Monthly Archives: September 2016

What I’ve Been Reading… & Audio Books


Let’s get right to it, shall we? Here’s what I’ve been reading…



Nobody’s Fool
by Richard Russo (fiction) – skip?

I originally had a different book – Everybody’s Fool –  on my to-read list as well as on hold at the library. I’m not sure where or how this book was recommended to me, but there was a dog on the cover, so that probably clinched it. 🙂 However, before I picked the book up at the library, I noticed that it was the second book in a series. So instead, I picked up this book – #1 in the series.

To be honest, I didn’t really like this book so much. About half-way in, I had to push my way through it because I had invested so much time in the characters. While I did like the characters, I kept thinking that something was going happen. That there’d be a turning point. But there was no definite climax, in my opinion. And while it’s not a major part of the book, something that happened to a dog really upset me. Once I finished the book, I was more relieved to be done with it than anything, but also a bit peeved that I put so much time into those all of those pages. I was kind of surprised that it got such high ratings. Maybe because the author is a Pulitzer Prize winner?

Still, I did look up reviews of the sequel, Everybody’s Fool, that features a {different} dog. Some people said that the dog was their favorite character in the book. DAMN! Just when I swore I wouldn’t invest any more time in this series, it just might reel me back with the dog… as long as nothing horrible happens to him.



by Elie Wiesel (fiction) – worth a read

This is the second book in a series that started with the non-fiction Holocaust story Night. {My thoughts on that book, here.} I’m not sure why they call this a series, because it’s not really a sequel. It’s also fiction, where the first book was his own personal real-life story. But Elie Wiesel created another work of art. It’s a quick read that kept my attention. I finished it in a day, but I’m a slow reader. So many would probably finish it in a couple of hours. Now I need to read the last book of the series – Day.


The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (audio)
by Amy Schumer
 (non-fiction) – must read

I haven’t been much of an audio book person, but now that my five-minute commute {poor me!} has turned into a 30-minute one, I decided I needed something to pass the time and not so much on an unhealthy focus and heightened awareness of a potential accident.

I chose Amy’s book to cheer me up during this stupid commute. First off, I am a huge fan of Amy. I think she is a hilarious as a comedian, but also a strong woman who isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes. I personally love this video – a hysterically funny sketch, but with also a message.


Listening to her book on audio was strange at first. It felt like she was just reading the book. It wasn’t the normal Amy spunk and voice I’m used to. But it soon changed and I fell in love with this book, which is not a collection of her jokes. And while she states that this is not a memoir because she is not old yet old enough for that, it really is a story of her life and how she came to be where she is today – both personally and professionally.

Even if you don’t care about what her life was or is like, I think it is book that showcases a strong, independent woman, even if that was not her intention. She touches on topics such as introversion, self-discovery, body image and abuse. My favorite chapter was Letter to the Editor. I liked it so much that I went back and listened to it again. Amy is often labeled as a sex comic, but that isn’t her entire persona. You’d be surprised with the truth she shares.




A Short History of Nearly Everything (audio)
by Bill Bryson
 (non-fiction) – DNF

After finishing The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, I picked up this audio book because I wanted something else funny to listen to on my commute. One of my favorite books is Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson. I remember returning from Europe and reading this book on the recumbent bike at the gym and laughing hysterically out loud, turning heads. I’ve read a couple of his other books and thought this might be a good one to pass the time.


I hit play and the voice that came out of the speakers was one with a British accent. Not only that but his style of reading was so dull and dry. I’d prefer to tread this book imaging Bryson’s voice instead. Maybe it was decided that he should not read his own book on audio; however, the person that was chosen did not suit me. I promptly took it back to the library.


When I first decided to try out audio books, I  was trying to decide if I would get the same thing out of the book if I were reading it. I kind of felt like I was cheating. But then I read a couple of great articles that explain why it’s not. Like this one. Sure, you may be using a different part of your brain to concentrate, but you really do have to focus. It’s not just passive listening. I had to back up a few times listening to the first book just because I realized that my mind was wondering. I remember this, too, the first time I tried listening to a podcast.

Still, my lesson learned is that not all audio books are created equal. How do you choose whether to read or listen? So I’m looking for suggestions. Suggestions of books that are great on audio, maybe even better that reading the book! I found a list online that I’m starting with, but would love some more ideas. Thank you for sharing.

Name books that you think are great on audio.


Big Mac Bowls


I had some ground beef that I took out of the freezer with the intention of making burgers or tacos one night. It didn’t happen. Nor did it the next day. Then my husband went out of town. I needed to use up this ground beef! I also had several other veggies I needed to use up. So I made some lunches for the work week inspired by Andie Mitchell’s Cheeseburger Salad with  Big Mac Dressing and the usual lunchtime Power Bowls {aka Throw Together Lunch} I often create after I learned of Anne’s Quick and Easy Meal Formula.


As a reminder, here is the basic formula for the bowls and what I used to create the bowls. This bowl is one that you warm in the microwave. Alternatively, you could make it salad by substituting romaine and just topping it with the hot beef later!

  1. Base – spinach
  2. Grain/Starch – cooked diced potatoes {mimicking fries, perhaps!?}
  3. Protein – cooked ground beef {You could add chopped bacon if you like that sort of thing on your burger.}
  4. Veggies – onions, tomatoes, baby bella mushrooms
  5. Fat – shredded cheddar
  6. Sauce – Big Mac Sauce: I recommend this one or Mel Jouwan’s Awesome Sauce from her cookbook Well Fed 2


And if you are looking for a recipe…

Big Mac Bowls

(Makes 4 bowls)


  • 4 cups spinach
  • 2 medium sized potatoes
  • 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • granulated garlic, salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Optional toppings:
    • sauteed mushrooms
    • diced onion
    • tomatoes
    • bacon
    • any veggie or topping you desire on a burger!
  • Sauce – Big Mac Sauce: I recommend this one or Mel Jouwan’s Awesome Sauce from her cookbook Well Fed 2.


  • Heat a pot of salted water to boiling.
  • Medium dice the potatoes and throw in the pot. Cook for 20 minutes until potatoes are tender, but not mushy. Drain.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, heat oil in a large pan. Add the onion and sautee until translucent.
  • Add the ground beef and season with plenty of salt, pepper and granulated garlic to taste. Cook until nicely browned.
  • Make the Big Mac Sauce. I recommend this one or Mel Jouwan’s Awesome Sauce from her cookbook Well Fed 2. There are several versions out there on the interwebs!
  • If you are making these bowls in advance for lunches, let the hot items cool before assembling.
  • Divide ingredients and assemble the bowls, layering in this fashion:
    • 1 cup chopped spinach
    • 1/2 cooked diced potato (1/4 of what you made)
    • 1/4 ground beef mixture
    • toppings
    • 2 Tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
    • 1 to 2 Tbsp Big Mac Sauce
  • Store in air tight containers in the fridge. When ready to eat, heat for approximately 2 minutes.

This all comes in around 400 – 500 calories depending on how lean your beef is and the kind and amount of toppings you use.

Here’s the not-so-pretty but oh-so-delicious photo of the end result after heating at work!



What I’ve Been Reading…


I have a lot of books on suspended hold at the library, but a couple I received lately were, again, brand-spanking new. What I like about having books on hold at the library is that I don’t really have to think about what I’m going to read next. If it becomes available, that’s what I’m reading!

However, the first book in this line-up was one I got from


PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives
by Frank Warren (non-fiction) – great coffee table book

This is a truly a work of art. Warren scattered blank postcards with his address on them across various locations with the instructions to write a secret that has never been told. This book is a collection of the postcards he received. Some are shocking, {“He’s in prison for something I’ve done.”}, others are great expressions of feelings, while still others are humorous. It’s a quick book to thumb through. People didn’t just write their secrets, some submissions were more artistic, including hand drawn pictures or photographs. It’s been said that for some people, just sending these secrets on a post card to a stranger was an incredible release of something bottled up for so long.



The Last Days of Night
by Graham Moore (fiction) – worth a read, but only if you like historical fiction and inventions

I picked this one up from the library – brand new. It’s kind of cool getting to be the first reader of a new library book. I wish there was a good way in Good Reads that I can note why I put a book on my must-read list or from where I got the recommendation. This is not a book I would normally pick off the shelf. It’s a work of historical fiction based on true events. Moore took the accounts of days of Edison’s light bulb invention and filled in the pieces with much imagination. Not knowing that much more about this period in time than that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, there is no way for me to tell what parts are fact and what parts are fiction. But who cares? I think it’s a cool concept to take historical facts and tie them together with a nice dramatic plot.



I’ll See You in Paris
by Michelle Gable
 (fiction) – worth a read

I have to admit, I was 100% drawn to this book by the cover. Little cafes in Paris are just about one of my favorite things. Blue is my favorite color, too. It makes me feel relaxed and happy. This is what the cover makes me feel. However, the majority of this book is not set in Paris! Yet, it’s still wonderful. Really, it’s a story within a story within a story. It started out a bit slow for me, but it all comes together in the end. I’m glad I was drawn to the cover instead of a descriptions because I might not have ever read it otherwise.



Roman Fever
by Edith Wharton
 (fiction) – must read

This is a short story recommended by another blogger that I follow. In fact, her exact words were my favorite short story ever.” I found it funny that I couldn’t locate this particular work of such a classic novelist at my library. It is, however, available for download for just 99 cents. I don’t have an e-reader and hate reading books on my phone. However, this one is just the right length that it is a manageable read in this manner, especially if you find yourself in an unexpected line or waiting room.

What’s the best short story you’ve ever read?

{I’m looking for suggestions!}


Bald Man Brewing


Happy Thirsty Thursday!

A couple of weekends ago marked the grand opening of a new brewery in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul!


The grand opening of Bald Man Brewing Company was on Saturday with a soft opening for family and friends a day or two prior. After seeing how packed the place was on Saturday, I am certainly glad that we didn’t take my parents there while they were in town that weekend!

Instead, Rob and I went on Sunday afternoon. There was no real signage indicating directions to the building, but we found it eventually around the back. And we were able to pull up a couple of seats to the bar. Much nicer than a packed grand opening!


As to be expected at the beginning, the beer list was rather short and somewhat basic.


I overheard a bartender tell a customer that while they currently only have four beers on tap, they plan to average about six at any given time. It sounds like their Oktoberfest will be available shortly {if it hasn’t been already by the time of this post}.

For sitting at the bar, we had quite the time getting service. I thought we were invisible because the people on either sides of us got served in no time! I went with their Tupelo Honey Brown Ale, which I vaguely recall being their signature beer.


It was fine, but I didn’t love it. In fact, I had a hard time getting in down. But I came to learn that day that I had a hard time getting any beer down. So maybe I just wasn’t feeling beer or drinking that day. Rob also tried the Misty Mountains Hops IPA, which he said was solid as far as IPAs go.

There is definitely some money invested in this taproom. I like the open and spacious floor plan.

To the left of that entrance area is even more room with more tables and an open garage door to the back patio. That concrete floor also helps make the tap room dog-friendly! Dogs were already visiting that day. 🙂

Look a little more closely at those tanks and how they are labeled:

I think someone is a fan of the guitar!

Bald Man Brewing does not sell food, but on the day of their Grand Opening, a few food trucks were parked there. There was no food truck there on Sunday and no indication that food was welcomed to be brought in or delivered, but I don’t see why not. No one was doing such, though. So we went elsewhere for dinner.

Great start, Bald Man! We will be back to see what other beers you plan to concoct.