Friday, April 29, 2016

Art in Bloom

A huge dose of creativity and imagination made for a very healthy Friday as I wandered through The Minneapolis Institute 160 Art in Bloom exhibits. After some four hours with a short coffee break and 103 photos later, I decided the participating floral artists and commercial designers must have read the sign below.  
The 33rd Art in Bloom was presented by The Friends of Institute. It's a four day event, a celebration of spring, where the galleries are filled with floral arrangements that mirror pieces of art found at the Institute.
This year I noticed that the artists paid as much attention to the vessels/vases that held the floral arrangements as to the overall display.  
An inviting whimsical floral display of a ballgown made of flowers was outside the building entrance 
and let's not forget the shoes for the dress.  
Inside these charming floral hats really caught my attention as well as the clothing items embellished with flowers. 
Watch as art unfolds into floral displays

Titled: Scholar's Playthings
While this floral display was stunning with the colors and materials used I found the vase extraordinary. It was helpful that many of the artists were on hand to talk about their floral display, vision and materials used. I learned this vase made of fused glass and the firing of the glass is a 14 hour process.
 Titled:Three Standing Forms in a Garden
Note the attention to detail with this representation as three similar containers were used to mimic the art piece.
Titled:Leopard Water Pitcher
One of my favorite pieces titled: Clock 

Each of the clocks were working and the floral creation below was even in sync with the time 1:26.

Titled: Rudiakshamala Necklace

Some eye catching floral displays that incorporated unusual flower varieties and/or arrangements.  

A framed window picture art that looked over the park with downtown Minneapolis skyline in the background.
The brochure advertised the event as bold, beautiful and fleeting. These words indeed salute the showcase of artistry, creativity and imagination found at Art in Bloom.  For me it was a lovely way to spend part of a spring day enjoying creative and imaginative art.   

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thursday Cuisine Go Asian

Thai Peanut Noodle Salad
Cook's notes:
Add some Asian flair to your menu with the sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavors that make up Thai Peanut Noodle Salad. Top with grilled pork or pulled rotisserie chicken for a main dish.

It's packed with flavor and healthy veggies and makes a very satisfying meal. The dressing really elevates this salad to a whole new level. 
Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites

Salad Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. Udon noodles (vacuum packed) or linguine noodles
  • chopped green onions
  • chopped cilantro
  • 2 limes, cut into quarters
  • chopped peanuts
  • a variety of veggies-1/2 cup diced red pepper,1/2 cup diced yellow pepper, 1 cup matchstick carrots, 1/2 cup diced red onion, 1 cup diced cucumbers, 2 cups thinly sliced purple cabbage, 4 cups romaine lettuce
Thai Peanut Salad Dressing
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested
  • 2- 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 T B. seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 2 TB. soy sauce
  • 3 T B. honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TB. minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro 
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1-2 tsp. Sriracha chili sauce (1 is mild with a bite, 1.5 is medium, 2 is hot)
  • 2-4 TB. water or chicken broth
  • Cook noodles in salted water. Drain noodles and place back in pan. Cover to keep warm. 
  • If you’re not going to use noodles right away, add a drizzle of the peanut dressing and stir to coat. This will prevent the noodles from getting all clumpy. Keep dressing in the fridge until ready to use.
  • Combine dressing ingredients in a blender, pour into a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir and heat until warmed. Remove from heat. 
  • Toss cooked noodles with dressing and divide among 4 bowls. When you’re ready to assemble the salad, place noodles, veggies, and chicken in a large bowl.Sprinkle with green onions, cilantro, chopped peanuts, and garnish each serving with a lime quarter. 
  • Before eating, squeeze lime juice over noodles and stir to combine.
Cooking tip: You can add meat to this dish by stir-frying shrimp or very thinly-sliced chicken (partially freeze it first) in some olive oil with a couple cloves of garlic, some fresh ginger, some green onions, soy sauce, and a small squirt or two of Sriracha chili sauce.
Days of rain and cold have sent me searching for some color and sun. I found a place that promises warmth, pops of vibrant colors and creative displays-check out the annual Art in Bloom at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (April 28-May 1) .   

2016 Signature Design 
The Laurel Tree of Carolina (Magnolia Grandiflora) Engraved and hand-colored by Georg Dionysius Ehret; after Mark Catesby 1771

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Chicken SpinachTortellini Soup and Room 13

This was a good day to catch up with Room 13. I found some things have remained the same since my last December visit
 working with iPads
enjoying books
 working on their sight words, letter sounds and writing words to make sentences
and some are still what I call "fashionistas" 
while others have changed.

This young man got glasses
this young lady lost a few teeth (wanted to make sure I saw this) 
and many were a lot taller. Several made sure I knew they were a lot smarter since I last saw them. As they slide more towards vacation countdown their teachers are faced with the monumental challenge of keeping them all engaged.    
Tortellini Spinach Chicken Soup
As the weather continues to be in an unlike spring mode comfort food in a bowl was the perfect evening meal. This recipe puts a different spin on traditional chicken noodle soup by using cheese tortellini instead of plain noodles and a healthy dose of spinach. A rotisserie chicken was a great time saver. I liked using matchstick carrots as they softened up quicker than regular sliced carrots.  
Recipe serves 5 - 6.
  • 1- 1/2 TB. olive oil
  • 1- 1/2 cups chopped carrots (from about 5 medium) or matchstick carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery (from about 3 stalks)
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 small)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 boxes (each 32 oz.) low sodium-chicken broth
  • 1- 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 9 oz. package refrigerated three cheese tortellini
  • 1 TB. dried  parsley flakes or 1/3 cup packed Italian parsley plus more for serving
  • 1 tsp. Herbes de Provence
  • 2- 1/2 - 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken 
  • 3 large handfuls of torn baby spinach leaves, stems removed 
  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, add carrots, celery and onion and saute 3 - 4 minutes. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. 
  • Stir in chicken broth, Italian seasoning, parsley and Herbes de Provence. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to low and cook 45 minutes. 
  • Add tortellini, chicken and spinach leaves. Cook  6 - 8 minutes longer (or one minute less than time listed on package you want it al dente). 
  • Serve warm, topped with chopped fresh parsley leaves. Pair the soup with garlic bread sticks. 
Note; I did not add any salt and pepper because a rotisserie chicken gives the soup enough flavor and added salt.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spring for Another Salad

Keep the healthy eating going this week with another salad.
Lemon Chicken and Orzo Salad
Cook's notes: A Greek flavored salad that keeps well in the refrigerator. Make a day ahead for the flavors to meld and you'll have a delicious meal ready to go. Orzo does soak up some of the liquid so you'll need to add more dressing the second day. Making your own dressing keeps the salad on the lighter side but using a prepared dressing is another option as well as using a rotisserie chicken for saving time.
Health Boost 
Make It Vegetarian: Toss in garbanzo, chickpeas or cannelloni beans instead of the chicken 
Keep It Fresh: If don't have dill use thyme, oregano or basil. They're all big flavor boosters. 
Save it For Later: Make twice as much lemon vinaigrette for dressing the salad the next day.
Recipe adapted from People Magazine October 19 2,015 and serves 4.
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  •  3 TB. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 2 cups shredded skinless, boneless chicken (about 2 large breasts)
  • 3/4 cup diced English cucumber
  • 1/2 cup each diced yellow and red sweet mini bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 TB. dried parsley flakes or 2 TB. fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • optional 3/4 cup sliced black olives
  • Cook orzo according to package directions al dente (omit salt if it's called for) Drain and rinse with cold water, drain and place in a large bowl.
  • In blender add lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper, garlic and dill.   Mix well and drizzle over cooked orzo and toss to coat.
  • Add chicken, cucumbers, peppers, scallions and parsley.  Mix well and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Add crumbled feta to serve with black olives. 

(April 26, 1785-January 27, 1851)

John James Audubon was the founder of modern ornithology. He was also an explorer, woodsmen, hunter, prolific writer, painter and self-promoter. He is considered to be one of the world’s greatest bird painters. His masterpiece, "The Birds of America"(1827-1839), depicts almost five hundred North American bird species, each image—lifelike and life size—rendered in vibrant color.
Check out Nancy Plain's award winning book "This Strange Wilderness".
Her book is well researched and meticulously documented with appendix, glossary, source notes, bibliography, and illustration credits included in the back of the book. Nancy effectively captures the essence of Audubon’s personal journey to uncharted places where no one had seen, drawn, or written so much about the animals and birds of this young country. In Audubon’s words, “My whole mind was ever filled with my passion for rambling.” 

I found Nancy's book to be a work of art. The first thing you will notice is the quality of paper used to print this book. It is further enhanced by Audubon’s beautiful watercolor reproductions. Nancy noted that Audubon’s birds glow with life and look real enough to hop off the page and fly away. This high quality volume combined with Nancy’s mesmerizing prose elevates this book above many on the same subject. 

“The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang the best.” 
John James Audubon 

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Healthy Start

A healthy start to the week with a wrapped salad. And since the rain seems relentless after many days I had to go find my own sunshine!
The beloved strawberry, avocado, green onions and chicken salad gets a makeover thanks to The Pioneer Woman-Ree Drummond. 
My salad was made with mixed greens, sliced strawberries, sliced avocados, cooked chicken, toasted pecans, grated white cheddar drizzled with balsamic dressing. Ree went for using the same ingredients but added a flour tortilla to make a wrap. What a creative and easy transformation.  
Grilled Chicken and Strawberry Salad Wrap
Cook's notes: A twist on your favorite chicken strawberry salad by Ree Drummond
  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup prepared balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 (12 oz. ) package mixed salad greens
  • 12 whole medium strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 4 whole green onions,sliced (white and light green parts)
  • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
  • 4 oz. goat cheese crumbled
  • 6 whole large whole wheat tortillas
  • Place the chicken breasts in a large plastic storage bag. Seal the bag, leaving a small opening, then use a rolling pin to pound the breasts until they're a uniform thickness. Pour in half the balsamic vinaigrette, then seal the bag and marinate in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • After the chicken has marinated, grill it until it's done in the middle, about 5 minutes per side or bake in the oven. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Dice up the chicken when it's cool enough to handle. 
  • Add the salad greens to a large bowl. Add half of the remaining dressing and toss it to coat the greens. Add more if it needs it. Add the strawberries, chicken, green onions, and pecans. Toss it gently a few times until it's all combined. Top with crumbled goat cheese and toss a couple more times. 
  • Place an equal amount of salad down the middle of each tortilla. Roll up, then slice in half. 
  • Serve the wraps with chips, extra strawberries and a few rainy day poems.
by Shel Silverstein

I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can't do a handstand--
I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said--
I'm just not the same since there's rain in my head.

April Rain Song
by Langston Hughes

Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night—

And I love the rain.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

It's April-Jump Into a Children's Classic

Last month I jumped on board for the 2016 Jump Into A Book ReadKidsClassics Challenge. Valerie Budayr, children's book author, publisher, co-founder of Multicultural Children's Book Day and creator of jumpintoabook site originated this idea. 

Joining me in this book-ish and fun campaign are a handful of powerhouse bloggers who are excited to share their very own #readkidsclassics picks! Look for their post on readkidsclassics or watch for specific hashtag on twitter #ReadKidsClassics by the bloggers to see what classic book reading fun they have created
Valarie at Jump Into a Book
Jodie at Growing Book By Book
Author Barbara Ann Mojica
Cindy at One Part Sunshine
Lisa at Squishable Baby

My March classic pick was
Besides reading a classic for the sheer enjoyment here are 10 reasons we'll always love classics.
and April's pick "The Wind in the Willows" scored a hit on #10.  
It's a testimonial to "The Wind in the Willows" first published in 1908 that the book has stood the test of time to remain a classic children's read. Since its first publication 50 artists have illustrated it, E.H. Shepard and Arthur Rackham being the best known, with the addition of more recent names that include Michael Foreman, Patrick Benson and John Burningham.
The particular library copy I read was an abridged edition. But it was quite well edited to create a child friendly narration. It would be worth buying this edition just for Inga Moore's exquisite interpretation of Kenneth Grahame's masterpiece story with almost 100 illustrations. This edition has sold more than a million copies worldwide. It must have been a mighty task for Moore to take on illustrations since E.H. Shepard's are the definitive and most recognizable illustrations of "Wind in the Willows". 

Like most classics from pre-television years, "The Wind in the Willows" can be daunting for some children with its book length and Edwardian language, but Moore's pictures generously ­illuminate that forest of words at every opening. She is no minimalist and her illustrations are "wall to wall" with carefully thought out details. With its wit, charm and finesse, and its atmospheric use of colour, her work renders endless exploration. She draws animals with anthropomorphic wizardry. Like Beatrix Potter, she has an easy understanding of anatomy which allows her to give the animals human characteristics (and clothes) without sentimentalizing or ridiculing them. 
A back story I found interesting was "The Wind in the Willows" began as bedtime stories and letters addressed to Grahame's troubled son, a sickly boy known as "Mouse" who possibly inspired the wilful character of Mr Toad and who eventually committed suicide, aged 20, while at Oxford. Indeed, so personal were these stories that Grahame never intended to publish his material. The manuscript was first given to an American publisher, who rejected it. After the publication of "The Wind in the Willows" by Methuen in 1908, it found an unlikely transatlantic fan in US president Theodore Roosevelt who, in 1909, wrote to Grahame to tell him that he had "read it and reread it, and have come to accept the characters as old friends". Elsewhere, the critical response was more mixed, and it was not until AA Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh author ) adapted parts of the book into a popular stage version, Toad of Toad Hall, in 1929, that it became established as the children's classic it is known as today.

"Wind in the Willows" was written at a time in the world that was being shaken by the newly self-confident masses. Many adult reviewers point out that the story is an elegant parable about class struggle, about the dangers of decadent country-house-living in the face of powerful revolutionary forces. But to a child its the rich language that speaks to their heart as they enjoy the adventures unfold of four animal friends: shy amiable Mole, courageous and resolute Ratty (Water Rat), gruff but stalwart Badger and the frivolous,vain Toad. Each character is well developed. Their friendship holds them together with lessons to be learned along the way. Their adventures are set against different backgrounds,the River, the Wildwood and the Town. Readers are made to feel like they've been invited into their homes or to a certain place to sit a spell and chat. 
"The Wind in the Willows" has everything to please children. It is a thrilling adventure, with moments of terror, such as when Mole is lost in the Wild Wood, or when Toad is sentenced to 20 years in prison. But at the same time, the story is also very reassuring. Perhaps this is because the home seems to form a permanent backdrop to all the adventures. The story begins with Mole spring-cleaning, and proceeds through many scenes in front of raging fires in snug burrows, and ends with the regaining of Toad’s ancestral pile. Also reassuring is the feeling which runs through the book that friends will always be there to help you, to put you right and to get you out of trouble. The animal characters – all male – have clear human traits. 
The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.
opening lines Chapter One .
My all time favorite part of the book is when the arrogant, shrewd, self-absorbed but mischievous Toad figures out how to steal a motorcar.

The world has held great heroes,
as history books have showed.
But never a name to go down to fame
compared with that of Toad.
Toad speaking in Chapter 10
Once Toad gets caught up in the power of driving a motorcar there's no stopping him. Toad's plan to escape prison is hilarious dressing up as a washerwoman. But for all his arrogant qualities his three friends stick by him always concerned for his well being.
"Wind in the Willows" makes a great read aloud story for the classroom or a bedtime story.  Check out this link for supplementary enrichment activities. 
or just read the book online for your own enjoyment. 

May reading a classic challenge "James and the Giant Peach" by Roald Dahl

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...