Yesterdays post answered the question of where I have been. Today I want to answer in part the question, what did I do? I mostly did what I had planned to do to get through… read, sit by the pool, walk on the beach, enjoy the spa, eat a lot of delicious food, hang out with good friends that understood when I needed to walk away or spend time in my room.
On our last afternoon in Cancun this past week, Al and I and a few of the others in our group took a walk on the beach. We watched the parasail go up from a dock and as I watched the chute soar higher and higher I whispered…
I would do that.
Mu husband and my son Justin had parasailed on a trip to Jamaica many years ago. Al did not enjoy it so much, but Justin, always ready for an adventure loved it. Now I decided I was going to do this for him.
I went up with another girl in our group, Julie. She was nervous and went back and forth on if she should go or if she shouldn’t. I said to her, “Julie, when we go home and people ask us what we did in Cancun, what are we going to say? That we laid by the pool? We went to the spa? We played it safe the whole time? This. This is your Cancun story.”
I guess it is mine as well.
My word for the year is COURAGE and I chose that word because I knew that living in a world without Justin was going to take all the courage I had. Every day it takes everything to not just throw my hands up and say this is crap and just stop it all.
BUT in this story… I am on a beach in Cancun about to parasail. About to give courage a run for its money and show it what I am made of.
We had a good time. I refused to be afraid and I now have this story to tell. This is my Saturday snapshot. More Cancun pictures to come.
January 2…. how are we doing so far into this New Year? I have been fairly busy with 2 small after Christmas gatherings with friends, a movie with my hubby, and yesterday – working on the First Book Of The Year tradition. Let me just say out loud.. wow. I am so glad I continued First Book this year for many reasons, yet the response was still so overwhelmingly positive that it made me so proud to be a part of this amazing community.
For today’s Saturday snapshot I am going to post all the pictures that came in from readers around the world sharing their first books into this new year. Even if you looked at yesterday’s post, more than likely you did not see all the pictures as more kept coming in throughout the day and evening. SO AWESOME. But first I have to show you what Kathryn at Book Date did… she went a step further with her first book and blew me away.
Right? Holy smokes! When I seen her post yesterday I could not believe it! Look at little First Book Of The Year become a video! Another couple of pictures I need to honorably mention for creativity when sending in their picture. No, no one had to be creative, but I was amazed to see the fun efforts:
And so with no further delay…. here are the First Books Of 2016. If you look at my original post from yesterday in the comments people shared where they were reading from and it was exciting to see the readers all over the world. Seriously…. wow.
Thank you so much to everyone who participated. This was a far larger response than 2014’s and it meant a lot to me to see you all join in as spotty as my attendance has been here over the past 8 1/2 months. Thank you friends and fellow book lovers. It is hard for me to explain this, but your participation in this made this entry into New Years a little easier.
I am adding this to Saturday Snapshot because…. it is awesome.
It is so crazy what sort of negative anticipation a day can bring.
I was not at all looking forward to this Christmas… the first one without my son Justin. We did not put up a tree. I did not cook. I did not purchase any gifts until December 24th when my husband and I went up town to find things for our son Brad who would be joining us for Christmas Day. Until that point I had avoided retail stores as I did not want to see the decorations or the happy people eagerly choosing the gift that would make their persons day.
I had been told, from those who has gone before me on this painful path that the anticipation of the “day/holiday” is usually much worse than the actual day. It is kind of hard to tell because I think by the time I reached Christmas Day I was numb. I did what I had to do because my son was here and we tried to carry on with a little normalcy. We watched TV and I gave Brad Justin’s IPAD knowing that I would never be able to use it myself and it would sit in storage until it was obsolete. We had to guess at Justin’s password and by using his password hints we were able to figure it out, clean out his personal notes and register it to Brad. We also logged him off of his Facebook which 8 months ago was unthinkable. As you can imagine it was a hard thing to do… but I know it was the right thing to do and Justin would have approved.
Al and Brad played cribbage on Justin’s cribbage board. Justin LOVED cribbage and Al and he would play for hours. It was sort of symbolic to use his board for the game. I felt as though he were including him.
In the late afternoon we drove to the Casino which honestly Justin would have thought was an awesome way to spend Christmas. We came up with that idea a few weeks ago as they have a seafood buffet. At the time of decision I kept saying “Oh, we are those people you feel bad for because they have no traditions on Christmas…” Once there, I seen my opinion on this was incorrect. The casino was packed but not filled with sad and lonely lost people as I had imagined but couples and friends hanging out and having a good time. Families were at the buffet and exchanging gifts and I had to change my attitude to maybe this was a nice way for families to enjoy a delicious meal and be together just as much as sitting at home around a tree.
Family traditions can be wherever you land.
I was wiped out by the time we came home around 8 pm. Being “on” all day and the constant knowing what is missing while you try to keep going forward is exhausting. I sat down and had a glass of wine out of a glass that Justin had made and hated that he was not here… and so glad I had climbed another milestone of firsts and made it through. Justin wanted me to be happy. I am trying kid… I am trying.
Thank you to those of you who sent me a Christmas card. That is so nice and I so appreciate your kind and encouraging words.
For those of you signed up to participate in 1st Book of the year, don’t forget to send me your picture! Looking forward to the post!
Ahhh…. a post about one of my favorite subjects. Well, two really….. books and my book club “The AMAZING Bookies”… ok, they are really just called the Bookies but you know… I love them. I would take a punch for them.
A couple of weeks ago we met at a restaurant to discuss the book Delicious by Ruth Reichl. I had read and reviewed this book two years ago and LOVED it then and was so excited to have my book club choose it for our November read. Ruth Reicht used to be a food critic for the New York Times. She writes about this in the highly recommended read, Garlic and Sapphires (another one my book club read and boy did we have fin with that review!)
Delicious is Ruth Reichl’s first dab into fiction. It is about a young girl who takes a job at a magazine called Delicious. When the magazine goes under, she is kept on the payroll for an additional year to handle the guarantee hot line that Delicious offered to its readers. Yet Delicious is so much more than that…. it is about that – it is about taste, and smell, hidden rooms, secret recipes, relationships, friendships, and more.
The Bookies the night of our review. We were only missing one. We had to take a couple of pictures since I asked our waitress several times if she would take a group picture of us and – well… we did it ourselves.
We rarely go out to restaurants any more. We usually meet in homes due to the size of our group and that we do not want our discussion to be a distraction to other diners (ie… loud voices, laughter, difference of opinions, topics of discussion depending on the book….) however this restaurant had a large private room that we could close the door to. The food was well…. Delicious, which is what we were going for. I had a mushroom pasta that made me want to try to duplicate it at home:
Another sweet thing about this room that we were in is that they hang books from the ceiling. SOOOOO COOL. I thought I had taken a good picture of the ceiling but I guess I did not, however in the below pic you can see some of them hanging.
To take this discussion to the next level we all shared a recipe that was a favorite. We were suppose to make copies for everyone and share why that recipe had special meaning to each of us. I LOVED this part of our discussion. It was a common theme as we went around the room that each of the recipes had connections to family somehow – either a tradition, a wedding or a funeral…. there was something special about each related to the food. I shared my white chicken chili recipe which was one of Justin’s favorites. If he was coming into town and I asked him what he would like for dinner, this one was almost always on his list.
Over all, the Bookies game Delicious a slightly above average rating. Some of us (like me!) loved it. A few found it too spread out – several story lines between the hidden messages, underground railroad, etc… left them feeling there was too much going on, some found it predictable. No matter what we each thought, the book lead to a wonderful discussion.
What Makes Delicious A Good Book Club Choice?
There is much to discussion in Delicious. If your group enjoys food that goes with the book, this is a winner. The food described in this book is so mouth-watering (the cake discussed will be at our Bookies Christmas party this year).
Between sharing recipes, talking about how the book mirrors Ruth Reichl’s real life (yes some of the things in this book actually did happen to the author!), the underground railroad connection, your group will be able to have a lively discussion.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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!
There is a reason our book club has a wait list.
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!!!
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..
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!
There she is… in the back to the left with a halo…. yes Gone With The Wind fans…. Lori dressed up as….
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…
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….
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).
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?
Gone 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.
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
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 9 inch pie crust
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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….
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.
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).
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
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
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.
I inherited a lot of tomatoes.
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
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….
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!
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:
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
Just 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!