Recently…April 2016

Ah APRIL…a month of…spring showers…spring snow(!)…spring blooms…primary voting and the associated ads and calls…longer and longer days…in the midst of it all, these are the things that filled my April days…

Vote

Reading…snowy days…rainy days…travel days…a decent amount of reading time…since the last reading round-up, several more books are complete (All the Light We Cannot SeeEnchanted AprilThe Travelers) and will be shared in a future QuickLit…

Joy Mail

Opening…joy filled mail from my TX cuties on a Friday afternoon…the plate that we painted when I visited in March a new picture for “their” frame on the mantel…

Coloring…continuing to spend moments with coloring books and markers to provide some calm in the midst of crazy

April Eats

Cooking…doing my best to stay focused on healthy eating in the midst of busy work times…weekend food prep is still the best bet; however, on several occasions, a quick supper of a skillet of crispy spinach and soft eggs at the end of a long workday was such a satisfying meal…other good cooking: Egg & Bacon Salad with Homemade Herb Mayo for breakfasts; Pan Grilled Steaks with Roasted Asparagus; Savory Oatmeal Muffins; Pizza Egg Bowl; Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast Pie; Cocoa Coconut Pecan Tea Cookies;

Panda

Sipping…lots of iced tea…in rotation is Tangerine Zinger…Spicy Oolong…Mint…and using a cute new panda for the tea accouterments…

Flats

Wearing…my new ballet flats are a perfect addition to my wardrobe and a 2nd pair has been added to the mix…work…errands…travel…these are becoming a staple…

April Travel

Traveling…a new project at work has me gearing up for more travel in the coming months…in April was a trip to Milwaukee and dinner one night was at a cafe that I enjoyed 15 years ago when I had project work it in the city – it was as enjoyable this time…

Looking ahead…May days are filling up with work and fun…at least 2 work trips on the calendar…weekends filled with seeing some of my favorite people…contemplating a new chair for the patio for reading…summer vacation planning continues…

Linking up with Leigh’s monthly What I’m Into round-up. What are you into these days?

 

Mom Made

As the calendar turns to May and Mother’s Day approaches, Carole prompts us today for 10 Favorite Foods Mom Made. Of course I’ll share in this list! My Mom is a wonderful cook and baker! When she was in college, she spent her summers as a camp cook; when I was in elementary school, she managed to cook for the high school youth group missions trips to San Quintin, Mexico in a small kitchen in an airplane hangar. From an early age, I learned the lovely art of hospitality from my Mom – she loves to share from the heart by way of the kitchen. Growing up, we were often delivering a meal to new moms at church – something that I have done many times since I’ve been on my own. Missionaries, church friends, college kids and more have sat around our table and shared life over simple and delicious meals from Mom. In the age of Martha Stewart and Pinterest and Instagram and trying to portray “the” perfect dish, I’m so thankful that I learned from Mom the true joy is in the making and sharing of the dish – not in the picture and presentation.

Mom's Strawberry Pie
Mom’s Strawberry Pie
In no particular order, here are some favorites from her kitchen…and really, this list could go on and on and on…

  • Strawberry Pie – I’ve written about this once or twice; a simple and tasty recipe that always brings to mind Grandma’s strawberry patch in the backyard of her home in Southern California…
  • Lemon Chicken Florentine – A simple mix of chicken, spinach, onion, lemon juice & tumeric; a great make ahead dish – just as delicious hot or chilled…
  • Santa Maria Beans – A simple and delicious staple of Santa Maria BBQ from our time in Lompoc – even better when paired with a Tri-Tip…
  • Italian Squash Soup – Another Artisan Mom “recipe.” Brown & drain a pound of Italian sausage. Add in 24 oz tomato sauce, a couple of zucchini & yellow squash diced, some chopped mushrooms, & Italian seasonings (basil, oregano, pepper, garlic, etc) to taste. Bring to a boil & simmer for 20 minutes…
  • Simple Sausage & Cheese Biscuits – A favorite for breakfasts and perfect for parties and holiday teas
  • Pot Roast with Potatoes, Carrots, Onions & Mushrooms & Gravy – Always a delicious Sunday dinner to come home to after church…
  • Sugar Cookies – A recipe Mom discovered in a book on hospitality, this is a “go to” recipe – delicate and dainty cookies that are a good excuse to use a cookie stamp…
  • Cardamon Cookies – A family staple in the Christmas baking – delicious with or without or without frosting…
  • Tater Tot Casserole – Keeping the theme of simple…ground beef, onions, green beans, mushroom soup and a layer of tater tots on top…
  • Green Enchiladas – A recipe that Mom found in the Air Force news when we were in Wichita more than 40 years ago – turkey, onion and cheese enchiladas with a spinach sour cream sauce. My sister requests this for her birthday dinner. Thanksgiving turkey leftovers often are set aside for a batch of these…

….and this list could go on…Lemon Meringue Pie…and on…Fresh Salsa…and on…Ebelskivers…and on…Applesauce…and on…

Today as I putter in the kitchen, I’m so thankful for all that my Mom taught me (& my sister) through the kitchen…not only the recipes…the kitchen tips and tricks…the fun…but also the art of simplicity…the focus on taste…the joy of hospitality…

What are some of your favorites from your Mom’s kitchen? 

Recently Read…April 2016

As 2016 more than a quarter complete and work has recently been busy at a whole new level, I’m still finding reading moments and as I look at my Goodreads 2016 challenge it is nice to see that I’m continuing to remain on track towards completing 48 books this year. These are the books that have recently moved from “currently reading” to “read” in my long, long reading list.

In flight reading
In flight reading

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure -The story of an architect in Paris in WWII who, in an effort to survive when work isn’t coming in takes on a risky job of building an undetectable hiding spot for Jews in an apartment because of the promise of bigger projects tied to the Nazi war machine. As he continues to take on hiding projects and more and bigger war projects he finds it more and more difficult to separate his personal view on the world around him from the work and it becomes increasingly personal in ways that he could never imagine.

Temple Mount by Keith Raffel – A thriller that combines a splintered family history with religious history and geo-political implications. While not quite as engaging as the Cotton Malone series that has been a recent favorite, this still was worth the time.

Truck: A Love Story by Michael Perry – A Kindle deal that I picked up after seeing a blog friend rave about his work. This is his story of a year in his life told through the restoration of his beloved old pickup truck. With all the time I’ve spent in Wisconsin, some of his descriptions of life there through the seasons really seemed familiar and brought many a chuckle or smile. I think I’ll read more of his work. Among my highlights from this: “I think it is not insignificant to be present the moment a child discovers that a word—and therefore the world—has more than one meaning.

The Word in the Wilderness by Malcolm Guite – This was my daily reading during the Lenten season leading up to Easter. It was an enjoyable daily moment to read a poem and insightful commentary to prepare for Easter. I think I will return to this each Lenten season.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – When this book was released last year it was surrounded by a lot of buzz and comparisons to “Gone Girl” – as I was traveling I saw lots of people reading it on the plane & was hearing good things from reading friends. I got on the waiting list for the e-version at the library and after months when my number came up, I wasn’t able to find the time to read it before it was returned & so back on the list I went. In March my renewal became active again & carved out the time to read it. In the end, I gave it 2 stars on Goodreads: “Meh. Maybe it was a case of not living up to the hype – I contemplated not finishing it. Some of the back & forth timeline of characters telling the story seemed reminiscent of “The Expats.” At time it felt like it was trying too hard.

The Accident by Chris Pavone – Speaking of The Expats author, I recently finished his second book. A fast read – it was so-so – I figured out “the twist” way early in the story.

On the work front, I’m starting on a new project that looks like it could involve a fair amount of travel in the weeks and months ahead. I plan to maximize moments in transit for reading.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy‘s monthly QuickLit round-up.

What are you reading these days?

Stop…Drop…Read…

Today is Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday. This Girl from Yamhill has delighted generations of newish readers with her stories. For years, her birthday was also known as “Drop Everything And Read” day – now it’s celebrated for the entire month of April. Ten years ago I first wrote about the day and enjoyed seeing friends and family reflect on their favorite Ramona memories.

Reading Girls

My love of reading began as child and some of my favorite moments with my Texas girlies throughout the years have involved reading…from the time each of them were little babes, I have read to them…now they all read to me…and Miss M & I even have read books from afar & had some book club type conversations…

In honor of this bookish birthday, on this Tuesday, I’m sharing 10 quotations from favorite children’s books that make me want to drop everything and read. Some of these books are from my childhood & some that are more recent discoveries. Many of these are series – which provided hours and hours of entertainment throughout the years.

“She was not a slowpoke grownup. She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happened next.” – Beverly Cleary, Ramona the Pest

Ah, Ramona. The Ramona Quimby series…so much can be said about these fun books from childhood reading…all these years later its amazing how many things still bubble up from the stories. And really, who can look at the capital letter Q and not think of Ramona creating her cat signature?

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweitzer

The ValueTales Series filled my bookshelves as a child. These short and simple stories provided a gateway to many great people throughout history. Throughout school, many of my research projects were on subjects I first discovered in my ValueTales readings. Among my favorites: The Value of Learning: The Story of Marie Curie; The Value of Dedication: The Story of Albert Schweitzer; The Value of Fairness: The Story of Nellie Bly

“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.” – R.J. Palacio, Wonder

Wonder pulled me in from the beginning. When I finished it, I bought several copies for dear ones and put it in hands with the nudge to “read this now.”

“Humans speak too much. They chatter like chimps, crowding the world with their noise even when they have nothing to say.” – Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan – A fun read over Thanksgiving break that had me chuckling out loud. A delightful read aloud with the 10 year old in WI when I was there in February.

“If everything’s the same, then there aren’t any choices! I want to wake up in the morning and decide things!” – Lois Lowry, The Giver

The Giver Quartet is a more recent read for me – I read the first book several years ago. More recently, I gave the quartet to Miss M who devoured the set and I quickly read the entire series, too. So many things to contemplate coming out of these…

“I have never tried that before, so I think I should be able to do that.” – Pippi Longstockings

The Pippi Longstockings stories are filled with spunk and adventure. When Miss M was little, I gave her a book of Pippi stories for an early birthday and when I would visit I would read them to her before naptime.

“I guess I love mischief as much as Amelia Bedelia. I simply enjoy laughing at life.” – Peggy Parish

The Amelia Bedelia series was such a fun “early reading” series – I think this was the start of my love of puns and wit in simple words. To this day, when I hear some phrases I’m reminded of some of her “-isms.”

“It’s good to toast space exploration and fancy gadgets, but it’s more important to raise a glass to the beauty of soft candlelight.” –Nancy Drew, The Sign of the Twisted Candles

Ah, Nancy Drew…the start of my mystery/thriller enjoyment that continues even to today. Years ago I shared insights into my love of the Nancy Drew series as I finished reading a good narrative nonfiction about the syndicate that cranked out story after story.

“There’s no great loss without some small gain.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie

Of course this Midwest girl is enamored of the stories of Laura and her family as they braved life on the frontier.

“My name is Skippito Friskito. (clap-clap)
I fear not a single bandito. (clap-clap)
My manners are mellow,
I’m sweet like the Jell-o,
I get the job done, yes indeed-o. (clap-clap)”
– Judy Schachner, Skippyjon Jones

Miss M introduced me to the Skippyjon Jones series in the picture above in 2010. Silly, funny, and perfect for read aloud. It was fun to have Miss M read aloud to me including fun voices and accents to tell the stories.

Thanks to Carole for taking my Ten on Tuesday suggestion for books that make you want to drop everything and read. While there are also many non-kids books that I would happily stop, drop and read – it only seemed right for me to focus on kids books on this milestone day for a favorite author from my childhood.

What books make you want to drop everything and read? 

p.s. Here’s a great Op-Ed from Nicholas Kristof to mark this centennial birthday.

Enchanted…Snowy…Saturday…

The calendar reads more than a week into April. And yet, on Saturday the weather looked more winter than spring. After an intense work week, I decided step back from plans for errands and other running around and enjoy a quasi-snow day.

Snow Read

With the snow starting to fall, I made a pot of mint tea and settled in with a book on the Kindle. The read – The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim – a book that has been on my list to read for a while – a book that I snapped up on a Kindle deal a few weeks ago & decided would be an April read – a book set in the Italy of springtime. Throughout the day, I was swept away to lush gardens and gentle breezes and views of sea, even as the view out my window turned whiter and whiter.

Simple Lunch

In early afternoon, I took a quick reading break to pull together a simple, healthy & seemingly indulgent lunch: Citrus Roasted Shrimp & Asparagus with a Curry Aioli. (Bonus: leftovers for lunch this week!)

Organized

Throughout the day, I would read for a bit and then “adult” for a bit – some laundry was tackled, my shower got a spring cleaning and I started a long overdue pantry/cabinet refresh.

Italian Supper

The snow stopped falling before dinnertime. After spending my day “in Italy” of course my Saturday supper would have an Italian flavor to it. I tweaked this recipe into Florentine Meat Pie using what I had on hand and it is a winner.

Cookies

For the evening, I caught up with my PBS Masterpiece/Mystery shows while knitting. More mint tea was enjoyed along with these tasty Almond Joy No Bake cookies that I whipped up mid afternoon.

As I crawled into bed last night, I marveled at the R&R that occurred on this unexpected snow day. While it was not a Hunker Down day, it was nice to be able to choose to just stay home and recharge when nature decided that we needed to see a few more snowflakes this season.