Sunday, November 8, 2009

Food and a story

I just made the best Macaroni and Cheese ever! (if I do say so myself.)

My kids love mac and cheese, but the best I usually do is purchase Annie's organic brand for them. However, I recently saw a recipe online that looked easy enough and that I was almost certain the family would love. I was correct. I made a few changes to the recipe (enough to call the end result my own!)

4 pieces of bacon, crumbled (I cooked the full pound in the oven at about 375 for 20 minutes)
1/2 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
about 5 or 6 ounces of elbow macaroni (next time I may try bowtie)
2 cups of shredded mozzarella
4 ounces of blue cheese (I don't even really like blue cheese, but it's great in this recipe)
1 cup of skim milk.

cook the bacon, use a bit of the grease to saute the onion.
cook the macaroni according to directions
in a bowl, mix the bacon, the onion, the blue cheese, 1 1/2 cups of the mozz, and the milk. Add the cooked macaroni and stir. Add fresh ground black pepper to taste. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes, add the remaining 1/2 cup of mozz to the top and continue cooking for about 10 minutes.

We had this for supper with a tossed green salad and clementines. It was delicious! Sophie just suggested more bacon next time.

Now, for the story. I recently finished reading "Her fearful symmetry" by Audrey Neif..... the author of "The Time Traveler's Wife." Now, I found the time travelers wife to be surprisinly good. When I began, I thought "I know just how this is going to end." Well, I was right, but that didn't diminish the pleasure of reading it. It was just such an enjoyable story and a well told story.

So, I looked forward to reading her next novel. It could not have been more different than her previous! After reading about 1/3 of the book, I was well acquainted with the characters in the apartment. Each was a bit quirky or just plain certifiable. Then, in entered a couple more characters and the book begins to be more about them. Okay, I was fine with that as the 2 new characters were equally as interesting as strange as the first set. Then, a conflict arose. Oh wait, another conflict. At one point I told my husband that every time I turned the page I had no idea which characters were going to be on the page. I guess I would say that the auth0r kept me on my toes throughout the whole book. This is a book I would highly recommend for a dreary week (think cold outside, blanket, hot tea or cider, and a good book inside).

So, finally living up to the name of my blog, some food and some story!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mean people suck

I'm not going to say much more, but I'm sick of dealing with people who are just mean down deep in their souls. These are people who delight in being mean and find value in teaching their kids to be mean.

I can almost deal with their meanness, and find that I can mostly just pity the miserable lives they must lead. But when it spills over into my home, and into my family, it just makes me angry. So, I'm angry and I'm hurt.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Little Sister, Facebook, and Home Alone

I love my family. And today, I am loving them all just a little bit more.

My mother and my mother-in-law, along with my husband's grandmother, drove over to our place to see the daughter in her first ever play. She was one of 83 Munchkins in Byron's production of "The Wizard of Oz." The boy joined us, and was excited to see all the grandmas, which says alot for the boy and the grandmas!

During intermission, a woman struck up a conversation with the boy. He happily talked to her for a bit, and then I heard him say "my little sister is in the play." It was music to my ears!

You see, technically, they are half siblings, and there was a time when they made that distinction. But, as he enters his 2nd year of living with us during the school year and his mother in the summer, our sense of "family" feels stronger every day.

On Saturday, he asked if we would consider getting him a "real phone" rather than the pay as you go that he currently has. He had some good points, and we asked him to check out the pricing of some family plans. Later I saw on Facebook that he posted that his "parental units" are considering getting him a real cell phone. Yes, he referred to me as his "parental unit!" Okay, that may not be all that touching to some, but it totally melted my heart.

We had a guest coming for dinner yesterday. I needed to run to the store, so I asked the boy if he would watch the daughter while I ran uptown. He agreed, and both kids were told to stay inside until I got home in 20 minutes. When I arrived, the kids and the guest (who had arrived a bit early) were all sitting at the table talking. We had a lovely visit, a delicious dinner (local potato and local, organic and biodynamic leek soup) and then the guest, husband and daughter went to the theater. The boy said he had to tell me something. He related that when I left, he went downstairs and the daughter was upstairs. All of a sudden, he heard a man saying, "are you home alone?" to the daughter. He grabbed a baseball bat and came running up the stairs to save his sister! Then, he saw that it was the expected guest, so he put the bat down and they all sat down to talk. But he was prepared to protect her.

I love my family, and the four of us are really becoming a family.

ps. I've talked to the daughter about the fact that even though she knew the guest, she should not have answered the door. She can never answer the door when Mommy and Daddy are gone. She should always let the babysitter or brother answer the door.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fast food -- Slow food

One of my favorite books is Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle. In one chapter, she talks about the convenience of home canned tomatoes. It's a fair amount of work in late August, but pulling out a mason jar of locally grown tomatoes in the midst of a busy winter day sure makes dinner time quick and simple. That idea has stuck with me. What is convenience?

While our family tries to eat healthy (Oberweis Milk, organic produce, whole grains, etc.) I also enjoy a fast food burger sometimes. In fact, our local Burger King has $1 Double Cheeseburgers right now, which are my favorite. I have to fight off not pulling in every time I drive past! But, eating healthy and eating local is very important to me. I enjoy fixing dinner for my family and lunch for whichever neighborhood kids are over at the time. But I don't want to spend all day in the kitchen. I want the convenience of fast food with the ethics of slow food!

But, how to do it? Some of it is pretty easy. On Thursdays when we get our share in from Angelic Organics, I clean and prep the vegetables. This makes them easy to grab for quick snacks, plus they are in my mind as I plan our meals for the week.

I'm trying to also keep a few quick and simple recipes ready to go on the days when time has gotten away from me. Recipes that can include whatever local, seasonal ingredients that I have on hand. Last week, I had organic strawberries,Phil's eggs, some tomatoes and cucumbers in olive oil, and summer squash. So, I threw together an easy quiche, a salad and the strawberries. It took about 10 minutes to put together, and then 45 minutes to bake. The perfect amount of time to enjoy a glass of wine while I read! The quiche is perfect because it's so forgiving and you can add whatever you want. Include meat if you have it, or make it vegetarian. You can also double the recipe to make 2, and then you have an easy breakfast ready to go.

The easy quiche recipe is from an old friend of my mom's. I've changed it up, but basically it's:

4 eggs, 1/2 cup of Bisquick, 1 cup of milk, 1 onion, 1/2 cup of cheese. Mix together.
Add whatever seasonal ingredients you want. I added summer squash.
Season with salt and pepper.
Pour into an oiled quiche pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Slice and serve.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The pay's not great, but the benefits are priceless.

Wednesday morning started early for me. The alarm rang at 4:30 am. I already had my clothes set out, ready to go. I tried to be as quiet as possible, so the rest of the family could sleep.

By 5:00 am I had my cappuccino, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and 2 kashi bars in the car and ready to go.

My morning commute takes about an hour. I watch the sun come up, enjoy the river view, navigate the construction in Rockford and finally turn down a bumpy country road. This morning, I was greeted by a beautiful deer and a lone turkey.

I arrived at work by 6 am, pulled on my rubber boots, winter coat and gardening gloves and joined the rest of the crew in the barn.

There were about 14 of us, waiting to hear what the day would hold. We were assigned harvesting kale first, and then red and white turnips. It was my first time for both, so I worked with a more seasoned harvester. We knifed through the kale, tossing aside yellowed leaves. And we talked. Turns out, my partner spent some time in Urbana also. In fact, she worked as an aide in the High School with Autism students. We knew some of the same students, and enjoyed some of the same places in Urbana...especially my beloved Common Ground Food Coop.

After our 20 minute breakfast break (quickly downing one kashi bar and one pbj) we headed out to harvest the turnips. It was a blast. The turnips practically jumped into our arms! They sit just barely covered in their beds, ripe for the pickin. We were told to harvest 16 crates and it took us about 10 minutes to do that. It felt good to pull, pack, load, pull, pack, load, pull, pack, load. Quick, immediate gratification.

Then, the washing. Oh, so that's why the harvest is so quick. It takes forever to clean the darn things! First, unload the crates (that we just packed) onto the tables. Then, look for aphids. A few patches were really infested, but most we free of the little bugs. Next, pull off yellowed or unsightly leaves. Finally, pack them back into the crates.

Step 2: to the water table. Unpack the crates and place the turnips into the water basin for a quick soak. Then, Mary puts them through the wringer. Literally. She puts them through a brush apparatus that really cleans them up, then they fall into an even bigger tub of water where we pulled them out and, you guessed it, packed them into the crates.

Sound repetitious? Yeah, it was a bit. My legs got a little tired standing on the concrete floor. But, it was also very peaceful. At times, the wind was really cold so I pulled up my hood. In the midst of all that activity, I was alone with my thoughts. Off to one side, 2 young women were sharing jokes, silly jokes. But I also heard one talking about leaving on Tuesday for San Francisco where she'll be working at a women's shelter. The other spent a year in Norway working on a farm. Interesting people.

I also spent time talking with our young intern from Sweden. Interesting kid. Has been in Waldorf schools his whole life. The other intern is from a Chicago suburb, studying geography at SIU. Our conversation touched on the organic farming movement, where lingonnberries grow, raw foods, whole foods, and finding balance in life.

By 1pm, I was in the car heading home. Tired, dirty and hungry. But invigorated, purified and filled.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Father's Day, Part 2

So, on Father's Day proper we set off for Lowden Park to finally hike up to the Laredo Taft statue of the Eternal Indian (popularly known as Blackhawk) that stands on the bluff overlooking the Rock River. It's a short distance from our home, but we've only seen it from across the river. Today, finally, we'd walk up and see it. It was a hot, humid day. The paths were a bit muddy from a recent shower. But, we walked down to the river using the approximately 175 stairs leading down. Once down, the daughter decided that she'd rather hike up using one of the trails. I was really not all that excited about hiking through the muddy paths, but the husband was all for it. So, off the two went. The daughter chattered the whole way back up. Some particularly wonderful quotes that the husband shared with me (and all his facebook friends) are:

"I've always wanted to live a life of adventure. Now I know what that is all about."

"I'll take the shortcut. In deciding between the long-cut and the shortcut, I think it's always better to take the shortcut."

"Is that poison ivy? I would rather not go through poison ivy to attain my goals."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Father's Day to Remember...

What a great idea! We saw that the Phantom Regiment (a world class Drum and Bugle Corp from Rockford) was going to be performing last night. We both love the pageantry of Marching Bands and Drum and Bugle Corps, though we disagree on our rating of his Beloved Illini Marching Band.

So, we set off for a nice evening out. Now, we were in the midst of severe thunderstorm warnings, but we've had them for days, and have barely had any rain. The storms just keep missing us.

So, over to the Boylan High School to pick up the tickets. Sky is still clear.
Grab a quick dinner at a Chinese Buffet. Sky is clouding up but the storm will pass. Right?
Enter the parking lot. The rain begins.
And then, it starts "bucketing down" as Neil Gaiman would say.
It buckets and buckets. Lightening, thunder, the whole works.

But, it's still about an hour until the show starts. All around us in the parking lot, folks are just cozying up in their cars to wait out the storm. I have my book. he dozes, and the girl chatters and climbs and colors and chatters. They man in the car beside us flosses his teeth. To each his own.

Bucket after bucket after
bucket after bucket.

We look at each other. "m
aybe we should have eaten dinner first and then purchased the tickets, " he says. Yeah, hindsight is 20/20.

We brought rain ponchos with us. But, this is beyond rain ponchos.

The girl is getting restless, he is getting irritated. I'm enjoying my book.

And then, he becomes the husband and father that I love so much. He
turns to the girl and says, "I'll race you around the car!" Her eyes light up. And they are out the door only to return in about 10 second drenched. Giggling, laughing, and in a world all their own.

Only you, man of my dreams, could have done it. The tickets weren't refunded, we went home wet and disappointed. And yet, you made it a night to remember. A night of laughter and play.

It's been this way all of our life together. We've faced real and profound sadness along the tragedies, profound disappointments, sudden and surprising loss of job. Right now we're saddled with 2 mortgages as our home in Urbana sits on the market.

And yet, it's been the best years of my life. And you've made it so, we've made it so. We have been fully present for all that life has offered us. We have been fully alive for the sorrow and joy, for the laughter and all the tears.

I love you with all my heart, all my life, all that I have.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I thought it was 2009!

We try to live an eco-conscious life. We recycle, compost, purchase locally, use CFL's, etc. If our home in Urbana ever sells, we'd love to replace our Honda with a Hybrid, or one of the little cars that gets really great gas mileage.

We've been interested in the Prius for a while. And, when the new commercial came out, I was intrigued with the way the "dancers" transform the scenery. I thought it was really cool.

But, the tag line? Man's wants and Nature's needs? Every time they say it, I can't believe it. Man's!? Are they really only selling this car to men? In our community in northern Illinois, I see many women driving the Prius. Are they not taking women's wants into consideration? Oh, wait, I get it. They (the men who wrote this ad) think that "man" refers to all of humanity.

Well, it doesn't. When you say "Man" I hear male, not female. And my 8 year old daughter also heard "man" meaning not her. She said, "how stupid! Don't they want women to buy their car also?"

So, Toyota, you just lost two customers. I'm thinking the Smart for 2 will be a better option for our family, since we have men's and women's wants to consider.

Friday, June 5, 2009

16 Things I Can't Live Without this Summer

I stole this idea from the blogger I love to hate...

1. Sleeping with the windows open on cool nights.

2. Laying in bed listening to the birds singing at 4:30 in the morning, knowing that I can go back to sleep for as long as I want.

3. Fresh, local, organic asparagus. (I love it so much I don't encourage my kids to even try it!)

4. Growing a garden.

5. Gardening with my daughter and husband.

6. Getting the neighbor kids interested in gardening.

7. Fixing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for all the neighborhood kids.

8. Our little town's Farmer's Market.

9. Our own garden tomatoes.

10. Making fresh salsa with our own home-grown ingredients.

11. Having a glass of wine on the deck, with old friends, or family, or new neighbors and friends.

12. Going to Turner Falls, OK!

13. Watching my daughter ride her bike.

14. Going to Weld Park.

15. Going to the Forest Preserve

16. Fresh, Local, Organic produce from Angelic Organics!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"My Mom is an organic farmer"

We're still meeting our neighbors, as our arrival in this small, northern Illinois town was rather rushed and chaotic. We got a job, bought a house, found out we didn't buy a house when it was sold to someone else, moved in to a church member's house while they were on vacation, put our belongings in storage, got the kids started in school, looked for another house, bought a house, moved in.

So, we're still meeting our neighbors. It's a great street in a great town. People of different ages, different color, different interests. The daughter described it like this, "it's like God has put a protective shield over our street so nothing bad can happen here." So there are parts of her theology that I hope grow and develop, but for now, as an 8 year old, I'm glad her neighborhood feels like that. Like a place where nothing bad can happen. She knows the kids, she knows lots of the adults, and she feels safe.

She really likes the parents across the street, and I really like the 2 boys who live there. The daughter just learned to ride her bike without training wheels, and they have the perfectly placed driveway for "turn-arounds" as she then races back up the street.

She especially like the mother across the street, and will ask if she can go play with the boys, or talk with the mom. As the mom is planting flowers, watering plants, putting more seed in the bird feeders, the daughter is right beside her chattering away.

I walked over to chat with the mom this weekend. As we got to know one another, she mentioned that the daughter told her that I was an organic farmer! Huh!? I do work as an educator at the Learning Center at Angelic Organics, and I did get to work on the farm crew last season. I started my garden over the weekend and put in heirloom tomatoes and organic peppers from Seed Savers Exchange, and heirloom lettuce from Earthbound Farms. But an organic farmer! I wish.
I'm barely a gardener. Truth be told, I don't really like to weed, I often forget to water, and soon the whole thing will just be alot of work.

I don't do it because I find a sense of peace as I work, or because I love the solitude. I do it because I want the children around me to know where food comes from, and that it doesn't come from the grocery store. I want them to see how kitchen scraps can become the rich, dark compost that will feed and nourish the soil. I want them to see how the rich, dark soil will feed and nourish first the seeds and then the plants. I want them to learn to enjoy the tastes of different vegetables that are still warm from the sun and wet from the dew. I want them to grow up nourished by these vegetables.

I'm no where close to being an Organic Farmer, and I'm not even sure I can call myself much of an organic gardener. But my daughter thinks I am. It's who she sees me as. It's who I want to be as she grows up.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hidden Spots

Many years ago, a family gifted a parcel of land to the county, creating a wonderful park. Many of the "old-timers" in town have fond memories of this little gem. I've heard stories of mothers and daughters fishing in the creek, of older sisters being married in this park, and of these same people celebrating 50th wedding anniversaries surrounded by these wonderful memories.

I'm new to my town, and to the beauty of Northern Illinois. But I'm not new to the beauty and the peace that comes from spending a day at the creek. Most of my childhood was spent in, on or near North Creek in Princeville, IL. We waded in it, tubed down in, and jumped across it. We got leeches from it, something I'll never forget. When my friend Lori's pregnant horse was missing, we hiked all around North Creek until we came across the lovely little foal and her mother in a sunny clearing. Another day I'll never forget. We named one part of the creek Demon's Cove after we were certain that we saw red-robed people walking across the woods. We even found a scrap of fabric on a barbed wire fence.

The sound of running water is the sound of my childhood. It calms me, restores me, and gives me a sense of peace. It also wakes me up from my slumber and quickens my blood. It gives me courage, and
invites me to take on adventure.

Thank you, to that family long ago who chose to preserve and protect this little haven for families you would never know. We will appreciate it, and keep it safe for another generation of mothers and daughters and sisters and partners.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mother may I? Yes you may!

The 8 year old had Scarlet Fever last week, and then came down with Pink Eye this weekend. In response, I've been cleaning like a madwoman in the hopes of ridding our home of whatever is thinking of hitting us next.

So, today was spent finishing the laundry, dusting the house, dusting the ceiling fans, vacuuming, sweeping the tile floors and then getting ready to mop the floors.

I hate mopping the floors. I love it when they are clean, smelling of Dr. Bonner's peppermint soap. But I hate to mop. I'd finished the kitchen and was dreading mopping the bathroom and entry way, when the same 8 year old asked if she could mop the bathroom.

Yes, she wanted to. I granted permission.

Then she asked if she could mop the entryway. Again, I granted permission.

I went to the laundry room to continue doing the laundry. She came down and asked if mopping the floors could be her responsibility. Yes, she wants to do them.

Needless to say, she is now in charge of mopping floors.

Woo Hoo! I am a happy woman!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Welcoming the Spring

I spent a wonderful week in Northern Illinois for Spring Break. No, I don't have memories of the surf gentling luring me to sleep, or tan lines to remind me of a restful break. I do, however, have some great pictures from my Kids with Kids Daycamp at the Learning Center at Angelic Organics.

I spent 3 days with human kids as we watched for signs of birth from our family of goats. And we were not disappointed! On Thursday afternoon, we watched as one of our girls gave birth to twin kids. They were later named Thalia and Latte. This is Thalia being born:

Monday, March 9, 2009

I'm human again

I've been sick with the flu. So sick, that I couldn't even enjoy reading. Definitely too sick to cook.

But, I'm better now, and ready to get back to it. I've been wanting to try new recipes lately, and in the spirit of Lent and Every Monday Matters, I'm going to try something new each week.

I found a wonderful recipe in my Moosewood cookbook for Southwester Corn and Potato Soup. This is a sweet potato soup. Now, my daughter and I love sweet potatoes, but The Boys are not big fans. However, I think this recipe has enough other flavors that everyone will love it. I'm going to bake a loaf of fresh bread to accompany it.

If you are experiencing the first signs of Spring, this soup may not appeal to you. But here is Northern Illinois where the crocus are still safely below the surface, and the daffodils are nowhere to be seen, this soup will be a perfect cold weather meal.

Update: This was a winner. The colors were beautiful, and after tossing about half of it in the blender, it turned into a wonderful creamy soup. It was just a bit sweet, but also spicy...a wonderful combination on a cold, damp evening.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I can't think through this flu!

I hate it. I've been home sick all week, and have done little more than flip through the television stations. I have a huge pile of overdue library books that I wanted to read, but they are all just too much for me.

So, today, I finally got my butt off the couch, gathered up the books, grabbed some cash to pay off the overdue fines, and returned them.

And, checked out one of my guilty pleasures...Sophie Kinsella. I'm heading back to the couch now to begin "Shopaholic and Sister." Kinsella's books are funny, over the top, and just what I need to help make me feel better. I'll get back to my Booksense picks when I'm really over this flu. Until then, I need easy reading!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

How many have you read?

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen X
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien X
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling X
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee X
6 The Bible - X
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 1984 - George Orwell X
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman (It's called The Golden Compass in the US) X
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens X
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott X
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller X
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare X (okay, maybe not absolutely everything, but much of it)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien x
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger X (my son is now reading it in HS and I think I want to read it again.)
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger X (thought I would hate it, but loved it!)
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams X
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll X
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis XX (Read the whole series, multiple times)
34 Emma - Jane Austen X (went through a "Jane Austen" thing some years ago)
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen X
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis X
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini - X
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De rnieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell X
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown X
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving X
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery X
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood X (But not a big Atwood fan, sorry Sugar Mags!)
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding X
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan X (This is both the worst and best book I've ever read. I absolutely hated the first half, but kept at it because my Professor Joe Bessler Northcutt recommended it. The second half made it all worthwhile!)
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons X
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen X
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens X
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley X
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon X
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez X
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding X
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville X
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett X
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno - Dante X
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens X
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker X
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert X
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom.
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad X
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery X
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams X
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare X
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (attempted it, but never made it to the end)

So, I've made it through 48 so far. There are some on the list I've never heard of, some I have no intention of reading, and some that I am immediately addding to my list.

In particular, I want to read "Of mice and men" and "Grapes of Wrath". I think they will both resonate in powerful ways with what we as a nation/world are going through economically right now.

As I said above, I want to read Catcher in the Rye again, and I also want to read "Love in the time of Cholera."

Disappointing to see how few female authors are listed. I would have added Edwidge Danticutt and Julia Alvarez for sure. And how does a list like this ignore Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison? I would also add Jhumpa Lahiri.

What have you read, and what would you add?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's a man's world

I joined my husband yesterday for an area clergy meeting. Yes, I am an ordained UCC Minister. It was a bit shocking to walk into the room of a very large, downtown church of a very large city and find only male clergy at the gathering. They even said, "look, he brought a girl". A girl, not a woman. Ick.

But, it was good to be among other clergy who are wrestling with the life, teaching and stories of a first century peasant living in an oppressive empire, and what it means for those of us who are trying to follow in the way of this peasant as we participate in a new oppressive empire.

It was good for me because I was reminded who I think Jesus was, and what his significance was, is and will continue to be. As I said at that meeting, "I think every story is a story about restoration to community." And I do.

Resurrection? Yep, the community of followers did not drift away after his execution. Rather, they banded together again and spread the message of welcoming the outsider.

Healing of the leper? Yep, the man no longer has to proclaim "unclean, unclean" as he navigates his community. Rather, he is told to proclaim that he is clean, approachable, a member.

You name it, I will see it through the eyes of restoration of community.

I've always said that I believe that what I am about is reading our sacred stories as though they are alive, and our lives as sacred stories. I see this sacred story lived out here in my school district. I've begun working as a substitute teacher and aid this year. I am often called to be an aid in some of the cross-category classes. As I work with these students who are in wheel chairs, or hearing impaired, or on the Autism spectrum, or slower learners, I remember the days of my childhood when children who were different were put on a bus and sent to a different school. Taken from their community, their neighborhoods, and sent to learn somewhere else.

Now, these students are in their own communities. They are in the traditional classrooms for different parts of the day, enjoying being chosen as a partner for bowling in PE, playing with their classmates in Home Center in Kindergarten, helping to put the supplies away in music. Just part of the gang, part of the class.

Yep, restoration of community. I'm not sure I see it all that often in the Church. But I sure see it in our public schools. And I am grateful every day that my children and your children get to live it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Simply Red

I am on staff at a learning center for an organic farm in northern Illinois. I was fortunate to also have the opportunity to work with the farm crew for several weeks this past fall. The vegetables on this farm are gorgeous! I knew that chard was pretty, and that herbs can be quite attractive. But I didn't know that broccoli could look so majestic, or that cabbage could be quite so large...think Little Shop of Horrors!

I realized that, while my family eats a much wider array and quantity of vegetables than many, there are still so many that I am just not accustomed to preparing. And cabbage is one of them. I don't remember eating it as a child, I don't remember my mother fixing it. I just somehow missed all things cabbage (except for coleslaw at a restaurant).

But, cabbage is such wonderful winter vegetable. It is harvested in the late fall, even here in Northern Illinois, and it can keep for a month easily in your fridge.

So, earlier this week I made a lovely cabbage salad with a nice little head of red cabbage. I looked at a variety of recipes online and in my cookbooks, but opted for just slicing and dicing what was in my crisper. Here it is...

1/2 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
bunch of green onions, chopped
stalk of celery, chopped

I then made a simple lime dressing (based on the Lime-cilantro vinaigrette in GRUB)
2 T lime juice
1 t dijon mustard
1 t parsley flakes (I didn't have any cilantro)
2 t pure maple syrup
sea salt to taste
3T Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Toss together, and let the flavors blend. Tasted good that day, tasted even better the next.
My 8 year old daughter gave it a try but didn't like it. My husband said it was definitely a keeper.

Did you know that cabbage has more vitamin c than oranges!

Humbled by History

I was in tears this morning as I read our local newspaper. On one side of the page was a beautiful piece on the new AmericaIam museum exhibit in Philadelphia. This exhibit is a tribute to the African American experience. From the Doors of No Return, through the Emancipation Proclamation, through the life and teachings of Frederick Douglas, to the ballot box, to the Klu Klux Klan.

And on the facing page, was a spread detailing the Inauguration Celebration of Barak Obama. News coverage, online coverage, balls and concerts. The Disney Channel will be broadcasting the Kids' Inaugural. The inauguration of our first African American president. I'm not sure what amazes me more...that it's happening, a person of color leads our American people. Or that it's taken this long for it to happen.

The two stories, side by side, brought me to tears. Bring me to tears. Each time I think about it. I am so humbled by the men and women and youth and children who brought us to this day. I am so humbled by the legacy that they have left us. And I am so proud that my children are alive to witness it. To see what was only imagined, come true.

Can it be that Martin Luther King, Jr's dream has come? Is this the beginning of measuring the worth of our brothers and sister by the content of their character, and not the color of their skin?