Saturday Snapshot… #OShucks #Benches

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Saturday.  I am sitting here this morning with my coffee cup and a lot of tears.  One of Justin’s good friends just posted a picture on Facebook of him sleeping.  I LOVE that these great pictures keep popping up… yet as you can imagine… there is sorrow mixed in.  My loss at times is so overwhelming.  All consuming.

Last Friday, my friend Amy and I took a little break from it all and hopped a plane to Arizona.  While it may have appeared to be impromptu, it definitely was planned around a significant event.  The dates we were gone, October 30th – November 3rd, were the exact dates that Justin and I would have been on our annual trip to Florida.  HUGE significance.  Incredibly HARD to do… yet glad I did.

For today’s Saturday Snapshot, I want to give you a little peek into our trip.  Fill your COFFEE cup.  Sit back.  Enjoy.

book journey, Arizona
We stayed at a beautiful home of a friend with this nice patio area and a pool.

 

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PicMonkey Collage

We did a little hiking on the Camelback Mountain which was close to where we were staying.  When we went we thought it would be a nice walk with a great view…  uhhhh yeah.  In case you can not see that sign in the middle of the above collage it says:

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Of course… this did not stop us.  As you can see above in the bottom right picture… I am climbing behind Amy… I told her I looked like Gollum climbing through the hills in the Hobbit movies.  😉  We went about 3/4 of the way up. It was STEEP for sure and we both would have liked to finish the climb but the sun was HOT and we had hoped to go to the Botanical Gardens and would not be able to do both… so down we went.  Hopefully we will have another attempt at this one.

 

PicMonkey Collage2

Then we had an opportunity to hang out with a friend, Tami, who used to live here in Minnesota and moved to Arizona.  Tami picked us up in Mesa and drove us in her cute car up the Superstition Mountain to a restaurant for lunch.  The walls were covered with dollar bills which is significant for me as this is a tradition Justin and I had on our trip to put a dollar up in a little Irish pub called O Shucks.  I cried when I seen the walls covered with bills.  We each wrote on a dollar bill and added it to the wall.  This was amazing.

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So what is up with the hashtags?

I am so glad you asked!  Our first year that Justin and I went to Florida, we found this little Irish Pub (as mentioned) called O Shucks.  We loved putting a dollar up on the wall and we each did so every year we went, 3 years, and hash tagged the dollars…. #Oshucks1, #oshucks2, #oshucks3…  this year would have been #oshucks4.  I will be sending a dollar to O Shucks in Orlando Florida asking them to hang the dollar for us this year and to please email me a picture of it.  I would love to keep up the tradition.

#Benches came out of this year.  Amy and I both took a hard loss, me with Justin, and she recently lost her dad.  I have a bench in Justin’s memory at the Brainerd Library, and her dad will have one at a local park that he had a garden in.  We talked about the benches in honor and memory of our loss and in a way we were benches for each other… supporting one another and honoring the memories.  Thus…. #benches came to be and we hope that we too will be able to add numbers to it…. #benches2, etc…

I really think Justin would love that and I know he would be cheering me on… “Go Mom!  You got this!”  Thank God for Justin’s voice in my head…. Justin and I talked so much about everything I know what he would be saying now as I try to navigate my way through this new world.  This journey is much like Camelback mountain.  It is extremely difficult.  It does have loose dirt and rocks and for sure uneven surfaces. At times, it feels impossible..

but I believe I can do it.

Sheila DeChantal, book journey
Arizona 2015. #oshucks4 #benches

Stop by Saturday Snapshot and see what others around the world have been taking pictures of.  Soon I will post the food of Arizona because… oh yes, we had some delicious experiences.

Saturday Snapshot – The Empty Bowls Fundraiser

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I am still here.  Sporadic at best… and I guess that is my life now… but here.

Today is a dreary cool fall day in Central Minnesota.  The sky is overcast.  The air is damp. A slight chilling breeze makes this ideal sweater wear or a light jacket.

It is definitely soup weather.

I guess that makes today a perfect day for the Annual Empty Bowls fundraiser here in Stars Hollow, Brainerd.  One of the many MANY things I love about our community is how we help one another.  Today’s fundraiser is a combination of two non profits (I LOVE this!), our local Soup Kitchen teaming up with our Crossing Arts Alliance.

How does that work?

Beautifully.

Artists have donated beautiful hand made bowls to the event.  Local restaurants have donated the soups and bread.  For $20 you get to choose a lovely bowl for yourself, mingle with the locals, and enjoy delicious soup.  The $20 goes to the Soup Kitchen…. keeping food in everyone’s tummy is important.

So for today’s Saturday snapshot I wanted to show you pictures of some of the gorgeous bowls that have been donated by our local artists:

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PicMonkey Collage

Gorgeous right?  I can’t wait.  I am off to get ready now.  I am going with my cousin and a few friends to taste the soup and get out of the house for a bit.

Tonight I will be making soup I just have not decided what kind to make yet.  Perhaps I will be inspired today…. of course, you can always give me ideas in the comments below as well… or perhaps Weekend Cooking has something delicious in mind….

Have a lovely Saturday!

Bookies Review, Food, and Getting Into Character With Gone With The Wind

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There is a reason our book club has a wait list.

We..

are a ton of fun.

We always enjoy taking our reads to the next level through excellent discussion not only on book, but author as well, often food to go with what we read, and occasionally (my favorites) we dress up.

When we chose Gone With The Wind for our Annual Classic Read I was so excited about the possibilities for dressing the era.  When the buzz started with the girls saying they would make curtain dresses, having never read the book before I was thrilled with their enthusiasm…. making dresses!  Way to go Bookies!!!

And then…

I was sent a link to the Carol Burnett spoof on the book…

Ahhh….. what exactly were the Bookies going to do?

There was a little buzz on our Facebook page.  They were havig trouble finding used curtains for their dresses. I went to a Halloween shop and found mine …. it was called Goth Vampire but I figured if Scarlett could be who she was… she certainly could also be goth.

So book review night comes.  I had it at my house, converted to the Plantation Tara for the evening.  And as the girls entered… I was impressed with their creativity..

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The Bookies…

do not disappoint.

As you can see in the picture… several made the curtain dress!  Kathy (far right in white) even had the curtain rod in hers!  Between using old curtains, buying curtains, dressing in an ere looking dress, and being creative….

the Bookies take on Gone With The Wind like pro’s!  You will notice up front we have a Mammy… and another surprise you can not quite see in this picture, but you will soon!

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There she is… in the back to the left with a halo…. yes Gone With The Wind fans…. Lori dressed up as….

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Yup.  God’s nightgown.

The exclamation that Scarlett would frequently say throughout the book when she was frustrated.  The first time in Bookie history that someone dressed as an exclamation.  Nicely played Lori…

nicely played.

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Laura, with the help of her mother, went all out and sewed up this cute little curtain number from new curtains.  I told her she could wear this next year to our Gatsby party as well!

Of course… it wouldn’t be a Bookies book review without great food….

PicMonkey Collage

We had corn pone, Frankly My Dear I Don’t Give A Ham sandwiches, Butler Balls, shrimp creole,fried chicken, brownies, and sweet potato pie (recipe below) and a Scarlett OHara drink (recipe below).

PicMonkey Collage 2

We had an excellent discussion on the book.  There is so much to talk about in Gone With The Wind!  We all agreed that Ashley was NOT a catch.  We discussed Scarlett’s relationships with her different husbands as well as with her children.  She was indeed… a unique individual.

We also had good discussion over the author Margaret Mitchell… kudos to her for creating such a protagonist as Scarlett… what an unusual perspective for the times…. this headstrong woman who was not a nurturing mother or wife but instead always looking for the best way to support herself and her ambitions.

It was interesting also to hear the difference of thoughts from those in the group who had read the book before (very few actually), and those who had seen the movie, to those of us like myself that had not done either.

For a classic, the overall consensus was an average read AND not to bad for a classic rating – BELIEVE ME.  A few of us, myself included, rated the book a 5 which is our top of our rating scale.  See my personal review here.

Why Does Gone With The Wind make for a good book club read?

1Gone With The Wind is indeed vast with pages, but worth the efforts for book clubs.  The option to read or listen to on audio makes for a wide variety of discussion on both.  There is much to discuss as a group from the civil war, to the reasons this is a banned book, to Scarlett herself as well as her relationships with others.  AND the little extras you can do to make your discussion even deeper.

Please click here for group discussion questions and ideas for a group review

Sweet Potato Pie

you will need-

1 1/2- 2 pounds sweet potatoes

1/2 cup softened butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 9 inch pie crust

  1. Boil sweet potato whole in skin for 40 to 50 minutes, or until done. Run cold water over the sweet potato, and remove the skin.
  2. Break apart sweet potato in a bowl. Add butter, and mix well with mixer. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 55 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Pie will puff up like a souffle, and then will sink down as it cools.  ( as seen at All Recipes.com)

Scarlett O Hara Drink

2 ounces Southern Comfort

8-10 oz cranberry juice

1 squirt of lemon juice to taste

mix and serve over ice

I am linking this post to both Saturday Snapshots and Weekend Cooking.

Saturday Snapshot… A Look Into Minnesota Libraries

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I am still surprised how time gets away from me.  I thought for sure I would have posts up this week but the book sale ended and a board retreat began and meetings this week and canning and a friend having surgery and company and delivering apples to neighbors and…

well you get the picture.

Along with all of that was the annual Minnesota Library Association Conference which is always a good time.  I believe this is my fourth year attending.  They have one day that is focused on Friends of the Libraries – ie.  workshops, brainstorming sessions and awards.  The second day while more oriented to libraries I also find interesting as there are sessions that share what other libraries are doing and the speakers are exceptional.

So today, for Saturday Snapshot I thought I would give you a little peek into the MLA….

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I am on the Board for the Minnesota Library Association of Friends.  This group is a plethora of information!  A retired judge, financial adviser, and a past State Librarian who I love to talk to.  We had a booth that I sat at when there was no session I was interested in attending.

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Here is the group I attended with.  These women are so much fun!  L:  Diane (Brainerd check out desk), Laurel (Reference desk), Julia (past Brainerd Librarian and now Mankato), Darcy (Children’s Librarian) and Jolene (our Lead Librarian for Brainerd).

 

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They also have a small silent auction both days of the conference that assists in raising money for the Minnesota Library Foundation.  I took pictures of some of the fun and interesting ones…. I love that Night Circus is paired with Freakshow wine!

 

Of course… I love a good silent auction and when it all ended I had won a few goodies…

 

The books were all one auction… I had my eye on The Child Garden.  LOVE the cover!  The audio book was not getting bids, and the package of homemade cards I LOVE as I try to send out cards every week.  I love cards and messages 🙂

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I left with a good deal of ideas!  I came home yesterday afternoon and today is audio and catching up on laundry, mowing the lawn and apples waiting to be processed.  A lazy Sunday (or as lazy as it gets for me) is just what I am glad to be a part of.  I love being a part of this but the larger group stuff takes its tole on my through my grief and alone time… or time with just Al and I is what I long for to recharge 🙂

 

 

Morning Meanderings… Can you?

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I woke up crying this morning.  That may be a bit TMI… but I do want to keep it real here and this site is not only my bookish release – it is also my record of what life is now like in this after Justin world.

With that said – the word for the week is CANNING.

With a couple of people offering me up the tomatoes they were not going to use themselves, I have found that the process of canning keeps my mind busy, and while doing so, I am listening to Gone With The Wind for book club  – so double duty.

Today I thought I would share with you for Weekend Cooking and Saturday Snapshot, a look into my canning world – and a recipe bonus.

I inherited a lot of tomatoes.

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And more than what is pictures as I went back to this one ladies house two times with 4 totes and filled them all each time.  So I have been making salsa (red and green), spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, sliced green tomatoes for friend green tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, basil tomato sauce… and enough cucumbers to make 12 jars of pickles.

One of my favorite recipes is the one for salsa.  I LOVE salsa. I love to make it fresh but I have discovered a salsa recipe that Al and I both devour with satisfaction. And that is what I will share with you today:

 

You will need:

14 cups of cored and peeled and then chopped up tomatoes

5 cups of dices onion

5 cups of diced green pepper

1/4 cup of fresh diced jalapeno peppers12

5 Tablespoons of cumin (I use the hotter one I find in our local grocery)

1/4 cup of Cilantro

1/4 cup of sugar

3 Tablespoons salt

fresh ground pepper to taste

1 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup lemon juice

 

Still all of this together and simmer in a large pot around 20 minutes.  Process into hot sanitized pint jars with a 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in the bottom of each jar.  Seal and place in a large boiling hot water canner for 15 minutes.  Be sure that all lids seal before storing (I leave them on my counter for a day to check them.)  Delicious with chips or over chicken.  Also makes a lovely gift.

 

Today… I continue.  I have tomatoes ready to make another batch of the basil tomato sauce, and apples ready to start apple butter.  Later today I am going to try my had at home made siracha which involved my peppers witting in a vinegar bath overnight.  We will see….

 

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On another note, Banned Book Week starts tomorrow… CRAZY how fast that came up. For those of you signed up to participate I will send out an email today, for the rest of you – its not to late to sign and be sure to participate too as there will be giveaways and a lot of fun!

Click for details
Click for details

 

Be sure to check out Weekend Cooking and Saturday Snapshot for other things cooking and happening around the world.

Weekend Cooking/Saturday Snapshot… Apples to Apple Butter

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My good friend over at Beth Fish Reads hosts this wonderful weekly meme where we can share what we are cooking.   Many times I have found a new recipe to try or even planned right then and there that what I read about was what I was making for dinner.

Today I thought I would share with you the fall tradition I have of making Apple Butter from our apple trees.  As there are lots of pictures, I am also placing this post under Saturday Snapshot (another excellent meme). The main connection I have to the whole process is this:

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I am the proud owner of my Great Grandmother’s chinois sieve and pestle.  This really is the selling point for making apple butter at home (well… that and all the apples).  I love taking these items out of storage.

 

And… I do have apple trees.

Tree #1
Tree #1
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Tree #2

 

Tree #3
Tree #3

It is Tree #3 I have been working off of.  While I am waiting for the first frost before I pick the apples, Tree #3 is my crazy tree who never has an off year, is ALWAYS loaded down with apples and breaks it’s branches.  And currently had dropped a lot of apples to the ground so I have been snatching them up.

 

So I have been making apple butter.  I like it because it is fairly simple – no need to peel, seed, etc…  here is my basic recipe handed down and perhaps tweaked a little be me….

You will need…

canning jars – small jelly style up to a pint

canning lids and rings

large pot (canners are good)

apples (I use from our trees but any hard apple will do – Granny Smith apples work great!)

apple cider vinegar

sugar

cinnamon

cloves

all spice

vanilla (optional)

 

You will need 4 pounds of apples per batch.  I usually double the batches.  Cut off any bad spots on your apples and then cut in quarters and don’t worry about seeds, stem, core.  Weigh your apples and when you have the right amount bring to the stove and place in a large pot (the big canners work great for this).

 

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I have been cutting the apples outside because it has been so nice out. I use my picnic table, the big canner and my Great Grandmothers scale.

 

Once apples are in the large pot, add two cups of water and one cup of apple cider vinegar to every 4 pounds of apples.  Cover and bring to boil for twenty minutes.

After apples have cooked soft, with a slotted spoon, scoop the apples out of the liquid and place the sieve over a pot or bowl and then put apples into the *sieve.  Use the pestle to squish the good sauce out of the apples and keep doing this until all that remains in the sieve is the skin, seeds, and stems.  Continue until you have done this with all the cooked apples.  Then take a spatula and grab the excess sauce off the outside of the sieve.

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Add to your apples – 1/2 -3/4 cup sugar to each cup of apples.  I kind of do this to taste and you should too – some people like a sweeter product than others.  I am closer to the 1/2 cup sugar to each cup of apple sauce, sometimes less.  Add 2 tablespoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon all spice, 1 teaspoon, cloves, and 2 tablespoons vanilla to each 4 pound batch you are making.  Stir all of this well.

Over med low heat start to cook your apples using a wide bottomed pan.  The point of the cooking is to evaporate all the excess moisture our of the apples so the wider the pan bottom the faster this processes can be.  I use two large deep fry pans.  Cook this way for 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring often until apples are thick and if you place some on spoon and put in freezer for a minute the sauce does not get runny.

Sterilize your jars.  I put mine in a clean sink and pour hot boiling water over them.

Scoop apple butter (yup…. it is apple butter now!) into the jars leaving 1/4 inch space to the top.  Place a lid and ring over each jar.  and leave to cool on a towel on your counter top.  You should hear the lids pop as they seal.

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I know there are easier ways to make apple butter these days, but using the same process that my Great Grandmother used and knowing that her hands used that pestle as did my own mother brings me a little happiness. 

Apple butter is excellent on toast, and I like it with cottage cheese.  It is also good on pork chops and makes for a wonderful gift.

 

 

 

3aJust a reminder.. Banned Book Week starts September 27th and we have a lot of fun lined up for this annual event.  Click on the meme pic or the link above to find out more!

Morning Meanderings… It’s All A Bit Crazy

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*Deep Breath*

Today I wanted to share the pictures of the bench that was dedicated to my son at the Brainerd Public Library.  It is one of those things that I am a little surprised I have not already posted the pics (I did post the prep of the area pics but never the finished area).  And then as I plan to write this post the tears start rolling.

How my life has changed these past 5 months…

It is in all honesty quite surreal and surely requires a reality check from time to time.  How can this all be real?  How can 5 months ago I had this vibrant amazing kid in my life and we were making plans and hanging out and then…

this.

Now I have benefits, and Color Runs, and tree plantings and ribbon cuttings…

and a very very broken heart.

However, this is not what this post is about.  Well it is and it isn’t.

If you can put a shed of light over this tragedy I am trying to live through…  what I am posting here is a spark of life and love and well….  here it is.

A brief background story to the bench if you do not know it…. when my son died in a car accident this past April the book blogging community took a stand and wanted to do something to honor my love for books and the library and my great love for my son. Money was raised quickly for this project, bloggers and publishers, and authors, all came together to make this happen. 

I still can not write this or talk about this without tearing up… what an outpouring of love during the hardest part of my entire life. 

Two members of our friends group Dawn and Sherri spoke at the ribbon cutting
Two members of our friends group Dawn and Sherri spoke at the ribbon cutting.

 

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There was a nice gathering of people for the ribbon cutting… friends, family, and community.

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Justin's bench.
Justin’s bench.

 

 

And the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library group contributed $10,000 to add in 4 more benches and a picnic table to the area for people to enjoy.

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Thank you to every one who contributed.  Coming through the way the book community did at such a time as this was such a gift to myself and my family.  This heart felt generosity will not be forgotten.

(This post will be linked to Saturday Snapshot, where people share their stories through pictures).