Monday, July 20, 2015

The Ten Books of June.

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I participated in fifteen discussion boards over the five week course I took this summer. Each one required multiple posts, questions, follow-ups, and they had to be done on different days. So I didn't want to blog much while the class was going on, but I didn't mind burying myself in books. Anything to not look at the computer screen any longer.

Early Warning is book two in Jane Smiley's series following the same family from Iowa as in Some Luck. Book pal Ginny's review is here, and I mostly concur. I'm not sure I liked it better - Frank makes me crazy - but I can't wait till the third book comes out in October. My mom just started the series as well, and I'm looking for more people who want to talk about how it's so much better than Follet's latest series. I read the first book in the series is back in January.

The Red Notebook was the selection for the third annual Mother/Daughter book club. We had a lively discussion though I'm not sure everyone loved it. AND I'd like to add we had a great discussion without any discussion questions available on the internet. If you've been to Paris it is extra lovely to read, and it can be easily finished in one sitting.

Everything I Never Told You is heavy but beautifully written. I didn't know much going in about the book, but it follows a family before and after the death of their middle daughter. It has the right balance of suspense, heartbreak and excellent character development. I had only one minor complaint when I was done, and I definitely needed to talk about it with Kate when she finished it too. It's not a great beach read, but I think it would be good for book clubs.

Station Eleven has to be one of my absolute favorites of the year. I picked it up at an independent bookstore in Chicago, and I am in awe of the characters and stories Emily St. John Mandel weaves about life twenty years after a flu pandemic changes the whole world. It's a touching story, not a dystopia, and makes you really consider what matters and what will last. This is a good interview if you have read it and want to know a little bit about how she crafted the story.
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On to the young adult books of the month...

Roller Girl is a graphic novel and should be read by anyone who loves roller derby or stories about how middle school is just rough. I thought the illustrations were awesome, the story solid, and bonus points for a Hispanic main character and a single mom.

The Red Pencil is heartbreaking. A little girl and her sister live with her family in Sudan, where she is expected to learn to work in the home but not to read and write. She uses a stick to draw but her whole world is uprooted when her father is killed, and they escape to a refuge camp. There are few bright spots, but it's based in fact and the tough reality of the region. It is written in verse.

The Heir follows up with our beloved characters from The Selection series and is just not quite as good. It's mostly because the protagonist, Princess Eadlyn, is not as likeable as her mother. I'm sure teenage girls will like it just as much as the first series, and I thought the male suitors were mostly charming.
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Waistcoats & Weaponry is the third book in the Finishing School series. I love listening to the narrator, but the story is getting a bit old. One more book comes out this fall, and I'll probably finish up with Gail Carriger's books with the final book. Steampunk is probably not for me in the long run.

Feathers is an older book by Jacqueline Woodson (author of Brown Girl Dreaming) written for elementary school children. I loved the way she writes and tells the story so much that after listening to it, I ordered a used paperback copy for my own piles of YA books. Frannie is a darling little character with a brother who is deaf and a keen habit of observing everyone. So many beautiful passages in this one.

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town has been sitting around in my old building for a while, but I never picked it up. I needed an audio book for the last final weeks of commuting and grabbed it from the library. It's read by Will Patton (the white coach in Remember the Titans!) and an excellent Vietnam era story in a sleepy Texas town. Toby's mother has just left town to audition in Nashville and the "world's largest boy," Zachary Beaver, has just arrived in town as a side show attraction. I liked it, and I can see why teachers would chose it. I'm not sure it would appeal to our students, but I like how it pushes multiple perspectives.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pie Flights in Downtown OP.

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Sort of a time sensitive post for you - it's already almost the third Friday of the month again here in KC! Last month Kip and I took a date night to downtown Overland Park for their "open late" specials on the Third Friday. We had never been before and were mostly going for pie, but we were surprised by the whole event.

It was super crowded with groups of all ages walking around and enjoying a nice evening in June. We saw groups of friends our parents age, couples about our age and even some young kiddos enjoying the sites, sounds and food. We wandered in and out of a couple stores, stopping to sample food and drinks at the Culinary Center. They had wine tasting and were making up fresh batches of fancy foods and a simple, lighter, corn casserole that we tried and loved. We brought the recipe home and made it this week with fresh corn from farmer's market!
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Our final stop was for pie flights at the Upper Crust. I noticed some couples sharing a pie flight, but if you thought that was going to happen in our house, you've never met my husband. For $7, you get three small servings of pie. Kip had blackberry apple (his favorite), cherry, and blubarb. Mine were coconut custard (TO DIE FOR), cherry, and peach praline. All were good except for the peach (not the best peaches yet), but it will probably be even better this month thanks to more gorgeous peaches ripe and ready for eating!

Kip polished his off in the store, and I took parts of mine home for snacking later that night and the next morning. We should have carried our slices down to listen to the music while we ate - it was a fun eclectic band! Here's the line-up for tomorrow's event, and it looks just as good as last month. We highly recommend the whole night!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bucktown Farmer's Market, Four Years Apart.

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We walked to Farmer's Market on Sunday morning, and I snapped the photo above of Jennie's family as it looks now in 2015. But it reminded me of the photo below and the last time we were in the same farmer's market back in 2011.  photo Blog_1043.jpg
Jennie and Joe were almost engaged (but we didn't know it yet!) and now they have sweet baby Grace. I had just moved back to Kansas City, was living all on my own for the first time and barely surviving my first weeks as a teacher leader.

We talked a couple of times about how different snapshots stand out as markers in time. One of our favorites to compare was when Jennie came to town for my 30th birthday party and her first Threshing Bee. We sat on a hay bale and toasted our cans of Coors Light when the band sang Deanna Carter's line from Strawberry Wine, "I still remember, when thirty was old..." We had the best time. And then a few weeks later I met Kip Lynch. At the next Threshing Bee? He was there as my fiance. This summer we're going back as married folks! Jennie and I were already plotting an eventual trip to the Threshing Bee with Grace because it's an experience probably everyone should have.

That's the nice thing about long time best friends. They help keep track of where you were, and where you are, and where you hope to be.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bang Bang Pie Shop in Chicago.

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This week there will be a lot of photos of pie ahead of you. Just felt like I should warn ya so you can plan appropriately for the Fourth of July. You'll probably be craving pie by then with all these photos of pie.

On Sunday, Jennie suggested that we go to the Bang Bang Pie Shop in Logan Square for an afternoon snack. They have savory and sweet pies, really good coffee and a fun outside patio that we enjoyed.
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Jennie and I both ordered sweet pies - one honey pie and one strawberry rhubarb. Plus we had to try a biscuit as well. The strawberry rhubarb was probably our favorite because the crusts were different, and it was just a little bit better. We weren't in the mood for savory, but I saw lots of people ordering awesome savory pies and biscuit sandwiches.
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Little miss Grace got to try the biscuit and crust as well, and she was a fan. It's hard to photograph her little teeth coming in with her little smile, but she's got them ready for snacking.
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It's so fun watching my friends as moms, and this age, 7.5 months, is a really fun one. Grace's personality really shines through, and she was hamming it up not just for me and my camera but the people at the table next to us too. Yeah pie!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Square Shots from Chicago.

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Most of these square photos I posted on instagram, but not all of them. On Friday night when I arrived, Jennie and I met my friend Dereck at Big Star for tacos. My trip to Texas with Kip where we ate these tacos might have ruined me on a lot of other tacos, but these were good and hit the spot after traveling. Kip and I are STILL talking about those tacos in Dallas on a regular basis. Because as the banner says, "The answer is always tacos." I had admired that banner online before I found it in person at a cute shop in Logan Square.

It was chilly when I arrived on Friday night, so we wore our jackets and sat outside on the patio. I ate a socially inappropriate amount of guacamole - it was so so good - and caught up with Dereck. I also learned that Jennie doesn't like cilantro, something I feel like as best friend I should have already known. For dessert, we stopped at Glazed & Infused for donuts. Kansas City isn't big enough quite yet to have a donut shop open till the late hours, but one of these days. That's how I will know this city has really arrived. The best donut we tried? A very classic one with sprinkles, obviously.

Saturday night, Jennie and I took Miss Grace to eat at a pizza place that was good but mostly significant because it was next to a place with cake balls. Those were so amazing we went back on Sunday to try other flavors. Sunday while we were out exploring, Joe was preparing. He made ramen, totally from scratch, and it blew my mind. This isn't the first time I've been wowed by Joe's cooking. Very impressive attention to detail and the broth was loaded with flavor - Joe seriously worked for hours on it. If you are curious about ramen, read up about it here because Kansas City's getting our first ramen shop this summer. Kip does not care for Asian food, so let me know if you want to check it out with me!

Jennie and Joe live in a condo with two balconies and a fabulous view. I took this last square photo of my view to send Kip when I was talking to him one evening. I was a bit sappy about missing my husband for three whole nights. I love that guy and loved hearing about the shelves he was building while I was away!