Category: A Bit of Fun

20
Feb

Hello, Spring?

My sister and I…and Dad photobombing in the background 😀

*Cough Cough* *Sniffle Sniffle*

Hello (imagine that said in a pathetically scratchy voice). Yes, I’ve been hit. I was so proud of my immune system for keeping me healthy when all my friends and family succumbed to the flu. I got cocky. Then, a few weeks ago, I got hit with the respiratory flu. Hard. To make a long story short, I’ve been a congested pile of goo since February 3rd. I’ve slogged through it for the most part, but I missed my Dad’s 60th birthday party because I was in Urgent Care on February 5th. Happy Birthday.

I tried everything, from homemade chicken & rice soup to my immunity boosting tea. Despite my best efforts, it seems like these little buggers have settled in and are sticking around for a while. This weekend, though, I was DETERMINED to make it back to Wisconsin for my Dad’s 60th Birthday Redo (we planned this shortly after I missed his actual birthday thinking, “Surely I’ll be ALL better by the 18th!”). The week leading up to Dad’s Birthday Redo didn’t help my health – although it was REALLY fun! Here’s what it looked like:

Saturday: Lego Club & Lego Story Time

Sunday: Laundry, Clean and Disinfect the Apartment, Bake Bread, SLEEP

Monday: 3D Doodler Kids’ Program and 2 story times

Tuesday: Yoga Story Time (and YES, Shane and I did celebrate with our traditional spaghetti, Lady & The Tramp, and chocolate-covered strawberries. Just imagine a big Kleenex box in the middle of us. Magical.)

Wednesday: CHOCOLATE OLYMPICS. My 3-hour, 50+ kid program was this week. We played chocolate relay races (Oreo stacking, Chocolate Unicorn, rolling Whoppers with their noses and the Chocolate Kiss Oven Glove Race where kids had to unwrap a kiss while wearing gloves,  and had chocolate challenges (M&M minute to win it games, candy trivia, bingo, Chocolate Shuffleboard…am I making you hungry 😉 ). Needless to say, it was AWESOME. Also needless to say, by the end of 3 hours my voice and head were wrecked.

Chocolate Oreo Relay Racing

Thursday: Story Time…the voice was getting worse, but I made it through and guzzled tea the rest of the day

Friday: I squeaked through story time and CRASHED

I slept all of Friday, got lots of drugs in me, and was determined to make it home for my Dad’s party on Saturday. AND I MADE IT! It required a lot of sleeping in the car (love you, SHANE!), an excessive amount of hot tubbing (my Dad had knee surgery, Shane back surgery, and I’m sick – you can imagine how much a hot tub appealed), delicious food, and laughter. I got to see my family and celebrate my Dad (the best Dad in the world, in my opinion) mark such a big milestone in his life. Lucky guy ended up having two parties, so getting sick wasn’t all bad. 🙂

Waterfall along the trail

On Sunday, Shane and I tromped through Pets Park (Petrifying Springs Park in Kenosha for those of you not in the know). The fresh air did my sinuses a TON of good. And did I mention we walked IN OUR T-SHIRTS? In February? I walked outside thinking, “How long have I been sick???” I’m used to writing blog posts about the frigid air of Bemidji. This year is just NUTS. As I sit writing this post (thank you, President’s Day), it is 50 here in Mankato and raining. Insane. But, don’t worry. We’re supposed to get slammed with a blizzard next week.

In the meantime, I’m going to go write. Hopefully, I’ve turned a corner and can start being a human again.

Happy Monday!

What I’m Reading This Week:

16
Jan

Possibilities

The rollercoaster continues. Shane went back to work this past week. He was “just tired of doing nothing,” and decided to give it a go. How did it go? We’ll give it an 8 out of 10–that’s the hospital pain meter with which we’ve become something of rating experts. Poor guy. That was Wednesday. A refilled prescription of Tramadol and a weekend of rest later, and he is feeling considerably better (he even gave me a pain rating of 1 the other day. 1!!!). Shane had an appointment with his general practitioner this morning, and we remain cautiously optimistic. Here’s hoping he’s back to being his old hobbit-self soon.

I solemnly swear I’m up for some cake

In other news, I have amazing co-workers. When I got to the staff meeting on Friday, there were 2016 decorations, Packer paraphernalia, one of the coolest cakes ever, and a bunch of really thoughtful gifts (including my own Time Turner!!! SERIOUSLY!). It made me feel so special and loved–and now I’m officially a cool kid with my Packers scarf, Captain America earrings, Time Turner, and Out of Print clothing. 🙂

The BEST part of this week? THE PACKERS ARE GOING TO THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! After trying to kill me (aka giving up an 18 point lead and letting the Cowboys rally to tie the game), Mason “The Bomb” Crosby scored a field goal delivered on angels’ wings to win the game with 3 seconds left. I laughed. I cried. I screamed. I ate way too much delicious food (what did I bring? Glad you asked. I whipped up Life Affirming Vegan Nacho Dip from the Oh She Glows Cookbook. It was, I’m proud to say, a HIT with a crowd that was definitely NOT vegan. Angela Liddon is a plant-based GENIUS) . And I get to do it all again next week. That thought alone will fuel me through the 3 hour PokĂ©mon party I’m running for 50+ kids at the library on Wednesday…and about a gallon of coffee.

Amidst everything that’s been going on in the first few weeks of 2017, I’ve been trying to figure out my word of the year (inspired by the amazing Sheila DeChantal). 2016’s word was GRATITUDE because I have so very much to be thankful for in my life. I bounced around a few words (SEQUEL being one of them 😉 ), and have chosen *drum roll please*: POSSIBILITIES. I am hoping that 2017 is a year of bright possibilities (not the least of which being Shane fully recovering and having no more back pain). I am going to try my darndest to be positive, bright, and look for the good this year. Let’s see what 2017’s got.

Happy Monday! I’m off to write chapter 2 of the sequel *inside peek: it takes place in Chicago where we meet a brand new character…*

Book of the Week:

07
Jan

2017: The Year of the Sequel

Happy New Year! Now that we’re done with holidays, hospitals, and emergency room visits, I have time to write a blog post. December was a doozy. Let’s start with the good:

MLIS!

I GRADUATED!!! I am officially a Master of Library and Information Sciences. You may call me Master Lee. Or Librarian Supreme. I’m not picky. After 3 years of graduate school, it was surreal to walk across the stage and be handed an empty diploma case (it’s coming in the mail, fear not. I just think it’s kind of ironic that you have this big ceremony during which you don’t even get your physical degree). But it was also incredible. And a relief. Afterward, my family, friends, and I celebrated by going to Fuddruckers and watching the Packers beat da Bears. Perfect.

WISCONSIN

December was filled with trips to my favorite state. We made the six-hour trip back-to-back weekends for my graduation and Christmas. The weekend of my graduation, I got to see two of my best friends (one flew in from Maryland for the weekend!) for a night out in Milwaukee (to clarify, a night out means dinner and a play–we saw A Christmas Carol!). My dad was recovery from surgery and Shane was getting ready for his surgery, but we had a marvelous time and I got to see *most* of the people I loved. There were quite a few who were sick with the awful stomach bug, but I will catch you next time!

NOON YEAR’S EVE

I threw a giant New Year’s Eve party for families with kids ages 2-6 at the library. We had crafts, games, a photo booth, and a giant balloon drop right at noon complete with a bubble wrap stomp. It was epic.

500 WORD CHALLENGE

My friend and fellow writer, Katie, challenged me to a 500 word-a-day writing marathon to last the entire year. Though it has been a bit of a rough start (see EMERGENCY ROOM) below, I’m excited to be getting into a routine and have a goal for my writing.

Okay, those were all fabulous things that have happened in the last month. Here are the other things.

SHANE’S SURGERY

In and of itself, the surgery was actually a good thing. We drove straight up from Christmas at his family’s to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. The surgeon, nurses, and staff were absolutely amazing. He had an abnormal hemangioma (cluster of blood cells like a tumor) in his spinal vertebra. They removed it and everything went well. Until one day…

EMERGENCY ROOM

So, Shane was recovering well and his pain was manageable. Then, earlier this week, he was resting and took a deep breath. Bad idea. He was immediately in SO much pain, he had trouble breathing and got really dizzy. We spent 5 hours in the emergency room that night, and it was one of the worst nights of my entire life. I was terrified that something went wrong in his spine–how do you fix that? Luckily, everything in his spine looks perfect. He doesn’t have a blood clot, and his gallbladder, liver, pancreas, and kidneys are all doing fine if you were wondering. He had a back spasm that popped a rib out of place which made breathing painful. He’s been on pain killers and muscle relaxants since then and hopefully will just continue healing until he is 100% better.

So, with all the time spent in hospitals lately my word count for this year is: 800 words.

First book of the year: (!)

24
Nov

Seven Stones Signed Copies & FREE SHIPPING!

I don’t know about you, but I am SO READY FOR THANKSGIVING! An entire holiday devoted to family, friends, football, and genuine gratitude? There’s nothing better. One thing I’m grateful for: this past Saturday was Shane and my TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!! Ten years ago on November 19th (at 12:29 am – how do I know the exact time? Shane WROTE IT DOWN and told me a few months afterward when I thought our anniversary was November 18th…he is adorable). These past ten years have been filled with more love, laughter, and adventure than I ever thought possible. We had an amazing weekend, and are so excited to be home and with more people we love.

Which brings me to the food. Oh, the FOOD. As you know, I’m a big rabbit so we will be bringing some awesome veggie recipes home to family Thanksgiving. Here are a few of the recipes I’ll be whipping up today:

Chai Spiced Sweet Potatoes

Maple Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

AND my homemade Cranberry Sauce. Now, growing up, I used to think that cranberry sauce was picked from the vine in cans. I couldn’t possibly conceive the arduous, complicated process that went into the jelly-like, can-shaped red substance I relished every year. Right? WRONG. If you’ve never made Cranberry Sauce, this is your time. It is so stinking easy and SO much tastier than that canned stuff. My favorite recipe uses maple syrup for sweetener, but you can use granulated sugar if you prefer and just add a bit more water. Here goes:

Julia’s Super Easy Totally Delicious Cranberry Sauce

Nothing better than Wisconsin cranberries 😉

1 12 oz. bag cranberries

1 cup maple syrup (that’s right, a CUP)

1 cup water

Directions:

Put the cranberries into a pan. Awesome. Now add the water. Dump in the maple syrup. Great. Heat on Medium-Low until the concoction starts bubbling. Let it simmer for 10 minutes (the cranberries will start popping – this is my favorite part). After 10 minutes, remove from heat and let cool (the cranberries will thicken as they cool).

Boom. Cranberry Sauce. You’re welcome.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! I also come bearing gifts. Hey, consequently do you know what makes an AMAZING gift? SEVEN STONES! It’s a perfect stocking stuffer, Hanukkah present (why not buy a copy for each night?!), or addition for your winter solstice celebration.

If you are looking to get some holiday shopping done post-turkey coma, don’t go out to a huge department store on Black Friday. Support small and local businesses on Saturday, and while you’re at it you can buy a few copies of Seven Stones for readers on your list! To celebrate this season of thanks and cheer, I would LOVE to send you a personally signed copy AND pay for your shipping!!!

How do you get such a great deal? Send me a message (or a private message through Facebook). Provide your address and what you would like me to include in your personalized message. We can talk about payment methods in your message or you can shop RiverPlace Press directly.

I hope everyone has a safe Thanksgiving full of too much good food and even better books!

Happy Thanksgiving!

15
Oct

Welcome to the Fall!

0903161149a1

I’M ALIVE!

Hello, world! It’s me, Julia. It’s been awhile. How are you? What’s been going on?

I have meant to write a blog post for sooooooo many weeks. How many weeks exactly? Ever since the Wisconsin Highland Games over the Labor Day weekend. The Games were AMAZING like they are every year, and I had such a blast. I got to meet new readers, catch up with people who bought Seven Stones last year (and who are clamoring for a sequel. I hear you!), and revel in all the Scottishness around me. Best of all, I SOLD OUT OF BOOKS AGAIN! 2 zealous readers actually pre-ordered books from our fourth printing (which just came out a few weeks ago). How cool is that?!

09031615341

RIGHT after Highland Games ended, my last semester in graduate school began. Hence the radio silence. I’m taking a Children’s Lit class that runs 8 weeks instead of 15 – which means I have a whole semester of reading, posting, and assignments crammed into half the time. In other words, my life has been an endless party since I last wrote. 😉

HOWEVER, an 8 week class means that it officially ends November 4th. And you know what November is, right? November is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a 50,000 word book in one month (you can check it out here if you’re interested), and that’s what I intend to do. I already have a good chunk of my novel written – if I can use November to finish the first draft of my sequel, I will be a happy author. Grad school owns me until the end of October. After that, I’m going to be working HARD on the sequel to Seven Stones. I cannot tell you how excited I am to be able to focus solely on my writing soon, but I am so incredibly excited to be getting my MLIS. Just a few weeks to go!!!

One other big highlight from the past month was the Minnesota Library Association annual conference in Duluth!!! As you know, I’m a big nerd. I LOVE GOING TO THE LIBRARY CONFERENCE. I full on nerd-out and come back super pumped about all things library. This year, the conference was even better because it was in Duluth (aka, one of the most beautiful cities in Minnesota…or quite possibly period). As part of the conference, us librarians got to tour the Glensheen Mansion. Pics below. Yes, you may drool. I won’t judge.

0929161814

Glensheen

0929161821

Step right in…

0929161833_hdr

I felt like Lady Grantham should be coming down those stairs.

 

0929161826_hdr

Tea in the drawing room?

0929161829b

And, the library, of course!

Last thing I want to share before I go back to homework is one of my favorite fall dinners: Warm Autumn Salad. Shane and I have never really done salads for dinner before because they never kept us full – we’d just eat popcorn or something worse after trying to be healthy. This salad recipe is not only filling, but amazingly delicious. The farmer’s market in Mankato has just been brimming with fresh, delicious produce and we put them all in this salad. If you’re into meat, add some local chicken or beef. Add/change/omit what you want and get some more green power in your diet with his scrumptious salad!

Warm Autumn Salad

salad

You will not be hungry after this salad. Trust.

Here’s What You Need:

1 cup wild rice (I like to make mine with stock instead of water for more flavor)

1 medium butternut squash, cut in half with seeds removed

5-6 beets, sliced into silver dollars

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup walnuts

Kale, or other local greens

Your favorite cheese, grated (we had cinnamon apple cheddar from home)

Your favorite salad dressing (Hilary’s Apple Fennel is FABULOUS on this salad)

Here’s What to Do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Arrange squash cut side down on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Arrange the beet slices on another baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle on some of your favorite herbs or seasoning salt, if desired. Roast for an hour or until browned and delicious.
  2. While your veggies are roasting, prepare the wild rice (usually 1 cup of wild rice to 3 cups of stock). Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low and let that simmer for about 45 minutes.
  3. Boom. All your warm stuff is warm. Hard part is over. Now all you have to do is plate. Get a big ol’ dinner plate and pile on a bed of greens.
  4. Spoon wild rice on top of that.
  5. Cube up your squash (or Shane just likes it scooped out like mashed potatoes) and put it on top of the wild rice.
  6. Snag some beets and drop fat beet (or several) on top of the squash.
  7. Add the cheese.
  8. Sprinkle on cranberries and walnuts.
  9. Drizzle with dressing.
  10. Serve with a nice red wine and some fresh local fruit! We’ve got DELICIOUS apples in season right now!

Eat Salad. Be satisfied. You’re welcome.

Happy Weekend!

21
Aug

Wine & Words (…and then maybe a bit more wine)

0814161121I went back to work at my library after a WONDERFUL vacation this week and hit the ground running. Now, my job is a little different from most people’s, so here is what a full week looks like to a Children’s Librarian: Monday was the launch of a new family event called BREW (Bike Ride Explore Waseca) where we had Larger Than Life Games, a bike-themed story time (led by yours truly), and a beautiful family bike ride around Lake Crystal. I totally spotted an ice cream place near the end of the ride, and I’m TOTALLY making that the finish line there next year! Tuesday was my last Yoga Story Time of the summer, Wednesday was a collaborative event with United Way (complete with bouncy houses!), Thursday I had an outreach Baby Lapsit and finished the day by playing–um, I mean leading a kids program–with 3D Printer Pens. Just a week in the life. Isn’t it fabulous? 🙂

This week also meant back to school. Not officially–class doesn’t begin until September 6th–but what can I say? I’m a big nerd. This is my LAST SEMESTER OF GRADUATE SCHOOL and I want to make sure that nothing stops me from walking across that stage in December! So, I’ve been working ahead and getting a jump on my first big project.

So, that was this past week. But I still have two more highlights from my vacation that I want to share with you: Wine & Words, and my book club visit!

Wine & Words is one of my favorite nights of the year. I got to drive up to Brainerd and hang out with a bunch of my old library friends during a night of great books, authors, food, and WINE! Let me walk you through what Wine & Words entails: Laurel (aka, super-awesome-reference-librarian-hero) and I arrived and grabbed our souvenir wine glasses and proceeded to fill them with wine. Repeat. Alright, that’s enough for now. We perused the classy silent auction gift baskets (I bid on all the chocolate ones), ate an AMAZING dinner, and heard five authors speak about the importance of libraries: Allen Eskens, Joshilyn Jackson, Brian Freeman, Laura Childs, Helen Klein Ross, and our enigmatic MC for four years running, Lorna Landvik!

Right before this picture was taken, I said, "Smile with your eyes!"

Right before this picture was taken, I said, “Smile with your eyes!”

The next morning, I got to attend a wonderful writing conference at the Brainerd Public Library that really inspired me and got me rearing to go on the sequel.

On Sunday, my vacation wrapped up in the best possible way.  I was fortunate enough to be invited to brunch by a Minneapolis book club who had read (and loved!) Seven Stones! I had a BLAST meeting readers, getting to meet such a fun group, and answering such great questions. Thank you all for reading and making me feel so welcome! I can’t wait to see y’all after the sequel is published. 🙂

Thank you, guys!

Thank you, guys!

BEST NEWS: I’ve got ANOTHER book club “booked” for tomorrow afternoon! Loving it! If you have a book club, tell them all to read Seven Stones! I’d love to come meet you. 🙂

Happy Sunday!

26
May

Birthday Season & Brewing Kombucha

And, yes, I am wearing a crown

With the dawning of the first day of May heralds the most wonderful time of the year: my birthday season. You may remember my not one, but TWO birthday celebrations we threw last year (the wonderful Jane Austen Tea Party and Bemidji Birthday Bash). That’s right, folks, I get more excited about my birthday each year than most six-year-olds. I blame my parents.

Since I was a child, birthdays meant getting to plan your whole day exactly how you wanted. This included your own special menu of your favorite foods. One day a year, I got to tell my parents what to make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This usually included chocolate milk, blueberry muffins, and watermelon for breakfast followed by a Lunchable (a highly coveted processed “food” my parents usually refused to buy which therefore made it incredibly desirable). Since my birthday was always near Memorial Day, I’d usually opt for a backyard barbeque for dinner. And then there was the cake. Oh, the cake.

It’s not surprising that my favorite part of my birthday was planning the menu–and still is. I can’t help it–I love an excuse to have treats and fun with family and friends. Who doesn’t? And this year is off to a spectacular start!

My parents came to visit Mankato this past weekend to kick the birthday week off right. As usual, they spoiled me rotten, bringing caramel apple cheesecake from the Pine Cone (the BEST restaurant in Wisconsin) and lamb. Yes, you read that right: lamb (I know, I know they are adorable baby animals. I’m sorry. In my defense, they are also REALLY delicious). I don’t eat meat very often, but when I do, I eat venison, bison, and lamb from local farms. My dad and I had black-face lamb burgers during our trip to Scotland in 2008, and he we made our own this time as a special birthday dinner.

Elegant and mature, as always

Also, we went to my favorite tea shop and had afternoon tea! With birthday cake tea (vanilla-caramel black tea WITH SPRINKLES)! And hats! Yup, I had a perfect weekend.

Yup, elegant and mature...

Yup, elegant and mature…

But the birthday celebrations don’t end there! This coming weekend, Shane and I are doing something really out of the ordinary and I am SUPER excited!!! Usually, we are pretty low key hobbits, enjoying board games with friends, bonfires, and a home-cooked meal to celebrate most occasions. And I love it. This year, we are traveling to the Twin Cities, spending a few nights in a hotel, going out for a fancy birthday dinner at a fancy city restaurant, and seeing Book of Mormon: The Musical!!! All with some of my very favorite people. Since it’s a long weekend, we’re also planning on going to the Minnesota Zoo for the first time. I CAN’T WAIT!!!! Seriously, this is going to be epic.

During this birthday season, I’ve been working hard on the sequel to Seven Stones, spending as much time outside with Shane biking and hiking as possible, and getting ready for my first Summer Reading Program as a Children’s Librarian. With all this awesome going on, I need to keep my energy levels high and my immune system healthy. To do so, I’ve been brewing and sipping my own kombucha!

If you are unfamiliar with kombucha, it is some level 7 hippie juice. But it is also a cool, refreshing, and delicious iced tea beverage that has more probiotics than yogurt. kombucha is a fermented, sweetened tea that has been brewed and enjoyed for hundreds of years. It has tons of health benefits, and sells for $3-4 dollars a bottle at the store. Ouch. However, with a bit of courage and trust, you can make your own for super cheap!

Still with me? Good. This is where it gets weird. kombucha is made by basically creating your own petri dish. You start with a thing called a scoby (which looks like an alien, not going to lie) which is essentially a bacteria culture of good probiotic stuff.

It’s aliiiiiiiiiiive!

You add tea, water, and sugar to a large container (like a gallon glass jar), cover it, and leave it alone for a week or two. In that time, the bacteria eat the sugar and a new scoby grows on the top of your jar. When the scoby gets to be about 1/4 inch thick, pour your kombucha out, add whatever sweeteners or fruit you want, and drink it!

Looking good! No, trust me, that is how it looks when it looks good.

I know. It sounds (and looks bizarre), but kombucha is one of my absolute favorite drinks! Until recently, I was paying good money for small store-bought bottles. Then my friend showed me how easy it was and gave me a scoby. I’ve been happily brewing hippie juice ever since. 🙂

 

The hardest part is probably just finding a scoby. If you don’t have friends who brew kombucha or don’t have a Co-Op in your area, you CAN make kombucha from a store-bought bottle (instructions here). Long story short, it’s easy and cheap to make, tasty, bubbly, and really good for you. I used to think brewing Kombucha would be too tricky or scary. But it is not intimidating at all. Try something new! You might just love it.

Basic Kombucha Instructions

1 Scoby

4 cups water

6-8 teaspoons of tea (black or green work best)

1 cup sugar

Gallon Jar

Boil 4 cups of water. Choose what kind of tea you’d like to have as your base. Steep 6-8 teaspoons (or 6-8 tea bags) in your large jar. Let sit for about 10 minutes.

Alright, strain those leaves or discard those tea bags. Stir in 1 cup of sugar (I used Sucanat) and stir until dissolved. Add about a gallon of cool water.

Nice. Now you have to touch the scoby. It’s kind of fun. Pop that bad boy in the tea and cover your jar so air can get in, but dust and other bacteria can’t. I use paper towel secured by a rubber band.

Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and wait for your ‘booch to brew!

You’re done! Leave your kombucha to brew in a warm spot away from direct sunlight. You should see a film forming on the top of your jar in a few days. Depending on the temperature, the scoby will be ready in anywhere from a week to two weeks.

When it’s about a 1/4 inch thick, it should be good to go. Pour the liquid out into a serving container or individual mason jars. Now you add whatever flavor you want: pina colada, lavender-honey, honey-ginger, watermelon, strawberry-lemonade, the possibilities are endless! If you want your Kombucha bubbly, put it into sealed, individual mason jars and let them sit out for another day or two.

Boom. You’ve now got two scobies. You can use these bad boys to make more batches of Kombucha. Just keep about half of the liquid from your original batch and repeat the instructions, but this time you can double the recipe and have two jars going at once! Add a little of the original batch to each new jar, and you are good to go. Keep reusing those scabies–they’ll keep multiplying, and soon you can share with a friend!

27 was my golden birthday. That year saw my first book tour, a move to Mankato, new friends, and me getting my first real library job. I am more grateful to all my family, friends, and all those who love, encourage and support me than I could ever express. I am one lucky girl. I can’t wait to see what 28 brings!

Happy Birthday Week! You deserve some cake. 🙂

08
May

Celebratory Carrot Cake Pancakes with Homemade Whipped Cream!

Another year in the books!

Schooooooooooooool’s out for SUMMER! Schooooooooooool’s out FOR-EVER…well, really just until September. But right now, three months feels close enough to forever.

That’s right, I’m FREE! I turned in my final research paper…and promptly contracted Strep Throat. *Sigh* *Cough* *Sniffle* Friday I just barely sniffled my way through the day on full Zombie Mode (not realizing how sick I was). Saturday morning, I woke up with lovely white spots dotting the back of my throat. Ewwwwwww. Shane (the wonderful man that he is) got me my antibiotics and I spent the entire day in a blanket nest on my couch. This morning, I feel a bit more energetic, a bit less like a disease-filled zombie. I’d cheer if I had a voice.

Here’s what I do have: a big batch of Italian Wedding Soup (my favorite), the best nurse in the world (Shane believes that ice cream has healing powers–he is wise and good), and BIG plans for the summer!

First of all, this will be my FIRST SUMMER READING PROGRAM! I’ve got some HUGE plans and tons of fun events for the community, so wish me luck! I’m hoping it is the BEST SUMMER EVER!!! I’ll definitely be posting pictures!

I’ve already been invited by TWO book clubs to speak at summer meetings. For anyone wondering, I LOVE going to bookclubs and talking about my book. If you don’t live in the Midwest, I’d be happy to Skype in. If you have a bookclub and you’d like me to come and talk, contact me or my publicist Krista!

I’m lining up some great stops on the book tour front: stay tuned for more information! For now, I can definitely say that I’ll be back at the Minnesota Scottish Fair and Highland Games, as well as the Wisconsin Highland Games.

Lastly (and certainly not least), I’m pumped to take all those hours I was working on homework and spend time WRITING my sequel. I’m on the 4th draft (3rd complete rewrite) and things are finally starting to click. Here’s to hoping I can finish a final draft by the end of 2016. I hope to also update this blog a little bit more regularly throughout the summer. Remember when I was only working part-time at Accidentally Cool Games and as a substitute at the Bemidji Public Library and I posted 3 times a week? While I seriously doubt I’ll have enough time to manage that anymore, I do hope I can update more than once a month now that the blog won’t have school to contend with.

So, how to celebrate all this awesome? Carrot Cake Pancakes sound like a grand idea!! I came up with these on a Sunday morning in April. It was one of those lazy days where breakfast is top priority. We had an excess of carrots and I thought, “I bet I can do something delicious with these.” And so, Carrot Cake Pancakes were born. These are loaded with good stuff: carrots, raisins, coconut, pineapple, and whole wheat four. But, they are also a bit naughty with the homemade coconut whipped cream. The best part: these pancakes, whipped cream and all, are 100% clean and made from whole foods. The end result is a decadent breakfast that doesn’t break the nutrition bank.

Who said you couldn’t have your cake and eat it too? 🙂

Julia’s Carrot Cake Pancakes w/ Homemade Coconut Whipped Cream

pancakes

2 cups whole wheat flour

dash of salt

1 Tablespoon baking powder

2-3 medium carrots

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup coconut shreds

1/2 cup pineapple chunks, drained of juice

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 egg

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 Tablespoons stevia

Directions

Preheat your griddle to 350 degrees.

Mix the milk and vinegar together in a small bowl and set aside.

Take your handy dandy food processor and shred those carrots. Add the pineapple and coconut. Scoop it out of your processor and squeeze out any excess juice. Okay, you’re ready. Mix in the dry ingredients and set aside.

Now take the milk/vinegar mixture and add the maple syrup, egg, and stevia. Whisk that around. Add this to the dry ingredients. If the mixture seems too dry or gloppy, add more milk until you reach your desired consistency. Looking good.

Ladle out that goodness onto your griddle and make yourself some pancakes!

Now you probably want that homemade whipped cream. I’ve got you covered.

CoconutWhippedCream

Forget that store bought stuff. This is the real deal.

1 can coconut cream

2 Tablespoons sucanat

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

It’s best to keep your coconut cream in the refrigerator, upside down.

coconut-whipped-cream-4564

open it from the bottom and just pour off the liquid. Easy.

When you’re ready to make the whipped cream, grab it from the fridge and open the can. Drain off the liquid (don’t throw it away! Keep that good stuff for smoothies), and plop (that’s exactly what it does) the coconut cream into a bowl. Whisk the sucanat and vanilla in. Whisk. Whisk more. Whisk until the cream turns fluffy and whippy (less than 5 minutes,usually). Scoop onto pancakes and DEVOUR!

*Note: if you use sucanat, your whipped cream will be caramel colored. If you can’t handle tan-colored whipped cream, use a different granulated sweetener*

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! If I were home, I’d totally make these pancakes for you. 🙂

 

17
Apr

Waseca Historical Society Author Talk

Seven Stones at the Waseca Historical Society!

Seven Stones at the Waseca Historical Society!

Hello, Everyone! Hello, Spring! As I sit here with my cup of tea on his lovely Sunday morning, it is 73 degrees outside. 73 degrees! During the last week, April shook off the last of  snow and chill, and we are officially DONE with winter.

And then I realized: it’s April 17th. April is more than half over. HOW IS APRIL MORE THAN HALF OVER ALREADY?

Last time I wrote a blog post, I was excited about my upcoming author talk at the Waseca Historical Society and getting ready to go to my friend’s wedding on the East Coast. Since then, I’ve been going into work early almost every day, making up time I missed in order to get ready for one of my biggest library events yet: Larger Than Life Games. It’s an Early Out (so, 3 hours long with over 50 kids attending) with a GIANT game theme. My volunteers and I have been hard at work making and prepping Giant Candyland, Live Pac-Man, Giant Jenga, Giant Dice Games, Giant Puzzles, Giant Bananagrams, and Live Angry Birds. I hope it will all be worth it! I promise to post pictures and let you know how the kids like all the activities. 🙂

But that’s not happening until this Wednesday. Let’s go back a few weeks and talk about the Waseca Historical Society! Thursday, March 31st, I wrapped up my morning Romp & Rhyme Story Time and headed over to the beautiful Waseca Historical Center. This was my first author talk/luncheon where people actually paid for tickets to hear me talk about my book! The Society sold over 55 tickets!

A full house!

A full house!

I was a little nervous (after all, these people PAID to see me. I better be worth it!), but had prepped a short PowerPoint to help me remember all my major points and had practiced my talk with Shane all week. This talk was different from my previous author talks because I got to delve more deeply into the historical aspect of Seven Stones and all the research I conducted. And I have to say, it was the most fun I’ve had giving an author talk!

Having fun at the Waseca Historical Society!

Having fun at the Waseca Historical Society!

As soon as I got up and started talking to the crowd, I felt comfortable and excited for the opportunity to share my novel with new readers. Afterward, I got to sell and sign lots of books and was invited to speak at several book clubs. I can’t wait! It was such a pleasure to speak at such a wonderful location (if you’re in the area and haven’t seen the Waseca Historical Society’s Timeline exhibit, you NEED to!). Thank you SO much to Joan and Carol for making my visit possible! I can’t wait to come back and talk about my sequel. 🙂

Thank you, Joan!

Thank you, Joan!

From there, it was just a few short days and Shane and I were off to Sarah’s wedding in Maryland! A whirlwind of traveling, enjoying ourselves heartily at the rehearsal dinner, and the day was HERE. Sarah and Patrick’s wedding was just amazing—a wonderful start to a truly wonderful couple. I love them both so much, and am so honored to have been co-maid of honor on their big day!

Best wedding party EVER! :)

Best wedding party EVER! 🙂

Shane and I danced the evening away and got to spend the night at the Vandiver Inn (we had the O’Neill suite). This place is so beautiful it shouldn’t be real. I felt like I was a character in Downton Abbey—seriously could get used to that kind of treatment (and FOOD).

Congratulations, Sarah & Patrick!

Congratulations, Sarah & Patrick!

This morning was the first time I’ve had to sit and relax since returning from Maryland. Shane and I made carrot cake pancakes with coconut whipped cream (recipe coming in my next post!), and I’m writing while we watch Liverpool (Shane’s favorite football club). It’s a warm, lazy, sun-soaked morning that I fully intend to indulge in before the craziness of this week begins. Starting tomorrow, I have three library tours, two story times, Mother-Daughter Book Club, Larger Than Life Early Out, a Summer Reading Program meeting, and am leading two sessions (healthy kids’ snacks and kids’ yoga) at the library’s How-To Festival. Oh, and I have a final research paper to write for my Youth Services class.

Wish me luck, everybody!

14
Mar

Pi Day Pie!

A little math humor to start your day…

A glorious Pi Day, one and all!

It certainly has been glorious around here, with record highs in the 60s! I have been soaking up all that sun and dreaming of spring, with all it’s warmth and green. I am so ready for it. Perhaps that’s why Shane and I were inspired to make one of our favorite pies for Pi Day consumption: Coconut Key Lime. I whipped this bad boy together last August while we were trying to beat the head while moving our Bemidji life down to Mankato. It was one of the last things I made in our old kitchen, and it is high time we made this pie in our new one!

YUM!

YUM!

Now, I’m a lucky girl, so while I’m off at work today doing story times and planning my next big Early Out (Space Camp next Wednesday!), Shane will be home making me pie. He is a good man. Some of you who know me well might be asking why I am excited about Pi Day. True, math and I have never really seen eye-to-eye. But, while Pi may equal 3.141592653…, it also equals PIE. Pi = PIE. Now, that’s an equation I completely understand. And, more to the point, Pi = Coconut Key Lime Pie. Do I need to say more? I will anyway. It is tart, sweet, creamy, and AMAZING! The pie is also totally raw and made with completely whole foods ingredients. Go ahead. Eat a slice for breakfast. Or three. I’ve never been good at math anyway. 😉