Monday, October 5, 2015

October Reading List

Well, here's hoping October is a better reading month than September!  Not that I've had a lot of time to be reading lately- between school, craziness at work, and just life.  I still have two books I started last month that I'm hoping to finish this month, and now here are four more that I'm adding to the mix.

The One True Ocean by Sarah Beth Martin- This one caught my attention because it's a mystery, and takes place in Maine.  It's one of those stories where the main character is drawn back home for some reason or another and decides it's time to solve some mystery of their families past.  It sounds like it's in the same vein as Drowning Ruth.

An Ordinary Man by Paul Ruseabagina with Tom Zoellner- This is an autobiography of the man Hotel Rwanda is based on.  Since I love the movie, I snapped this one up when I found it at a thrift shop.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson- This book came from Just Bee when I won a giveaway she was hosting.  She and her husband love this series and it looks like it'll be an interesting read.  It's book one in the series Wingfeather series.  

Faithful Place by Tana French- I know I've only said it about a hundred times, but I LOVE Tana French.  I was super excited when this one came  in the mail from A Book Olive and I can't wait to read it.

So that's what I'm hoping to read this month.  What are you planning on reading?

Friday, October 2, 2015

September Book Recap

Well, I didn't get as much reading done as I had hoped in September, but here's the recap:

  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell was really interesting, and provided lots of case studies, but it just felt was missing something.  I don't know.  It's not the type of book I normally read, so maybe it was just that.  I'm not sure.  Don't let my review dissuade you from reading it, I guess just don't expect it to keep you up late waiting to find out more.
  • Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan was really highly recommended to me by the lady at the bookstore I bought it from, but I gotta say, I kept waiting for their to be some suspense, some frightening moments or something.  It was basically about attempts to use technology to crack a hundreds of year old code.  It was a let down.
  • Life Sentences by Laura Lippman was the worst of the three books I read this month though.  It was just hard to slog through.  I didn't really care about any of the characters.  They were all pretty selfish.  You couldn't understand why any of them were friends or what had made them friends to start with, and I really didn't care what happened to them.  You keep thinking there's going to be a deeper mystery, or some twist at the end, or some sort of big reconciliation, but it's all pretty shallow- just like the characters.
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman was only 50 cents at the thrift shop, so I picked it up.  It's a World War II story that takes place in Poland supposedly based on actual events.
  • Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel was given to me by my mom.  She thought it looked like something I'd like.  I think I saw the movie Chocolat, which I believe this is based on, years ago, but it should be an interesting read.
  • Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs was acquired via Bookmooch.  I've never read any of Burroughs books before, and am not entirely sure what to expect, but it should be interesting.
  • And finally, Faithful Place by Tana French, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, and Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which were all given to my by the lovely A Book Olive for the last Chaotic Goddess' Books and Bloggers swap.  You can read my recap about them here.
I expected big things from what I read in September but was kind of let down.  So, here's hoping for better things in October readings. 

2015 Totals:
Read- 33
Acquired- 48

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Veggie and Grain Fritters

Eating more veggies is always a great way to eat healthier.  Today, I'm going to share a recipe that's easy to customize and make your own, using your favorites grains and veggies, or whatever you have on hand.

You can make these with any grain- rice, quinoa, barley, farro, whatever you like.  And you can also use whatever veggies or cheese you like.  I've made them with sweet potatoes, zucchini, or regular potatoes.  If you don't like cheese, you can leave it out, but I think a little Parmesan, feta, or white cheddar add to the flavor.  Here's what I used for this batch:

Veggie and Grain Fritters
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli
1/2 cup grated carrots
3 green onions
2 eggs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Until everything is combined.

Form into patties, much as you would cheeseburgers.  Lay on a flat plate or cookie sheet.   I usually end up with about a dozen patties.  Then pop them in the fridge for anywhere from half an hour to overnight.  This gives the patties a chance to firm up a little.

When ready, melt a little butter or oil in a pan and pan fry each patty over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes, then flip and fry for approximately another 3 minutes. When patties are done, you can serve them on their own or with a dip of your choice.  I like them with  feta dill dressing best, but you could use ranch or a little Greek yogurt if you prefer.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday- Fall TBR List

Today I'm linking up with The Broke and The Bookish.  Every Tuesday they have a book related topic to post your top ten list to.  This week is your fall "to be read" list.  Some of these I own, some I'm on the lookout for, but this is reading wish list.

10. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
9.   MaddAdam by Margaret Atwood
8.   Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield
7.   A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan
6.   Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
5.   In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
4.   Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
3.   On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
2.   The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz
1.   Faithful Place by Tana French

What are you planning on reading in the next few months?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Field Trip to Crystal Cave

A few weeks ago, one of my girl friends and I decided to take her son and go on a little field trip.  So we got up bright and early and headed to Spring Valley, Wisconsin.  It's about two hours from home and the place where you can find the longest cave in Wisconsin. 

Crystal Cave is pretty much the epitome of a grade school field trip spot.  It's situated slightly out of town in a nice grassy area complete with picnic area and flowers.  The building that houses the cave entrance was built in 1942.

Entrance to Crystal Cave
To get to the cave, you have to take some stairs inside the building that seem to lead to the basement in the cave.  Inside, there are chairs and your guide will give you a little speech about not touching the cave walls, don't be afraid if you see a bat, etc. etc.  And then your led down even farther.  At the deepest point, you're more than 70 feet underground.

Crystal Cave is very well lit, and the path is very smooth.  The cave temp is always a cozy 50 degrees.  Our guide explained that all caves are always the average of their year round temp.  So, caves farther south would be warmer, and caves farther north would be cooler.

I didn't really get any good pictures inside the cave but it's very pretty.  Your guide will show you stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, and even some fossils.  It was really interesting to go back as an adult and I think the hour was worth the $15 admission price.  The tour is very interactive with the guide stopping to ask questions and point out interesting things.

Once we were done with the tour, we decided to go "panning for gemstones" for an additional $6 when you buy your ticket you can get a token to get a  bag of sand loaded with gemstones and rocks and take them out to a sluice outside to see what your bag contains.  We cashed in our tokens and went panning.

My friend Danielle and her son, panning.
It was actually pretty fun, and I think my friend Danielle and I enjoyed it just as much as her son did.  Our tour guide hung out at the sluicing area and told us the names of what we found too, which was nice.

My rock finds.
So, if you're ever near Spring Green, which is a little over an hour east of the Twin Cities, I really recommend taking the tour.  It's educational, it's entertaining, and it's fun for both kids and adults. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Cross Fit and Food Ruts

I actually had a three day weekend this past weekend!  It rarely happens without having to use a vacation day.  So, Friday I did errands, had lunch with my dad, and made soup.  Saturday my mom and I got up at 4am to head over to St. Cloud, Minnesota, to watch my baby brother compete in The Granite Games.  The Granite Games is a cross fit competition that draws competitors from all of the US and even some international competitors.  His team did really well and ended up winning!  I'm so proud of him! I didn't take many pictures, but here's a short clip from his Instagram account of some of his training.

While I have no desire to start doing cross fit, it was a good reminder that I needed to get back to clean eating.  I do okay, for the most part, but I still swipe the occasional candy bar or bag of chips out of the vending machine from work when I'm hungry (or if we're being honest- bored).  So, I'm planning a defense against the vending machines and pull of junk food.
  1.  Pack healthy and filling lunches.  No one likes to feel deprived, and watch everyone around them eat tasty junk foods while you nibble on flavorless lunches.  I signed up for Craftsy's Big Bowl Vegetarian Meals  (affiliate link).  I've watched the first two videos and am really looking forward to trying them.
  2. Pack healthy snacks.  For now I subscribe to NatureBox and love getting my snacks each month, but I'm looking for recipes to make on my own.
  3. Drink lots of water.  Water helps you feel more full, keeps your energy levels up, and is great for your skin.
I think if I follow these three steps, I can eliminate most of my junk food snacking, and get back into eating healthy all the time.  Any tips on eating cleaner?  What have you found works best for you?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Few Favorites- September Edition

So, I've been finding all sorts of cool things online lately, and thought I would share a couple with you.  Here's some of my recent finds.

  1. I read Kisses From Katie a few years ago, and still check in on Katie Davis' blog every now and then. The Masese women in Uganda make these necklaces and Katie's organization sells them, with the proceeds going to the women so they are able to make money and improve their standard of living.  This one is called The Lucy.
  2. I still have yet to make a quilt, but this Framed Quilt tutorial from Silk Road Life looks appealing.  It's made with precut layer cakes and looks pretty simple.  Some day... 
  3. The Alice Shopper Tote is a free pattern I found of Craftsy.  I haven't made it yet.   But, I did print the pattern off and intend to make it very soon.
  4. I love this quote from Van Gogh!  Loving people is not always easy for me, but I'm trying and it's a good reminder.  This was made by Etsy shop MB Art Studios.  It's no longer available, but they have a ton of other pieces for sale.
So what do you think?  Anything catching your eye this month?