Monday, January 30, 2017

I whip my angel hair pasta back and forth

My brother, Scott, just sent me these kitchen towels:

I'm not sure I'm cool enough for them.  When I saw them for the first time I started singing Riding Dirty by Chamillionaire and about 15 seconds later I realized I was singing White and Nerdy by Weird Al. 

And then, when I Googled Riding Dirty to make sure I was spelling Chamillionaire right, Google was all like, do you mean ridin dirty? 

Which reminded me of a necklace I used to have.  It had a giant gold butterfly that was as big as my hand.  It was so cheap it turned green after about 10 wears (and I was thrilled it lasted that long).

Well one day when I was wearing it at the library a patron said something along the lines of "that's some necklace."

And silly me, I pulled it away from my chest like the rapper I am and said, "this is my Snoop Dogg necklace."

The patron was Absolutely. Horrified.

He looked at me sternly and said, "I'm not sure you should say that."

For those of you who are like Snoop what??  This is exactly what I did:

It's probably a good thing the necklace turned green.  

But so what if I'm not cool enough for my new dish towels.  There's no one in my kitchen who's going to say, "I'm not sure you should you rap that."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

cherries & sugar, mushrooms & noodles

This year I am definitely spending lotsa time in the kitchen.

I've already got three recipes I've tried and will continue to tinker with.

I've been making smoothies almost every day, and though I like my smoothie books, sometimes the best smoothie is born out of stuff other people won't eat/drink.  My favorite smoothie of the moment came to fruition (ha ha, there's a pun for you dad) after Robert turned up his nose at some cherry kefir he bought.  

One person's cherry-flavored nightmare is another person's happiness.  

Cherry-Flavored Nightmare Smoothie aka The Kind of Tim Burton/Edgar Allan Poe Nightmare, Not the Pee Your Pants Variety 

(as you can tell I should never be given the power to name things)

* 16 oz cherry kefir
* 1 cup frozen cherries (frozen cherries give smoothies an ice cream/dessert-like texture)
* 2 fresh kiwis (frozen kiwis are like rocks even in a blendtech and the sound of it first thing in the morning will make you pee your pants)
* 2 handfuls of fresh spinach (frozen probably works just as well. I was just trying to get rid of some spinach that I never used for a salad...)

I always put a liquid in the blender first.  After that, it's entirely up to you.  

With Rachel's help, I also made a batch of chocolate chip coconut macaroons.  There's a weird mixup with the amount of coconut the original recipe called for so Robert and Rachel used their mad math skills to fix the recipe (which worked better than my cursing).  The cookies were delicious so apparently they belong to the forgiving family of cookies. 

The pre-math-nerds recipe came from Nosh on This by Lisa Stander-Horel.  Because I'm playing catch-up on my long list of recipes I can honestly say I don't remember reading this book.  I can only guess I was attracted to the cover, which has one of the macaroons on it.

Chocolate Chip Macaroons aka Crunchy Ethereal Patties of Everlasting Bliss

* 3 egg whites
* 2 2/3 cups shredded coconut
* 1 cup sugar
* 1/2 tsp almond extract
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  
2. In a large bowl stir all ingredients except chocolate chips until fully mixed.  Let sit for 3 minutes.
3. Stir again. Add chocolate chips and mix well.
4. Use a 1/3 cup to scoop the stuff and plop onto baking sheet.  After you plop it mash that shit flat. The flatter the cookie the crispier and happier it is.
5.  Bake for 15 minutes. You may like them at this point. I recommend baking until golden brown but you have to watch them like they're your grandparents crossing the street during rush hour. There is a very fine line between brown and your fire alarm going off.  
6. You can make two sheets at a time or rotate them. Up to you. I need time to pace myself while eating them so one sheet at a time works best for me.

Next time I make these cookies I am adding almonds.  I think it will be delicious and also balance out the sweetness.  And while we're talking about sweetness, you should probably have a large glass of water to drink after eating one of these things.  Delicious, yes.  Mega sugary, yes.  

The last recipe I'll share with you is a soba noodle bowl recipe that came from an unknown magazine from who knows how long ago.  Thankfully I have a brand new way of organizing recipes that will make it easier to know the sources and when I found them.  But as I dig through some of my old recipes it's a crap shoot where some of them actually came from.  

This soba noodle bowl recipe was decent.  It needs some work however.  I am definitely adding more veggies next time (celery and cauliflower for sure).  

Soba Noodle Bowl 

6 oz.  4 oz. soba noodles (I used an 8 oz package, which was way way too much, so I'm sure 6 oz. is also too much.  I'd recommend saving some of the noodles for the next batch)
* 8 oz. as much bok choy as your heart desires (I did not buy enough)
* 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (Skip the salt on something else that day. Reduced-sodium chicken broth is crummy)
* 1/4 cup white miso paste (looking for this in a grocery store is like looking for gold at the end of a rainbow)
* 2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
* 1 cup or more carrots
* 4 oz 8 oz cremini mushrooms
* 6 as many hard-boiled eggs as you can get away with

1.  Cook noodles according to package directions. Rinse well.  Drain.
2.  Using the same sauce pan heat broth and water over medium-high heat until simmering.
3.  Whisk in soy sauce and miso paste.
4.  Add carrots, mushroom (and a couple other veggies you think will work) and return to simmering. Reduce heat.  Cook 1-3 minutes until your toughest veggie is as soft as you wish).  
5.  Ladle soup mixture onto noodles.  Add bok choy and egg(s).  
6.  For a kick add a spoonful of chili garlic paste.  

I'm ready to try out the next recipes on my list. Hopefully I have as much luck as I did with these!

I Am Big Bird & The Wisdom of Big Bird

I Am Big Bird is a must-see for fans of Sesame Street, Jim Henson, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, or all of the above. It’s a documentary focusing on the life of Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who plays both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, and also sometimes other famous Sesame Street characters like Bert. As I’m sure you already know, Sesame Street is like a big family where everyone helps one another to educate and entertain children. You will not only get the inside scoop on the puppets in this documentary, but you will also enjoy learning about Caroll Spinney, members of the Sesame Street team, and Spinney’s wife, Debra.

Did you know that Caroll Spinney wears a monitor humorously nicknamed the ‘electronic bra’ while he’s playing Big Bird or that Oscar the Grouch’s signature voice was inspired by a gruff taxi driver? Before watching the documentary, I read The Wisdom of Big Bird, which focuses on Spinney’s life, and the wisdom his characters and mentors impart to him. Like the documentary, it’s full of inside details about Sesame Street. While reading the book, I tried to visualize how Spinney dons the Big Bird puppet, changes his walking style to accommodate the giant feet, and reads his tiny lines, all while only seeing himself on a small screen showing what the audience sees. The documentary cleared up mysteries that my imagination couldn’t solve, and gave me plenty more insight into the lives of Caroll Spinney, Debra, his family, and cast members. The documentary also does a beautiful job depicting the strength of Caroll Spinney’s relationship with Debra, who is completely devoted to his work. It’s clear they are soul mates, and the sweet and sometimes very private demonstrations of their love would make even Oscar the Grouch smile.

As a child, I loved Big Bird like a brother. As an adult, I recognize he isn’t real but wholeheartedly love the idea of who he is, and, real or not, will always look up to him like a brother. I also recognize that Big Bird was the first person, ahem bird, who made me feel like it was ok to be my bumbly, insecure little self. His awkward, cheery innocence opened doors to my own emotions, and more importantly, provided friendship that transcended the boundaries of reality. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Wisdom of Big Bird and certainly recommend it. The book and documentary complement each other nicely, but if you have time for just one, pick the documentary. Watching the movie is like getting a big feathery hug from Big Bird himself. I cried nearly the whole way through, because just as Big Bird was revealed to me, so was the realization of the incredible impact he had on me as a child. Reading The Wisdom of Big Bird and watching I Am Big Bird amplified the magic, solidarity, and friendship I felt so many years ago.

Anyone who shares my feelings for Big Bird and remembers Sesame Street as a welcoming and happy place to learn about the world and ourselves will love both the book and the documentary.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


My 2017 New Year's Goals:
Be available for Rachel and whatever she needs. Always ask questions, even lame ones.  Invite her to do everything (especially fun stuff) - hiking, crafting, games, shopping etc.  Always say good morning before anything else.  Keep inviting her mom and brother up to the city.  Encourage her to reach out to people, to ask her own questions (including lame ones).  Explore colleges with her. Be open, but not too scary emotional. Encourage her to open up.

Break out Robert's enormous collection of family videos and watch them with Robert, his mom, Audrey, and Rachel.  Last time I tried this I became disenchanted after watching an hour of toddler Robert tootle around his mom's waterbed on his tricycle.  Yes, his mom filmed everything. Including lots of footage of Rachel's mom, dad and other family members, which is why I think she'll be excited about the idea. 

Be there for Robert.  Encourage him to make more time for play. Like tootling around on his bike or scaring people and dogs with his drone.  Spend less time nagging, and if I can't help myself, only nag with sincere affection.  

Make family a priority.  Make sure people that I love haven't fallen off the face of the earth.

More floor time with the dogs and less pushing them to do too much with their aching, geriatric bodies.  But play ball. Even if it's more cuddles than throwing, keep surprising them with the green sphere of happiness.

Write.  Paint.  Collage.  Sew.  Create every day, no matter what.  Keep putting myself out there.  

Learn to zoom loom, or at least keep trying until the thing mysteriously ends up in 20 pieces scattered about the neighborhood. 

Use my sewing machine.  Make pillows Robert can't refuse.

Keep throwing myself with utter dorkiness into my library job and go after everything.  Ask questions, shadow storytimes, write reviews and observe librarians who kick ass.

Laugh every day.  Make someone else laugh every day.  

Be kind.  Have patience.  Grow.  Listen.  Creatively dispose of anger and negative emotions.  

Tennis.  Bicycling.  Walking/hiking.  Yoga.  Move every day, but don't overdo it.  Continue eating healthy food and less sugar.  Try a new recipe at least once a week.  Get comfortable in the kitchen. Help Robert and Rachel in the kitchen when they're making stuff. Experiment wildly with smoothies.  

Read.  Always have an audiobook going.  Learn a little more about the movies and genres I don't like so I can be more helpful at the library.  Keep making a valiant effort to read whatever Rachel's reading in her English classes.  I finished Lord of the Flies if you can imagine that, and the best part of the whole experience has been trash talking the book with Rachel and Robert (who is also making a valiant effort to read what she's reading in English).​

And lastly, always seek balance, but don't be too hard on myself if things get a little crazy or off-kilter.  Find the humor and/or beauty in everything.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

more shelves!

The other living room built-in is being installed at this very moment!!

Due to a very important beam that couldn't be moved, the designers had to use their imagination to come up with a way to incorporate the wall (clear as mud I know).  In the process they decided to use the floor material for the shelves.  Brilliant!  There's still lotsa work to be done with it, but we are thrilled so far and cannot wait for it to be done.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


After fighting a rather severe off and on (mostly on) sinus infection for the past two weeks I was horrified to find this in the money when I got to work this morning:

Yep, I'm a goner.  

On a brighter note, after missing two days of work I was happy to be back, but understandably a little tired.  I soon found some much-needed momentum in the sweet (and very true) words of an 89 year-old patron.  While helping her find a good biography and showing her how to checkout, she grabbed my diseased hand, looked me in the eye and said "I can tell you just love your job."

Looking back I should have thanked her by giving her kind hand a couple squirts of Purell.  

Monday, January 2, 2017

the stars and moon

In 2016 a lot of albums let me down.  Many more gave me one or two songs that I will love forever. And very few are treasures that continue to give me strength, hope, joy and inspiration.  

Top 10 Favorite albums of 2016 (with a few 2015 albums I didn't get my hands on until after 2016)

10. American Authors - What We Live For (favorite song - Superman)
9. M.I.A. - Aim (favorite song - Freedun)
8. Adele - 25 (favorite song - When We Were Young)
7. Walter Martin - Arts & Leisure (favorite song - Michelangelo) 
6. Lauren Daigle - How Can It Be (favorite song - Once And For All)

5. Mat Kearney - Just Kids

I am sad I never heard of Mat Kearney until this year, but I am incredibly jazzed I saw his album peeking at me while working at the library.  He raps and sings very relatable lyrics that punch me right in the heart.  It's really tough to pick a favorite song.  Perhaps Los Angeles. I don't keep albums in their entirety.  I'm not afraid to toss a song that I don't like.  Just Kids is one of those rare albums that remains intact in my iTunes collection.  Mat Kearney's words demand more attention than I can usually give, but I'm going to forever lend an ear to lyrics like this, "This is for the two-year olds who cannot be understood because they speak half English and half God."

4. NF - Therapy Session 

There's a lot of 'look at me now' stuff going on here, which is a little reminiscent of Eminem. But unlike Eminem NF really is evolving as a person and artist. Like Eminem, NF is angry.  But NF's anger lacks hostility or sensationalism.  He thanks his higher power. He cries unabashedly about his mom's drug overdose while rapping that music is the only place that he can go to speak to her. And there's no women-bashing or cussing here. Add to this a potent dose of trailer music and you have one therapy session you will never miss, no matter how good you have it.  Intro 2 is a clear winner as far as songs go, but there are many songs that will rip the tears out of your face and give you a safe haven for your emotions. 

3. Rachel Platten - Wildfire

Rachel Platten's voice is very much like her album cover: sparkly, firey and magical. Unlike her album cover, which shows a fierce face, Rachel Platten's voice has such an endearing vulnerability to it. Over the past year I have listened to Wildfire while writing, practicing tennis on the backboard, sewing, dancing, pretty much everything.  And though Piano Guys took her song, Fight Song, and killed it, I still love her version of it.  My favorite song, surprise surprise, is 'Stand By You.' I will definitely never grow tired of hearing it.  

2. Kygo - Cloud Nine

Gosh, this album simply throws me into euphoria. When I first listened to the songs I couldn't figure out what was going on.  So many of my favorite artists - Angus & Julia Stone, John Legend and Labrinth collaborating with something strange, something bubbly and inspirational and wild. Turns out the something strange is this DJ guy, Kygo, who is Godlike in his ability to create soulful, sugary, piano-heavy beats in collaboration with some very exciting artists.  It's a little like putting a trampoline inside a gumball machine and then getting to live there in merry bouncy bliss.  My favorite song is Fragile, which is a fairly peppy song about how some people think it's ok to treat fragile people like shit, and when Labrinth starts wailing and breaking windows with his voice that sound is exactly the feeling fragile people get when other people break into their gumball world and chew it to pieces.  

1. Enya - Dark Sky Island

When this album came out there was no doubt in my mind that it would be my favorite album this year.  I cried even as I opened the case the first time.  Eerily and perfectly enough, Enya's albums have come out whenever I need them most.  Her music is perfect for a good cry, but also creates instant wings to lift me away from whatever is burying me in sadness.

When I escaped my depression in my teens A Day Without Rain drained me of my demons while simultaneously carrying me away from them. When my mom and grandma grew wings and left Hermit's Holler I cried both tears of joy and sadness while listening to 'Long, Long Journey' from her album Amarantine.  And later, when I thought I would never graduate college, the album, And Winter Came gave me the strength to keep going.  Now, as I struggle to surface from the loss of my grandma and the knowledge and acceptance that I will never have the unconditional love of a person I love unconditionally, I know that Dark Sky Island will keep me from drowning. My favorite song, 'Astra Et Luna,' is soothingly sweeping and uplifting.  I have listened to it so much that it now surpasses nearly every song in number of plays.

Enya is 55 and her voice is just as sweet and crisp as the moment I first listened to her 16 years ago. And her albums always find their way to me when I most need them. 

I will leave you with my favorite song of the year: Astra Et Luna

Sunday, January 1, 2017

small things, big things

December was filled with meh reads.  There were a handful of books that were promising, but had disappointing endings.  No matter.  Looking back at the year of awesome books it looks like I read 40 children's books and 30 teen and adult books that blew me away.  2016 was a good year for reading.  

December's good reads:

A Small Thing... But Big by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Hadley Hooper

I wasn't in love with this book until the very end, and that's when I guffawed out loud, and in doing so, realized that this book had won me over. The interaction between Lizzie and the old man starts out adorable, gets a little weird and then, very quickly, blossoms into friendship. The illustrations were a little too soft and chalk-like for my taste, but I thought the layout had a lot of movement and was easy to follow.

Maple and Willow's Christmas Tree by Lori Nichols

Such an original and very sweet story of two sisters: Maple, who is allergic to their Christmas tree, and Willow, who is very upset at her sister for being allergic. I love how they use pig latin to pick out the tree. I love their silly tiff. But my favorite part of the book is Willow's unique apology to Maple.