Thursday, July 31, 2014

It's Raining

I woke up this morning to raindrops hitting my bedroom window, 
 and what a glorious sound.  It looks like the rain maybe on its way out, but for now
it is the perfect morning to relax in my sunroom, with a cup of coffee and
 talk books with you.

Do you remember the stack of books I told you I have toted around this summer?

I've finished all but one...whew...
Along the way I've read a few other's as well.  

Reconnecting with my friend J has been wonderful.   We enjoy getting together for lunch or an evening glass of wine and catch-up...we've both had very busy summers.  We chat about the children and our new grand babies.  Can you believe it?  Our babies were born only a few weeks apart.  

It doesn't matter what we are doing our conversation always evolves to the question,
"What have you read lately?"

Last time we were together she was looking for something to grab her attention, but not too time consuming... something light.   She has a lot going on these days; I had the perfect book.

The Borrower is a book you read simply for the story.

Lucy Hull, a children's librarian (if you are a librarian, her credentials are going to bother you, be forewarned ) befriends, Ian, a young boy whose love of reading is censored by an overbearing mother.  When the mother enrolls Ian in an antigay class with a "rehabilitated" charismatic minister,  he runs away taking Lucy with him.   Wanting to believe she is taking Ian to his grandmother, and convinced she is saving him, Lucy finds herself in the roll of a kidnapper.   With Ian giving directions the two begin an across state line journey that will take them from Missouri to Vermont.  Who has kidnapped who?

Along the way the unlikely companions encounter the Russian mafia, a stalker and a crazy boyfriend, (there may be a stowaway ferret in there as well), all the while Lucy is trying to work out how she can return Ian safely home without being arrested.

I was drawn to this story, as I am passionate about children reading.  I feel strongly children should read all kind of books... the good, the bad, and the scary (age appropriate, of course).  In bookstores libraries, and on the internet I hear parents talking about not allowing children to read this or that book.  Sometimes the book challenges a belief or the parent didn't like the book as a child, it scared them.  I believe we underestimate our children when we place these limitations on them.  We live in a world full of evil happenings; how better to help children face scary things, solve moral dilemmas and not give up, than through literature.  Allow them to read, then be available to discuss the content.   I cannot imagine not having the opportunity to read Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, A Wrinkle in Time or The Giver.   One of my favorite quotations is from Coraline,

"Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."

Okay, now I'll step down from my soapbox, and get back to the book.

I am not recommending this book for the writing.  There are more
than a few issues which are questionable, but it is fiction.    It was an entertaining, one day,

I had to find out if they survived the road trip or
would it end the way of "Thelma and Louise".

Now I have about an hour for...

You know I always love hearing about what you are reading!

The above quotation is a paraphrasing from the writings of  C. K. Chesterton.
(author of Father Brown mysteries)

Enjoy the day!


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Summer Favorites

We are just a little over half way into summer, and I am longing for the cool crisp days of Autumn.  Summer is not my favorite season, though she delivers so much of what makes me happy.   Schools will be opening their doors soon, and though there are actually around seven weeks of summer remaining, I feel the the long languid days quickly slipping away.   It may be a little premature, but I thought it would be a good time to share my "summer favorites" list.  

summer's fresh bounty

the summer garden 

 summer escapes 

summer refreshment
(I'm addicted)

summer visitors.

Summer is a slow moving season.  The temperatures are high
 and the days are long.   I slow down and take more time for

morning contemplation,

 getting back on track and reconnecting,

and creative discipline.

By far the best part of Summer 2014 is this little fellow, who
entered our lives two months ago.  
I suspect summer will never be the same...

summer blessings

Summer is fading fast.
What are your summer favorites?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer Supper

I have always enjoyed cooking.  I generally love all the gathering and preparations.   During the heat of the summer,  I am looking for meals which are 
quick, light and easy to prepare, with as little clean-up as possible.  

I don't know about you, but I am usually the one cleaning up the kitchen.  
My husband is an amazing cook, but when he creates he uses every pot, pan, 
dish and utensil available.  And, yep, I am generally the clean-up girl.
Seriously though, for one of his meals I'll do the dishes.

Sticking to my criteria, last night's dinner was perfect.  I decided to combine two of my favorite foods, shrimp and pizza.  Substituting a fresh pesto for the tomato sauce and using only a sprinkling of parmesan I put a bit of a light twist on pizza.

Shrimp Pesto Pizza

1 pound large  'wild caught' shrimp
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus some for the pan
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and black pepper to your liking
1/3 cup pesto, or enough to generously cover the top of the pizza crust
(pesto is so easy to make,
but there are some really good quality ones in the market as well)
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated.
One pre-baked pizza crust

(I enjoy making my own pizza dough, but there are also  good doughs in the freezer section of some markets.  For this pizza, I used a pre-cooked pizza crust from a specialty market.  Check the ingredients.  I look for one using organic ingredients with no preservatives.  I want it to be as close to my own as  possible.)

Pre-heat oven to 425℉.
Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the foil.  
Rinse, peel and devein the shrimp.  Place shrimp in a bowl drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.  I like to use my hands.  Sprinkle on the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, again toss making sure each shrimp is well seasoned (add or subtract seasoning to you taste).  Let sit while the oven is heating, to allow all the goodness of the seasoning to be absorbed.

Place shrimp on the prepared baking sheet and roast for 3 to 4 minutes.
Turn and roast for another 2 minutes.  The shrimp
should be pink, but ever so slightly undercooked.  They will finish roasting
once placed on the pizza and returned to the oven.

(For perfectly roasted shrimp I roast them 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
I really don't like rubbery and dry shrimp.)

While the shrimp are roasting, spread pesto onto the baked pizza crust. 
Place pesto covered crust into the oven and bake about 8 minutes.  
The pesto will begin to bubble.

Take the crust from the oven and arrange the roasted shrimp
on top.

Lightly sprinkle with parmesan.  Of course you can use any cheese (a good brie
would be fabulous), and as much as you would like. 

(If you use a heartier cheese reduce the roasting time on the shrimp.
You will need longer to melt the cheese, overcooking the shrimp.
 I used parmesan as not to over power the shrimp. ) 

Bake for one minute or until the cheese is melted.

Add a simple undressed tomato and cucumber salad,
and enjoy a simple and yummy summer supper.

I think this will be perfect for a supper after a busy day at school.
I'm adding this one to the line-up.

Bon Appetit'

Do you prefer lighter dishes in the summer?  
Do you have a favorite light summer supper?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Going Back

 Do you ever go back and read your posts from the beginning of you blog?

This morning I had a subject in mind and thought I should probably go back and make sure I wouldn't totally be repeating myself.  It really is an entertaining exercise to browse through your own work,  to revisit what was important a few years ago.

Scrolling through several post I found pictures (many my own) mysteriously missing, big squares with a question mark taking their place.  In others,  pictures have been rotated.  I visited my photo bank to try to figure out what happened.  You know me, I wanted (needed) to correct it.   I still haven't a clue.  

A few (and I repeat a few) posts I read,  and thought "wow, did I really write that?"  Others
caused my cheeks to turn red.   One thing I realized, I believe I mentioned this a few weeks ago, I have ventured from my original course when I wrote from my heart. 

Anyway, I have been working on a post (not the one sending me to the archives) when what should appear before my searching eyes, but the perfect post from two years ago. 

The post was on perfection or the lack of.   I often describe myself as a perfectionist.  There is a misconceived notion the perfectionist believe they are perfect or can achieve perfection.  This is absolutely not true. Though we know perfection is unattainable we do have high expectations for ourselves, and when we fail to meet them we are heavy handed with self-criticism.  Often the inability to achieve perfection, making a mistake, or the fear of doing anything less can cause the perfectionist to shut down.  

 "Perfectionist" is not a description worn as a badge of honor.  It can be, in fact, painfully debilitating.  Is it something learned?  Or, are we just hardwired with the trait?  Who knows, probably a bit of both.  We smile and laugh at mistakes, but in silence they eat us alive.  I want to say we don't mind a mistake being brought to our attention; in some way this is true.  Don't think for a minute though we have the natural ability to just walk away and let it go.  We expect far more from ourselves than from others.  Please don't tell a perfectionist not to take criticism is our mind we have failed miserably.  

I wanted to revisit this subject now as the first day of school is quickly approaching for so many.  There are a lot of little (and big) perfectionists headed into the classroom.  Lets be gentle in correcting and teach our children, young and old,  doing one's best is the only perfection needed and... it is enough.   In the classroom, I try to point out my own mistakes.  This has actually helped me as well.  It is important that those who correct be willing to point out their own mistakes.  

"Physician, heal thyself"
I'm working on it!!!
I'm hitting publish and walking away...
                                                                                                                            I'm walking away.

I hope you are having a grand week!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What's Blooming Today?

Gardening is a full-time job...hobby....pastime...whatever label you choose, it is a commitment.   Spring brings the most work, and the most enjoyment.   It is when we most enjoy last year's toils and prepare for the future.  Spring wakes exploding with color before summer transports us into the quiet lull of textural greens.

As spring approached this year I knew I would not be available to spend the time in the gardens.  They were going to need to survive, mostly on their own.  I promised, no, I vowed, I would not spend the weekends roaming the nurseries.   And, I came to terms with leaving the containers empty,  not adding new perennials to empty spots; I wouldn't be around to pamper, to enjoy.  Passing a nursery and not stopping was white knuckled, steering wheel gripping torture.

Okay, I agreed to possibly leaving the majority of the containers empty (It is all about where you place the accents).  Leaving the front unmaintained, would be screaming "no one is home".  Though we had an unseasonably cool spring, the pansies were desperate to be replaced,  and, the pots by the front entrance were begging for summer blooms.  Perhaps one quick trip to the nursery would be necessary.  I could stop in, grab a couple of geraniums, a couple of flats of impatiens,  and maybe something that would spill over the edges, just around the geraniums.  I  wouldn't even need a wagon.   Once among the growing things my will faltered, and, "gee, maybe I should throw another flat or two of impatiens onto that cart over there.  What do you think?"   
I know what you are thinking...
just another of my addictions... hopeless.

It dawned on me, while running among rows and rows and rows of annuals, and I mentioned this to someone trailing behind me as I flitted from one stand to another, how unhappy I would be when I returned home to find empty containers outside the back door.  I will not admit to when this thought wormed its way into my brain, but I might have heard it while slipping that extra flat (or two) of blooms on my cart.

I am usually discriminating when selecting my color combinations.  I like a lot of color in the front for curb appeal.  In the back gardens I use white annuals; it is refreshing against summer's green, and brightens shaded corners.  However, when you are wanting to slip a few extra plants in, it is best to go with one theme.  The extras go pretty much unnoticed.  
This year I went tropical.

Thanks to my dear friend and gardening mentor, who was kind enough to water while I was away,  and the unusual amount of rain this summer,

I returned to find everything happy and thriving.

I've not been home much, (having fun with my new baby boy and his mom and dad) but the gardens are surviving with only minimal attention.  I could tell you all the things going wrong (weeds, weeds, weeds); another story for another day.  

Here are a few things making me smile today. 

Sometimes I can't resist bringing a few friends inside.

It is a beautiful day, I have a book to read
 and I'm headed back out to the garden. 

Will you join me?  
I made tea...

(I apologize I pulled this and republished.
I'm learning to let go of somethings; there
was an error I couldn't leave.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Reading Time

"Until we invent telepathy, 
books are our best choice for understanding
 the rest of humanity."
                               Christopher Paolini     

My reading time has been limited.  I feel like I have been on the go for months.  It has been a good busy, so I can't complain.   My friends know my passion for books so I am often the fortunate recipient of titles they have enjoyed.  These along with the books I bring home are beginning...well, let's just say the stacks are beginning to spread.  Now, this is not a bad thing, and I am not complaining.  You know how I feel, there is no such thing as too many books.

When I left in May, to be with my daughter, I packed my favorite tote with books, (a lot of books) and magazines.  My husband's face showed a little shocked as he lifted the bag up into the car.  I shrugged.  I figured I would have blocks of down time.  Time to begin my summer reading.  What was I thinking?  When I did sit down with a little time, as soon as I opened a book my eyes closed.   When I returned home, that favorite tote,  filled with the same books, traveled with me.  Sadly, all unread with the exception of two.  Okay, full disclosure here, I finished the second the night I returned.

Neither of the books here are what one might think of as  light"summer reading",  though both are beautifully written,  thought provoking and well worth exploring.

"What happens if you're no longer who you believed you were?  What do you do with the knowledge of that?  An what if who you're becoming goes against what you believed about yourself until you won't remember who you were before?"

children and fire is the fourth in the Burgdorf "cycle".   I will be honest with you, I don't like series.  I just don't want to commit to waiting for the the middle (sometimes numerous) and the ending.   This series began with Stones from the River.   Published in 1994, I read it a few years later, and remember it being a favorite.  This was the only one of the four I had read.   I didn't know if I would be lost, having missed an import detail tying the books together.  These books stand alone.

children and fire is a story set mostly in one day.  The day is the first anniversary of the burning of the Parliament building, Reichstag, in Berlin; Hitler and the Third Reich are gaining power and influence.   Using Thekla Jansen, a  compassionate young teacher wanting to protect her students, Hegi draws the disturbing picture of how easily one's beliefs and morals can be manipulated and altered by propaganda and fear.

"Both life and death manifest in every memento of existence.  Our human body appears and disappears moment by moment, without cease, and this ceaseless arising and passing away is what we experience as time and being.  They are not separate.  They are one thing, and in even a fraction of a second, we have the opportunity to choose, and to turn the course of our action either toward the attainment of truth or away from it.  Each instant is utterly critical to the whole world."

I had heard so much about A Tale for the Time Being, it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, it held a prominent spot on the shelf of a favorite bookstore,  and I wanted to love it.  I wanted it to be the book I couldn't wait to share.  There were so many things I liked about this book,  but I just didn't love it.  

Ruth, a writer living on the Pacific coast, finds a diary packed in a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed ashore.  The diary is written by Nao, a sixteen year old who is forced to move from California to Tokyo, after her father loses his job.  Unable to find her place in her new home,  Nao faces solitude and rejection.  Feeling the only solution is suicide, but she first wants tell her story.   Ruth becomes obsessed with Nao's story and finding out her fate.  I usually enjoy the back and forth of one voice to another, however a couple of times I found it confusing. 

I will admit not being able to give this book my undivided attention, I may have lost a bit of momentum leaving me with an "okay, it was a good book" feeling. 


I have about four to five weeks of summer vacation left with a lot of reading planned.
I just finished The Borrower, Rebecca Makkai.  We'll talk about it another time.

What's on your reading list?