Morning Meanderings… Minnesota

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Good morning.  Most of you, who have viewed my ramblings here for years know I am from Minnesota.  And I am certain that most of you, no matter where you live have heard what is happening in Minnesota currently, with the riots in Minneapolis that started after the very sad death of George Floyd on May 25th.  (If you do not know, you can Google the name).  What happened created a ricocheting effect as people not only in Minnesota – but in other states as well fueled by what I believe is a combination of the state of our world at this time, the lack of uncertainty of what is to come, fear, and of course the anger of what happened on May 25th in the midst of all of this was the equivalent of throwing massive amounts of fuel on already lit embers.

Riots followed with the burning and as of this morning, it was reported that over 220 businesses have been damaged, looted, and/or completely destroyed by vandalism and fire in the Minneapolis area.  And this is no dystopian novel – this is happening about 2 1/2 hours from my home.  While peaceful protests are happening in my own home town and an hour away in St Cloud, as of this writing there are no riots closer to me.

Latest News from this morning

I fully believe in our rights to an opinion and our right to protest in peaceful ways. In fact here in my home town, peaceful protests have been happening.  My heart is broken for the Floyd family, friends who live in the MNPLS area, and for all that is happening that started with the death and has now escalated into so much more that I don’t even know what….  but it is is scary stuff.

As a friend posted yesterday,

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

~Eli Wiesel

SO – all that said… I am having a rare quiet moment on my deck with the birds chirping and the sun shining when I actually have a moment to soak it up.  I’m emotionally exhausted.  I have wanted to say so out loud for a while now – however feel bad saying it out loud as I know there are so many that have it worse than I do at these times.  I currently have my job, I am in what I feel is a fairly safe rural area, I have a paycheck coming in and know where my next meal is coming from.  I know not everyone can say that.

I am, as I am certain so many many of us are just tired of trying to figure out where we go from here, what the next month looks like, the next season as all the things that make Minnesota awesome (State Fair, parades, concerts, Brainerd International Raceway Nationals, large gatherings for families, cookouts, big weddings, gathering by the lake, etc) are all kind of on hold – and by no means,  is this my state alone.  As people worry, stress, wait and wait and wait – the fear of the unknown, the instinct to survive, emotions running high… it all kicks in and can create what we are seeing happening here.

Do what you can today to find your happiness.  For me, I am slowing down to recharge, a little bit of sun, a little bit of self-care, later BLA Quarantingo for our community and possibly if I can get there, a peaceful Candle Lighting Vigil for George Floyd that will take place tonight in my community at 9 pm.

Stay safe all. Be KIND.
Sheila

Morning Meandering: What’s in YOUR Memorial Day?

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I took the day off.

It’s not a given in the Hospitality world that you get the holidays off.  In fact, in a normal world the Holidays are often the busiest time for restaurants.  However this is not the normal world.

And by golly I need the mind break. 

My day is rather an exciting one.  I am going uptown shortly here to pick up items for a “Quarantwined” thing that is happening in Minnesota.  It is a Facebook page where if you join you put your address and list a few things you like to drink and snack on.  Then someone is supposed to create a basket of goodies for you based on your preferences and sort of ding dong ditch you, leaving a basket on your doorstep.  I love this idea.  I love how we are finding ways to reach out to our friends, neighbors, and even strangers – creating what I believe will be a tighter more caring world.   Once you receive a basket you are supposed to remove your post with your info on it so 1) you don’t double up on baskets and 2) make sure others get one as well.  This morning I went through the list (you choose from the top – the ones that have been on the list the longest) and I plan to make 4 baskets.  *Dorky excited*

Then I am going to have COFFEE with my cousin, followed by my first curbside order pick up at Walmart.  Then home, assemble and deliver my baskets and hopefully still have the afternoon to finish morning the lawn and read a bit outside in the sun.
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I may go to the cemetery for my mom and dad and sister.   Honestly, I should have gone yesterday and avoided the people.  Justin’s memorial is here in the back yard.  Or maybe I do it tomorrow after work.

Anyhoo – that’s the plan.  Probably grill tonight, but for the most part low key and that is really the way I am coming to like it.  Another good thing that comes out of this Quarantine (and yes, I use “good” lightly) – people, myself included are learning to slow down… and honestly I like that.

Happy Memorial Day all.  Are you reading?  What are you reading?

The Trial of EveryPlate (Pork and Pineapple Tacos)

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About 2 years ago I went through a home meal kit phase.  I enjoy trying new things, LOVED the fact that I didn’t have to go shopping (not a fan) and that when I made something I used it all and didn’t have random jars, bottles, or halves of items that I needed for the recipe that would now squat in my frig for longer than I care to admit.

I finally landed on Hello Fresh which I loved the variety, the recipe cards, and the feeling like a rockstar when I made a pretty (if I say so myself) awesome dish.  Cue the “I have made Fire!”  scene from the movie Castaway.  Then summer came.  And while Hello Fresh offered up tasty summertime grilling options, I decided to drop the service for the season and then never went back.

Which brings me to the current state of the world.  I mentioned I disliked shopping?  I like it even less now.  Recently when my friends were raving about their Hello Fresh meals I thought, Yes!  I will go back – but it turns out they are not taking new customers right now and understandably so.  So…. enter EveryPlate.  It’s like a mini version of Hello Fresh, not as many options each week, not the big cool recipe cards and extras, however – the price was totally right (4.99 per serving) and as it turns out this company is owned by Hello Fresh AND was taking on new customers.  Like most of these services, you can quit anytime and even take breaks and stop shipment for a time if you are going to be gone or just need a break.  My total for 3 meals with 4 servings each and with shipping came to $68.12

So I’ll bite.

I placed my order and went with the 4 serving option (I really only needed two) mainly to see what portions looked like and honestly for that price I was skeptical about quantity and I do not mind leftovers.  I chose the Pork and Pineapple Tacos, French Onion Meatloaves (which comes with potatoes and carrots), and the Honey Ancho Chicken (which comes with potatoes and Zucchini).

On Friday, my box arrived.

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First thought:  I was thrilled with the look of both the veggies and the meat.  I felt like I had a CSA box of fresh goodies that I was going to have the pleasure of assembling. The box comes with two large ice packs (the meat is kept between them) and I save the ice packs to be used in coolers over the summer or for any event I need to keep something cold.

Here is the first recipe I tried.

Pork and Pineapple Tacos

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Why did I choose this recipe? Honestly I like the thought of the southwest spice and pineapple combo.  The ingredients looked like this:

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The card was easy to follow.  It listed all my ingredients so I could pull them out of the box.  I was impressed with the number of tortillas ( 12 total!) and a full red onion and two full Garlic cloves.  The only thing not included was a little olive oil for the pan, a tablespoon of sugar and salt and pepper.

Prep was easy to follow and I used my own already minced garlic for no other reason than I did not want to mess with peeling and fine chopping the cloves.  I will use them babies elsewhere.

The sour cream was mixed with juice from the lime, some of the garlic and salt and pepper (YUM!).  The Jalapeno and onions were mixed with lime juice and a little bit of sugar.
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When all was said and done in about 30 minutes I had a tasty meal that I was thrilled with.  The flavors of the spices and pineapple were spot on tasty!  There was more than enough and I was pleased with the portions. I used a 4th of the tortillas.  This particular meal did not come with any sides so I made Brussel sprouts to accompany this dish.  The pineapple was to be drained from its juice and I put that to use as well in a little icy mix with a Sparkling Pink Grapefruit beverage.  BONUS!

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The good:
1.  Well worth it.  The quality of both the meat and the vegetables was really good.  Everything was fresh.
I loved the dish.  I was able to take everything I needed from the box and use it all.  Nothing extra went into the refrigerator other than the leftover taco filling.

The not so good: No complaints.  Hello Fresh meals come with each meal prep in a bag and EveryPlate came all together not separated.  It’s not even worth mentioning other than I thought someone might want to know.

Disclaimer:  I am all about shopping local and I do almost always.  We ever have many local small business restaurants offering meal kits (including the company I work for) as well as take and bake or heat and eats.  And I use these services in some way or another almost weekly to support them, and it’s tasty stuff.  My point is – you can’t do that 7 days a week… and something like this is good to get a little creative on your own.

(I will review the other two recipes as well)

Have you tried any of the Meal Kits?  If so what are your thoughts?  Which do you like> If not is it something you would ever consider?

 

Morning Meandering… In the mood to write

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So question…
Do you ever have this almost constant dialogue going on in your head, like if you would take the time to write it down you may actually have something? Or is that just me?

Lately, I find myself thinking about things to write – like oh, reviewing that food service would be interesting… or I should really write about these crazy times,  or such as this morning, I wonder who else has a washing masks system?

So yeah… here I am once again on this site that has been around since 2009 (that alone blows me away). At times it has been overused, the last 5 years it’s probably safe to say it has been underused… yet I don’t let it go. I don’t want to lose this record of my life from the early years of talking talking TALKING books – to my absolute worst life moments in 2015.

So… I’m Back.
I think.
Once a writer, always a writer.

And that part about mask washing.. well that is true.  And it’s probably true for you too.
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For me it goes like this.  Hand wash in the sink in hot soapy water -so hot I almost can not put my hands in that water.  Then scrub, rinse and I could air dry… but honestly, my head thinks the dryer is better to kill anything – so the dryer it is.  Now they are ready to go for my adventures to the grocery store or wherever I need to be in public spaces.

Other than that my Sunday has so far, dishes, laundry, sorting mail, paying bills, cleaning up the kitchen table which tends to be a catch-all and updating this blog… again.  I hope to start catching up on my book reviewing, read a little and if it warms up outside, start mowing the lawn while listening to my audio, Year One.  And oh my word – have you listened to or read this one?  Its been on my shelf for years and with everything going on now thought I would start it and – WHOA.  I am enjoying it but WHOA.  It’s about a pandemic, starts out like the flu, spreads human to human…  yeah.

So that’s the plan.  I’m curious if you are wearing masks, how are you caring for yours?

Sheila

Key Of Valor by Nora Roberts (#2)

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So here we are the second book of the year completed, and yes another re-read.  I felt a need to reconnect this past couple of months and have been devouring old favorites.  It’s fun to see if lightning does indeed strike twice.  ~Sheila

So Nora Roberts is not a go-to author for me.  However…

there are always exceptions.

A long time ago I read two trilogies by her that blew me away.  Mostly because they had in them the elements that I LOVE and are kind of like “book crack” to me.  I love a book about strong independent female characters.  I always have.  AND I love books with a bit of magic to them…. or powers (I guess that ties in with strong independent women).  AND I like books that have to do with books….  books stores, book owners, book lovers, book store staff, authors…  like the Forest Gump of books.

Both of the trilogies I speak of dealing with all of the above.  The Three Sisters Trilogy and the Key Trilogy.  This book is the third and final book of the Key Trilogy and it is the final book in the two Roberts series that I have devoured these past weeks.

In the Key of Valor, the final trial is upon the girls.  It is now Zoe’s turn to find the last of the three keys and right the world.  Malory and Dana both (in the two previous books) had completed their quests, but Zoe has more at stake.  She is the only of the three that has a son, Simon, who she is not willing to risk for anything…  and being the last to be challenged, there is more at stake for Kane, the Dark Force as well.

This time around in this book was I would say just as satisfying as the first time.  With Nora Roberts, you kind of know what you are going to get in her trilogies.  There will be three (men or women) who each book will focus on one of.  They will – most likely find love by the end of that book and this will continue with each through the trilogy.  Knowing that – while a pattern – is helpful.  You kind of know you are going to get into a love connection while reading which is not a top topic for me… however acceptable when it leads to something more…in this case, magic, a goal, power….

Anywho, yes.  Read this if you like strong female characters.  Definitely read this if you like Roberts.  And please try it even if Nora Roberts is not your thing… the magic to me, changes it.

Oh and what’s with the number after the title of the book?  I am trying to keep better track of my book count this year. 🙂

The Summerhouse by Jude Deveroux (#1)

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The first book of the year… a re-read that was not quite as the first time, but almost as delicious… ~Sheila

In The Summerhouse, three women, Ellie, Madison and Leslie are each about to turn 40 years old.  Their lives have not turned out as they had hoped and each woman is dealing with something heavy and what appears to be irreversible.  When the decision is made that they spend a weekend together after not seeing each other for 19 years, they all come to the same conclusion, “What do they have to lose?”

Over a weekend in Maine, over cocktails and good food, the women all catch up by sharing their life stories – from the dreams of a dancer, model, and author, to where they are now and what brought them to this point.  When given an opportunity to visit a small shop in town with a woman called Madam Zoya who gives them an opportunity to go back to a time in their life when they could have made a different decision, again the women think, “what do we have to lose?”

It is soon discovered – they only have things to gain.

 

I read this book originally in 2003 with my book club.  At the time, the book spoke volumes to me.  Our book club at the time was only a couple of years old and we were still sticking with familiar genres and authors.  The discussion of this book I recall was incredible.  Our group all shared a time in their lives where they would like to go back to and make a different decision -in a way, in those early years fo the Bookies, it was one of the initial steps that really bonded us to one another.  And truthfully, why this book holds such a special place in my heart and on my bookshelves.

While I have picked up this book since that initial date, I have not read it in many years.  Over the last couple of months, I have been digging into reading (and listening to) old favorites.  If I were to diagnose that, I would say that over the Holidays with it being a harder time of year for me, I find comfort in books I know that are safe and familiar.  I have been popping through these books like my favorite candy.

This time, I have a few things to say that are probably different than my past reviews of this book.  In fact (I just peeked) the last time I read this book was in 2008 and after I write this review, then I will read that review to see how they are similar – or not.

So…. The Summerhouse.  I have to say that some of the beginning really annoys me.  I wont go into it here as I do not want to spoil it for anyone, but if you want to know I am writing about it under a spoiler page… so those who have read this can join me in a rant if they so wish.  Basically what I will say here is that there are some things in the early chapters before you did into the heart of the book that are just too unrealistic.  Not only unrealistic but what bothers me more is that it would have been so simple to have changed this to make it believable, it’s almost silly and unfortunately could be a deal-breaker for some readers.

That said… once you get into the book where the women are together again and share their stories.  THIS.  This is why I love this book despite the crazy early chapters.  The stories in details of their lives that they share is sooooo good.  And what happens next makes this a book that despite my complaints, will always hold its place as a favorite with me.
My advice?  Give it a try.  It really is good.  And then, come back and click that spoiler link so we can hash out what we loved and what was not so much.

Note:  Fun (or not so) fun fact.  They have changed how to add posts to “pages” on wordpress so while I have a perfectly fun snarky spoiler post about this book… I am unable to post ir under the Spoiler page as I used to be able to simply do by selecting that page.  *sigh*  If anyone knows the magic solution please let me know.  I spent an hour last night on this and too much time today on it and just found it annoying and much too complicated so had to stop trying.  

First Books of 2020 (In all Their Glory)

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First up, Happy New Year.  Thank you to all of you who sent me a picture over the last few weeks of the book you are reading into the New Year.  It is, as I have said many times, a big harry deal to me.  So thank you for following me down the rabbit hole.

Below, you will see the pics of the books sent in.  In the mix, you will find Authors Brian Freeman, Kaira Rouda, Randy Susan Meyers and Nadia Hashimi with their first books.  LOVE THAT.  There are also friends and book acquaintances, leaders in the book industry, champions of the written word…  you get the drift.

I chose The Summerhouse by Jude Deveroux as my First Book of 2020 because this book has wonderful memories for me and has a storyline that left me thinking about it for weeks… well years really, afterward.

Summerhouse is about three girls who meet back in their school days, Leslie, Madison, and Ellie.  They become friends over the fact that they share the same birthday.  Well, life happens and they all go their separate ways and onward with their lives.  

Then, as they are about to turn forty, they all have different things going on in their lives that are not as they had hoped.  They decide to meet up at a Summerhouse in Maine and connect over a weekend of catching up.   The girls all spend the first evening opening up about what is going on in their lives and they talk long into the night.  In the morning, they decide to go out shopping for gifts for one another and go into town and split up with plans to meet up later.  When they do meet up, they all find out that somewhere along their shopping time, they all received a little card inviting them to Madam Zoya’s.  Thinking it would be a hoot, they decide to do it.  Once they arrive, they are offered a chance to go back in time to a time when they made a choice that really set their future path and have an opportunity to make a different decision…  thinking why not… its all just smoke and mirrors, they all decide to do it.

The result is a book that still holds a coveted spot on my bookshelves.  It is still a book I hand out to friends and is considered a “book rescue” meaning if I see a used copy somewhere I have to purchase it so someone else can take this magical journey.

I have been reflecting a lot lately.  Perhaps that why I chose this book for now.  I know the great discussion my book club had around it when we read it in 2003.  I know it will hold a different message for me now.

Happy reading all.  May 2020 lead you to books that you too will hold as treasures long after you have read them.
~Sheila

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A Little Ditty About First Book…

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For those of you who have been around these last 10 years (EEP), you know I was once quite the blogger/book chatter/writer girl.  This site… if you dig through the glorious archives is not only an artifact of my love of books… within the posts, is also the story of me.

And…
If you have been with me all these years.  You know much of that story… much of my strong review years, what slowed me down to now (life, loss, change) to this, my eventual pop in once in a while.
Because of all of that I just said, I keep this site active as it does hold much of me… a bit of a Horcrux (but not the evil kind).

Ok – this is not meant to be about that.  I wanted to share a little history of First Book – the one consistent I have held on this site.

First Book started with me, long before I knew what a blog was.  I always made a big deal out of my first book of the year… making it a “no rules book” – just merely guilty pleasure – a book I was reading not because it was the next hot thing, not because it should be read next, not because it was for my book club – etc etc…. First Book to me was a book that I wanted to read for me.  It could be anything.  A re-read of a favorite.  One I had put off for a while (years even) due to time restraints etc…, one that was not in my normal genre circle but I longed to give it a try…

Seven years ago I brought First Book to Book Journey.  Opening up my silly tradition to the masses – anyone else who wanted an excuse to read something they really wanted to read for no reason at all then they wanted to read it.

It has been a lot of fun. as you can see by the posts and the pictures of those who shared their first book (some of you are represented year after year!)

2019 First Book

2018 First Book

2017 First Book

2016 First Book 

2015 First Book

2014 First Book

I keep it going for many reasons.  It connects me to the book lovers/reviewers that I have come to know through the years – heck, I even met quite a few of you that are not in my everyday world.  It is also fun to see if there is a book that is selected many times (last Year Crawdads and Michelle Obama’s book Becoming were featured frequently).  And if I am completely open and honest – I do it because it gives me a project to get through the New Year and focus on something positive instead of losing myself in loss.

That all said… I do hope you join in this year.  It’s easy – you just send in a picture of yourself with the first book you plan to be reading into the New Year.  You can email me at sdechantal@gmail.com or PM me on Facebook – or even add it to a Facebook post I wrote about First Book.

Thanks All!  Happy Holidays!

Sheila

First Book of The Year 2020

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Here we go – year 7.   I am THRILLED to continue this tradition, even when I don’t stay as well connected as I once did on this space. Thank you to those who have messaged me to ask if I will be doing it again.

The answer is…

Of course we are doing it.

My life has changed quite a bit.  Now working as a Full-Time Event/Promotions coordinator, and involved in a few non-profits, I don’t have the reading time or writing time that I used to.  I do write a bit at I Guess I Am Doing This (also a work in process… but I am not giving up.)

So what is First Book?  First Book to me, is that first book you plan on reading for the New Year.  It can be a long-coveted read you have not had time for, a guilty pleasure read like a re-read of a favorite…  really it can be anything – it is, after all, YOUR First Book.

Make it AWESOME.

Then, once you have picked what it will be, email/ Facebook message me a picture of you with the book (send it to sdechantal@gmail.com).  This adds to the excitement of the First Book.  You have between now and December 31st to send in your choice.  On January 1st I will post all the pics in a collage format of all of you around the world that are doing First Book.  I do hope you will join me – friends, family, fellow book lovers, a friend of a friend of a friend… this event each year and your willingness to do this with me makes my heart smile.  🙂
Here is some (yes some)  of what came in last year:

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Remember – this should be the first book you plan to be reading into the New Year.  Yes, you can start it New Year’s Eve. :p  You can send the picture (sdechantal@gmail.com) anytime between now and December 31st so I can prep the collage.  Thanks, everyone… having this project to work on makes the New Year fun.

Bitcoin Billionaires by Ben Mezrich

Have you ever seen the movie The Social Network? It is the story of how Facebook came to be and I absolutely love it. I have always enjoyed books about everyday people (underdogs maybe?) that suddenly get an idea and it goes… well…. Facebook. Within the startup details of Facebook (and in the movie), you learn about two identical twin brothers, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss who went to Harvard at the same time as Mark Zuckerberg and played a pretty important part in the idea – at least the original thought – of what Facebook came to be.

In Bitcoin Billionaires, Tyler and Cameron are looking for ways to invest but find they are having “opportunities” due to their very public fight with Zuckerberg and peoples opinions on how that came to be – right or wrong, the opinions are out there. Fast forward to this book, in a case of being in the right place at the right time, the twins meet an eccentric character who starts them on the path of cryptocurrency, what is believed to be the future of currency. Bitcoin Billionaires is this true story. Admittedly, going into this book, I did not know a lot about Bitcoin. I have heard it talked about very little, and those that did talk about it – I felt that it was an incredibly risky and potential scam. After listening to this book on audio, I would say that Bitcoin has more credibility to me now knowing the twin’s investment and belief in what it means – however in the end – I am not sure I understand it much better than when I started. In their own words, the Bitcoin was“either the next big thing or total bullshit.

Definitely a worthy listen. I enjoyed knowing what the Winklevoss twins were up to after the craziness of Facebook. I found the book interesting and will follow the Bitcoin a little more closely, if for no other reason than pure curiosity.