Monthly Archives: June 2017

Five for Friday: What I’ve been Reading

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Here’s what I’ve been reading/listening to lately… Things I may not have read had a known more about them!

The Bafut Beagles
by Gerald Durrell 
(non-fiction) – skip

Remember this book that I DNF because I left it behind in Michigan last fall when visiting my in-laws? Well, it was still on the night stand right where I left it when I returned over Memorial Day! I picked it back up because I really did want to finish it despite my first review:

 It was the last book I was reading on our trip to Michigan and I was having such a hard time pushing through it. It is an account of the author’s trip to the Cameroons in the 1949 for the collection of zoo specimens. I believe that is is non-fiction; but the book reads more like a novel and some of the accounts just seem unbelievable or embellished. But what do I know about such things or that era?

It was a difficult book for me to read because of some of the treatment of the animals, but would we know about so many animals in the world today if someone had not collected specimens?

I tried to take a different approach to reading the remainder of the book. Perhaps this could be one of the first travelogues! I tried to look at it from the perspective of someone visiting a new land. I got more of out of it this way, but it still wasn’t my favorite. Somehow, someway, another one of Durrell’s books ended up on my bookshelf. I just noticed it the other day. I wonder what that one will be like.

~

Pride & Prejudice
by Jane Austen 
(fiction, audiobook) – worth a read/listen

I will admit that I had never read Pride & Prejudice until now. And this audio-version was highly recommended. I’ve shied away from audiobooks as of late just because I won’t be commuting for the next six months and won’t have too many long stretches alone in the car.

Still, when I learned that there Audible.com has free channels that Prime Members can listen to, I jumped on board! I don’t want to pay for an audible subscription, so this option was perfect for me. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can download the free Audible App and after signing in with your Prime credentials, go to Channels. There are podcasts and such, but if you scroll down to the bottom there is a link to Audiobook Collections. Pride and Prejudice can be found under Celebrity Voices / Classic Stories. You can only stream books; however, you cannot download them, so keep your data plan in mind if you somewhere without wi-fi. (I downloaded this one only for walks, so that I’d want to get out there and walk so that I could listen!)

I will admit that this took me a bit to get into this book and my mind sometimes drifted. But I still followed the storyline without absorbing every word. With Audible, you can also slow down or speed up the audio. I find that depending on the book, 1.25 to 1.5x speed works well for me. I have no idea how anyone can listen to a book at 3x the speed, but I’m sure you can train your brain to get used to it!

I find that the book is a little slow-moving at first, but I do love the story! Coincidentally, I discovered the 5-hour, 2 CD British television version of this book (starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) sitting on our shelf in the weight room in the basement. My friend Jen lent it to me back when I had my back surgery back in 2013! It was time to return it. When Rob was out of town for a weekend, I watched it all… and this was during the time that I was listening to the book! I’d go for a long walk and listen and then I’d watch a section. I really did absorb more that way. And I will tell you that this is not an adaptation of the book like most movies are. This is almost word-for-word. I loved it and highly recommend both!

~

Lucky Boy
by Shanthi Sekaran 
(fiction) – must read

I need to write a post about how I don’t like movie trailers because they reveal too much. I think the same is true for me and books. If I know too much about a book’s plot or premise, it may actually deter me from reading it. I’ve found there are many books that I never would have chose on my own have been some of my favorites!

This book is no exception. I read the book’s description after picking up the book from the library where I had it on hold. Hmmph… I thought. It was about two different mothers and their relationships and journeys through motherhood. There was no way that I was going to be interested or able to relate to this, having never been a mother myself.

But I was so wrong. 

This is one of those books I couldn’t put down. One of those books where when I was interrupted, I didn’t even realize that I was reading a book or that there was anything else going on around me – I was that present. I had to be jolted back to real life.

The thing that maybe I forgot when reading the description is that I didn’t have to relate to enjoy the book. It just has to be a well-written book that takes me to another time, another place, another life, another world. I mean, I loved Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers and as an American-born woman, I obviously can’t relate to the immigrant experience. And Lucky Boy is about so much more than motherhood.

I highly recommend this book.

~

Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook
by Andie Mitchell (non-fiction, cookbook) –worth a read

I read Mitchell’s memoir It Was Me All Along about her struggle with weight after having followed her old blog Can You Stay for Dinner? (It’s where I found this recipe!) Her writing is so heartfelt and her insights are so helpful having dealt with my own struggles on and off over the years.

After losing over 100 pounds, Mitchell found that her new challenge was to learn how to eat healthy but not deprive herself of the foods she once loved. This is what she describes as “Eating in the Middle”. You will find healthy recipes and tips on things she learned alongside recipes for sugary-made-from-scratch-make-for-company-or-share-with-friends indulgences. Still, I found that only a handful of the recipes appealed to me. Not always in terms of if they sounded good or not, but whether or not I’d actually make them. (I don’t bake, for example.)

One of the best parts I find about cookbooks, though, aren’t always the recipes, but what you can learn from the recipe creator. I love how Mitchell declares that she found that eating healthier in the morning set her up for a healthier day in general. Or that by making a point to eat a big healthy salad at lunch, she’d be sure to get her veggies in! Or that if she wants to eat something indulgent (like a pizza, which is tempting to overeat) to always fill up with veggies alongside.  All of these things aren’t new concepts; but when you hear them again, reiterated in how they were incorporated into someone’s life (not just as a “tip”), I think it goes a long way in seeing how it can be incorporated into your own.

~

Truly Madly Guilty
by Liane Moriarty (fiction) – worth a read

 

This is the second Moriarty novel I’ve read. What I love most about her novels – every character is flawed. Nothing is cut and dry. But with this book, all I kept screaming in my head, “So tell me what happened at the barbecue already!!” I may have felt that way for a good while; but you do eventually find out. 🙂

~

Does a book’s description deter you from reading a book?

 

Cheers~
Carrie

Butcher & the Boar

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On that beautiful afternoon last August when we took my mom down Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, we decided to take a little walk further. Rob and I hadn’t yet been to The Butcher and the Boar, but we had heard that it had a fantastic patio. We had to wait a bit in a line outside because it wasn’t quite yet open.

 As you may guess, Butcher and the Boar is all about the meat! The outdoor patio is huge and meant for a crowd. It’s a little oasis downtown.

And I’m guessing they are dog friendly. 😉 The poster below shows the weekly dog event last summer! I’m not sure if it is going on again this year… But if I lived much closer, I’d probably be there!

Butcher & the Boar is known for their chef-crafted meats. In the Twin Cities, you can find their sausages in some of the local grocery stores! We ran the gamut on our choices that day…

To be quite honest, I don’t remember if that was a sausage or a brat or what, but I’m guessing Rob ordered it! Their menu changes all of the time, so what we ate last August might not be available now anyway.

I’m guessing this is what my mom ordered. She loves a good burger! But I could be wrong, maybe Mom got the sausage and Rob the burger. All I know is that they both loved their meats!

I have no idea why I chose wings. I’m not really a wing person, but they must have sounded good at the time. Though I don’t remember why, I do remember that they were a little disappointing. Carrie, next time get the real meat! I remember also enjoying some local craft beers and ciders and that Bourbon was a big deal here as well.

Looking at these photos has me wanting to get back to the Butcher and the Boar soon. Anyone want to join us?!

What’s your favorite meat of choice?

Cheers~
Carrie

Family in Town {Last Year!}

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I wrote most of this post last August, but never published it!  I changed nothing, but added the end… Enjoy!

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Written 8/31/16…

I have been anxiety-ridden for about the past month. I always thought I dealt fairly well with change, but apparently not! Luckily, my mom came to visit me for a week. Having family in town distracted me from thinking (or feeling frozen) too much.

You know your mom loves you when she comes to visit you for a week, without a car, even when you have to work!

Why did she not have a car? Because the first weekend, my brother and Co. dropped her off. We had a lovely time, but unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of the usual stuff – like playing poker or taking our annual trip to Burger Jones.

However, for some reason we decided to capture the moment my brother introduced all of his home brews! I find the expressions in these photos funny, so I thought I’d share them with you:

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My brother has a decade+ long obsession with duct tape. That’s why labeling his bottles with such is so fitting! I was quite impressed by his brews. We are looking forward to trying more in the future.

While our dogs both have really taken to all four of the kids, for some reason, Sham usually will end up hanging with Max.
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The kids had their usual swimming and MOA time, but we had a bit of adult time, too. We didn’t take JR on an afternoon-long brewery tour like we did for his birthday that one time, but we did introduce him to the one not too far from us that had finally arrived south of the the river – Nutmeg. Let me tell you, they have really upped their game since the first time I posted. There are new brewers that craft some exceptional beers in the smallest room possible. The food is exceptional… and there are even cocktails on the menu now.

This photo of her cocktail and a Nutmeg brew is courtesy of my brother’s wife, D. I like how she got the photo of Rob’s and my noses almost touching!

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My mom really likes those keg lights hanging from the ceiling^^. And we have to say, dessert there is divine, too. But there is a total disagreement on which dessert is better, the Porter Brownie Sundae or the Amber Toffee Cake.

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The reason I never finished that post was that I had more to say. I often try to put too much into one post and then it never gets published! I need to remember to break things up. What I wanted to add was more of what happened that week with my mom!

For example, on a beautiful afternoon, we took her to Nicollet Mall to enjoy some of our favorites: such as a Cheese Toastie on the rooftop of Brit’s Pub while watching Lawn Bowling, a pint of cider or a Big Ginger at The Local and these Brie Curds with Blueberry Ketchup at The News Room:

It was such a lovely day that day (I remember it well!) that we took a little walk to a hip outdoor patio to which Rob and I had not yet been. I’ll leave that one for another post. 😉

Better late then never, right?

What photos have brought back wonderful memories to you lately?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

A Good Mix of 5 Books for Friday!

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A good mix of audio, thriller, cookbooks this week. Oh, and there’s that one about a dog… 🙂

OUTLANDER
by Diana Galbadon 
(fiction, audiobook) – DNF

I sort of  lied about not listening to audiobooks until this winter when my commute resumes… because there was this one. I’ve seen Outlander on so many must-read lists, but it is Just. So. Long. (Approx 860 pages.) My mother-in-law even said she loved it and that it truly was worth reading.

Then I spotted it on an audiobook list and thought about checking it out from the library, but realized that I with my 1 hr commute three days a week (at the time), I wouldn’t be able to get this 32+ hour audiobook back to the library when it was due. So I asked Rob if instead of listening to music on our drive to Michigan and back to visit his parents if he’d consider listening to an audiobook. He agreed.

After we got on the road and situated for our road trip, I popped in the first CD (there are 28!) and Rob said, “Oh, no! A Brit!?” I would agree that sometimes British narrators are difficult to follow, depending on the context of the book. But due to storyline, it was only appropriate because the main character is British. I told him to give it some time. It often takes me a bit to get used to the voice of any narrator when I start an audiobook. I told him that we could eject the CD and go back to radio any time he wanted. I was just glad he was open to the idea!

We loved the whole idea around this book! It did seem slow at some points and I will admit that my mind drifted a bit from time to time, but we kept listening. At one point, Rob asked what genre this was because it really was hard to tell. A quick google search led to a description of this story as romance. I wasn’t about to tell Rob that! He would have grimaced and stopped listening! Plus, it truly is much more than that. It starts out as part historical fiction and the time travel turns it into fantasy and war fiction and love and romance and then maybe… erotica? Oh boy! This book really does have it all.

After reading some reviews, I will agree that this book does take some time to get into and can be slow-moving, but the characters really develop into something special. However, Rob and I quickly realized that by the end of our trip, we were only going to get half way through all of the CDs!

At one point, I told Rob that we could pick this up on the TV series to move everything along a little more quickly. But in the end, as the book got better, we realized we’d miss listening to the book. We decided that we are going to pick up the audiobook again and finish the second half on our trip to Michigan in the fall.

~

I See You
by Claire Mackintosh
 (fiction) – worth a read

After reading Mackintosh’s I Let You Go earlier this year, I put myself on the wait list for her second book. I found it funny that she addressed the issue of the “dreaded second novel” in her acknowledgments, about how that second one never quite compares… And I think that may be true with this one. It’s a great book, but very different. I loved the setting (Welsh countryside) and interesting twist midway through I Let You Go. This one takes place in the tubes of London. It’s quite creepy, but well-done. I love how most of her characters feel like real, average people.

~

Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat
by Chrissy Teigen
 (cookbook) – worth a read

Tiegen makes a point in her book to say something to the effect that she didn’t want to write a cookbook about salads, but also that she didn’t want to write one that said, “Look at me! I can eat whatever I want!” {I don’t remember the exact words, so I’m paraphrasing here.} But truly, I kind of feel like the latter is exactly what she did!

This book is about flavor – and not compromising that. I chose a few recipes that I intend to make. Rob’s new fave obsession is Mexican Street Corn, so that is on the docket.  But to be quite honest, the recipes I have listed to try, tend to be the lightest ones out of the cookbook! Creamy Parmesan Skillet Eggs, Chunky Creamy Mushroom Soup and Sriracha Caesar Salad. Yes, please!

~

A Dog’s Way Home
by W. Bruce Cameron (fiction) – MUST READ

I don’t think you know how long I’ve waited for this book. I first read Cameron’s A Dog’s Purpose a couple of years ago (way before the movie, which I have yet to see) and just loved the concept of a book written from a dog’s perspective. The way Cameron writes, too, is so compelling that when a chapter ends and I tell myself I’ll pause there, I want to keep reading because there is almost always a cliff-hanger!

I immediately read the follow-up book A Dog’s Journey. After finishing that book, I went in search of Cameron’s other books because I craved more books written from a dog’s point-of-view. Alas, those were his only two. I’ve read a couple of his other books, but was still longing for this style. A Dog’s Way Home did not disappoint. I again loved the perspective, the storyline and how it gripped my heart. Any dog lover should read and savor. These books are some of my favorites of all time.

~

Twin Cities Chef’s Table:
Extraordinary Recipes from the City of Lakes to the Capital City
by Stephanie A. Meyer (non-fiction, cookbook) – worth a read

It’s almost a secret that our Twin Cities house some wonderful culinary delights. I have been touting for years that we live in a highly underrated foodie city! When I brought this book home from the library and put it on the coffee table, Rob thumbed through it and said, “Why don’t we HAVE this book?! We need to own it!”

This book was published in 2014 and it is so fun to read about some of our favorite places (we’ve been to about 25 of the restaurants listed in here), grieve those that have closed (approximately 10) and regret those that we never made it to before they closed. That being said, I wouldn’t realistically make any of the recipes out of this book. Maybe that’s why I am a diner at these restaurants, not a chef. 🙂

Still, only three years later, this book already has become a piece of history – illustrating top restaurants in the Twin Cities at a place in time. We all know how the dining culture evolves with trends coming and going. But one thing I think will remain the same for years to come: relying on farm fresh, local ingredients and sustainability whenever possible. The only thing that’ll change? The creative ways in which to use ingredients!

~

Have you ever listened to audiobook with someone else?

Cheers~
Carrie

Sea Salt – I Felt Like I Was on Vacation

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It was my turn to pick a location for Girls Dinner Night Out this past weekend. Because Rob was out of town, I was feeling seafood! Can you believe I’ve lived in the Twin Cities for 15 years now and I’d never been to Sea Salt Eatery?! Sea Salt Eatery is located in Minnehaha Park right near Minnehaha Falls – a destination I recommend to everyone visiting the Twin Cities!

Sea Salt Eatery is open approximately April through October. You know, those times we Minnesotans just want to be OUTSIDE! The menu focuses mostly on seafood, much of it fried.

I have read that there is always a line, but it’s worth the wait. You order your food and drinks (beer and wine, too!) at the counter, where you pay and get a number. Go find a seat and enjoy the outdoors. The food may take some time, but relax! And if you need another beverage, you don’t have to get back in line. There is a beverage-only counter as well. We were lucky to have a little live music to add to our ambiance that evening.

I truly didn’t feel like we were dining out in Minneapolis. I felt like we were on vacation, enjoying the sunshine, relaxing and trying some of the local cuisine. {Of course, only the sunshine and relaxation were true!}

The food was great!

Fried Bay Scallop Tacos

Kim was smart and asked which were the best tacos on the menu and the reply was either the Fried Fish or Fried Scallop Tacos. These two little tacos may not look like much, but Kim said they were very filling!

Steamed Shrimp Tacos

I was a little jealous after seeing Kim’s Scallop Tacos because they were topped with a creamy, yummy-looking sauce. My Steamed Shrimp Tacos looked boring. But they fooled me because my tacos were not dry – there was tons of flavor there!

Jen ordered the Crabcake Basket (not pictured) which came with a corn salsa on the side that she found a bit spicy. There were diced up jalapenos in there! And to share, Kim ordered us the Crab-Stuffed Avocado.

Crab Stuffed Avocado

Wash it all down with local beer and cider and we were ready to walk by and enjoy the falls. This summer, get thee to Minnehaha Falls. Climb those stairs! We aren’t getting any younger! Then stop for a bite at Sea Salt Eatery. Even if you haven’t left town, you just might feel like you are vacation, too.

What local places near you make you feel relaxed and on vacation?

Cheers~
Carrie

5 for Friday – What I Read This Spring

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I’m a bit behind on what I’ve read and listened to, but here’s what was in front of me this spring… just before our trip to Charleston. FYI – There are some great ones/favorites in here!

The Artist
by Suzanne Hagelin 
(fiction) – on the fence

I’m guessing I found this book as a free download on the Amazon Kindle store. It had good reviews and I “purchased” it on a whim. Although I don’t own a tablet or e-reader, I like to have a few Kindle books on my phone in case I’m stranded in line somewhere without a book. I don’t tend to enjoy reading books on my phone. This was a shorter book with an intriguing premise; but I’m not sure I like how it unfolded. As usual, I’m just not fond of many endings to books.

~

Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead 
(fiction) – must read

This book has an ongoing, growing waiting list at my library and for good reason. I can’t say that I’ve ever read a historical novel like this. Whitehead is a wonderfully descriptive writer who captures such depth in imagining place and time you can almost feel it. I loved this book… the only part I didn’t was the ending. Because this piece could truly have kept on going.

~

Behold the Dreamers
by Imbolo Mbue 
(fiction, audiobook) – must read/listen

Somewhere along the way, I not only had reserved this on my to-read list, but also as one as I should listen to on audio. I would definitely agree that this is the route you should take there. This book probably rates up there as one of my favorite audiobooks of all time! The narrator has a phenomenal ability to do a wide range of voices and accents that feel completely authentic. In today’s world of immigrant debates, I think this book is highly relevant to our time.

~

Sheet Pan Suppers:
120 Recipes for Simple, Surprising, Hands-Off Meals Straight from the Oven
*Plus Breakfasts. Desserts. and Snacks, Too!

by Molly Gilbert (non-fiction, cookbook) – skip

This is one of those cookbooks where I started reading and got really excited about it. I love the idea of pulling an entire meal out of the oven all arranged and cooked on one pan. Then after putting the cookbook aside for a few days and returning to it later, I lost interest. I only found a couple of recipes I could actually find myself making.

~

Dinner: A Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach (non-fiction, cookbook/memoir) – must read

Kat at Tenaciously Yours posts weekly photos of her dinners and sites many of her meals as coming from Dinner: A Love Story. With my plan to borrow one cookbook per week from the library this year, this seemed a logical choice.

I completely adored this cookbook, but not for the reasons I thought! Since this book is part memoir, it does read just like a story… which is how I often read cookbooks anyway. After flagging several recipes, I decided to just purchase the cookbook myself. This is why it’s helpful to check cookbooks out of the library – you can decide whether or not you want to own them!

~

This is a sixth one, but I’m adding it because it’ll be my last audiobook for a while, until this winter when my commute resumes.

M Train
by Patti Smith (non-fiction, audiobook) – DNF

I had this on a list of recommended audiobooks. At the time, I didn’t know it was non-fiction, nor the content of the story. I am not familar with author Patti Smith either. At first listen, I couldn’t believe that they had her narrate her own book on audio. It was monotonous and dry and I had hard time paying attention. The writing is excellent, but I couldn’t get past her voice. But after a while, it grew on me. (Which often seems to be the case with audiobooks.) Then it just felt right that she was reading this memoir of sorts. Because it was her experience.

I did abandon this book however, because it was what I was listening to when my commute came to a halt. After that, I was in the car for no more than a few minutes at a time by myself. It didn’t make sense to keep going when I was having a hard time concentrating with my own circumstances as it was. But her experiences (and love of black coffee) and the content of the book is interesting enough that I may revisit when my commute resumes this winter.

What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

Cheers~
Carrie

At the Lake…

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Sophie & Shamrock Saturday

When we are visiting Rob’s parents, it never fails to amaze me how attentive Sham is when Rob is fishing off the dock.

But I wish I just got some better photos for those times when Rob has caught one because our pooches reactions are priceless.

This will have to do for now until I can capture it better!

After getting the fish unhooked, Rob took it back to the water to release. Both dogs jumped in the water. We have two happy, happy fisher dogs!

Happy Saturday!
Carrie