AtoZ Challenge 2021 Wrap Up

In case you took all of April off from viewing my blog, I participated in the A to Z challenge where each day (except Sundays) you post on a new topic following the letters of the alphabet. So April 1 the blog topic started with A, on April 2 the blog topic began with B and so on.

This was my eighth year doing the challenge. The organizers of the challenge suggest you pick a theme for your writing. The first year I didn’t do a theme. The next year it was TV shows, followed by characters, antagonists, songs about magic, character flaws and comic strips. This year my theme was cat characters.

This turned out to be a fun topic. I featured some well known cats such as Garfield and the Cheshire cat. There were animated cats Mittens, the Aristocats, Oliver and Lucifer as well as live action cat who starred in movies such as Keanu, DC and Jake.

The typical harder letters – Q and X – were definitely hard this time as I did not find in cat characters with those letters. For Q, I featured my book Quietus that inspired this topic. For X, I just featured another cat character – one of my favorites Hobbes from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. W this year was also hard but I went with a cat-character based book series called Warriors.

As always, I enjoyed the challenge and look forward to doing it again next year.

For any of you who have missed out on my blogs from the A to Z challenge, here is a recap of what I covered.

Previous Posts

A is for the Aristocats

B is for Binx

C is for Cheshire Cat

D is for DC

E is for Elsa

F is for Felix

G is for Garfield

H is for Heathcliff

I is for Isis

J is for Jake

K is for Keanu

L is for Lucifer

M is for Mittens

N is for Nala

O is for Oliver

P is for Puss in Boots

Q is for Quietus

R is for Rum Tug Tugger

S is for Salem

T is for Thomasina

U is for Unknown

V is for Victoria

W is for Warriors

X is for Xtra

Y is for Yum Yum (and Koko)

Z is for Zira

Recipe of the Month – BLT Pasta Salad

Up close side shot of easy BLT Pasta Salad recipe in a white bowl with one fork spearing pasta

I saw this recipe on Facebook. Oh, my, it looks so good! I can’t wait to try it. I’m not sure about the lemon chive dressing as lemon isn’t my favorite, but I’m willing to give it a try. This recipe comes from the Carlsbad Cravings website. They say it is great for a potluck. With Spring here and the nice weather outside, we will be getting out soon with friends and family. I can’t wait to try this recipe.

***

Ingredients

PASTA SALAD

  • 12 oz. mini Farfalle pasta (or other small pasta like medium shells)
  • 1/2 pound (½ bunch) asparagus tough ends removed then cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas thawed
  • 1 yellow bell pepper chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes quartered
  • 4 cups roughly chopped romaine lettuce*
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz. thick cut bacon cooked and chopped

LEMON CHIVE DRESSING

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (approx 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 tsp EACH sugar, dried oregano, dried parsley, pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives may sub 1 tablespoon dried

Directions

  • Whisk together all of the Lemon Chive Dressing ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.**
  • Cook pasta in generously salted water just short of al dente, then add the asparagus to the pot and cook with the pasta for 1 more minute. Drain the pasta and asparagus, rinse with cold water then toss with a drizzle of olive oil to keep pasta from sticking.

SERVING IMMEDIATELY:

  • Add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl. Once pasta has cooled, add Lemon Chive Dressing and toss until evenly coated. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste (I like more pepper). Serve immediately.

MAKING AHEAD:

  • Add pasta, asparagus, peas, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes to a large bowl and toss with half of the dressing once the pasta has cooled. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Refrigerate the lettuce, bacon and Parmesan separately.
  • When ready to serve, add the lettuce, bacon and Parmesan and the remaining dressing and toss until evenly combined. Taste and add a splash more lemon if desired and salt and pepper to taste (I like more pepper).

Winding up this crazy school year

Nine months ago, the school year began – from home. Yes, we did virtual learning for the first eight weeks of school before my kids had the opportunity to go back to in-person learning. Over the next couple of months, more and more students returned until about 60% were back at the middle school and a little less than 50% were back at the high school.

Yes, the kids had to wear masks and socially distance, but the choice to go back to in-person learning was the right one for our family. Both kids do better away from the distractions of home and back with friends in the classroom. The year progressed pretty normally though I won’t say there weren’t struggles. Lexie still struggles with remembering to mark assignments as turned in on the computer when she knows they were turned in during class. Not marking them as done makes them still show up on the daily report I receive from Google Classroom.

Slowly as the year progressed, some of the activities that students were use to having returned. Jace’s orchestra concerts were performed with half the kids on stage and the other half on Zoom. The one hard thing for me was that volunteers were not allowed on campus while class was in session. That meant all the PTA activities that we normally do, didn’t happen or were modified to be done by staff and students without PTA help.

Then in March the Texas governor released the mask mandate as well as pretty much all other COVID restrictions. Our school district – and many other local businesses – decided to stick with their current protocols of social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing. The good news is that at the beginning of April the school district relaxed some of their rules. Volunteers were allowed back on campus. Graduation (in-person) will happen. They also are allowing in-person end of the year parties, banquets and celebrations – with certain guidelines.

This decision means many end of the year activities that we thought might not happen will actually happen. So now there are just four weeks left of school. The kids still have state tests still to take – Biology for Jase and English and math for Lexie. Jase also has one final orchestra concert and an orchestra banquet.

And then there are PTA things such as end of the year meetings, trainings, and a district-wide Used Book Sale. I’m sure these four weeks will fly by and then school will be done. We will then be celebrating with a trip to the beach.

Z is for Zira #AtoZChallenge

For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of cats as characters. Whether they appear in film, TV, cartoons or literature, these felines may be the star of the show or just a supporting character.

Enjoy the A to Z Challenge…

Z is for Zira, a lioness antagonist from the animated movie The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. She is cynical and allows her emotions to control her. She is the mother of three cubs – Kovu, Nuka and Vitani, but rarely shows them any affection unless they are of use to her. She spends much of her time scheming and plotting against Simba, who she hates and blames for Scar’s death. Her goal is to kill Simba and take over the pride. In the end it is her hatred that destroys her.

In case you missed out…

A is for the Aristocats

B is for Binx

C is for Cheshire Cat

D is for DC

E is for Elsa

F is for Felix

G is for Garfield

H is for Heathcliff

I is for Isis

J is for Jake

K is for Keanu

L is for Lucifer

M is for Mittens

N is for Nala

O is for Oliver

P is for Puss in Boots

Q is for Quietus

R is for Rum Tug Tugger

S is for Salem

T is for Thomasina

U is for Unknown

V is for Victoria

W is for Warriors

X is for Xtra

Y is for Yum Yum (and Koko)