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Friday Book Review: Happy, Happy Holidays!

November 27th, 2020

Pandemic 2020, Corvallis (plus old shots of Beaverton)  ๐Ÿ’œ

Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

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Here we are, holidays 2020, which are turning out to be different from any holiday season any of us have ever experienced before. It’s brutal, this year. 2020 is brutal and heartless. But I have faith and hope that someday the pandemic will be over.ย 

I knew we’d start out strong, confused and panicked, but then pulling together, pitching in, “We can all get through this together!” Yay, team. But that before too long (it took a few months, as it turned out), people would start back-biting and snarking, hoarding supplies and circling the wagons. “You can’t tell us what to do!” The bitter politics. Etc.

We’ll get past that, I know. We’ll push right into sorrow and additional devastation, we’ll emerge from it jaded but stronger. We’ll know our neighbors, at the end of it. We’ll be there for our families in a way we maybe haven’t been before.ย 

I have hope. I have faith. We are going to be OK. We had Halloween, and Thanksgiving was yesterday. Now onto Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s and then it will be a full year since this hell began.

It will be one year, I am guessing, possibly two, and I mean worldwide, before we get through the woods, the darkness, and out to the other side. It will happen. Don’t give up. Hold onto each other, and if you can’t do that, pick up the phone and call. Someone needs to hear from you. Peace.

And now, books. I have stacks and stacks of them waiting for review. Short shrift for all, but they’re all good. Makes me happy to know that books are still being published, art is still being made, music is still being created. My chickens and my house, my garden and my creek, my kids. Our friends. All doing our best to keep going.

All you a quilter? My friends, paternal grandmother and aunties are (were) and I admire the art. Learning to quilt is on my bucket list. In the meantime I’ll keep knitting scarves, baby snugglies and little scraps for the kittens to play with. Lizzy Rockwell’s new book, “The All-Together Quilt” (Random House Kids/Alfred A. Knopf, 2020, $17.99) is just a blast of beauty during these bleak months.ย  The author has based it on her real-life quilting group that meets Monday and Friday afternoons at the Senior Court Housing Complex in Norwalk, Connecticut. Neighborhood kids, seniors from the complex, adult volunteers, families from the neighborhood, all kinds of people gather and quilt.ย 

The simplicity and elegance of their work shines through in Rockwell’s illustrations. So much love, beauty and care. Great book. I appreciated the guide to classic quilt blocks she included in the back, and descriptions of the fabrics that were used. A work of art about works of art. Peace.

“Curtain Call (Babymouse: Tales From the Locker),” by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm (Random House Kids, 2020, 179 pages, $13.99) is the latest installment in the Pink Princess series. (It’s not really called that, but she’s always been a princess to me. I (heart) Babymouse.) The covers are permabound, a librarian’s dream, and the books are just the right combo of novel, fantasy, and graphic novel. Buy a set for the age 7-year-old – middle school chicky in your life.

“Christmas is Every Day,” by Isabel Otter, illustrated by Alicia Mas (An Every Day Together Book, Rodale Kids New York/Random House Books, 2020, $10.99). Don’t save the spirit of Christmas for just once a year, the authors say. Try these ideas: “Embrace happiness,” “pass on a treasured possession,” “share the things you have,” “remember to be kind.” The colors and characters are sweet, the sentiment is pure. This is a cool little book.

Sometimes when a book comes out, you know it was written with you in mind. For me, that book is “A Very Quacky Christmas,” by Frances Watts and Ann James (rhcbooks/Random House Kids, 2020, $17.99). Introducing… Samantha Duck, her tortoise pal Sebastian, the sheep, the hens, the cows, the donkey… many decorations, many presents, many, many big ideas. This is a lovely picture book that will be a welcome addition to any collection.

Bon appetit, babies. Much love and happy 2021.

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Sunday Book Review: “The Little Kitten,” “A Story for Small Bear,” “I’m Feeling School Bus Yellow!” “The War with Grandpa” & “Good Morning Zoom”

October 18th, 2020

It’s nearly Halloween, y’all, and just in time, here comes “The Little Kitten,” by Nicola Killen (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2020, $16.99). Little Ollie and her kitten Pumpkin find a lost kitten, and what will they do? Where will they go? Nice illustrations, with a black, orange, white and gray color scheme.

“A Story for Small Bear” is a sweet and lovey picture book, written by Alice B. McGinty (“The Sea Knows,” “The Girl Who Named Pluto,” and many others) illustrated by Richard Jones (whose other work includes “Whale in a Fishbowl”) (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020, $17.99). It’s hard to believe that so much love and heart can leap out of the pages like they do with this book, about mama bear trying to get her baby bear prepared for a winter rest. The story is dear, the illustrations are beautiful. Try not to get tears in your eyes. Good luck. I think the kids will adore this one for a bedtime story.

Bad timing, alas, for “I’m Feeling School Bus Yellow!” a promotional book by Crayola, starring their colors Blue Violet, Macaroni and Cheese, Scarlet and Jungle Green. It’s a sweet little board book, but made me lonely. Back to school time only it’s not. Will be good, though, for reminding kids that they will, someday, go back to school, and this is what classrooms, buses and school days look like. (Crayola, Simon & Schuster, 2020, for the littles, $6.99.)

I love autumn, but this autumn is kinda breaking all of our hearts. We can get through it together, okay? OK.

Really fun oldie but goodie with Robert Kimmel Smith’s “The War with Grandpa” (Yearling Humor, 1984, ages 8-12, 140 pages, $6.99). Why the re-release? It’s now a moving picture, yep, starring… you know them, you love them, or you might not love them, what do I know? … Robert De Niro, Uma! Thurman, Christopher Walker, Jane Seymour and Cheech Marin… sure. Sounds good already. (If you had told me that Robert “Travis Bickle” DeNiro was eventually going to end up cast as a beloved dad and grandpa, I probably would have said, “Raging Bull, seriously?” But he’s a complex man, De Niro. We know this already.)

Kimmel is probably best known for his book “Chocolate Fever.” (“The War with Grandma” is coming out next summer.)

Last book for today… “Good Morning Zoom,” (modeled after Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon”) which calls itself “a parody,” even though it’s pretty much reality, has words by Lindsay Rechler and pictures by June Park.

Two words: Too soon.

Recommended Books on Grief, Trauma, Race & Healing

September 13th, 2020

I’m back to social work, after a decade of doing library and computer lab work (which is also social work, it turns out) in the K-12 schools. I’ve been in trainings, meetings, and collecting book lists for most of the summer. Here are some picks. I’m going to list out (not review) all but the first title.

“The Big Finish,” a novel by Brooke Fossey (Berkley/Penguin Random House, 2020, 326 pages, $26). Man, I love this book. First of all, I thought it was a young adult book when it arrived for review. Most of the titles I get are geared toward babies through the high school crowd. This one is a novel for the grown-ups, but I think some high schoolers would like it, too.

Duffy Sinclair and Carl Upton are best friends by happenstance — they’re well into in their 80s and both landed at the Centennial assisted living facility. It’s not that great, but it’s not that bad. They live in fear of slipping down — in their health, in their faculties, or just on the floor — and being stuck in a facility that’s not as nice. They’re worried about death, and life, when in through their window comes Josie, less than one-fourth their age. She’s possibly inebriated, she has a black eye, and she’s Carl’s granddaughter. Allegedly.

It’s a buddy story, it’s a family story, it’s about alcoholism and domestic violence and neglect, and how they impact families, individuals and all of us. It’s one of the sweetest books I’ve ever been lucky enough to read. The characters are thoroughly sketched out, the dialogue is great, and most of all, the story and the characters are believable and moving story. Highly recommended.

And now, a few titles, alphabetically by authors’ last name. I’ll keep adding to this list, it’s by no means comprehensive. Please add your suggestions in comments, if you’d like.

Alexander, Michelle, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”

Connor, Leslie, “Waiting for Normal” (young adult novel about a girl, her mother, and child neglect)

Didion, Joan, “The Year of Magical Thinking”

Giovanni, Nikki, “Collected Poetry — 1968-1998”

Goble, Jillana, “No Sugar-Coating: The Coffee Talk You Need About Foster Parenting”

Harris, Nadine Burke, “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity”

Maynard, Joyce, “The Best of Us,” a memoir

Oluo, Ijeoma, “So You Want to Talk About Race”

Sanchez, Sonia, “Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems”

Sapolsky, Robert M., “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”

Tatum, Beverly Daniel, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race”

van der Kolk, Bessel (M.D.), “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma”

West Coast on fire

September 13th, 2020

9/12/2020

Is the world on fire where you are? Itโ€™s on fire here in Oregon. Our little zone seems to be okay, for now, but that could change. The truck is packed, our quick bags are ready to go.

Keep us in your prayers.

Iโ€™m checking this Air Quality site compulsively. 

In my town, we’ve been hovering between โ€œUnhealthyโ€ and โ€œHazardous.โ€ (I checked one last time before I fell asleep last night — Salem, Ore., just north of us, was off the charts, and so was Portland, Ore.) The West coast currently has the worst air quality *on the planet.* We had to be best at something, I guess.

Our air quality inside the house is okay for now, smokewise, but it was very smoky earlier in the week. And I have asthma. So there you have it. I have two inhalers next to me, and a big bottle of water.

Millions of acres lost, all along the West Coast, along with homes. The death toll is climbing. My good thoughts, prayers and anything else I’ve got, going out to the families and loved ones who have been lost or are struggling now. And there’s the Pandemic. And the civil unrest. It’s been six months today since my school district shut down and I was furloughed. I’m back to work now. Many, many thousands and millions of others have it worse than my family and friends do, but all of this is taking its toll, in small ways and large, on every single one of us. Peace and healing and rain are needed, stat.

My sister sent me this list that she got from her neighborhood Facebook group. We don’t have an air purifier and needed something. It cuts the smoke, purifies the air, makes you relax. Iโ€™m just saying, itโ€™s working. The air is so dry and horrible, my asthma has been rough, and this has helped. Be safe, love you all.

WM

Respiratory Hack- Herbal Crock Pot Steamer

Plants often used to help with breathing/lungs include:

  • Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis
  • Juniper Juniperus
  • Cedar Thuja occidentalis
  • Sage Salvia
  • Mugwort/Sagebrush Artemisia
  • Bee Balm Monarda
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Eucalyptus

My sis and I are using the handy-dandy Crockpots, but you could just as easily use a big pot of (uncovered) water on the stove. Bring to boil and then simmer, uncovered. Turn it off before you go to bed, cover it, then turn it back on again in the morning. Will be good for a couple of three days. Just keep adding more herbs, citrus and oils. I added:

Peppermint tea bags

Tea with lemon balm/chamomile

Lemon slices

And half a bag of awesome herbs from Sweet Mountaintop Farm and my dear Kate.

Any kinds of herbs are going to be nice, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, whatever’s on hand. Or get the store to deliver some stuff.

Pray for rain pray for rain for everywhere in the world that needs it.

Wednesday Book Review: “Pride 1 2 3,” by Michael Joosten & Wednesday Holmes

June 10th, 2020

Pandemic 2020, Corvallis (plus old shots of Beaverton)  ๐Ÿ’œ

(Photo by moi, Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

i like book reviews.ย 

For the month of June, we’re celebrating so much. Black Lives Matter, Father’s Day, someday (not soon, but someday) the Covid-19 pandemic will be over… and summer’s arrival. My birthday. And last but definitely not least, Gay Pride.

“Pride 1 2 3,” written by Michael Joosten and illustrated by Wednesday Holmes (Hey! Happy Wednesday, Wednesday) is a new release. (Little Simon, 2020, unpaged, ages babies and up, $7.99.) This colorful little board book takes us right back to the days of “Free to Be, You and Me,”ย and there is nothing wrong with that. From the bright pink bubble lettering on the title, to the signs (“Be Kind!”) to the diverse families, this is just a great book at just the right time.

Peace. I’ve said it my entire life and I’ll keep saying it, even after it finally happens. PEACE, BABIES.

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Tuesday Book Review — prayers & meditation & finding my way: “The Little Book of Prayers,” Santa Biblia/Holy Bible, “Brave Enough,” “Prayers for Hope & Comfort,” “A Year with Rumi” & “Teaching with Fire”

June 9th, 2020

So once upon a time, America was a mess. This has been going on since Christopher Columbus showed up, so let’s start in 1492. That’s a long time, babies. Too long.

I’m not protesting in the streets this time, but I have been lighting my candles at home, talking with family and friends, praying. Meditating. Writing. It’s been intense to see and hear about everyone making changes that people have been trying to make for centuries now. Rest in peace to everyone, all over the world, who has died in the fight, who has died, fighting for justice. Peace and love to everyone out there who is fighting.

It’s long overdue, peace and justice. It should have happened a long time ago, but if it’s finally going to happen… now? I’ll take now.

Here are the books that are getting me through, it’s the usual cast of characters:

“The Little Book of Prayers,” edited by David Schiller. I think this one is just about perfect.

Santa Biblia/Holy Bible — various authors. My kids’ dad gifted me this, many years ago. I like practicing my Spanish. :)

“Brave Enough,” by Cheryl Strayed

“Prayers for Hope and Comfort,” by Maggie Oman Shannon

“A Year with Rumi: Daily Readings”

“Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach,” edited by Sam M. Intrator & Megan Scribner

Book Reviews: “Wreck This Journal,” “In My Heart” and “Human(Kind)”

April 19th, 2020

Woof and meow ๐Ÿ’œ

Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

Woof and meow ๐Ÿ’œ

At home, a couple of years ago — Photo by Steve Rawley/use with permission only

Well, how about some book reviews? We can still read. Books are allowed, even in a pandemic. Even though the libraries are closing. And the bookstores. Rough times. I am not a medical expert, I’m just a worried mom. We’re okay at our house; hope you and yours are as well. Let’s all be well together, apart. I can’t do much about any of this, but I can keep posting recipes, and book reviews. It’s not much but it’s all I’ve got.

Here’s a good bread recipe that I have been baking in our breadmaker a bunch lately. Bon appetit, babies.

Yummy White Bread a la Wacky Mommy

1 1/4 cups warm (not hot) water
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, butter or shortening
1 package (2 teaspoons) dry yeast

Add to breadmaker in order given; bake on setting for 2-pound loaf, light crust. Enjoy.

And now, book reviews… what’s in the hopper?

“Wreck This Journal,” by Keri Smith (A Penguin Book, 2020, $16). This series is a lot of fun, my kids, their friends and my students have enjoyed the books over the years. This one is in color, which is cool. Pages encourage the user to “work only with colors you hate,” “drip something here” or “mix so many colors they turn to mud.” All of the prompts are pretty fun.ย 

The author also has a website and some inspiration exploration on Instagram.

“In My Heart,” by Mackenzie Porter, illustrated by Jenny Lovile (Little Simon, 2020, all ages, $7.99). This sweet board book was released on March 10th, just before many of us in America went into quarantine, and before the schools all closed. It’s a tender, beautifully illustrated book about a little girl who is missing her mom, who is busy at work. But she knows she will see her soon, likes that they are eating the same food, just in two different places, and they know that even “though we’re not together, we’re never truly apart, because you’re always on my mind and you’re always in my heart.”

The poignancy of that little refrain takes on a whole new meaning now, and it makes the book even more lovely than it already was.

Me, even though I’m a big girl? Missing mommy. She’s doing fine, and we’re all checking on her. We’ll get to see each other soon. Or eventually. But we will see each other, and I’m looking forward to taking her out for brunch, and having our coffee. Together.

I’m getting some guidance and support from “Human(Kind): How Reclaiming Human Worth and Embracing Radical Kindness Will Bring Us Back Together,” by Ashlee Eiland (WaterBrook, 2020, 224 pages, $15.99). Inspirational book by the formation and preaching pastor at Mars Hills Bible Church. Each personal essay has a title and a theme (curiosity, belonging, expectation). They’re thoughtful. Words can hurt, but with books like Eiland’s? Words help.

Be safe, be well, talk soon.

Nancyย ย 

(PS — disclaimer — my family is employed by Amazon, but we aren’t paid for my book links.)

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Sunday Recipe Club: Seven-Layer Salad

April 5th, 2020

Woof and meow ๐Ÿ’œ



Recipe of the Day โ€” Seven-Layer Salad with Creamy Salsa Vinaigrette

– For the Dressing
1/2 cup Greek yogurt or coconut milk
1/2 cup mild or med salsa
2 tablespoons mayo
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

– For the Salad
1 to 2 heads romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 med red onion, sliced or chopped
1/2 cup green olives, sliced
3/4 cup corn kernels (thawed from frozen or fresh from the cob – no need to cook)
fresh mango.
1 avocado, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, dill, and/or basil, chopped

Bon appetit!ReplyForward

Getting through Pandemic 2020, one damn recipe at a time

March 28th, 2020

Do you know how long the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918 (102 years ago) lasted? About three years. That’s right. From January 1918, approximately, til December 1920. That is insane. Three years.

Let’s not do that, okay? Please.

My great-grandmother, Miz Pearline, died in the epidemic, the story has been passed down to us. “I know,” my daughter told me yesterday, “She was my age. I know, I know, Gma told me. She was my age, Mom!!”) (Thanks, Ma. Now my baby is worried.) She left behind my then 3-year-old grandfather (Mom’s dad) and his 1 1/2 year old sister. They never got over the loss, understandably, and the rest of us really haven’t, either. That kind of grief cuts deep.

So let’s hope we get out in front of this soon. Do everything you can, in your power, ok? Start by calling, e-mailing or IM’ing some friends and family and telling them you love them fiercely.

I’m going to re-run a recipe a day, alright? Alright.

Let’s start with Chocolate Chip Cookies (I usually do them as a 9×12 pan of bar cookies) and some Lemon (or Orange) Snaps.

Xo and I love you.

WM

Building a new/old life, one plant and one chicken at a time… and Pandemic 2020

March 22nd, 2020

Pandemic 2020, Corvallis (plus old shots of Beaverton)  ๐Ÿ’œ

Pandemic 2020, Corvallis (plus old shots of Beaverton)  ๐Ÿ’œ

“Dancing Chickens” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

I started this draft a few weeks ago, then got busy getting back to teaching (reading groups, recess and cafeteria duty, and assisting students with special needs. I miss my library and computer lab work, I’ve only been doing a little of that). The kids and I spent the fall and winter doing our usual stuff — being stressed, fighting various viruses, dealing with homework and school and work, pets and livestock, taking care of errands and trying to figure out plans for spring and summer break.

Then the entire world fell apart.

Here are my notes for the draft:

  • planter box/trellis for grapes
  • blackberry cobbler — yes, if you rip out all the blackberries, you’ll have your backyard back, but what will you do for cobblers and crisps? (she says, then rips out all the blackberries and mows down the roots)
  • chickens
  • plants
  • the deer leave these plants alone: herbs, hellebores, daffodils, snowdrops, violets, rhodies and azaleas

I would give anything to go back and remember what it was, exactly, I was doing with that draft. To see where I would have gone with it. To be living in the world that was week before last and not in this fresh hell we’re in right now.

I miss my husband. He’s there for me, for us, for the kids. But I miss being married. But we both have support, and good, kind people in our lives. Our friends and extended families, the grandparents, our neighbors — everyone is okay. So that is good enough for today. For now. We’re still partners, we’re still there for each other. It’s just really different than what it was.

It’s 59 degrees here in the Willamette Valley, sunny and perfect. It’s spring break. And in our state, and others, the governors are telling us we’re in lockdown, please stay at home, please don’t go out unless you have to go to the doctor’s office, or the hospital, or to the store, or to get some exercise, but keep your distance from the other walkers/hikers/skiers/players.

Social distancing. 

And wash your hands. Don’t cough and sneeze on people. Look in on your neighbors. 

I am worried. We’re all scared. There have been so many deaths already from the corona virus, and more to come. But there are also so many people who are having mild cases and getting through it, or even terrible cases of it and getting through it.

People are stepping up like crazy. Except for the President and his crew, they’re just all crazy. We’ll survive them, and the virus.

My friend Elaine has me hooked on the Hallmark Channel — we’re watching nonstop “Golden Girls” re-runs and Christmas movies over here, even though it’s March. I picked up a bunch of four-dollar sale books from Winco; I’ve started them and they’re all good. 

Adriana Trigiani’s “Kiss Carlo”

Wally Lamb’s “I’ll Take You There”

Phillip Lewis’s “The Barrowfields”

Sara Blaedel’s “The Undertaker’s Daughter”

Prayers, peace, and good thoughts. Be well and be safe.

xo

Wacky Mommy

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