Are you a font barista?

Ask me what I love about being a school librarian, and we’d have quite a lengthy conversation. However, in the top tier of my favorite aspects of school librarianship is the unpredictable nature of our work day and task list. Every day truly is a new adventure, bringing fresh opportunities to serve kids, teachers, and administrators in your building...

{See my original post on the American Association of School Librarians Knowledge Quest blog}

Father's Day 2017 - Gift Guide for Dads

2017's day for dads is just around the corner, and many of us are in gift-planning mode. I love to buy gifts, and if I could spend every dime of our money just buying stuff for people that would almost be a dream job. But for many people, buying stuff for dads is tricky. Most of the men in our lives tend to be pretty simple creatures, and an awful lot of them suffer from the "if I want it, I'll just get it myself" type of mentality. That can be...notsohelpful to those of us trying to surprise them with wonderful things they will both love and actually use. 

Here are a few suggestions for those of you on the prowl for great stuff. 

There are few things more manly than a good piece of Saddleback Leather. I wrote about them back in 2015 and not much has changed in 2 years, except now we have more favorite pieces. They sent me this Leather Pouch Wallet (ours is shown here in Tobacco) in exchange for an honest review. It is one of their newest designs and secretly I love this one over all their wallet options because The Captain likes the wallet part and let me have the pouch part. You guys. It's like a double gift in one little package - something for him AND something for you! The wallet is sufficient to keep his cards and cash (LOL - like we even carry cash) organized but not too big as to bulk up his pocket space. Dudes can be weird about that. This one is available in several colors and you can order it directly through the Saddleback site. Several of their products are even available on Amazon. 

  • Moonshine Cologne - I slid this one on and off the list a few times because I can be such a selfish monster, but this is hands down the best smelling cologne ever. It has such an earthy, manly but not musty scent and I love it because it is so different than all the other colognes out there. Matt has worn it for years, and apparently I'm now mature enough to share the scent with others. You're welcome. 
  • Kayak/gear - We live in the Birmingham, AL area which has a magnificent supply of options for fun in the great outdoors. I gave The Captain a kayak for Christmas (well, I wrapped up a Barbie kayak and then we picked it up from Dick's Sporting Goods later), and he has really enjoyed it. My best tips here are two-fold. 1) Do your research. Check out sites like this one and this one to figure out what specific type will work for your person. OR 2) Don't do your research. Just wrap up a Barbie kayak and let him get what he wants later. Either way, the dad you're buying for ends up a happy paddler. 
  • Timbuktu bags - These things are rugged yet metro. They're sleek but also have pockets aplenty. They're really cool bags/backpacks/messenger bags that are extremely well made. The Captain loves his messenger bag and backpack, and as someone who travels A LOT he knows a lot about the best/most convenient bags out there. 
  • He Reads Truth  - For those of you with dudes who are interested in Bible study and application, this site has some very modern resources...and a great sale to boot! 
  • Uncommon Goods - This website is so fun and quirky I just cannot even stop the browsing. From manly hygiene kits to the coolest cocktail set ever (and by "ever" I do mean "ever on the planet of Geekdom") to this totally random and unbelievably awesome steampunk kinetic key holder. Welcome to the World of Random! At least you know you can find something he doesn't have on this site! 

Happy shopping, amigos! Now go! Go find him something fabulous! 

Out of the box meal planning

Maybe it’s just an eight-year-old thing, but Sassafras is firmly lodged in the “what are we doing next?” phase. Even when we are literally right in the middle of breakfast, she wants to know what’s for lunch. When we are rushing around the house at night trying to get all of these wiggleworm bedtime-haters in their rooms, she’s choosing that moment to ask what we are doing the next day, and what after that and what after that. Always looking forward, never really thinking about the moment right in front of her. It wears us out, mostly because we can BARELY keep up with the moment in front of us much less think about what is for dinner tomorrow night and what cup she will drink her milk out of and what shirt she will wear for green day at school…which could be two weeks from now. And then of course there’s that whole can you just be satisfied, child? thing.

She’s a planner, I get that. I totally, 100% get that. There are things in my life that I am always planning, always organizing, always thinking toward and thinking through.

Meal planning? Is so very much not one of them.

Y’all, I try. I really do. I use the AllRecipes app, I have a delicious pinboard, we joined this community co-op produce group (just co-buying, not co-growing; all I’d have to put in is a few cherry tomatoes which are delicious but tiny and rare), and all of my friends are forever sharing good-looking recipes on the FB.

Some times of year are better than others, and start-of-school month is just beastly when it comes to meal planning. Add to that our extracurriculars and my darling precious children might get a PB&J and some yogurt for dinner…and that’s only when they ask me at 6:00 what actually IS for dinner. I’m just not very good at it.

It’s the going to the store and the behavior battles that stem from taking already tired children to an entire building that is primarily designed to steal all my money. It’s the time and the couponing I so need to do but can’t keep up with, either. It’s the lack of foresight because all of my planning juices are directed elsewhere this time of year. And it's that they always want to eat, like, AGAIN. Aren't lunches enough? What else do you want from me? 3 meals a day? Mercy.

So. Meal planning? Blurg. I was just scrolling through FB one day because I needed just a minute…just one minute somewhat to myself when, lo and behold, some digital angel of the Lord, a holy algorithm, dropped me a coupon for HelloFresh. $35 off my first meal box, they said. And the meals looked pretty good…so I figured, hey. One box? Let’s give it a go. 3 meals for $30 total that are dropped straight on my doorstep? I’m game. What do we have to lose? Maybe some PB&J’s.

About a week and a half later our first box arrived. The packaging was pretty fancy. Nice, sturdy box with lots of insulation and cold packs for our ingredients. The upper layer (with the white boxes of ingredients) was not as cold as the lower section, where the meats were, but everything looked and felt extremely fresh. Each of our meats (shrimp, steak, and chicken) had their own cold pack, which reassured me their proper storage temps had been maintained in shipping.

Today we cooked up our first box, which was the Lemony Linguine Shrimp. Sassafras helped, although there wasn’t much to it for either of us. It came with the fresh shrimp, chili pepper flakes, a shallot, two cloves of garlic, six ounces of linguine, parsley, a lemon, and a red bell pepper. We followed our little recipe card and had a delicious dinner we would never have thought to make or have all the items for on hand without this meal kit.

hellofresh recipe card
hello fresh box

Their ingredients are non-GMO, farm-fresh, organic when possible (our beef and chicken were labeled organic), and they develop relational partnerships with their suppliers to keep quality high. They also offer accommodations for vegetarians, gluten sensitivities, and allergies, so don’t think they wouldn’t have meals to fit your unique dietary needs. Contact customer service (I have, and got a pleasantly thorough and rapid response) if you have specific questions about their meal types or ingredients.

hello fresh ingredients

The recipe card booklet is good quality, and perforated so you can remove them or leave them intact. Picky about my seafood, I was impressed with the cleanliness and quality of the shrimp. They were shelled and deveined, and the vacuum-sealed package they came in kept that strong shrimpy odor to a minimum. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the shrimp that came in my mail-order box were fresher than the ones I get when I bring some home from less than a mile off the coast, which the seafood authorities say is totally a thing.

I zested my lemon with what I THINK is a lemon zester tool from Pampered Chef. I jacked it up, though, because The Captain and I need a special learning plan for using Pampered Chef tools. So I ended up with lemon zest chunks. Zunks. Whatever, though. Still yummy!

I zested my lemon with what I THINK is a lemon zester tool from Pampered Chef. I jacked it up, though, because The Captain and I need a special learning plan for using Pampered Chef tools. So I ended up with lemon zest chunks. Zunks. Whatever, though. Still yummy!

This is what was left over from my prep box. Waste reduction, check!

This is what was left over from my prep box. Waste reduction, check!

HelloFresh advertises that their boxes are designed to feed 2-4. This meal easily covered the girls and me, and there was also plenty left over for The Captain (sad to miss our first meal but has his eye on the leftovers). If you added a salad or other veggie side (thank you, co-cop) to this meal, it would easily feed 6.  

I have a referral code if you want to check out HelloFresh. It’s BETTER than the deal I got from the Facebook ad. This code will give you $40 off your first box (typically around $69). Once you join, you can get your own code to refer others. Referrals resulting in orders will actually bring you a $20 credit, so you can pay it forward while also helping pay for your own weekly boxes…which is obviously what I’d like to do by sharing my referral code. $40 off for your hungry people, $20 off for mine. And the time and angst we save by not having to plan OR go to the store? Now THAT, my friends, is priceless.

Disposable plates, bowls, and cups: an August gift to ourselves.

Disposable plates, bowls, and cups: an August gift to ourselves.

HelloFresh is Amazon meets farmer’s market. You can’t go wrong by trying it!

Now, as an ADDED bonus (and your prize for reading this whole long post), is you can register for a drawing for a FREE meal box. What's that I just said? Free box? Free food? Yes, my friends. YES, a FREE box. I can give away a free box, so to get in the pot for that drawing, all you have to do is go to and see what they're about. Comment below (sorry, FB and Twitter doesn't count! Has to be on the blog. Just make sure you log in with Disqus or FB before you comment and you shouldn't have any problems) with ONE thing you like about HelloFresh, and count yourself IN. Each comment is an entry and there is no limit. I'll draw a winner and send in your name Friday morning, so get your comments in by Friday morning at 6:00am. Good luck!

Birmingham and its storytellers

canning tomatoes with jjajja

It doesn't even matter that we didn't make it through our bucket list this summer. It was still a beautiful season, filled with rest and reading and new experiences. The bigs got to try things like staying a week at Jjajja's house, fancy new hairdos, and watching the Karate Kid. Our family joined a local produce co-op, which has been easy on the grocery budget and fun because we never know what our basket will hold at pick-up. I tried a few things, too...creating with Miss Ruby and canning tomatoes were also pretty exciting. 

The stuff of legends is buried in all of those little summer moments, but one of the best nights of all of 2015 so far has been going with some of my favorite people to a storytelling event at the Birmingham Museum of Art. Purposed to explore the beautifully layered concept of the southern identity, this stew of an evening pulled in three main ingredients: local storytellers who were part of Arclight of Birmingham, the Frank Fleming Fantasy/Reality exhibit, and NPR's The Moth.

I've never met Frank Fleming but think he would be fluent in sarcasm. I do love his work, though.

I've never met Frank Fleming but think he would be fluent in sarcasm. I do love his work, though.

Uptown Birmingham
Uptown bham gift card

A few friends and I met at Uptown's Cantina Laredo, where two of us got to use a gift card we won in a recent social media contest. The full scope of Cantina's menu is delicious even on a regular day, but at almost-free it became positively exquisite. Then we ambled over a few streets to the museum, where we were basically shocked to see that at 30 minutes before go-time, the amphitheater was at capacity. (Whaaaat. How can this be? We thought we were the only people in Birmingham who cared about things like southernism and live storytelling performances and art. What are all you people doing here?) The five of us split up and started up and down the steps, around the perimeter, weaving in and out of people, asking in our sweetest and most precious angel voices for people to shift over or stand up and let us pass. We got separated, but everyone had a seat and that was more than we could say for the 30 or so folks stuck back in the lobby.

You might say we didn't anticipate the interest, but we were really impressed to see so many younger B'hamians out for what we thought was mostly a nerd-love type of event. 

The Moth Birmingham

The evening's host was Taylor from Arcstories, a Birmingham-based storytelling organization that coaches people into sharing their memories. We didn't even know this group existed but are intent upon attending their next events. Taylor introduced five local storytellers, who were as different as five people could be. The first story (about but not solely about soccer) was my favorite, maybe because it was the first and drew me in to this event so quickly, and maybe because I'm almost certain that guy works at the local public library, but definitely because the theme was the theme of injuries as they relate to southern culture. My favorite quote of his was "When you are born in the South, you are born into an injury instead of out of it." I liked thinking about that in relation to a lot of modern issues in southern culture, but also because where the soccer story guy landed was that the thing about injuries is that they do heal.

The next storyteller was a post-Katrina NOLA volunteer, and hearing him describe what he saw and heard and smelled jolted me right back to when The Captain and I went down to help some friends in the days after that horrible, drama-filled catastrophe.

The third storyteller talked about her family and strained relationships and tied it all up in a very entertaining story about a moment in high school when she (as an awkward, whiter than white teenage girl) gave a report on the book Black Like Me...with her face painted black.

The next storyteller was a Birmingham area rapper who shared about art and power within it. After him came a local hairdresser who went through a beautiful story of family dynamics and how he found support and love and acceptance in the most unlikely of places. Favorite quote from this guy? "Don't tread on the deniability of a good southern family."

An art professor from UAB then shared about a famously talented southern photographer (whose name escapes me, although I do remember the professor speaking had on a dapper little vest) and read one of the stories behind one of his photos. He talked about art but also the importance of the story behind the art, which IS the art, to me. 

Then came what was intended as the main event: storytellers from The Moth. This is a podcast of people telling stories, and the artistic director (Katherine Burns) just so happens to be from an Alabama town very near Birmingham. She told the stories behind the stories, giving lots of background to The Moth and its founder. Our group agreed we preferred the local storytellers best.

But first came Tricia Rose Burt, also from The Moth, who told another story about Southern families and her own personal triumphs and tragedies (brilliantly, though that Southern dialect was too thick at first and too thin as she relaxed). I loved her story, though, and identified with it significantly.

And I think that's the point of wading through your personal trash onstage. 

Stories are entertaining. They're complicated. They require so many "just right" ingredients to be good that it's hard to even really put a name on it. You're either a storyteller or you aren't. You have it or you don't.

Stories in print form are a part of my business as a librarian but they're also a big part of my heart as a reader and writer. In Scripture, the excerpts in which God speaks to me most loudly are situational, entertaining, personal, and teaching. His stories are the best.

The thing about storytelling, and most assuredly Southern storytelling, is that those tales are also generously healing. Every time a person shares their painful or disgusting or sad or awkward or completely hysterical story, they work through that mess just a little bit more. The beautiful part is, they get to help others do the very same.

The next Arcstories event, themed to include stories from the classroom, will benefit schools in the Birmingham area. The Captain and I are already in. Hope to see you there!

La leche de almendras

Because I do, in fact, have a minor in Spanish that I never ever get to use, and also because that is way more fun to say than "almond milk."

I spent the better part of my college years thinking about how beautiful the Spanish language is and how ordinary things sound...just...spectacular in that tongue. Go ahead, pick any word or phrase. It is so much more fun en espanol.

Once, while on a mission trip to Nicaragua that would change my life forever, I listened to a church full of Nicaraguans pray aloud (For like an hour. Seriously, they like to pray. We should pray more here.) and it just was one of the sweetest, most profound moments of my life. I also began to wrap up my prayers with "en el nombre de Jesus" because even though "in Jesus's name" is a common public prayer ending in the Christian world, that Spanish way felt and sounded so velvety, so warm and comfortable and everything I think Jesus would want us to feel about Him.

But THIS was supposed to be a post about almond milk.

Which (muhuhuwahaha) I am sneaky sneaky replacing as the sole milk source in this house. I actually love it and have for some time, and the amount of dairy we consume in this house is, dare I say, locos en el cabeza.

We know the deal with dairy and how it's "not great" for your system and how little girls especially are sensitive to the growth hormones pumped into milk. Even though yes we try to buy organic, it's not in the budget for always. Soy is not an option because of the estrogen factor. Some people say that's old info but, just, no.

So anyhooooo. Sass and Pearl Girl are especially fond of the leche, and have very strong opinions about the fat percentage of the milk we stock here. Fat free or 1%? Bring that thin mess here and you're asking for mutiny.

But the almond milk is where it's at, people. The big girls make a slightly confused face but since the thickness is spot on, they just shrug their shoulders and keep on keeping on. It makes my Shakeology so much better and more filling than with regular skim milk or water. It's better for them and it's slightly cheaper. (I think. Cue everyone telling me I did bad math on that or that almond milk is the new Splenda.)

Sweet Love guzzles the stuff. I can't decide if it's the greatness of the almond milk, or if it's that she just likes drinking anything out of this supercute little Barney cup her aunt brought her from Universal Studios. Regardless, we cheers our cups o' leche together and smile.