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Thursday Book Review (for grown-ups and big kids): What’s New on My Nightstand

July 1st, 2021

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

“Big Stack” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

 

Good morning, darling ones. Have you been reading a lot? I have. There are probably three dozen books on my nightstand, coffee table, desk… other desk… dining room table. So I’d better type up some reviews! Here we go.

Let’s start with supernatural-scary, shall we? When I was a big kid kid (maybe 10 or 11) I had two favorite books. One was about an evil little girl who died young, and then came back to torture the people in her grandmother’s house. The second one was about a girl who was walking down a street in her neighborhood and suddenly… yes, suddenly… it was dusk, everything morphed and turned into Victorian times. There was her neighborhood, her street, her house, 100 years earlier.

I’m telling you, these two books were amazing. But I could never remember the titles. The second book I still haven’t found, so if you know the title? For the love of God, tell me in comments. (Even if you’ve just stopped by for a fast read, leave me a comment! Reverting to the old days of blogging, Hi are you out there?)

But the first book, about the wicked little girl, had a strange hook — she liked to pick pansies and stick them into sand, then let them die. Yeah, I thought that was weird, too. So I googled “kids’ books,” “pansy people,” “pansy faces,” something like that, and found the classic “Jane-Emily,” by Patricia Clapp and ordered a copy. It’s as trashy and good as I remember.

Sweet, dear Jane, who of course is nine and of course is an orphan and of course has a young aunt, the lovely Louisa, go to stay with Jane’s grandmother in her graceful and haunting mansion. They find a strange, alluring reflecting ball in the garden, they hear the stories about Emily, her willful, selfish nature, her destruction of pansies, they check out the goodies in the attic and off we go. 

Perfect for summer reading, or anytime reading.

The Game of Thrones series is going to keep us busy for awhile over here. My son and I just binged all 8 seasons on HBO Max, and yeah, it was awesome. Say what you will about the last two seasons, and George R.R. Martin’s reluctance or inability to finish writing the series and putting a good wrap on it… D&D taking over the reins and going feral… It was still a hell of a ride. Just ordered the five books in paperback and good to go. (Bantam Books Trade Paperback, 1996-2011, 5,216 pages total, 16 bucks on sale.)

My daughter gifted me a copy of “Wise Dogs,” a Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown Jr. and Dale C. Spartas (Hallmark, 2013, 143 pages, $12.95). Nice mini-book for the coffee table, and makes me glad the Internet was invented because dammit. Most of us do find some kind of peace/humor/grace in looking at photos of kittens/dog/cats/puppies/babies and kids. It’s the small moments that matter.  And remember: Be the first to say hello, do small tasks well, and to make a memory, get muddy.

“Ladder of Years” by Anne Tyler (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995, 326 pages, $11.99) is now my favorite Tyler novel, and I’ve been with her since “The Accidental Tourist,” which I read when it was first released. Is “Ladder of Years” a summer read? Sure. It starts out with a family trip to the beach, a wife and mother’s longings, and some mysteries. Great read, and a big, well-drawn cast of characters. Comedic, poignant domestic novel by an author who consistently comes through with beautiful, well-written gems.

“That Summer” is Jennifer Weiner’s latest. I read a sample, it’s intriguing. I think I might listen to the audiobook of this one. She’s another longtime favorite of mine, and always knocks it out of the park.

“And Then They Stopped Talking to Me: Making Sense of Middle School,” by Judith Warner, is a new release (Crown Publishing, 2020, 304 pages, $17). Don’t think you’re too good for self-help and how-to books. We all need a road map, occasionally. This one is funny, bittersweet, thought-provoking and helping. I’ve always enjoyed Warner’s writing. Especially liked “Perfect Madness,” her treatise on motherhood, anxiety and cray-cray. Pick it up if you’re in the market for it, or have a friend or relative in need of some tips.

Another recent how-to release that turned up is “What Color is Your Parachute? For College: Pave Your Path from Major to Meaningful Work,” by Katharine Brooks (Penguin Random House, 2021, 272 pages, $16.99). Tips, tips and more tips.

“Be Gay! Do Comics!” is the motto of The Nib. I’ve been leafing through an issue that came out not too long ago. (Order through TheNib, $14.95.) It’s really different, creative, offbeat and interesting stuff. (She says, trying to come up with better words.) It’s good writin’ and drawin’ — political satire, journalism, non-fiction, comix. Check it out. 

“Are We There Yet?” by Kathleen West is one of the best reads I came across this spring, highly recommended. (Penguin Random House, 2021, 340 pages, $26.) I’ve always loved books about moms. Even before I became a mom, they hooked me. Moms. Are. A. Trip. (Judy Blume’s “Wifey,” Sheila Ballantyne’s “Norma Jean the Termite Queen,” anything about Princess Diana, “Give Me One Good Reason,” by Norma Klein, the list goes on and on.) Introducing Alice Sullivan, who is settling into middle age nicely, thank you, and thinks she knows everything about her family… until she realizes she doesn’t. No spoilers, not giving away more details, but I think this novel will speak to a lot of you, for different reasons.

And now, two notable Young Adult reads:

Cat Patrick’s “Paper Heart” (Putnam, 2021, 274 pages, $17.99) is a tug-on-the-heart read about 13-year-old Tess, and all the changes that follow the loss of her and her twin sister Frankie’s best friend, Colette. She’s falling apart, she’s trying to figure things out, and she’s at an art camp in Wyoming, stuck with extended relatives and far away from immediate family. And Colette. My copy included a sample from “Tornado Brain,” Patrick’s companion novel. Reading that next. “Paper Heart’ is just a fantastic book with likable, believable, real characters and lots of heart, and love.

Finished David Levithan’s “The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as told to his brother” awhile back. (Alfred A. Knopf, 2021, 213 pages, $16.99.) Great title. Saving the best for last, because this is the best thriller I’ve read in a long time. Aidan disappears, reappears, things get weird… Okay, no spoilers. Just read it, and buy copies to give as gifts.

Bon appetit, loves. Happy summer, happy reading.

 

WM

 

Friday Recipe Club: Summertime favorites, plus Helen’s Baked Beans + Five-Bean Chili

June 4th, 2021

2021

(“Too Damn Hot,” photo by nancy ellen row rawley)

Speaking of my late, great grannies and their genius… 

It’s been hot hot hot here this week in the Willamette Valley, where it usually rains throughout the month of June. In Portland, we always knew when Rose Festival was kicking off, with the ships arriving, the blooms and the princesses and the carnival on the waterfront, because the nice weather would go boom! buh-bye! and the rains would start.

i mean, not just any rain — dismal, grey, muddy muddy carnival grounds, depressing and you would think it would never stop. But on the day the sailors packed up, leaving pregnant girls behind in the port and sailing away out of town — the sun would reappear. Then disappear again and the rain would come back.

June used to be a lot more fun, is my point.

But not now. Last year’s fire season was bad, as well as the previous years before that — i think it’s going on our fifth summer of horrible fires up and down the west coast and throughout the West. We’re still (again) in a drought. It’s scary stuff.

So I go to what comforts me — doing what I can do. Packing a quick bag and the truck in case we need to leave. Praying. Meditating. Keeping the trees cut back, the debris (leaves, branches) picked up. Watering and keeping things as damp and green as possible. Watching the news and the internet to see where the fires are.

And I go grocery shopping and cooking.

Watermelon, blueberries, ice cream, popsicles, sorbet and cookies, of course. We had a ham in the freezer, purchased on sale, so I defrosted that and heated it in the oven, then sliced. I never bake my own hams anymore, I use pre-cooked.

My grandmothers would wake up early when the weather was hot, or they would cook things overnight on low on the stove, or in the slow cooker. Hams, turkey soup, beans and more beans. Ribs, meatloaves, all of the comfort foods. Homemade mac and cheese.

Sometimes they’d give, and we’d get KFC takeout and have a picnic. Lol.

They prepped salads ahead of time to keep in the fridge (potato or macaroni, with lots of mayo or “salad dressing,” black pepper and sweet pickles) or made up quick green salads (with fresh butter lettuce from the garden, picked in the morning before the heat started) with homemade buttermilk dressing, sliced onions, sliced Beefsteak tomatoes. Another favorite was cuke, tomato and onion salad, dressed simply with vegetable oil and vinegar. My maternal grandmother used to put a drinking glass on the table, containing a bouquet of freshly washed green onions in ice water. (My grandpa and sister loved onions. Too much. Ha.)

After I had my own family, I switched the salads up a bit with fresh mozzarella, herbs, and basil, sliced Romas and lemon cucumbers. We also discovered Panzanella made with (slightly stale, but good and hearty) bread, tomatoes, cucumbers and whatever else sounded good. I love Gabriele’s and Debi’s version. I’ve posted so many good summertime recipes over the years, go check them out under the my “Recipe Club” category. Cornbread Salad and Fried Rice, from my cousins; Black Bean Salad, Corn Casserole; Three-Bean Salad… there are just a ton of tasty dishes you can do up ahead of time, then eat at your leisure.  

I baked the ham, and for sides, heated up some corn, and made mashed potatoes with spinach stirred in. We’re good! Also found these two old faves:

AUNT HELEN’S BAKED BEANS

1 can butter beans

1 can light kidney beans

1 can B&M baked beans

1/2 cup chopped onions

1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup brown sugar

Combine all ingredients and spoon into a greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour, or until done.

And… here’s a yummy one, too, to serve with polenta, cornbread or breadsticks.

FIVE-BEAN CHILI

One can each black-eyed peas, Great Northern beans, black beans, and kidney beans (cook your own, freeze in batches and use what you need, or use canned)

One onion, chopped

Spices and extras: Chili powder, garlic (fresh or powdered), pink salt, cumin, black pepper, spoonful of sugar, jalapenos, big spoonful of cocoa, turmeric

A can or two of Mexican stewed tomatoes or Rotel

A can or two of tomato sauce and paste

I love this recipe because you can have fun with it, cook it in the slow cooker, make it as mild or spicy as you like… serve with sour cream or plain yogurt… grated cheese or more chopped onions, chopped fresh cilantro, okay now I’m hungry.

Bon appetit, babies! Enjoy your weekend and avoid the heat.

WM

Thursday Book Review: Eric Carle’s “You’re My Little Baby” and Other Assorted Titles

June 3rd, 2021

2021

(“Best Blue Heeler,” 2021 photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Kid books — new and old favorites ahead for review, get ready. There may be a holiday book included that I’m sneaking in because I overlooked it a few months ago. OK, people. If you’re not doing this already, do like my smart grandmothers — buy those birthday, holiday, wedding and baby gifts year round. (The key is to remember where you stashed them, otherwise, alas…)

So I’m not even going to feel guilty that I forgot to review “The Wheels on the Bus At Christmas” (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2020, illustrated by Sarah Kieley, $10.99). It’s not too early/late to buy a copy, aight?

“Let’s ride the bus on Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve/ let’s ride the bus on Christmas Eve/ who will we find inside?”

Sweet little kids is who! Plus reindeer, presents, singing cookies, a snowman and lots of other fun. Darling singalong with bright pops of color. The front cover opens with cut-outs of the windows on the bus… and that looks like Santa driving?

As long as we’re on the subject of winter… here’s another overlooked (whoops) book.  “Small Walt Spots Dot,” written by Elizabeth Verdick, with pictures by Marc Rosenthal, pays homage to both Mike Mulligan (Virginia Lee Burton) and our busy friend Curious George. (Did you know that Hans and Margret Rey escaped from the Nazis? They fled Paris on bicycle in 1940, reportedly carrying the manuscript for the first “Curious George.”) I am a sucker for the illustrations and children’s books of the 1930s-1950s. “Small Walt Spots Dot,” with this vintage style, does not disappoint. (Paula Wiseman, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020, $17.99.)

Gus and his snowplow, Walt, hit the streets, save the snowy day, and find a lost pup along the way. (See? Rhymes rule.) Another one to tuck away for next winter. Or, you may like reading books about snow when the weather is hot and miserable, “Chicken Soup with Rice”-style.

Next up:

Like his millions of other fans, I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Eric Carle. The World of Eric Carle recently published a perfect little board book, “You’re My Little Baby” (Little Simon, 2020, ages 2-4, $7.99). If you haven’t already, now is the time to start collecting Carle books for the kids in your life. Or for yourself. The art is extraordinary, and his work really is for all ages. My favorites include “Animals Animals,” “The Very Busy Spider” (of course), “‘Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,’ Said the Sloth,” and “Dragons Dragons.” You cannot go wrong with any of Carle’s books, these are just my top picks. 

“God Gave Us Prayer” is the latest release in the “God Gave Us” series by author Lisa Tawn Bergren and illustrator David Hohn (Waterbrook Multnomah, 2021, ages 3-8, 56 pages, $14.99). The power of prayer is illustrated through pup and his parents, possum, otter, skunk and other friends, with space for little readers to reflect.

Anna Dewdny’s “Llama Llama” books have been delighting young readers for years. The newest on the shelves is “Llama Llama Meets the Babysitter” (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2021, by Anna Dewdny, Reed Duncan and J.T. Morrow, ages babies and up, $18.99). Llama Llama has never had a sitter before, what will this be like? Good way to prepare the young ones for meeting new caregivers. 

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Sunday Book Review: “Curls” and “Glow,” by Ruth Forman & Geneva Bowers

May 23rd, 2021

Woof and meow 💜

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Sunday evening kids’ book review from your friend, Wacky Mommy:

“Curls” (Little Simon, 2020, written by Ruth Forman, illustrated by Geneva Bowers,  all ages, $8.99). What do you do when your little one, your beloved child, comes home from preschool wanting different hair and skin?

“I knew she might have to face these pressures at some point,” Ruth Forman has said, “but I didn’t realize it could happen so soon, at age 3 and 4.”

She points out that these are critical development years. They are. What other people tell us that first 10 years, especially, can impact how we look at ourselves for the next 80. What did Forman do about it? She wrote a sweet, rhyming, beautifully-illustrated board book (kudos to Geneva Bowers for the art) in response. This book is about so much more than hair, skin, babies, and little children getting pressure to be something that they’re not

Racism is alive and kicking in America and in the world. Forget that noise, we are way past due for change. This powerful little book is a start.

“shine big

hair love”

Forever. 

“Glow,” a companion book celebrating the joy and power of African-American boys, is the second release from Forman and Bowers. It, too, is an incredible little board book. 

“I shine night too

smooth brown

glow skin”

Both of these books belong in every nursery, every classroom, every doctor’s and dentist’s waiting room. Just as a reminder of Black joy, Black children, and ethnic representation.

 

Have a lovely week, everyone. 

 

WM

Best scones (borrowed from allrecipes)

April 15th, 2021
Scones

(Art from allrecipe)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk

Directions

  • Step 1: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  • Step 2: In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter. Mix the egg and milk in a small bowl, and stir into flour mixture until moistened.
  • Step 3: Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly. Roll dough out into a 1/2 inch thick round. Cut into 8 wedges, and place on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Step 4: Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

(I added mini-chocolate chips, big hit. Bon appetit, babies! WM)

Chicken Talk and How-To, or How-Not-To, also WTF, hens?

April 14th, 2021

Sundown with blackberry blossoms

(Photo by Steven Pings Rawley)

Back to borrowing pictures from Steve because all I ever shoot is my chickens. Ha! I jest. I don’t shoot them. And no, we don’t eat them. (I get asked this more than you would think. The Silkies we raise are (reportedly) good “meat birds.”) Ours lay eggs and get old and stop laying eggs and still get spoiled by us.

I love on them, and we carry them around quite a bit. They’re lovey-dovey-lovey-dovey birds. Yeah, except for the younguns who have already gone feral, but I’ll get to that in a minute…

So can you deal with some chicken talk? Because dear readers, we’ve been raising chickens for about three years (and by “we” I mean mainly my youngest kid, who tells me what to do with the birds) and I’ve learned, just oh so many things.

The other day I saw a hen peek out from behind a tree, up on the hill in the backyard. She disappeared like, oh snap no! when she saw me. A few seconds later, I thought I saw her disappear down the hill. I called to her, nothing. Then later, when she hadn’t reappeared, I asked my son to look for her. There she was, hiding in the bushes where she had disappeared, sitting on 8 big eggs. She’s a Wyandotte, black and gold, and has two sisters. They’re not even a year old, and we’ve raised them with two Olive Eggers and honest to God, they’re all five crazy. They’re half-feral, they run around the yard, chasing off the stray cats and eating the food I leave out for them. (There are only two strays, barn cats from across the street, and I’m not seeing much of them since the chickens have taken over.)

The cat food they’re devouring? (The chickens, not the cats. The cats don’t have much of a chance at it, unless the birds are cooped.) It’s chicken cat food. So yeah. I’m now the kind of person who feeds chicken to a chicken.

SMH and shaking my head and SMH forever.

I can’t remember what I used to do for fun. I think I used to go with friends to pubs, bars and clubs. Sometimes we danced. Drinking happened. I remember sitting at outdoor cafes, too. I seem to recall dating. Dinners out. Staying up until sunrise. I don’t know, it all gets a little vague. Traveling places? Something. Then once Steve and the kids came along, I just took them to the bar with me, so that was easy. We traveled a fair amount. Hmm. I remember being in a bar in Banff with my daughter in the middle of the night, because she was giddy and wouldn’t sleep so I thought, what the hell, we can have some appetizers and drinks.

She was 3 then; she’s 21 now and I’d like to say: Some things haven’t changed.

It’s still a worldwide pandemic, vaccines and all. No, I don’t feel like talking about it. But I will say, I’m looking forward to going out somewhere, eventually, at some point.

It could happen.

Back to the feral chickens: They want to roost outside and party all night. This is not going to end well for them. Nineteen hens, one rooster, a dozen eggs a day (or so) even when we’re not counting the random ones they’re hiding around the yard. Planning an Easter egg hunt, or something. Yes, we could have more chickens, see: rooster. Poor boy. He hasn’t been his usual self. He lets the girls alone, he’s sort of mopey. My son picked him up and was carrying him around, which he totally hates but we don’t care. His spurs are insane, so we always stop to admire them. But this time, yick and oh my heck. One had looped up and back, and was starting to grow into the skin of his leg. At this point my son said later and I turned to YouTube.

This happens, with spurs, and can cause lameness, misery (explains his grouchyass mood), and infection. They suggested using a Dremel (to grind it down), a big nail clipper (like you use for dogs) or a hacksaw. Blech. Dude, if I knew how things were going to turn out some evenings, I’d just go straight to bed, seriously.

Nail clipper. The vid said don’t take off more than half? (Go Google this yourself, I’m not exactly the animal husbandry expert here.) I trimmed off a bit, but it was like an icky fingernail, and the entire thing popped off. The rooster was so relieved to be babied that he had snuggled into my arms and was purring.

He purrs. Like a damn cat. He’s a white Silkie, about half the size of a typical rooster, and I love the boy. All that was left was a tiny new spur under the nasty one, and a fair amount of blood on me, him, the clippers.

I trimmed up the other one a bit. He’s fine, but they can bleed out from this so please use a Dremel and be ye not so stupid as me, as Dooce would say. You can use cornstarch to staunch the bleeding, apparently.

As far as the wild ones and their nest in the shrubs? We’re leaving it and hoping we don’t get a new flock. Twenty is enough.

Questions? Comments? Ask away.

All for now,

WM

Friday Book Review

April 9th, 2021

So many photos ❤️

(“My Best Chickens” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

“What We’ll Build: Plans for Our Together Future,” by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel Books/Penguin Random House, 2020, $19.99). Nice new picture book from Jeffers (“The Day the Crayons Quit,” “How to Catch a Star,” “Lost and Found”) about a father and daughter who are building, literally and figuratively, for the future. Sweet, bright art depicting tools, a house being built, whimsical items, a ship that won’t sink… It’s the best combination of fantasy and reality.

“Let’s build a tunnel to anywhere. Le’s build a road up to the moon.” 

See more from Jeffers at his website.

“Hooray for Helpers! First Responders and More Heroes in Action,” by Mike Austin (Random House Books, 2020, $17.99). Good timing for this picture book, which also includes an interview with a real firefighter, an emergency supplies checklist and instructions for making an emergency contact list. Austin is married to author-illustrator Jing Jing Tsong and they have a sweet dog named Prudence. Look for them at jingandmike.com

“Oscar’s American Dream,” written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell, is a historical fiction-style picture book with an “old-timey” feel. (Random House Books, 2020, $17.99.) Soft, muted pastels are used to illustrate the fictional story of Oskar Nowicki, who “arrived at Ellis Island carrying his life in a cardboard suitcase and a skinny roll of money in his coat pocket, a loan from his mother in Poland for a down payment on his dream.” 

He switches the “k” in his name to a “c,” in an effort to fit into his new country; he opens “Oscar’s All-American Barbershop in Manhattan; and gives away free haircuts to his first twenty customers “and lemon drops to all the boys and girls.”

The book traces the storefront’s evolution over the years, from barbershop to women’s clothing store to soup kitchen during the Great Depression and so on through modern times. It’s an interesting slice of American history, and includes info on suffragettes, wartime, the Civil Rights movement, and more. I appreciate the details and warmth of the Ezra Jack Keats-style paper and paint art.  

Wittenstein’s website is onedogwoof.com; and you’ll find the Howdeshells at thebraveunion.com.

Bon appetit, babies! Have a great weekend.

WM

 

  

 

 

Thursday Book Review: “My Inner Sky,” “Mrs. Frisby” and Nigella deluxe

April 1st, 2021

2021

(Meme by anon.)

 

Hello, babies. Sorry if you tried to get in and couldn’t. Technical difficulties.

Here’s a recipe (Judi i love you) to make it up to you.

Ginger Creams

From Angela (Grammy) Derby

Light with great flavor, without being overpowering, much like little gingerbread cakes. I’m going back to my big, red Betty Crocker cookbook, and not just for the recipe, but for the wonderful memories that accompany it.

Cook time: 10 Min  Prep time: 15 Min  Yields: 3 dozen

COOKIE INGREDIENTS:

1/3 c shortening
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1/2 c molasses
1/2 c water
2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
 
VANILLA ICING:
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1 1/2 c confectioners’ sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp milk

Directions

1. Mix thoroughly shortening, sugar until blended; add egg, molasses and water with mixer. Stir in remaining ingredients, except frosting. Cover; chill 1 hour.
2. Heat oven to 400’F. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake 7-8 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when touched with finger. Immediately remove from baking sheet; cool.
3. Vanilla Butter Frosting: Blend butter and sugar. Stir in vanilla and milk; beat until frosting is smooth and of spreading consistency.
4. Frost cooled cookies and get ready for a real treat! Store in an airtight container after frosting dries; put waxed paper between layers. These actually get more moist and taste even better the next day!
 
Last Step: Don’t forget to share!

Yum, am I right? We’re OK now, tech-wise. So here is a glimpse into what’s new on the nightstand and on my desk at work…

I loaded my students up with juiceboxes and snacks and started reading them “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH,” the 1971 classic by Robert C. O’Brien. Snacks: gone. Juiceboxes: emptied. “More.” So we read more. Then I told them a story about my best, favorite teacher, Miss Howard, grade 4, and how she read us this book and I’ve remembered it ever since.

“More.” So we read more. Then they had lunch and I had them refill their water bottles. #hydration #lifeskills #aguaagua “Why do you always think we need so much water?!?” 

“Because when I was a kid, we didn’t even have water bottles, that’s how long ago it was. We drank from canteens. Or the water fountains. And the teachers always said noyoucantgogetadrinkagainyourefine.”

“Which is why at the end of the day, I always craved what?”

“WATER!”

“No. Orange Crush, with crushed ice. Because I was dehydrated at that point *and* low on sugar.”

“I love Orange Crush.” “Yeah, me, too.” “OK, read.”

If you’ve never read Mrs. Frisby, read it. It’s everything. An allegory, a parable, a great story, a glimpse into the future, past and present. It will let you see what life is like, from a mouse’s point of view. It’s genius and I’ll never stop loving it. (Equally incredible: O’Brien’s “The Silver Crown.”)

“My Inner Sky: On Embracing Day, Night, and All the Times in Between,” by Mari Andrews (Penguin Books, 2021, 255 pages, $22), arrived a few weeks ago. This cool book of art/inspiration/writing and more by Mari Andrews, is lovely, and not just because the cover reminds me of one of the shimmer diamond paintings my daughter and I have become hooked on. I’ve been reading through/soaking in a bit of Andrews’ book every day. It’s like the sunshine we are so frequently blessed with and deprived of during springtime in the Pacific Northwest — it pops up when you need it, disappears for a minute, reappears again. I’ll go all arty here — I love her use of color (primarily watercolor), the rhythm, the ebbs and flows of the book. It’s a work of art, and a good read. It’s a happy book, and it’s just what we all needed right now.

“To live life to the fullest means to *feel* life to the fullest: Full pain, full boredom, full unfairness, full magnificence, full mourning, full lazy days, full joy, full disappointment, full creativity.”

Andrews’ woo-woo style (and I do mean that as a compliment — I’m a fan of woo-woo) is comforting and chop-chop at the same time. It is the kind of book that will give you something different every time you pick it up, and has layers of ideas and thoughts. Highly recommended, especially as a gift to a family member, friend or co-worker.

My cousin sent me a crate of books! She did. With a beautiful note (the girl has lovely handwriting, just like her mom) that said something like, at least one of these books is yours, I know, and the rest look like they should be. This made me happy, especially cuz one of the books was a healthy woo-woo (yeah i said woo-woo again) book from the ’80s, all carob and food tips for the housewives in the crowd, one is a slowcooker special, one has “eff you” in the title (yeah it effin’ does) and the rest are Nigella Lawson cookbooks.

Eff yeah. You wish you had a cousin as great as mine but you don’t. Sorry.

Now. Pasta a la vodka, anyone?

PENNE ALLA VODKA, by Nigella Lawson

INGREDIENTS:

Salt

1 cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons garlic-infused oil

1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes (or 3 cups finely chopped fresh tomatoes)

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 pounds penne rigate

½ cup vodka

4 tablespoons butter

Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

PREPARATION YIELD 8 to 10 servings

TIME 45 minutes

“Penne alla vodka is the perfect recipe for easy entertaining: short pasta is easier to cook in quantity than long strands and the sauce is amusingly retro — think 1960s Rome, where the dish originated. But it is seriously good.

Step 1: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Place a large sauté pan over medium-low heat, and add onion, oil and a sprinkling of salt. Sauté onion until soft and beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes.

Step 2: Add tomatoes and their juices, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add heavy cream, and remove from heat.

Step 3: Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain pasta and return to cooking pot. Add vodka, butter and salt to taste. Gently mix penne until butter is melted. Add tomato mixture, and mix until pasta is coated.

Step 4: To serve, transfer pasta and sauce to a large warmed bowl. Pass Parmesan cheese for guests to serve themselves.”

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

 

Thursday, let’s blog

March 18th, 2021

December 2019 + old shots

I heard the ice rink at Lloyd Center Mall in Portland, Oregon, is gone, daddy, gone. Then I heard (from my auntie, who would know) that it’s there, still, just smaller. Blech. It was already too small, man.

Loved skating there as a kid, holding hands with my boyfriend on Friday nights (“Couples’ sk8!”) when a bunch of us from grade school went weekly; with my husband, years later; watching from the sidelines, holding my breath and praying as my daughter took lessons, then private lessons, then competed… Awww…

It’s stressful, competing, and not just for the competitors, dude. I alternated between praying and trying not to puke, seriously. The other moms were the same. There was one sane mama, thankfully, who used to hiss, “C’mon you guys, for real? Just smile. Wave and smile.” Ha. Yeah, it’s funny now. I didn’t cry when we abandoned competing, started skating just for fun, and no longer had the hardcore Russian skating coach.

I liked her a lot, but still.

You know what’s boring AF? Other people’s dreams. They can be so interesting when you’re inside one, yeah? But hearing about them is usually a yawnfest. So this is for me, more than you. Memory bank: my blog.

I haven’t skated in a few years — there’s only one rink near the new place, and it’s about an hour away. We had Lloyd Center in Portland, and we used to hit the rinks in Vancouver, Wash., Valley Ice in Beaverton, and the rink in Sherwood, too, when we lived out that way. We skated in Banff one time, that was fantastic. Our son was tiny and had his rockin’ little hockey skates. He sk8ed before he could walk. #truth Our daughter flew around showing all her tricks. She was fun to watch.

But last night… i had a dream my friends and I were on some Magic Bus (“too much/Magic Bus… i want it i want it i want it/u can’t *have it*…”) and we were all heading to the rink. I had some cool white sk8ing dress, all fluff and short skirt, so I put on my tights and dress with a sweatshirt over.

Cuz it’s cold at the rink.

Laced up my skates, couldn’t find the blade guards, didn’t matter cuz it was a dream, good to go. I was thinking of my daughter’s friend at the rink, I think, who we once overheard telling another little chicky about the Olympics.

“Someday we might compete.”

“What are the Olympics?”

“It’s when you get the ice… all to yourself,” she answered, and they both shivered. Because that is the ultimate dream. Forget the medals. You get the whole Olympic-size rink all to your own sweet self.

In this dream I had the ice mostly to myself, it was pretty awesome. There were probably pretzels, cookies, peppermint Schnapps and hot cocoa, who knows. Then (after a long while, and yes, my sk8ing skills are markedly better in my dream state than they are in real life), a *ton* of people showed up, and this old guy and I said, WTF where did they all come from? PANDEMIC LET’S GET OUT OF HERE.

And we split. But I had sk8ed for a long time and it was all good, man. It was a beautiful dream. My hippie friends showed up and they probably sk8ed too, then off we went on our next adventure.

Another favorite memory of Lloyd Ice, speaking of old guys — we were doing a family sk8 one Saturday, this old guy had on his hockey sk8s and was zooming so fast (but carefully!) dodging around everyone. As he was flying by one of the gates, a little toddler came stumbling onto the ice. Without pausing, he scooped her up, flew to the next gate, deposited her on the mat and sk8ed off. It was kinda awesome.

All for now, ciao, please be safe, even if you’re not sk8ing; wear your masks, even if you’ve been vaccinated; stop and smell the flowers along the way; don’t forget to write when you find work and later, gator.

WM

Sunday Book Review

January 10th, 2021

Woof and meow 💜

(“Oh, Puppy” — photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

“Fern and Otto: A Story About Two Best Friends,” by Stephanie Graegin (Schwartz & Wade Books, New York, 2020, $17.99). Introducing a bear and a cat who are friends, and go for a walk in the woods. This is a book within a book within another book, as Fern writes a story, Otto helps, and away they go. They find a tortoise, racing a hare; a cool girl wearing a red cape; a little chicken “hit on her noggin!” and some other friends. Creative and fun, and the art is mesmerizing, with lots of tiny details and big splashes for the kids to study.

It has come to my attention that many of you are still remote distance learning with the big and little kids at home. Bless your hearts. It’s not going to last forever, I promise, but we’re in the weeds for now.

Time to get creative and think outside (or inside, in this case) the box. Random House Children’s Books just released “The Reading House,” a new box set reading program for ages 4-8 ($14.99 apiece). An instruction guide for parents is included. The series starts with letter recognition, moves into phonemics and stretches out into full reading comprehension. Keep them engaged however you can, give yourself some grace, and stay hydrated, people. Don’t forget to get out for some fresh air every day, too.

Here’s a sweet new picture book: “Wonderful You,” written by Lisa Graff, illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki (Philomel Books, 2020, $17.99). This one made me miss being pregnant, miss my husband playing the guitar for the babies while they were growing inside, miss the love you can only get from a grimy, smiling, sweaty toddler. My goodness. This is why older folks smile at you so wistfully, new parents, and say, “Enjoy every minute, it goes so fast.” And you… you haven’t had a shower or eaten a decent, real meal in days, and you don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re feeling frantic…

It all gets easier, and harder, and better, and scarier. These moments become the sweetest moments ever and will bring you to tears. You’ll have plenty of other beautiful moments, but those early ones? Ahhh… I know. The days go slow/but the years go fast.

Now where was I, with my misty-eyed self? From “Wonderful You”:

“When you were a mango, we worked while you grew — we fixed and we folded and waited for you.”

All of the different stages of a baby’s growth are compared to the sizes of fruits and veggies — peas, lemons, an eggplant — and a variety of different parents and families are represented. Just a sweet book — enjoy.

Stephen Johnson hits it out of the park with “Music Is…” a great big fancy picture book, all about the different genres of music. “Every music has its own soul… It doesn’t matter what style it is, just be true to it.” — Ray Charles

Classical, Latin, jazz, country and heavy metal, hip hop, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, electronica! and pop. You can read this one forwards, backwards, and opened up — the design is really user friendly.

Splash, bang and pop. (Simon & Schuster, 2020, $24.99). Be sure you share this one with the kids, and don’t just keep it for yourself.

Bon appetit, stay safe, wash your hands and wear a mask. Try not to cough or sneeze on people. That’s all I got. :)

Leave a note if you stop by, I’d love to hear from you.

WM

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