THE OPEN BOOK

21
Aug

Friday Favorites!

Well, folks, I’m wrapping up my last full week in Bemidji. It has been an emotional roller coaster, to say the least! Here are some of the highlights of the week:

Children’s Librarian!

Next Exit: Mankato!

Did I mention that I was offered my dream job on Monday? I was probably really subtle about it. In case you missed it, here’s the post!

Yeah, definitely not only one of my favorite things of the week, but of the whole year!

 

Bemidji Public Library

Such a great library!

I had my very last day at the Bemidji Public Library on Wednesday, and what a great send-off I had! I got to do storytime, and had 20 kids show up!! Having so many kids participate made me even more excited to start my new job, but it was hard to say goodbye to all the amazing ladies I’ve worked with these past ten months. They have been so supportive of my move and new job, and I will miss them all!!! You guys ROCK! Come to Mankato ANYTIME for tea and scones. ūüôā

 

Talenti Sicilian Pistachio Gelato

YUM!

When Shane left on Sunday, I was feeling pretty sad. Luckily, my friend Stefania came to the rescue! She came over with nail polish and her ukelele, and we spent the afternoon eating our own pints of gelato. Oh. My. Goodness. I ADORE pistachios, and this gelato is heaven on a spoon. The best part about the Talenti brand is that their products are made with 100% whole and natural ingredients. The pints are transparent–just like the company. What you see is what you get. And what you get is pure bliss.

 

Wild Hare Bistro

You need to go!

There’s this cute little coffee shop in downtown Bemidji that I’ve always wanted to try, but never found the time. This week, when one of my friends wanted to take me out for coffee, I thought, well it’s now or never.

I’m sorry that we went. Now¬†Wild Hare Bistro is just one more reason I’ll be sad to leave Bemidji behind. Their coffee and pastries are out of this WORLD delicious. My favorite combo is their “On the Wild Side” Muffin (Wild Rice, Walnuts, Whole Wheat, and Wild Blueberries) paired with their organic house blend (with a splash of organic milk). Wild Hare’s organic and healthy selections are impressive, tasty, and really affordable. I just went this morning to write and have coffee with friends. I’ll probably go tomorrow. And guess where I’m taking my family for breakfast the morning of the move? ūüėČ

 

Book of the Week: Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Book One in the Castle Glower Series

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie’s favorite days. That’s because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it’s up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle’s never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom.

This is the first book I’m reading for my upcoming Mother-Daughter book club. In a word, this book is enchanting. Funny, whimsical, and heartfelt, I love spunky Celie and her siblings, but my favorite character? The castle. I’ve only just started, but I’m already hooked! It has been a great book to come home to at the end of the day when I need to relax and sink into a fun story.

 

That’s all from me for a while. The move is next week, and I probably won’t be writing another post until we’re settled into our new apartment. See you in Mankato!

This is Julia Lee, signing off from Bemidji.

Happy Friday!

19
Aug

Celebration Coconut Banana Cream Pie!

I’m a real librarian!

There aren’t enough exclamation points in the world to accurately convey¬†how freakin’ excited I am!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I got the job! I got the job!

I can’t believe it!!!!!!!

On Monday afternoon, I got a call from the library I interviewed at on Thursday. The director had told me not to expect a decision until later this week, so when I saw the number on my phone, my heart jumped into my throat. When she offered me the Children’s Librarian position, I was so excited that I accepted before she told me how much I’d be making or the fine details of the position.

Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about that. After working for and volunteering at¬†the BEST library in the world during my days in Brainerd, I knew that becoming a Children’s Librarian was what I wanted to do with my life. I LOVE creating programs and helping kids love reading, exploring, and learning. When I found out we were moving to Mankato, I started job searching right away, applied to what is essentially my dream job, and crossed my fingers.

I couldn’t believe my luck in finding an open Children’s Librarian job, but when they called me in for my interview, I was over the moon. A chance to actually be in the running for a professional librarian position?!

Deep breaths

I cannot express how completely and utterly grateful I am for this opportunity. I cried. Real tears (after I got off the phone, fortunately. You can ask Stefania). I will be the best Children’s Librarian I possibly can be, and work my butt off to make the library programs absolutely amazing. My heart is 110% in this job, and I cannot WAIT to begin!

In the meantime, LET’S CELEBRATE! And what better way to celebrate than with PIE?!

I love pie (you may recall my Key Lime Pie recipe). I choose pie over cake, brownies, cookies–pretty much anything besides ice cream (because, why choose between the two? Just do ala mode!).

This Banana Cream Pie recipe changed my life. It was the first time I really tried making a raw dessert, and MAN is it good. This recipe is Shane’s favorite and most requested dessert. The flavor is out of this world, and as a bonus it is made with 100% whole food ingredients. Chia seeds act as the thickener to turn the coconut milk into pudding, and are packed with so much nutrition they are know as a “super food.”

Top this delicious pie with coconut shreds or homemade coconut whipped cream. Either way, it is healthy enough to have for breakfast. Trust me. I’m a librarian. ūüėČ

Julia’s Best Ever Coconut Banana Cream Pie

Cool, Healthy, and a Total Treat!

For the Crust

For the ingredients & directions for my Super Easy Oatmeal Crust, check out my Key Lime Pie post!

For the Filling

1 can Coconut Milk, either full fat or light
1 cup Shredded Coconut
1 cup Chia Seeds
2 tsp Vanilla
4 Tbsp Maple Syrup
2-3 ripe Bananas

Directions

Make the crust according to directions. Set in the fridge.

In a large bowl, mash up 2-3 ripe bananas. Once they are good and creamy (a few chunks is fine), whisk the coconut milk, shredded coconut, vanilla, chia seeds and maple syrup.

Pour the banana mixture into that delicious pie crust. Lick the spoon. Heck, lick the bowl.

Chill in the fridge¬†for about 30 minutes or until the pudding has thickened enough so it doesn’t wobble when you shake the pie tin back and forth.

Top with shredded coconut, coconut whipped cream, or more sliced banana. Whatever sounds good to you.

DEVOUR!

Suggested Pairing

A glass of bubbly to toast your awesomeness!

I’m a real librarian! I’m a real author! I guess this year has been pretty darn good, huh? ūüôā

Mankato, here I come!

Happiest of Wednesdays!

17
Aug

Wine & Words, an Interview, and the First Goodbye

Don’t worry. I haven’t named a volleyball “Shane”…yet…

After my post on Wednesday, I fully intended to follow-up with a Friday Favorites detailing all the excitement of my trip to Mankato. Then, Friday came about with a coffee date, a drive back to Bemidji, a full day of work, volunteering, and Shane’s very last show at Lakeland. Needless to say, my best intentions of writing a blog post were quickly forgotten.

But now is the perfect time. It¬†is Sunday afternoon and the Hobbit Hole is quiet. There are boxes waiting to be packed, dishes needing to be done, laundry to do. But I’m curled up on my couch with my laptop, a big mug of tea in hand.

Shane just left for Mankato. His very first day at KEYC is tomorrow (well, actually today for you guys reading this on Monday). I am so excited and happy for him. But it was hard to see him drive off. I know it’s silly, but I cried when he left.¬†It’s only a ¬†week-and-a-half, but I’m going to miss that guy.

Anyway, let’s talk about all the good stuff that happened over the last few days. First, the interview! As soon as I walked into the library, it felt like a place I could spend hours in. Though nervous, I brought my A-game to that interview. I felt good about my prepared program ideas, my storytime example, and I had fun talking with the library director and lead librarian. I loved the library and the staff. So now I just have to wait! Regardless of if I get the job or not, I am really grateful to be considered a candidate for my dream job. I did everything I could possibly do to prepare. Now, we have to see if I’m the librarian they’re looking for!

wine2

Hanging with my library friends!

After driving five hours down to Mankato and interviewing for an hour-and-a-half, I turned around and drove 3 hours back up north to Brainerd for Wine & Words! Even though I got stuck in rush hour traffic in the Cities (Ugh), my library friends took care of me–like always. I arrived late, but my friends saved my dinner (complete with a heat tray to keep it warm), a piece of chocolate cake, and (thankfully) a glass of wine! Huzzah!

wine

Ain’t no party like a LIBRARY party!

If you’ve never been to Wine & Words, it is the best book lover’s party EVER! There’s a fancy dinner, a silent book-theme auction, and authors from around the country come and speak about the importance of libraries. William Kent Krueger, Lorna Landvik, and Kathleen McCleary¬†were among the speakers this year, and guess who was sitting next to me¬†at my table? Nadia Hashimi, author of The Pearl that Broke it’s Shell! I JUST picked that book up from my library! I sat down, saw her name tag, and couldn’t believe my eyes. She’s an author, mother, AND pediatrician! Makes me feel like a major slacker. What an unbelievably good time, and the perfect way to unwind after all that driving.

Yummmm….

Friday morning came coffee with friends (and a melt-in-your-mouth scone from Stone House Coffee), MORE driving, work, and Shane’s last show at Lakeland. I got to come in and be part of it on prompter. Being in the station with our friends is when it really hit me: Lakeland has been a part of our lives for four years. And that was the last night we’d ever be there. I think that was the first time I realized we were moving. Not just to Mankato, but to another chapter of our lives.

The show was perfect, Shane got a great on-air send off from the News director, and afterward, our friends showed us a tribute video they made for Shane. It was AMAZING! Thank you to everyone who contributed to the video, especially Stefania, the mastermind behind it all. Having such amazing friends means more to us than you’ll ever know, and we are so lucky to know each and every one of you.

Which brings us to Saturday: Shane’s final day in Bemidji. It started with French Toast (the perfect way to start any weekend), a bit of packing, and then ended with seeing Ant-Man, making pizza, and playing games with friends until after midnight. It really was the perfect day, and a great last day in Bemidji for Shane.

Really, the last few weeks has just emphasized how lucky we are. Thanks to all of our friends who make it hard to leave the North Woods behind.

Phew! What a post! I’m off to pack!

Happy Monday!

12
Aug

One Last Walk Through the Garden

Cute little cukes!

Cute little cukes!

Packing, cleaning, moving.

The last week has been full of craziness, but the last few days have been crazy awesome. For one thing, we officially have a Mankato address! After much debate over two very nice apartments, Shane and I decided on one that is slightly more expensive but has a garage, onsite laundry, and is MUCH BIGGER! It has wide windows and an open floor plan that will be ideal for hosting visitors. ūüôā

With the dilemma of finding a place to live out of the way, I didn’t think Monday could get much better. But then it did.

Soon after finding out about Shane’s job offer a few weeks ago, I began looking for jobs myself. Can you imagine my excitement when I saw a fantastic¬†position for a Children’s Librarian?! Needless to say, I applied immediately. On Monday, the library director invited me down for an interview!!! It is set for TOMORROW, and I have been doing everything I can to prepare. I hope to report that it went splendidly! It is quite literally my dream job and I am thrilled that I’ve at least got¬†a shot!

This past week, I’ve also had a chance to be in my garden. I’ve got to admit, leaving my little patch will be one of the hard parts about leaving Bemidji–especially since it’s just been going NUTS!

IMG_1511[1]

The garden in full bloom!

The pumpkin plant is bigger than I am!

Monster pumpkin plant!

Monster pumpkin plant!

Look at those gorgeous pumpkin blossoms!

Look at those gorgeous pumpkin blossoms!

There are also carrots, beets, beans, greens, squash, popcorn, cucumbers, and potatoes!

Carrot Jungle!

Carrot Jungle!

A bounty of beans

A bounty of beans

I may not get to see most of my produce come to fruition, but I DID get a chance to dig up over 5 lbs of organic red potatoes!

I couldn't BELIEVE how many potatoes I dug up!

I couldn’t BELIEVE how many potatoes I dug up!

This was my first year growing potatoes, and I’m definitely going to do it again–they are DELICIOUS! I’ll be posting some yummy potato recipes next week that are sure to inspire you!

Goodbye, Little Organic Garden!

Goodbye, Little Organic Garden!

Wish me luck!

Happy Wednesday!

10
Aug

Healthy, Refreshing Coconut Key Lime Pie

Photo courtesy of Choosing Raw

Gorgeous photo courtesy of Choosing Raw

This past weekend was a whirlwind of driving, apartment hunting, packing, and saying goodbye. We woke on Saturday at 5:30 (that’s right, in the morning) to make the 5 hour drive down to Mankato. Our mission: tour no less than 7 apartments and duplexes in order to find the next Hobbit Hole.

And let me tell you, people: some of those places were scary. We’re talking rats-in-the-walls, a-drug-dealer-is-my-neighbor kind of scary. But some were really nice. We applied to our top two choices and now we wait to hear back from the landlords to see if we have a place to live come this Saturday. Wait and pack.

On Sunday, we packed until we literally ran out of boxes (about 6 hours). The good news is we have most of our stuff ready to go and managed to give even more stuff away to Goodwill. *Note: If you are a friend or relative, please never, NEVER give me presents of stuff EVER again. Just buy my book. Or give me cash. Or cheese. But for the love of all that is holy, please do not buy me more stuff. I’ll just have to move it again.*

After we were done packing for the day, Shane and I had one last bonfire with some of our Bemidji crew. The idea was pretty last minute, but I was really touched by how many people showed up to wish us well, tell lame jokes around a fire, give us hugs, and promise to visit Magnificent Mankato. We won’t have a lovely yard in Mankato, so we had to burn the rest of our firewood. Mission accomplished. How bittersweet.

At this point in our venture, we are pooped. We want to nap. To hire movers. To obtain magical, Harry Potter-like powers so the boxes float on the moving truck with the wave of a wand. But mostly, we want PIE.

And not just any kind of pie. The kind that is cool, satisfying, and refreshing. The kind that will put a pep in your step and some sass in your attitude. I’m talking Key Lime Pie.

Intimidated? Don’t be. This recipe is stupid easy and CRAZY delicious. All you need is a blender, really. Oh, and some limes. I supposed I cheated because the limes I used are not Key Limes, just regular old limes. But one bite of this amazing pie and you won’t either know or care. It is that good.

Key Lime has always been one of my favorite pie flavors, but I figured it was way too hard and time consuming to make. Not so! This recipe comes together in a matter of minutes. As a bonus, it is made with whole food ingredients like coconut milk, cashews, and oatmeal. And it is totally raw–no baking required.

Coconut Key Lime Pie. Yum. So, sit back, prop your feet up on a few well-packed cardboard boxes, and take a bite of what is quite possibly the best pie in the world. You’re welcome.

Julia’s Coconut Key Lime Pie

YUM!

YUM!

For the Filling:

1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked for 2-4 hours

3/4 cup coconut milk (light or full fat)

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup lime juice (I even added a bit more, maybe just shy of 1/2 cup. I like my pie sassy.)

1/2 cup maple syrup

Pinch of sea salt

1-2 tsp organic lime zest (optional)

For the Crust:

1 cup regular rolled oats

1 cup shredded coconut

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/2 tsp salt

1 heaping TBSP Sucanat or other granulated sweetener of choice

1. Make the crust: put all ingredients for the crust in a blender or food processor and blend until the mixture turns into crumbly goodness.

2. Place a round of parchment paper in the bottom of a pie pan and press the crust into the bottom of the pan. Nice. Place that bad boy in the fridge. You’re ready to make the filling!

3. Drain the water from those soaking cashews. Pour the cashews into the blender. Add all other filling ingredients. Blend until thick and creamy.

4. Now’s the time to taste that filling to see if it is limey enough for you. I added more lime juice at this point, but you do what is right for you.

5. Once the filling is tweaked to perfection, take the crust out of the fridge and pour the filling on top. Sprinkle with some more lime zest if you like.

6. Pop the pie into the freezer. After about an hour, move the pie from the freezer to the fridge for maybe 2-3 more hours so it is nice and set. *Note: Tell you the truth, my friend Stefania and I couldn’t wait that long. We took the pie out of the freezer before an hour was up and ate it while it was still a bit gooey. Didn’t matter. It was all kinds of awesome.*

DEVOUR!

Suggested Pairing:

A tropical beach, ukuleles playing in the background, and your toes in the sand

Happy Monday!

07
Aug

Friday Favorites: Bemidji Favorites

See ya later, Paul & Babe!

See ya later, Paul & Babe!

This Friday, I want to focus on all my favorite parts of our time in Bemidji. Though we were only here for ten months, it really has been a wonderful experience–mostly because of all the truly AMAZING people we’ve come to know and love. So, here is a look back at our days in the North Woods!

The Little Red Duplex

We were incredibly lucky to find such a great place to live. After living in apartments since we got out of college, Shane and I were ready for more space and a yard of our own. It is cozy, inviting, and really became our home in just a short period of time. Here’s a (terrible) video that I shot during our first weeks in Bemidji. Shane has since critiqued my camera work (which is pretty hilariously bad), but it gives you an idea of what our house looked like between all the blurred images. Hey, I never said I was a photographer. I do words, people. ūüôā

Region 2 Arts Council

I couldn’t have done any of my marketing or publicity without the generous folks at the Region 2 Arts Council. They awarded me the Individual Artist Grant back in March so I could hire my wonderful publicist, Krista, to plan my book tour, and Christy of Brown Design to create the Seven Stones Book Trailer. Without the financial and professional support of the Council, I definitely wouldn’t be able to reach as many readers!

Check out the original post about the Artist Grant!

My First Book Signing

The table!

Thanks, Kat’s Book Nook!

My very first book tour stop was at Kat’s Book Nook in Bemidji. I was SO nervous and excited to actually be doing my first ever book signing! So many people showed up to support me, and I ended up having a wonderful time. I can’t thank Kat enough, or the community for their amazing support. Bemidji gave me a great start to my book tour, and helped boost my confidence as an author!

Check out the original post from May 16th!

Evening Horse Rides

We're BFFs

We’re BFFs

Imagine riding through a lush, forested state park at sunset on a gorgeous chestnut mare with a great friend by your side. Afterwards, a group of tiny, fuzzy kittens literally romp all over you in the stable. Yup, I¬†got to live a 12 year old girl’s dream thanks to my friend and fellow Packer fan, Kori. I had SUCH great times with her, the horses (my best friend, Firefly, is pictured above), and the barn cats. It was beyond amazing to be able to hit the trails anytime we wanted.

I got to take my very last ride (*sob*) Wednesday night while the sun was setting in brilliant oranges and reds. It was cool, windless, and quiet–a perfect night for a ride, and one that I badly needed. I was super stressing about the move and packing, but once I was in the saddle, everything was okay. I’m sure going to miss our rides, but I’ve got great memories to take with me to Mankato!

Bemidji Community

Northern Lights Farm

For a little town, this place provided us with AWESOME amenities. My favorites were the beautiful Harmony Co-Op, the local board game store (Accidentally Cool Games), the Bemidji Public Library, and our fresh from the farm CSA. I hope Mankato treats us as well as Bemidji!

The PEOPLE!

We love you, Bemidji Friends!

We love you, Bemidji Friends!

Last, and most importantly, we are going to miss all of our friends! We have met amazing people during our time here, and have had some great times! Some of the highlights of our months here:

Jane Austen Tea Party

Outdoor Movie & Video Games

Thank you to everyone who made us feel loved and welcome. We will miss you from the bottom of our hearts! Friends will ALWAYS be welcome in Mankato! Stop by anytime. I’m sure I’ll have something delicious cooking, a board game to play, and a pot of tea to share.

Happy Friday!

 

05
Aug

Two Weddings & A Book Signing!

What a great book! ;)

What a great book! ūüėČ

It feels so good to be back. Here I sit with on my comfy couch with a big pot of tea and my laptop, writing away. I missed this! Did you miss me? Of course you did. Well, sit back, relax, and get ready for some fun and an EXCITING announcement! But fun first.

Shane and I had a crazy, whirlwind vacation that included two weddings and a book signing. To get to the first wedding, we hopped on a train in Chicago. To be more specific, we boarded the Capitol Limited Sleeping Car and spent 20 lovely hours in our first class accommodations, enjoying all the food and free time. If you haven’t traveled by train, you need to give it a try. Not only do you get to feel like Harry Potter, but you are essentially forced to relax. There are no obligations, nothing to do, and nowhere to be. For 20 hours, Shane and I just got to be with each other–and on such a crazy trip, that was soooo nice.

My favorite part was getting up at sunrise as we were going through the Appalachian Mountains. I grabbed my laptop, a cup of coffee, camped out at a table in the observation car and wrote for a few hours. It was one of the best parts of my trip.

View from the Tidal Basin

View from the Tidal Basin

When we got to D.C., my friends Sarah and Patrick took even better care of us than the porter on the train. In our three and a half days in Maryland, they drove us around to sights, fed us, and let us crash at their beautiful apartment. And, of course, I got to spend some much needed girl time with my Sarah! She’s been one of my best friends since high school, and I was so happy to get to see her!

There's me and Sarah being just so fabulous

There’s Sarah & me¬†being just so fabulous

And, of course, Wedding #1! It was a lovely ceremony that took place on a cruise down the Potomac River.¬†Seriously,¬†how gorgeous can¬†you get?!¬†My friendship with¬†Matt also goes back to my high school days, and I couldn’t be happier for him. I was honored to be a part of the ceremony, and we had SO MUCH FUN! Congratulations, Matt & Josh!

Thanks for letting me be a part of your big day

Thanks for letting me be a part of your big day

After the wedding, it was back to Wisconsin for a few days with family. I¬†FINALLY got to meet my nephew, Samuel, and¬†spent some more time with my other¬†little nephew, Ira.¬†One of the days we spent in¬†historic Cedarburg,¬†walking around the town and touring the¬†Cedar Creek Winery. And¬†Shane and I got to climb in a barrel. No, no, that isn’t some innuendo. We¬†actually climbed in a¬†wine barrel.¬†We are small hobbits, and the tour guide asked us if we wanted to shimmy through the tiny opening. Which, of course, we did. And now I have a shirt to prove it, thanks to my Dad. After the wine tour, we had a picnic in one of the downtown parks and all went to a Kenosha Kingfish baseball. It was an all-around awesome summer day with our family.

BEST BOOK EVER!

BEST BOOK EVER!

Then came the Book Signing at the SweetSpot! It was SO good to be back! I had a BLAST reading excerpts from Seven Stones, signing books, and answering all sorts of questions from readers. Thank you to everyone who came out to support me, and special thanks to Lacey and the crew for inviting me out and making my time magical and delicious. It was AMAZING! ūüôā

Onto Wedding #2! We booked it down to Illinois (aka Enemy Territory to Packer Fans) for the wedding of another very good friend. The venue itself was GORGEOUS, the bride and groom were fabulous and happy, and the party was off the hook (if people still say that nowadays). Congratulations, Kayla & Brandon!

Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. Thul!

A beautiful day for a wedding!

So, there in a tightly packed nutshell, is our vacation. We got to see friends & family, celebrate love, do a bit of sightseeing, and have an overall fantastic time. Now, friends, is time for the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT.

While on vacation, Shane got a call from a station in Mankato. After a second interview, KEYC offered him the weekend sports anchor/sports reporter position! I know how long he has been working for this, and I couldn’t be more proud. I am sad, however, to say goodbye to all of our Bemidji friends and can only hope you come visit us in Magnificent Mankato! Here’s to a new adventure!

We move in 10 DAYS! HOLY CATS!

I’m going to go pack. Happy Wednesday!