Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Caroline is officially available!

Have you read every book Laura Ingalls Wilder has ever written? Did you watch every season of Little House on the Prairie over and over again and can hear Melissa Gilbert cry “Pa!” just as clear as can be?  Did you even read Roger Lea MacBride's spinoff series about Laura’s daughter, Rose? Perhaps you’ve visited all the museums and still have documentation stating you belong to a LHOTP fan club you joined as a child. If you're nodding your head yes to everything I've said you should pull out your calico bonnet and curl up in your distressed rocking chair with Caroline. Caroline is a fictionalized portrayal of Caroline Ingalls during the Ingalls’ Kansas journey. Besides being a must-read for any LHOTP fan, it is beautifully written, well-researched, and celebrates the back-breaking life of the exceptional woman who gave us Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Ingalls’ Kansas journey, it was a grueling and dangerous move from Wisconsin to Indian Territory in Kansas.  Shortly after arriving in Kansas, Charles built a little house with the help of a neighbor (Mr. Edwards!), Caroline Ingalls gave birth to their third child, Carrie, and the family settled into prairie life.  The prairie life portrayed in Wilder’s LHOTP books is a lot different when read through the eyes of Caroline Ingalls, who was quite the protective ma.  Wolves, sickness, Native Americans, and fire no longer sound like the deliciously scary stuff I read as a kid inhaling one Laura book after another.  They’re truly terrifying from Caroline Ingalls' perspective, a perspective that became mine as this book consumed me.  As you anxiously flip through the pages you will feel the jarring of the wagon and your rocking chair will disappear.  Caroline Ingalls' tears, as she struggles to overcome fear, bitterness, and self-pity will fall from your face.   

But Caroline is so much more than the back-breaking and tireless work of two pioneers staking a claim in Indian Territory.  Balancing the fear and exhaustion is a wealth of love, resourcefulness, and gratitude.  Caroline Ingalls is portrayed as strong-willed, passionate, deliberate, and patient.  Behind her composure, however, is a flurry of wild, unrestrained thoughts.  And though these thoughts may have never existed, Sarah Miller makes them seem perfectly plausible.  I was so caught up in Caroline I felt just as fiercely protective of her family as Caroline Ingalls herself. When Caroline Ingalls paused before scolding Laura and Mary because she “did not want to soil the air further with the sound of her own scolding,” I breathed that same air.  Though I’ve never made food over an open fire, I felt the frustration that she kept just out of reach of her family so they wouldn’t taste it. The exceptional writing and beautiful portrayal of a phenomenal woman balance the extreme circumstances perfectly and make this a riveting read. 

If you’re a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan like me, you will want to get a copy of this as soon as possible. Even if you’ve never read any of the LHOTP books or watched a single episode of the television series, Caroline is an excellent choice for anyone who loves historical fiction, engaging writing, or a fierce, motherly protagonist. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

porridge is one of my favorite words

It's been awhile since I tackled anything in the kitchen.  I can easily survive on salads, canned fish and peanut butter smeared on pretty much anything.  It also helps that there's a chipotle 10 minutes away that's easy to walk to and Robert makes dinner a few nights a week when he's around.  We're busy people, and most days I'll happily pick family time, writing, librarying, and tennis over cooking or tinkering around in the kitchen. 

But I do love to cook.  It just happens to be at the bottom of the very long list of things I love.  

Today I carved out a little time to try out a new porridge.  I am a hot cereal fanatic.  Oatmeal, farina, quinoa, grits... You name it, I love it.  When I read about amaranth porridge in Lucid Foods I was instantly intrigued and knew I had to try it.  It has a lot of protein and fiber and is easy to cook. After three different grocery stores, I finally found it at Whole Foods.  

I soaked a cup of amaranth in two cups of water overnight.  Though I googled it and discovered many people thought the soaking was unnecessary, I went ahead and followed the recipe from Lucid Foods.

This morning I brought the amaranth to a boil in the water I soaked it in.  From there I let it simmer for 12 minutes, and it was ready to go.  

Because I like different toppings on each of my hot cereals (brown sugar and milk with oatmeal, chocolate chips and milk with farina, cashews, honey, chocolate chips, banana with quinoa) I knew that I needed to try the amaranth many different ways.  So I set up a taste test and experimented for awhile (I had way too much fun doing this).

I tried it with chocolate chips, banana, peanut butter, brown sugar, vanilla and butter in a myriad of combinations.  I quickly discovered that the banana, chocolate chips, peanut butter combination was the best.  Though I liked none of the brown sugar combinations, I did notice that the vanilla really popped.  So I added a dash of vanilla to the banana, chocolate chips, and peanut butter and it was delicious.  I'll definitely make this again, and am feeling pretty confident that the remaining servings from today can be warmed up and will taste just fine.  

While making the amaranth porridge I also made a green mojito smoothie recipe from an unknown source.  It was delicious and I highly recommend it.

For the green mojito smoothie:

1 cup water
handful of spinach or mixed greens (I used frozen)
1 cup pineapple
1 lime (recipe calls for half, but I'm definitely tossing the whole lime in next time)
1/4 cup mint (Robert's mom, Audrey, has a mess of it in her garden right now, so thanks Audrey!)
handful of ice (I like to pour my smoothie over ice rather than blending it, but that's up to you)

It was such an awesome breakfast!

Monday, September 4, 2017

a lost bookmark finds its human

Saturday, while checking in a stack of books at the library, I noticed a bookmark poking out of a mystery.  The bookmark was a made of metal and looked like a stained glass window.  Because the bookmark looked special and I knew what book it came from, I was able to look up the patron.

Just as I was picking up the phone to call him, a patron dinged the bell.  It was a quick interaction. The patron handed me a hold he didn't want anymore and moseyed on over to the self checkout to check out the rest of his books.  As I walked away, I read the hold slip, which only has the first four letters of the patron's last name, first initial of their first name, and last four digits of the card number.

I read it again.  Could it be?

I called out his name hopefully.  He looked up from checking out his books and gave me a strange look. I handed him the bookmark and told him I was just about to call him.  His strange look instantly changed to gratitude and shock.  "My wife gave me this a long time ago!"  His hands were shaking as he slipped the bookmark into one of the books he had just checked out.  With a look of genuine sincerity, he thanked me and left.  

Friday, September 1, 2017

gobs of imagination

Last month I read a few good books.  I've been slowly making my way through Madeleine L'Engle's Crosswicks Journals, and though I haven't loved them, there have been beautiful moments scattered throughout the books, enough beauty for me to keep reading them, but quite frustrating because the series has taken up a lot of time.

I still have one more to read, and currently I wouldn't recommend them to others to read. Harsh, I know!  At the moment my recommendation is to find a list of quotes by Madeleine L'Engle and skip the books.  But for whatever reason, I feel like I need to finish them, if only to bask in one more amazing and insightful line.  And silly me, I'm hopeful that the last book is going to be brilliant.

What's funny is the one I just finished, Two-Part Invention (I'm reading them out of order due to availability issues), had a few of those beautiful moments, which I saved in my phone with only page numbers.  After reading it, I tossed the book in the donation bin at the library, where it was promptly boxed and shipped to our sorting facility.  Now I have to request a copy through interlibrary loan to retrieve those lines.  For a couple days this wasn't funny at all, but now I'm laughing heartily at my idiocy.

Dear Madeleine L'Engle, why did you have to write such moderately intriguing journals when you lead such an interesting life?

I did read two fantastic children's books this month.  Well, one book didn't have any words, but no matter.  Here are my August favorites:

The White Book by Silvia Borando, Elisabetta Pica, and Lorenzo Clerici (apparently it takes A LOT of authors to write a wordless book)

This wordless book is filled with more meaning and imagination than many books that actually have words. I think it shines a light on the wondrous world of play, a world that only children know the exact whereabouts of.  

Philomena's New Glasses by Brenna Maloney

Before I read this, I had no idea how much I needed to read a silly book about three guinea pig sisters. Personally, I do not like the weird noises or smells that guinea pigs make, so they've never made my favorite creatures list. After reading this, however, I've discovered that I can't get enough of guinea pigs who do adorable things with handbags and glasses and outfits. I laughed and squealed the entire time I read it (and probably sounded a little like a guinea pig).

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

you just never know when you're gonna run into some hungry cats

At the library today I helped a charming patron find a few books. Once she was ready to check out I asked for her library card.  After placing her car keys on the check out table she paused, and with a huge grunt and a loud slam, hefted her bag onto the table. Several cans of cat food rolled out. I couldn't help myself and peeked into her bag.  It was completely packed to the top with cans of cat food. The only books she had were sitting next to her keys on the check out table.  After digging around in her bag for a moment she found her library card, and with a huge grin on her face, loudly proclaimed, "gotta have my cat food and library card; they're the most important things to have with you."  

I was utterly baffled.  For a hopeful moment I wondered if maybe we had some kitties in the library I didn't know about.  I mean this lady had car keys so why didn't she leave that big bag of cat food in the car?  Is it possible she thinks she'll need to have the cat food at a moment's notice?  And that much cat food?!?

Even after I found out she was two quarts shy of a gallon, the patron was just as delightful and charming.  We had a pleasant conversation, and she left carrying her books under one arm, and her giant bag of cat food weighing down her other arm.

I think this is the beginning of a wonderful friendship.  

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Sometimes dead, moldy things express the most life.

Monday, August 28, 2017

the gifts we unknowingly give

Saturday at the library wasn't going too great. After battling three super long digital content questions that I wasn't able to fully resolve, I felt like a failure.  After awhile, whenever a patron asked me a question, I was secretly thinking, boy have you picked the wrong person to ask for help.  

But I gave each patron everything I had and even made some awkward phone calls in the hopes of finding solutions.  Surprisingly, all three patrons were still appreciative and thanked me for going above and beyond.

I think "above and beyond" translates to dropping them off on a strange planet and shouting, "Good luck! See you later!" as I rocketed away to help someone else.

After a long day of not being very helpful, I was flustered, drained, and silently berating myself.  I was ready to find my own faraway planet and have a lonely pity party.  

Just as we were closing the library though, something happened that made me feel alright with the world again.  A giant of a man, no doubt a firefighter, wrestling champion, and construction worker all rolled into one, had something very special tucked under one of his enormous arms.   

It was this:

Inside the book was one of my staff picks bookmarks.

Whether he was checking it out for himself or one of his kids, seeing him with the book erased all doubts and frustrations.  He will never know it, but he gave me back that sense of belonging I have whenever I'm at the library.  

Tomorrow is a brand new day, and I think I'm ready for it.

Friday, August 25, 2017


So you're probably wondering whether we saw the eclipse on Monday.

Yes we did, and it was awesome!

Robert, Rachel, and I journeyed to Mokane, MO to hang out with Robert's family and watch the eclipse in its totality.

We had such a rad time, enjoyed the company immensely, and are already making plans to see the next eclipse in 2024.  Though there were concerns about it being cloudy, we were incredibly fortunate to have perfect weather and a whopping 2 minutes and 30 seconds of eerie, magical totality.  As a bonus we also saw the contrails of the NASA planes that were tracking it.  It was a phenomenal experience.  

Friday, August 18, 2017


Robert's sister, Jennifer, is in town!  Hanging out with her has been the dose of fun and sunshine everyone's needing.  

Yesterday we went to the zoo with one of Jennifer's childhood friends, Lauren.  The fact they let me take this picture of them says everything about the kind of day we had at the zoo.

It was a very active day at the zoo.  Most of the animals were out and about, doing silly things. This is the only polar bear we saw though. Perhaps it was the heat, or maybe even us?!?  But sadly, no polar bears.   

It was such a fun day though!  Next up, the eclipse!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

good stuff

Have I mentioned that we have two functioning potties downstairs now?  Yep, all four bathrooms officially have toilets, and soon we will have showers and tubs as well.  Eventually there will be so many bathrooms to clean I may not have time to use them.     

Robert is covering the entire garage in slatwall, which looks pretty great.  I'm excited there's going to be a spot for everything.  And my dear step ladder, which I use often, will be on a hook right by the door so I don't even have to walk into the garage to get it.    

Robert's grandma is regaining her strength in a rehabilitation center that's nearby.  So she is doing much better.  

And Rachel started school yesterday.  She reported that she likes all of her teachers and her assigned parking spot is an end spot.  

Life is good.