Monthly Archives: January 2015

Morning Meanderings…. Oh The FOOD!


As you probably know (from all the gushing over here, on Facebook, etc…) my husband and I along with friends went on a 17 day trip to Australia and New Zealand earlier this month.  We spent three days in Sydney before we boarded our Cruise ship for the rest of our journey.

This post is for Weekend Cooking and for Saturday Snapshot and it is all about FOOD.  Food is really part of the experience and my rule for traveling is that we can never eat at a place that I could eat at around where I live.  I love new food experiences!

Disclaimer:  Not all food pictured is mine (thank goodness!) I took pictures of the food that my hubby as well as our friends were eating too.


While in Sydney, we stopped at a little pub for lunch.  I ordered a burger that was to come with “hot chips” and I was very curious about these chips.  Turns out, chips are french fries.  Now I am not a huge fan of thicker french fries, I like the crispy fresh thinner ones with that salty yum flavor.  These were DELICIOUS.  I became a big fan fast of the hot chips of Australia and New Zealand.

PicMonkey Collage

We were in Sydney 3 days and at one stop enjoyed a Japanese Cuisine meal.  The four of us girls were really excited about this, however the two guys, Ray and Al were not… thinking it was going to be like a china buffet.  The boys were converted quickly.  The food was incredible and Al (my hubby) said he would stop anytime that he sees Japanese noodles.



At our hotel was a very nice restaurant and the above picture if from their display window.  We never had a chance to eat there, we were too busy out exploring.



I wish I had taken better notes, but I did not.  While in Sydney we took an all day trip to go and see some of the sights.  We stopped at a quaint little town where we had a change to grab a bite to eat.  We walked into this corner cafe that displayed the above window.  I chose a delicious sandwich pictured below:


On to the cruise….


If you have ever taken a cruise, you know there is a lot of food.  There was a buffet area that was open all the time.  A pizza place, hamburger and hotdog spot, your main dining area, a steak house, Italian restaurant, and a Sushi restaurant.  The food, other than the steakhouse, Italian, and Sushi, were all included in your cruise cost so knock yourself out.  🙂  The above picture is my dinner on the first night we ate in our dining room.  This is a chicken Alfredo in a Parmesan shell.  I know right?  I dont even want to think about that calories in that mouth watering, buttery yummy concoction.



Al and I ate in the steak house twice.  Once with our whole group, and then once just the two of us, a gift from our Travel Agent.  The steak house menu gave you choices of appetizers, soups and salads, your main dish with choice of sides and of course dessert.  Everything came with dessert.  Below is one of the appetizers I had, a crab cake with shrimp on top.  This was also the night I had the creme brulee.  I was so full!


On one of last excursions we went to Christchurch in New Zealand.  We had heard that they had amazing fish and chips (there’s that chips word again!).  We stopped at three different fish and chips places and all three were closed or out of business.  By mid afternoon we were pretty hungry and finally found a nice looking pub style restaurant.  (I love these pubs you can find some of the best food there!)


I ordered a chicken sandwich which I was sold on because it came with avocado.  I also ordered for all of us, the nacho’s as us girls had been craving nachos but unable to find them anywhere in Australia or New Zealand.  Wendy ordered for us to all try the potato wedges.


PicMonkey Collage4

My sandwich was good, but the nacho’s and potato wedges were excellent.  Each had a tasty chili sauce that I would love to try to duplicate.  The portions were HUGE, but all 6 of us were able to get our fill of these delicious treats.

1I of course have to talk about the deserts on the cruise ship.  They were always beautiful and you just had to try them… no matter how full you already were.  Below are pictures of some of the deserts we experienced on the cruise.  Again – note, these are not all mine 🙂


PicMonkey Collage1

If I were to mention any favorite of the entire trip it would have to be the Japanese Noodles we had in Sydney, the chicken Alfredo in the Parmesan bowl,  and the nachos at the pub in Christchurch.

This is why I have been on my treadmill almost every day since we have returned.  Ha!  🙂


Do you have a favorite that you see here?






Anything That Moves by Dana Goodyear


We live is a crazy exciting and sometimes strange world.  In today’s day and age we find adventurists of all sorts… extreme sports, people pushing themselves to lengths they never had before, and yes – extreme eaters as well.

There is a movement of adventure eaters – the more unusual the ingredients, the more rare (even illegal), the better.  In Anything That Moves they eat live octopus, shark fin, blood coffee, foie gras, pig snout, raw goat milk…

Health benefits to eating raw and unprocessed?  The history of the food we eat?  It’s all here.



I am the person who watched Survivor or Fear Factor and when it comes to the gross food challenges (unhatched birds, grub worms, bugs, etc…) I immediately announce to the TV screen and to my husband that I am out.  As I watch the people gag on the TV I wonder why they even try to eat it when they know they can not win this one.  For the record, Al calls that he is out on all height challenges.


1aaAt points in this book I am appalled.  At other times fascinated.  Not being an extreme eater myself, I am not entirely sure if I am impressed or disgusted with extreme eating… I think both.  Dana Goodrow handles this book with facts.  She takes the reader into restaurants like Nose to Tail where they literally eat everything in between.  A party called the Weed Party where the host puts marijuana in all the dishes to his fully aware guests.  Stinkbugs with a slice of apple.  Extreme?  Indeed.  At least to me.

I enjoyed this book learning about foods that I am pretty sure I would not consider eating.  I liked learning about some of the traditions in other countries.  Anything That Movies is written with humor.  As a foodie I am glad I read it.  I now know facts that will disgust my friends.



  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (November 4, 2014)

This review is linked to Weekend Cooking



Morning Meanderings… Finishing Up January


Being home so little in January it feels weird to be talking about the end of the month already… yet here we are.  January was…

1st books of the year….

6 7 books reviews and 5 audiobook reviews.  An additional 3 books read but not reviewed yet due to release dates.

World traveling and spending a lot more time with my hubby than we usually have time for 17 luxurious days

Traveling through the books I have read and keeping up on the archives.

Lots of guest posts (YOU all rock!!!)

Posts about hobbits

work out hours…

lunches with friends

Very Little Snow – YAY!

using My Fitness Pal consistently since I came home


So that is wrapping up January.  2015 so far…. I like it.

February will bring a Super Bowl Party, an annual meeting for the Friends Of The Brainerd Public Library, my first meeting with the Minnesota Association Of Library Friends, possibility of a literary party, a birthday, an article… and who knows what else.  🙂

Today… I need to finish a book.  Work out.  A retirement party at the library.  Things to start prepping for Camp Benedict and for the Annual Friends meeting on Monday.  It shouldn’t be too crazy of a day.

How was your January?

Witches Of Echo Park by Amber Benson

The Witches Of Echo Park, Amber Benson, Book Journey, Sheila DeChantal

Unknown to the modern world, witches still exist in the gray areas of our vision, appearing quite like mere mortals… and all the way keeping our world balanced.  Yet their existence is in danger and therefore, putting the world as we know it is danger as well.

When Elyse hears that her great-aunt Eleanor is deathly ill, Elyse rushes to be by her side in Los Angeles.  What Elyse finds is not only the aunt who raised her, but also secrets that Elyse would never have guessed.  Now, heir of her aunts estate, Elyse is also to take the place of her aunt in the Coven.  To do so, Elyse must put herself in danger as the world in under attack and Elyse is not sure if she is strong enough to do everything she needs to do.



Very character driven, Witches of Echo Park has everything I enjoy in a good listen.  I thought the characters were well-developed and interesting.  Inheriting a coven of witches?  Brilliant and unique!  I also absolutely loved that the author Amber Benson narrated this audiobook as well.  AND did an excellent job.

My only grumble is that the book was a little slow-moving to my liking.  This is the start of a trilogy so maybe as the series goes on it will pick up speed.  Definitely interesting – I would have initially thought this was a YA read (I think it was the book cover that led me to that) , but due to some content, I would say older YA to New Adult.



  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 9 hours and 21 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • Release Date: January 6, 2015


Morning Meanderings… Bells of My Home Town… Feels Like Stars Hollow


Good morning!  Happy Thursday!  I can not wait until my sleeping patterns return to normal!  Up until 1:30 am when I forced myself to bed (wasn’t tired)… then I toss until 2:00 am, sleep a bit wake up at 5:00 decide I need another hour and then wake up at 9:00 am.  GAH!  Too late to have breakfast when I have a lunch date at 11:30 am so hungry and holding…. LOL

Well… there is always coffee. 🙂

Last night I had a Library Board meeting.  We were going over Strategic Planning before our regular meeting so I arrived int he parking lot at 5:00 pm for our 5:15 meeting.  As I exited my car I heard the bells play their song on the hour like they always do.  This got me thinking…

As long as I have lived in Brainerd which is *cough cough* for the most part all my life, the bells have rung on the hour in town.  They play a little tune, it’s pretty, occasionally it is seasonal, and it is always on the hour.


I don’t know why.  I don’t know how.  I don’t know if it starts at a certain hour and ends at a certain hour… I don’t know if it goes all night…. I had never really thought to ask.

We have one of the city council members on our board so I asked… and she told.


The bells are carillon bells and they are there because a woman with the last name McKay was a big part of Brainerd back in the day.  She had served as a nurse in the war and upon her death requested there to be bells that chime from the court-house on the hour in memory of those who died in the Bataan.  Her request was put is place and someone actually manages the music, programs the bells to toll out their song – different each hour.


Sadly, I know little more than that.  I Googled this last night thinking I would find information on the bells and I found very little.  There is an article from 2011 in our local paper but the archives will not open it and three calls to the Dispatch this morning to access the information could not help me.  I could not even find images of the bells on-line, although other parts of Minnesota, like the Mayo Clinic proudly display theirs.

Ok – enough of my bell obsession.  I like them because I think they are unique.  They remind me a bit of what I would expect out of a town like Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls people… if you haven’t watched the show you must – all episodes are now available on Netflix).  The bells are sweet sounding and I clearly wanted to write about them today….

Time for more coffee.  Lunch date, projects to work on, and reading this evening.  I will try to be a bit more sane tomorrow.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Love Life

Retired Cop Bill Hodges was pretty proud of his career record.  Most of the crimes he was involved in solving were brought to completion.


One crime, still unsolved, still haunts Bill.  Months earlier, a group of people waiting in line at a job fair were plowed down by a man driving a Mercedes.  Not only did he run over the people with no mercy… he backed up and hit them again leaving 8 dead and 15 wounded.  The driver was never caught.

Now, Bill has received a letter.  A letter from the man who claims he committed this crime and egging on Bill about leaving this crime unsolved.

Well… retirement was boring anyways.



Stephen King is an author that I seem to be surprised that I still read.  I read him often in High School, but after graduation found him to be a bit too much for me and I moved on.  In recent years, mainly due to his surprise hit of 11-22-63 (so good – do not miss it!), I tend to drift back to his newer writing… cautiously testing the waters.  While his writing is still King, his writing seems some what smoother… still spooky topics, but either I have mellowed…. or he has.

Perhaps… it is both of us.

I think Mr. King tested me a bit on this one.  While a pretty good story line (hit and run criminal contacts retired cop and taunts him about being unable to find him), I struggled with some of the actual situations in the book.  Think Norman Bates awkward relationship with his mother but more…more.  Ugh more.

The story line is what held me to this audio, I did want to know what would happen in the end.  Yet even more than the story line, Will Pattons narration was a home run for this audio.  I am pretty sure if not for the excellent narration I would have probably let this one go as a DNF.  Will Patton had just the right voice for narrating a retired cop.  I really enjoyed listening to him.

Over all… Mr. Mercedes is not a win for me.  This is supposed to be a trilogy buy I can not imagine that I will carry on with the story line… however, I never say never.



  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 14 hours and 22 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Release Date: June 3, 2014



Morning Meanderings… What Is Happening Now?


Good morning!  I have been home now for 5 days.  The weekend was me doing pretty much nothing.  The time change had us all goofed up… staying up until 1 am and then sleeping until 8 or 9 (so not like me – I am an early riser!)  Then… I would spend afternoons reading or online while sitting in the recliner and then falling asleep in the chair.

The motto of Princess Cruises is “Come Back New”, and as much as I wanted that to be true… I did not want “new” to mean…. lazy.  😉

My hubby Al (left) riding while our friend Ray drives (right).  This is opposite of how we drive in the states.

My hubby Al (left) riding while our friend Ray drives (right). This is opposite of how we drive in the states.

Then finally Monday came… and it was like my brain turned on.  I made a to-do list.  I started working out.  I bought the groceries we needed, made the phone calls I needed, and took a couple of freelance jobs.  *whew*  I think I am coming back!

Yesterday I started looking for our Wine and Words authors for 2015.  I sent out emails, and hope to have a few yes’s before our Friends Of The Library Annual Meeting next Monday.  I like the mystery reveal of it all.  At this writing…. I have two yes’.  YEAH.  Three more to go.

Today, I listen to audio and have some things to work on for that annual meeting.  I am starting to get my mojo back.  I am still a little tired but getting back to the norm…

and yes,

I think I came back new.


I think this is the day after I burned my bottom lip (before it was really bad) but that… is another story. 😉


In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson, Book Journey, Australia

If You have heard of the book/now movie A Million Ways To Die In The West than you must also know there are a million ways to die in Australia; or at least according to humorous author Bill Bryson there is.  Crocodiles, poisonous spiders, sharks, and lots of miles of hot desert with no relief in sight are just to name a few.

Bill Bryson shares his adventures of visiting the Land Down Under mixed with true experiences of a killer sun burn, scary hotels, miles of driving to look at famous (or not) spots, as well as a good dose of history in this amazing area; In A Sun Burned Country will give you a pleasant mix of what Australia is like today, and how it was discovered.


When this book showed up in Candace’s guest post about books recommended either about Australia or with Australian authors, this is the one that caught my attention.  Why not read a book about the country I was about to visit by an author that was known for his humor.  I liked the fact that I was not about to read a dry commentary on Australia and I dug in.

Bill Bryson is definitely an author to experience.  Not only did I learn interesting facts about the country of Australia and the places it is known for, but I also laughed along the way as I read.  (You must read about the history of the Opera house and what happened to the man who designed it.  EEP!)  I found myself quoting this book frequently through the trip including reading passages out loud to my fellow travelers.

I read this one on the plane to Australia, and while on the cruise ship.  I found it interesting, insightful, and full of fun – exactly the type of book you want to read on vacation.  I highly recommend it to anyone who is going to experience (or has experienced) Australia.



  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (May 15, 2001)


Morning Meanderings… A Winner…. and a Dinner


Good morning!  The weekend is fully over!  I was so tired and didn’t do much all weekend and then it hit me… with the time change from New Zealand to Minnesota we actually went through January 22nd twice.  That means I had an 8 day week! No wonder I was tired!

Over the weekend I took part in the best audiobooks of 2014 hop and giveaway.  It was a lot of fun to see what people said were the best audiobooks and I made myself a list to work off of.  I was giving away an audiobook from audible or a $15 gift card to Amazon….  my winner is (using


Megan at Rivervina Romantics


And now for the dinner…  while in New Zealand one of our excursions included a lunch at a private home.  The home was beautiful and we were served by the owners.  I wish I would have taken more pictures of their back deck area, they must have had seating for 50!  Anyway, here are some of the pictures of that event I wanted to share today:




The back deck area where we ate. What a view!

I love this - it is an old iron footed coffee table turned upside down and a roof put on it.  WALA!  Bird feeder.

I love this – it is an old iron footed coffee table turned upside down and a roof put on it. WALA! Bird feeder.


I wish my blog was scratch and sniff.  These were wonderful!

I wish my blog was scratch and sniff. These were wonderful!


The dessert was this hard ice cream in an ice bowl!  It was served with a warm fruit sauce.  Mmmmmm

The desert was this hard ice cream in an ice bowl! It was served with a warm fruit sauce. Mmmmmm


This statue was at the end of a small pool.

This statue was at the end of a small pool.


My husband and my friend Wendy looking over the wine and water.  Guess what I chose?  It starts with a "w".

My husband and my friend Wendy looking over the wine and water. Guess what I chose? It starts with a “w”.


In the house was this magazine featuring... yup, the house we were in.  They were featured in New Zealand Home and Garden Magazine.

In the house was this magazine featuring… yup, the house we were in. They were featured in New Zealand Home and Garden Magazine.


Today I am having coffee with a friend, a meeting in the afternoon, and some work to do in the home office.  I am feeling back to myself again, getting energized and ready to roll!  🙂

Off The Beaten Page by Terri Peterson Smith

Off The Beaten Page, Terri Peterson Smith, Book JOurney, Minnesota

Book Groups who really like to experience their reads will love this book!  ~ Sheila

Off The Beaten Page takes a look at a variety of incredible books and quite literally takes you there.  If you read Devil In The White City how would you like to take a trip to get a bird’s-eye view of Chicago?  The Scarlet Letter or Mystic River could land you in Boston; or in my home state of Minnesota I can go where William Kent Kruger solves his crimes with Cork O’Conner on the north shore, or where F. Scott Fitzgerald (or Charles Lindbergh for that matter), walked and lived in the vast areas of this state.

Off The Beaten Page is a book that will release your imagination to taking the next step within your reading either through the authors or their characters, or their books.  No matter where you live, this book will have you looking at your reading in a whole new way.


When Terri Peterson Smith spoke at our local library this past summer I was intrigued by her writing.  I love to do the little extras with my own book club like bringing food and drinks that are mentioned in the book to the discussion.  We even occasionally will dress the part or “set the scene” for our reading as well… yet Terri inspired me to think beyond the walls of the living rooms we meet in.

Off The Beaten Page not only gives suggestions of books to venture our and explore, but also ideas of where to stay and what to do once you get there.  With each state that is suggested, there are a list of books to read that go with the area, sight-seeing suggestions, restaurants, and hotels.

Did you know that Stephen King’s famous book The Shining was created while King stayed in The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado and wound up basing his book off the hotel (the hotel was about to close for the season when King and his wife stayed there, creating the creepy empty atmosphere that led to the book).  The Stanley Hotel is now open year around and plays up the book setting well with a maze (eep!) and a Ghost Adventure package.

Books about books are awesome, and this book takes it to the next level of book adventures.  It doesn’t matter where you live or how far you are willing to travel, there is a book setting everywhere that you can explore.  Off The Beaten Page inspires you to start your own bookish adventures, which I hope to do with our book group as well!

Author Terri Peterson Smith writes a travel blog with suggestions for book clubs.  One of her posts I read today was about the “Gone Girl” experience.  If you live near Cape Girardeau, a lovely river town in southeast Missouri, you can find much of the movie set as well as the book information.  “The Bar” had closed down at the time of the filming of the book, but the owner has reopened it, a now go to place because of the book and the movie.  I think… that is SO cool. 🙂

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (May 1, 2013)