Archive for December, 2008
Alright, so now I’m 36. I said that out loud, right? It doesn’t feel as weird as I thought it would. Seems like a long time since 20, though . Since it’s natural (for normal people) to reflect as time goes by, I was thinking about some memorable birthdays yesterday.
My 20th was terrific. There were good friends (Kim, Bill, Sean, Jason and a guy skating on a iced pool with no pants on) and good times – Ed Debevic’s and my special birthday present: a hot pink toilet plunger, the aforementioned pants-less guy and an empty house where we all gathered to hang out. No, nothing untoward or illegal happened, I’m pretty sure we were all too innocent at that time (at least I was!) and again surprisingly, no one needed anything other than fried food and sugar to act like idiots.
See evidence below: These are Kim’s photos and I thank her for keeping them.
My 16th birthday was special, I was a junior in high school and I remember I got flowers from my dad. I’m not at all sure why my shirt is inside out, but that is my sugar cube corsage (yep 16 of them) that mom made me. I had to cut Kim out of the photo because she’s wearing something she forbade me to ever show and I didn’t have time to put the censor bars in the photo. I kept my word. See.
I think this was my 4th birthday. So many things wrong like my Little House on the Prairie bonnet, my brother’s crazy hair and why I look so sad? Perhaps I knew this photo would resurface three decades later? Ice cream cone cupcakes!!! YUM!
As seen in the above photos, I can say that mom always came through with birthday cakes until the year I got the dreaded cheesecake. Imagine this conversation:
Mom: I made your birthday cake!
Me: a cheesecake?? *insert grossed out face here*
Mom: YES! it’s your favorite!!
Me: Umm no, that’s Jason’s favorite. I’m the child of yours that HATES cheesecake.
Mom: oh. well. sorry!! Can you blow the candles out anyway and we’ll just eat it?
This year (aka yesterday) I got chocolate/chocolate cupcakes from Sweet Mandy B’s in Lincoln Park. no pictures…sorry.
Back to the birthday memories…for my 34th birthday two years ago, I treated mom, Jacqi and Valerie to a day at the spa. That was a good day! We went back to Jac’s house and she made me a taco feast and a tres leches cake. It was the first birthday and Christmas since I can remember (ever??) that Dad and Val spent with all of us. It was a very good time.
I’m done for now…it’s freezing in the basement and there is a nap to be had.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Zoe’s Christmas program was a few weeks ago and I’m just getting around to posting a few pictures. Here are some with Uncle Jose and Uncle Jay-Jay. Then she found a snowman friend and had some fun posing with him.
Mom and I took Zoe to see Santa last weekend. It was a balmy 55 degrees with 40mph winds so it still felt cold. She was a little intimidated by Santa and while chatty outside, she was almost mute when actually near Santa and Mrs. Claus and the helper elf.
Zoe is going through that “I don’t want to take photos” phase and as a result, she make a weird crinkly-faced smile whenever she sees the camera (or turns her head as seen in this one). I had to ask her to take a silly photo and then a nice one. She came through…I love the “nice” one. It’s my new favorite.
She looks a little shell shocked to me.
And finally, the Santa vidoes:
Once again my annual Cookie Swap is over and as usual I forgot to take photos of the cookies. Normally, Mom and I alternate making soups (3 different kinds) or I make a pot of spaghetti for food, but since I had a hectic week prepping for Christmas, trying to finish the basement renovations and getting ready for Jose’s parents’ visit, we decided just to have everyone bring an appetizer. It worked out really well. Very little food for me to prep although I did make my traditional bacon wrapped dates (YUM) and herbed cheese stuffed mushrooms rolled in panko and baked (YUM TOO). So I had to settle for taking a photo of the container of cookies I collected instead of the spread of cookies (which took up 2 tables).
We had about 22 people in the house all eating, talking (boy, teachers can be loud!) and swapping cookies. I really love this tradition we started five years ago. We’ve talked about having one in June too, so I’m hoping that someone does decide to do it next summer.
So I’m doing a little menu planning for this week and I’m going all out since we have visitors. Our plans are to have lunch out somewhere each day and come back at night and cook dinner here. It’s very cold this week and we don’t want to be out at night unless we have too. For Christmas Eve, we traditionally have beef tenderloin (filets this year) and my special Christmas Eve mashed potatoes. Everyone loves them, but they are so rich that I limit making them to one night a year or a really special occasion. They are caramelized onion mashed potatoes. I’ll take photos and post this as my next recipe. I’ll also make the same mushrooms again and probably a salad with dried cranberries and goat cheese and candied pecans (which I still need to make).
Also on the menu is a recipe my friend Karen gave me for Hoisin beef braised shortribs. It sounds intimidating, but it’s the easiest recipe in the world and fairly foolproof too.. it’s from the Food Network of course! My only edit is that I only use half of the hoisin the recipe calls for otherwise I think it too sticky.
Beef Stroganoff (one of my favorite dishes in the world!!) Our friends are coming for dinner for this one. I hope I don’t screw it up. I don’t use a recipe for this…so every time it’s a little different. The last time I made this it was the best it’s ever been, so I’m hoping my cooking karma comes through.
Stuffed shells and meatballs and maybe some SenBread (a friend’s recipe for garlic bread with provolone cheese)
After Christmas, three of my school friends are coming for lunch and a movie (Tale of Despereaux) next week. It was my holiday gift to them. I’ll cook some Italian food and then we’ll go to the movies. Not sure exactly what I’m making, but most likely baby shells in a marinara/beschemel sauce. It’s very easy and tasty. I’m going to try to make panna cotta too, which will make Jose very happy.
Of course I would write about books, I am a librarian after all. Seriously though, there are not enough words (hah) to describe how much I love books. All genres, but right now I’m most enamored with picture books and books for elementary school kids. To be fair to all the “grownup” (I used to say “adult”, but that has it’s own connotation) books that I occasionally get to read… these are the books that consume my days. I thought I would talk a little bit about some of my old favorites and some “sure to be” new favorites.
I can’t really put these books in any order of preference because they are all my favorites so I’m just jumping in with titles. Let me throw out a caveat here. Even though I read a lot of books and make many recommendations, I am not into reviewing books; maybe it’s because I like to read so much that it didn’t matter to me what other people thought about the books I was reading. Even today when I book talk to my students, I stick to talking about the genre or the general plot or character info. I make sure that even when kids ask me about genres I don’t particularly like (sci fi — ugh!) I find something positive to say about their choice. I don’t think it’s necessary to enjoy every book you read as long as you can identify and explain what you didn’t like about it. So there will be no deep, analytical reviews here, just my thoughts on books you already know I love. So, yes I guess this will be biased
Trumpet of the Swan – E.B. White
This is a toss up between Trumpet and Charlotte’s Web, but I feel more people are familiar with Charlotte so this would be something new to experience. This is the story of Louis, a trumpeter swan who is born mute. Since he can’t communicate with his swan family the natural way, he learns to read and write and play a real trumpet. He goes on lots of adventures and has a great time with his human friend, Sam.
Definitely on my Top 10 list of all time. I can’t say too much about this book without ruining the story, but it’s so worth a read. I’ve given it to countless people (family and co-workers) and 99% of the time people love it. It’s about a teenage girl who goes on a cross country adventure with her grandparents to find her mother. I love every single book Sharon Creech writes and consider her one of my favorite authors.
Love that Dog Hate that Cat - Sharon Creech
These are two books told from the POV of a boy in elementary school. He is learning about poetry in school and this is his poetry journal. Jack hates poetry so he starts using his dog, Sky as his inspiration. This is an excellent tool for teaching poetry and using student journals. The sequel (Hate that Cat) JUST came out and it’s also superb. I read it today (It’s told in poem format so it’s super fast to read) and it was funny, sweet and touching.
Sisters Grimm: Fairy Tale Detectives – Michael Buckley
This series is incredible! Even as much as I read, I am sometimes blown away at the creativity of authors. You’d think that the topic of fairy tales has been done and done again and then a series like this comes along and suddenly that old topic is fresh and exciting. This six (soon to be SEVEN) book series is about two orphaned sisters who discover they are the last descendants of the Brothers Grimm. They also find out that those same brothers were actually fairytale detectives who lived among the fairy tale characters. Many years have passed since the Brothers Grimm convinced the fairy tale folk to move from Germany to Ferry Port Landing, NY where they have lived in an enchanted village setting for hundreds of years. These books are FUN. You’ll be impressed with the girls as they adjust to their new, dangerously exciting lives and root for them as they search for their kidnapped parents. These books are a real treat.
LIghtning Thief - Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Olympians)
This is my other new favorite series. I LOVED Greek Mythology when I was growing up. I even wanted to be a professor of mythology at one time. I still have my Edith Hamilton mythology book from seventh grade. It’s in pretty good shape…considering . Amazon has a new cover on their listing, so I’ll have to find a photo since I’m sure many of you will recognize it. Back to Percy. This is another series book, four currently published and I hear #5 is on the way. It’s about a teenage boy who finds out that he is a son of one of the three big greek gods. (Zeus, Hades, Posiden) and his learns that there are demi-gods like him all over the country. Oh yeah, Mt. Olympus has gradually moved as time passed and is now located above the Empire State Building. Percy attends Camp HalfBlood with other demi-gods and soon is sent on adventure after adventure starting with a search for Zeus’ lightning rod (which he has been wrongfully accused of stealing). These books are heavily filled with mythology and can be difficult if the reader doesn’t have the background, but they are terrific.
Ghost Soldier – Elaine Marie Alphin
Alexander has always been able to see ghosts, but no one believes him. He travels with his father to North Carolina and meets the ghost of a Confederate soldier who is trying to track down what happened to his family after he left to fight in the war. The soldier can’t move on until he knows what happened. Alexander is dealing with his own issues (mother left and father is dating someone else) and reluctantly helps the soldier find closure. I really enjoyed this story especially because of the historical details.
I should stop there because I could go on forever and ever. Next time I’ll talk about the picture books I love. There are many. I can’t count the number of books I’ve sent to friends’ children. The sad part is that I always buy a copy for myself too. My bookshelves are packed yet I can’t stop buying books. I’ll take a photo this weekend. If you want a sneak peek at a picture book recommendations check the links below.
More to come