We also had lunch with friends on their patio. I made these strawberry rhubarb margaritas for the occasion. The recipe is from Minimalist Baker and they were delicious, so refreshing and tart.  

Last week I tried a new recipe because I just couldn't figure out what to make for dinner. We recently have had a lot of pasta and I'd made tacos and salmon other days so I just was looking for something different to try. A friend from school mentioned that she'd made lentil sloppy joes and so I searched and found a vegan recipe to try. I made them on Friday night and I loved them. Because of Groovy Girl's tomato allergy I switched out the cans of tomato and used one 28-oz can of pumpkin. I feel like I could add in sweet potato to replace tomatoes as well. I had lovely brioche buns that I broiled in the oven first because I like them a little crispy/crunchy. Both my husband and I loved them and GG, well, she was not quite as in love because it had onions (next time I would make sure to really dice up the onions) but she ate it. I liked that it was a super easy slow cooker recipe that I put together and it was done in about 3 hours. Here is the recipe I used from Yummy Mummy Kitchen and here is another one I plan to try next time from again the amazing Minimalist Baker.  



I did do some gardening this weekend as well, channeling my lovely Grandma Bruch. I think of her so much as I cook and plant as those are two areas she excelled at in life. She loved geraniums and irises and planted lots of vegetables. My love of rhubarb comes from her as she had a several large plants and did a lot of baking and jam making with the stalks. She was an amazing and wonderful grandma and I miss her very much. I'm glad my son was able to spend so much time with her and I'm sad that she never met my daughter. I can still hear her voice calling my name. I wish she and I could play one more game of spite and malice, our family card game. I can still hear my dad's voice as well and I wish I could play one more game of backgammon with him. 

How did you spend your weekend? 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

We are oh, so close!

Kim Reynolds decided on Wednesday night just around midnight that she would tell school children (and their parents) in the state of Iowa that is was optional to wear a mask around school. At midnight on a school night this was decided. I mean I get that she's never really believed in the pandemic and she IS all about free choice for Republicans but this still seemed a little extreme to me because we are so, so close to closing out the school year. We have two weeks to go! And unless you actually work or teach in a school you may not know how this would play out on a Thursday morning. Our district in an attempt to be open sent an email out alerting parents of this new decision by the governor.  Some parents read this email or knew about the decision handed down but other parents might not have had the luxury to see their email and don't follow late night decisions from Des Moines state house. They sent their kids to school with masks as they have every damn day of this year. Other parents celebrated this and sent their kids happily to school finally free of the damn mask. Still other parents sent their kids to school with a mask asking them to still stay safe. There was bullying in the first few minutes within our school walls until teachers could get students in their classrooms for a calm and inclusive morning meeting. Havoc. Pure havoc and one more way to politicize the wearing of masks and the pandemic in general. Thanks Kim. Cannot wait to work against your re-election campaign. 


In other news I finished Ground Zero by Alan Gratz. This book caused a major stir when it first came in. Lots of students wanted it. I found one of my copies on the shelf the other day and I decided to bring it home to read. It was so riveting I read it in 2 days. The story centers around 9/11 and the war on terror that was the aftermath of that major tragedy. Alan Gratz does not sugar coat the history either which I very much appreciated. I remember watching the towers come down on the news that morning and I was a graduate student at the time and turned on the news because someone at my son's school mentioned the weird thing of a plane hitting the first tower.  I remember what it looked like to  see it crumble and it was terrible and the aftermath of what we did as a nation was awful.  What ever age you are read this book for a comprehensive look at the reality of that time in history and be ready for a gripping tale told in alternating points-of-view. 

I'm taking two classes this summer; one is on questioning and the other is on kindness which are both great topics to introduce more of and next year I will be ready for fresh perspective.  After experiencing this election cycle and George Floyd trial with students and the negative comments I want to have some new tools in my school bag. Bring on the kindness and positive discussion!

(Cookie + Kate)

I've made a few good recipes recently including this rhubarb crisp from the NYT. My mom gave me some rhubarb stalks. I love rhubarb but cannot grow it for some quirky reason. This crisp was delicious and I will make it again as soon as I locate more rhubarb. I also made this red lentil curry soup from Cookie and Kate tonight and we all enjoyed it with toasted sourdough bread. 

I really still want it to be Saturday and not Sunday night but there we have it. I need to get ready for my day tomorrow. I probably should shower as I spent a lot of today with my hands in dirt weeding and planting flowers and herbs around the yard and in my big pots. It was the first good hot day and it didn't rain. Rain is important but sunny skies help my mood. Peace and love to you...

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

May Celebrations


The weather is chilly here, I am still wearing a warmer coat to walk the dogs, and haven't planted anything yet because it gets too cold at night. Every once in a while the sun is strong in the afternoon and feels nice and warm. I'm ready for the intense heat of summertime. I'm also ready for my school students to run wildly out the door, to be free for the summer, to put this year behind. I don't know what next year will look like but these kids need a summer break. 


Yesterday I drove back home after visiting my brother and sister-in-law in the Minneapolis area. It was cold there also. Friday night we had an excellent dinner with this chickpea soup prepared by both my brother and his wife and old family friends helped as well.  I feel like I've known them my whole life and there is something so reassuring about having people in your life that knew you as a young person.  Marv was one of my dad's best friends and Marcia still remains one of my mother's besties. It was wonderful to watch the two of them talk at the table together, heads leaning in. My mother broke her hip in a recent fall and uses a walker right now and Marcia has her own. Marv recently recovered from a very serious heart surgery as well. We are all getting older.  Yep. The night was magical though and it was lovely to visit with both Marv and Marcia, sharing and listening to their life stories. My nephew Beckett interviewed Marv about his Cold War experiences guarding the Berlin Wall. I loved hearing Marcia's stories about childbirth in the 1970s where she had to argue to have her husband in the delivery room. We've come a long way baby.

The next day we had a lazy morning (I slept until 9:30!) and then went to Excelsior, browsed and had lunch at Coalition.  We celebrated Mother's Day all weekend and my brother's 49th birthday. We had four different delicious desserts over the course of two days. And then I made fresh cinnamon rolls for Sunday brunch before we left town.  I should think about giving up sugar for a few weeks. My brother is an amazing chef and really enjoys planning a menu and sharing food with friends and neighbors. 

And then we had to come home, back to reality, back to lesson planning and waking up early. I did come home to a lovely daughter, and another calling me to leave a happy message from Brooklyn, and a son who took time to call and chat about everything. I felt loved all weekend long and even more so pulling into my own driveway, reaching my home destination because my family was happy to see me and my dogs were so excited to see me. I could tell because of the full body tail shake! 

I finished The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich, an excellent read, Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, the author of Homecoming, another excellent read. Now I am reading The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, author of The Mothers, both wonderful stories. I'm trying to squeeze in lots of adult fiction before summer hits because I'm taking two classes and I have lots of award contenders to read before August. Librarian Life. Enjoy...