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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Have you ever listened to audiobook with someone else?

Cheers~
Carrie

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

5 for Friday – What I’ve Been Reading!

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It’s a been a while since I’ve read (or skipped) these, but here are my thoughts…

Eat Your Way To Happiness: 10 Diet Secrets to Improve Your Mood, Curb Your Cravings and Keep the Pounds Off
by Elizabeth Somer 
(non-fiction) – DNF/skip

I’m guessing I was interested in this book after reading The Happiness Diet, which I loved reading to explore the connection of mood to food. However, Eat Your Way to Happiness felt somewhat dated, focusing on low-fat foods and artificial sweeteners, so I quickly abandoned it.

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The World’s Most Romantic Destinations:
50 Dreamy Getaways, Private Retreats, and Enchanting Places to Celebrate Love
by National Geographic
 (non-fiction) – must read

Why wouldn’t you want to read this beautiful book!? It’s great one to have sitting on your coffee table to thumb through when you are dreaming of a vacay with your sweetie. This book is for everyone. It covers destinations for adventurers, foodies, history buffs, beach bums… whatever you desire, they’ve got it all… as well as recommendations for the best-of-the-best most luxurious accommodations if you so desire.

 

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A Fatal Grace
by Louis Penny
 (fiction, audiobook) – worth a read/listen

This is the second book in the Arnaud Gamache series, set in Quebec. I read the first, Still Life, but listened to this one on audio. I think I enjoyed this one better than the first! And I really like all the little aspects and descriptions of Quebecois life added in. Such a treat. As much as I’m not a fan of winter, Louise Penny sure does know how to romanticize it!

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The Irresistible Introvert: Harness the Power of Quiet Charisma in a Loud World
by Michaela Chung (non-fiction) – skip

As an introvert myself, this book didn’t have much new for me. Some parts of the book felt almost like the author was really bashing on extroverts. I don’t think it was the intention, just the way in which she wanted to describe how introverts sometimes feel. There are tips for introverts on how to manage their energy, as well as interact with authenticity, which some might feel helpful

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Food: A Love Story
by Jim Gaffigan (non-fiction, audiobook) – worth a listen

By now, you may have realized that I like to listen to comedians’ audiobooks. Sometimes, I have a hard time listening to them at first, because the delivery doesn’t seem as natural as say, stand-up comedy, when they are reading their own book. But these books don’t take long to grow on me. Jim Gaffigan is no exception. While much of his stuff is over-the-top, some of it was hilariously relatable and such fun to have a little bit playing when Rob happened to be in the car with me.

What are your summer reading intentions?

Cheers~
Carrie

Paddle Hard Brewing

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Happy Thirsty Thursday!

 

Not to be confused with Bent Paddle Brewing in Duluth, Minnesota, we tested our pooches out on the patio of Paddle Hard Brewing in Grayling, Michigan on the way to visit Rob’s parents.

Again, they did really well! Just a quick loud bark when another dog walked by… We have yet to find out what it will be like if another dog is lingering in the patio area with us. In that picture with Shamrock on the right above is a little travel collapsible water bowl. This is helpful when a dog-friendly patio doesn’t have a water bowl on offer for its furry patrons or if the bowl is on the other side of the patio!

It was a beautiful day!

We tasted a flight of brews…

Top Row (left to right): Paddle Hard Cold Brew Vanilla Brown Ale, Left Foot Charley Cinnamon Cider, Hideout Peanut Butter Chocolate Porter. Bottom Row (left to right): Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree Imperial IPA, New Holland Night Tripper Imperial Stout, Short’s Goodnight Bodacious Double Black IPA

Obviously, they offer guest beers as well as their own. And you can choose any to add to your flight!

We also had a bite to eat:

Quinoa Salad – Fresh quinoa, roasted red peppers, crumbled feta, green onion, banana peppers, tomato, zucchini, and dill, placed on baby spinach, served with vinaigrette with homemade garlic flatbread – $8

The salad was good, but not as good as the the Power Grain Bowl from Morgan’s Farm to Table and Ancient Grain Salad from Vivo Kitchen – two of my favorite quinoa-based salads in the Twin Cities. This one could have used some chicken or something with a bit more flavor, despite all that dill. The homemade “garlic flatbread” just tasted like pita bread that had been grilled and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

BLT Pizza – Homemade garlic butter sauce, cheddar/mozz cheese blend, topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, chopped romaine, tomato, and mayo homemade garlic butter sauce, baby spinach, artichoke, sliced Roma tomatoes, mozz/cheddar blend – $9

Rob loved this pizza! Such a nice buttery crust with great BLT flavors. Even with lettuce on this pizza, he was not going to leave any leftovers behind – they came with us.

Now that we know the dogs seem to do well in public places, it’s nice to know we can stop when they are allowed! Paddle Hard Brewing‘s slogan: “Life’s Short. Paddle Hard!”

Do you have any favorite dog-friendly hangouts?

Cheers~
Carrie

Wine Wednesday: Magic Bubbles

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Happy Wine Wednesday!

Here’s a fun little bubbly treat I had at The Bottle Room in Green Bay:

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Take cotton candy and pour some Prosecco or other sparkling wine over the top. Fun and tasty! If you want to try it with kids, I’m sure you could use club soda or something acidic like grapefruit juice.

Enjoy!

Cheers~
Carrie