Category: Friday Favorites

24
Jun

Friday Favorites: Deep Valley Book Festival!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Friday Favorite! But this week definitely deserves it. After today, the third week of Summer Reading will be in the books, I’ve gotten some writing done on the sequel, and I’ve got a book festival coming up on Sunday! Let’s check out some awesome happenings:

International Yoga Day

June 21st was International Yoga Day! I have been doing yoga for over four years now, and it has totally changed my life. For those of you who don’t know my hero backstory, I used to be hard core into martial arts (Muay Thai primarily) and competitive weight lifting. I trained six days a week, fighting in the ring as much as possible. Until one day. I got my knee blown out in a fight–I saw the kick coming and brought my knee up too late–and my fighting days were over. I got knee surgery in 2008, but couldn’t continue training at that level anymore.

A few years ago, I tried a yoga class for the first time and fell in love. The low impact was perfect for my knee; the intensity and challenge reminded me of why I loved martial arts. Over the years, yoga strengthened my knee so much that I can now mountain bike and hike without pain.

In honor of International Yoga Day, here’s one of my favorite classes with instructor Ali Kamenova (I highly recommend).

I do all my yoga at home, for free, solely through Ali’s videos on YouTube. You don’t need a fancy gym membership or equipment to give her classes a try! They come at all levels and lengths of time, from 15-minute Tabata intervals to over an hour of power yoga. Her style changed my idea of what yoga was (don’t think it’s all relaxing stretches. Ali will kick your BUTT and make you feel good at the same time). Yoga = Awesome.

Bubble Wrap Art

 

I was SUPER excited about this art project! What is Bubble Wrap Art? Prepare to be amazed.

Step 1: Take a piece of bubble wrap

Step 2: Paint it

Step 3: Put a piece of paper on a tarp

Step 4: Lay the bubble wrap paint-side down on the paper

Step 5: STOMP ON THE BUBBLE WRAP!

This project was so much messy fun, I can’t wait to do it again!! We had over 140 people come to paint and stomp. Thank goodness for tarps. 🙂

Deep Valley Book Festival

My first ever Mankato book event is happening THIS SUNDAY! I’ll be at the Deep Valley Book Festival on June 26th from 11:00-4:00. In addition to selling and signing copies of Seven Stones, I’ll also be doing a Romp & Rhyme Story Time at 11:30, and a Yoga Story Time at 1:00 (so come say hi to Shane who will be manning my author table during those times. Make sure you ask him all the really tough questions about writing 😉 ). See you on Sunday!

Book of the Week

Trespassing Across America: One Man’s Epic, Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland by Ken Ilgunas

Book of the Week!

“It started as a far-fetched idea—to hike the entire length of the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. But in the months that followed, it grew into something more for Ken Ilgunas. It became an irresistible adventure—an opportunity not only to draw attention to global warming but also to explore his personal limits. So in September 2012, he strapped on his backpack, stuck out his thumb on the interstate just north of Denver, and hitchhiked 1,500 miles to the Alberta tar sands. Once there, he turned around and began his 1,700-mile trek to the XL’s endpoint on the Gulf Coast of Texas, a journey he would complete entirely on foot, walking almost exclusively across private property.

Both a travel memoir and a reflection on climate change, Trespassing Across America is filled with colorful characters, harrowing physical trials, and strange encounters with the weather, terrain, and animals of America’s plains. A tribute to the Great Plains and the people who live there, Ilgunas’s memoir grapples with difficult questions about our place in the world: What is our personal responsibility as stewards of the land? As members of a rapidly warming planet? As mere individuals up against something as powerful as the fossil fuel industry?”

You need to read this book. PERIOD. I usually don’t get into non-fiction, but I’ve been DEVOURING this narrative. It is told like a story, with plenty of adventure and Lord of the Rings references to keep me happy. Plus, it is a topic close to my heart. I highly recommend!

Happy Friday!

 

26
Sep

Weekly Wrap-Up: Royalty Checks, Conferences, and Celebrations!

Horray! Saturday!

It’s not Friday. I accept this. So, instead of Friday Favorites, I’m calling this the Weekly Wrap-Up. Better late than never, right? I’ve also accepted that writing three blog posts a week while starting a new job, grad school, trying to write a sequel, and have a semblance of a life is insanity. For now, at least, I think I’m going to switch to two blog posts a week. Not that I won’t write more when I have the time (haha), but two posts is much more feasible than three right now.

But enough of that–let’s get on to the actual post! This past week was a curve ball. I attended not one, but TWO workshops on early literacy and librarianship. One of the workshops was in the Cities (the Twin Cities or Minneapolis/St. Paul for those of you outside Minnesota), which was amazing because I got to have dinner with one of my close friends from high school. Also, I had my first full staff meeting with the whole library system. Does it make me a huge nerd to say that I was REALLY excited for the staff meeting? Most likely. 🙂

Besides the workshops, here are a few other highlights from my week:

My First Royalty Check!

That’s right, people! I OFFICIALLY HAVE MADE MONEY FROM MY BOOK! Actual, real money! From my own writing! I can’t tell you how amazing that feels. I literally danced around and sang when my publishers gave me the check. And speaking of Seven Stones

River Place Press is Running a THIRD PRINTING!!!!!

Third Printing!

Third Printing!

A third printing. Three printings in one year. Can you believe it?!? People are reading my book! PEOPLE ARE READING MY BOOK! If you are one of those people, THANK YOU!!! If you aren’t one of those people, you really should reconsider your life choices.

Eid al-Adha

I LOVE experiencing new cultures and ESPECIALLY new foods. On Friday night, I had the amazing opportunity to celebrate Eid al-Adha with new friends, and it was wonderful! Mankato has a very large Somali population, and most of the community practices Islam. I had never been invited to an Islamic celebration before, but when my cousin asked me if I wanted to attend a feast how could I resist?!

Because I’m a nerd who loves to learn, I did some research on the festival of Eid. Eid al-Adha is known as the “Festival of Sacrifice” which celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. After a day of prayer, greetings, and the exchange of gifts, there is a big celebration where you eat tons of delicious, delicious foods while visiting with friends. What could be bad about that?! Answer: nothing.

The spread!

The spread!

I had never had Somali food before, and found that it is FABULOUS! My favorites were Samboosa (fried savory triangles stuffed with spiced meat), Bur (a slightly sweet fried dough), Shaah Somali (a light, milky, very sweet chai-like tea flavored with cardamom and other spices. Shane hates tea, but he loved Shaah Somali. He drank a whole cup!).

Bajia: little fried bits of heaven

Bajia: little fried bits of heaven

My absolute favorite food was Bajia. If you like falafel, you’ll love bajia–they are little balls made from chick peas and fried to perfection. I. Love. Bajia. Also on the menu was Kahawa (fried coffee. That’s right. FRIED coffee infused with cardamom, spices, and sweetened) and a spiced rice, potato, and meat dish called Bariis Iskukaris.

All of the food was so good it was hard to stop eating! It didn’t help that all the other women kept telling me that I was too skinny and had to eat more. Oh well, twist my arm. 🙂 I love the spices in Somali food–especially the use of cardamom. Cardamom has always been one of my favorite flavors–such a sweet, earthy, spicy flavor–and it was in almost everything I ate.

Dessert: simple biscuits dunked in the sweet, spiced Kahawa or Shaah Somali.

Dessert: simple biscuits dunked in the sweet, spiced Kahawa or Shaah Somali.

I feel so fortunate to be invited to such a beautiful celebration! There I was, a Celtic lass talking and laughing with women from Somali, the Sudan, and Yemen. It was awesome! I met some new friends and found some new favorite foods. Eid Mubarak. 🙂

That’s my week! I’m off to do homework!

Happy Saturday!

18
Sep

Friday Favorites: The Life of a Librarian/Writer

As I write this, it’s still technically Friday! I intended to get up an hour early and have my blog post written and up for the world to see before work. Then, my alarm clock didn’t go off this morning. All was well, I still woke up in plenty of time for work but no time for a blog post. Now, as I sit on my couch with a lovely cup of tea in hand, I am ready to wrap up this week and enjoy the weekend!

What did this week bring? Well, a cold slap of reality for one. I had the loftiest, grandest ambitions for my writing and blogging this week. I thought I could get back into writing every day and blogging thrice a week. Alas. I forgot what a cruel mistress graduate school truly is. I am sad to say that, though I got an entire chapter written last week, I have written ZERO words this week. Oooo. It hurts to say that, but the truth is the truth. I am hoping for a late surge this weekend, so wish me luck. Things are really heating up in the sequel–I just need to find the time to put all the words in my head down onto paper.

In the meantime, I’ve been playing board games, doing yoga, rocking story times at my library, watching movies with Shane, and planning a whole marathon of autumn inspired baking!!! Here are some of this week’s highlights:

Curiosi-Tea House

Curiosi-Tea!

It’s official. I found my favorite spot in Mankato: The Curiosi-Tea House!!! I drove by this place one day and had to go back. It is HEAVEN in this little tea shop! They have the most adorable decorations, delicious tea, and scrumptious treats. The best part is that they SERVE tea, so you can enjoy afternoon tea with your friends! The owner is absolutely lovely and offers over 150 different kinds of tea in her shop. I literally could spend all day there, and I just might while I work on homework this weekend! Stop by for a cuppa if you want to say ‘ello! 🙂

Story Time!

Friendship Story Time

Friendship Story Time

My second week of doing story time was fantastic! Above is a picture of my preschool-aged story time setup. The theme was Friendship: we read You, A Visitor for Bear, and Two Bunny Buddies (I highly recommend all of these titles!). As usual, I had a bunch of songs, fingerplays, and dances for the kids (my favorite was the “Dancing Scarf Blues” where the kids all danced around with colorful scarves and instruments–led by yours truly). For the craft, we made pipe cleaner friendship bracelets. The kids had a fantastic time and so did I!

I get to go to two library conferences this next week, and I SUPER stoked but also sad because I’m going to miss story time! Instead, the Lead Librarian gets to lead a truly epic story time filled with BUBBLE MACHINES and a fun “sink or float?” activity. Needless to say, I am bummed to miss the debut of the bubble machine, but I know Matthew will have as much fun playing with the kids as I would. 🙂

Moonflow Yoga

This class has been my lifesaver this week. Moonflow yoga is intense, relaxing, and completely rejuvenating. I love it so much that I want to share it with you! Ali Kamenova is my favorite yoga teacher (with TONS of free classes on YouTube), and this is possibly one of my favorite classes of all time. If you’re feeling stressed or tired, click “play” and get your Zen on.

Book of the Week: Stella by Starlight

Fantastic read!

Stella lives in the segregated South—in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can’t. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn’t bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they’re never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella’s community—her world—is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don’t necessarily signify an end.

I am LOVING this book. The author has this magical way of weaving words like poetry; the characters are lovable, real, and the story is gripping. It is an honest picture of the South during an ugly period of history, and Stella is a really cool heroine. I will be spending some happy hours on the couch with my faithful mug of tea and this book on Sunday. 🙂

That’s all for this week! Happy Friday!

11
Sep

Friday Favorites!

Hey, All! Good to be back! The last few weeks have been a whirlwind, and this past week was no different. The good news is that I’m starting to get into a routine, both with school, the new job, and writing.

What does that mean? Hopefully, it means that I will be back to posting three times a week like I was before the move, AND that the sequel will be finished before the end year. That’s my new goal. It used to be September, but with all the madness of packing, unpacking, and starting a new life, I’ve barely gotten to write. I’m going to start my weekly word count again soon, and hopefully have a few new recipes to share next week as well (I haven’t had time to cook yet in our new apartment. For those of you who know me, you can imagine how much that has been killing me!).

And now, for Friday Favorites! The FIRST Friday Favorites post in Mankato! YAY! So, what have we been up to this week?

2015 Highland Games

It was a good day to be Scottish!

It was a good day to be Scottish!

I was SO excited to be a part of the Games that I’ve been attending since high school. And it was BETTER than I imagined! My goal was to sell 100 books (50 each day), but I brought a few extras. Just to be positive, you know? Well, I should have sold more because I am SOLD OUT of the second printing! I sold 118 books!

THANK YOU to all my new readers (I loved meeting you! Enjoy the novel!), old friends who came out to see me, and everyone who worked so hard to pull off the Games. I can’t wait for next year!

My First Storytime!

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All set and ready to ROCK!

My very first storytimes were this week and they were fantastic! I had a Baby Lapsit on Wednesday, and my Romp & Rhyme Storytime on Thursday. The picture above is from my Romp & Rhyme, and me & the kids ROCKED it! My theme was Back to School. We read Pete The Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, Splat the Cat, Maisy Goes to Preschool, and Mouse’s First Day. Of course, we rocked out to songs and played lots of fun games. Afterward, I had several parents thank me for the program and say they would make storytime part of their weekly routine! YAY!

Mineopa Falls

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The Falls at Sunset

Yesterday was my favorite day in Mankato so far. Shane had a day off and I only had to be at the library for storytime, so we had a WHOLE DAY together. It was a gorgeous day for biking, so Shane planned a bike ride, but didn’t tell me where we were going.

Waterfalls?! I couldn't believe it!

Waterfalls?! I couldn’t believe it!

If you’ve never biked in Mankato, be warned: it is HILLY. Some of these hills want to kill you, and they nearly did. But we are tough Hobbits, and biked to Mineopa Park up and down some truly beautiful countryside. When we got to the park, I found out why Shane wanted to come here: WATERFALLS!

What a perfect day!

What a perfect day!

We had a picnic right next to the beautiful falls. It was perfect, and such an adventurous ride! I can’t wait to explore more Mankato parks!

That’s my week in a nutshell! How was yours?

Happy Friday!

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. 🙂

 

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? 😉

 

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!

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. 🙂

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!

 

10
Jul

Friday Favorites: Five Year Anniversary!

The radio interview this morning was AMAZING! A HUGE thank you to the folks at KAXE for inviting me on the show and letting me spread the word about Seven Stones. I was a teensy bit nervous (read: really, REALLY nervous) about going live on the radio, but Heidi and John were so easy and fun to talk to! Thank you to ALL for listening!

I am off to Cherry Street Books in Alexandria to sign books from 12-2pm tomorrow, then to the Brainerd Public Library on Monday from 12-1pm for the Brown Bag Author Program. I hope to see you there!

All these things are reasons to celebrate. But the REAL reason I am celebrating July 10th? It is Shane and my FIVE YEAR WEDDING ANNIVERSARY!

Five years!

Five years!

I can’t believe it. It feels like we just got married yesterday! Our wedding was an absolute fabulous event, and the marriage that has been taking place since then has been a dream come true. Shane is my best friend, partner in crime, confidant, cheerleader, and the love of my life.

Look at those chops!

Look at those chops! Such cute Freshmen.

Having him as a husband is the best part of my life, and gives meaning to everything else I do. There is no way I could be doing what I am doing without his constant love, support, and encouragement. He makes me want to be a better person, and is always there when I need him with a hug or ice cream 🙂 (there have been plenty of both in this relationship!). These past five years have been some of the best of my life, and I can’t wait to see what the next five brings!

What a good looking couple!

What a good looking couple!

Tonight, we’re celebrating by grilling, a bonfire, going through our wedding photos, reading our vows, dancing, and plenty of delicious treats! To mark the occasion, I changed out of the fuzzy purple robe I conducted my radio interview in and put on my wedding tiara, Irish necklace I wore for our wedding, and a fancy dress. 🙂

Here's to the next five years!

Here’s to the next five years!

I’ll see you guys on Monday after I get back from the Brown Bag program with plenty of photos and stories. Until then, I’m going to relax and enjoy my anniversary!

Happy Friday!

26
Jun

Friday Favorites: Wrapping Up June

This week has been bursting with gorgeous summer weather and beautiful sunshine. I have to admit: summer used to be my least favorite time of the year. I just don’t like being hot, and summers in Southeast Wisconsin are hot, sticky, and humid. Living in northern Minnesota, however, you learn to appreciate warmth. Honestly, you learn to appreciate positive temperatures–however short a time they last. Up here, the summer temperature hangs around the upper seventies and the daylight stretches past 10pm. I’ve been reveling in the sunshine–and so has my garden! Besides the lovely weather, here are a few other things that have made my Friday Favorites list this week!

Thai Crunch Salad

Recipe adapted and picture from Once Upon a Chef

Warm weather makes me crave refreshing foods and cool, fresh produce. This Thai Crunch Salad recipe combines a whole bunch of power veggies with a kickin’ peanut sauce. The result is an amazing salad you can’t stop eating–and one that so good for you that you don’t have to!

The original recipe called for Napa cabbage, but I just substituted with whatever I had on hand. Here’s what I tossed into my salad–mix and match with whatever you have and start munching!

For the Salad

1 green cabbage, diced

1 cucumber, sliced thin

6-7 carrots, diced

A bunch of chives (from my CSA), chopped

1 bell pepper, diced

For protein, I also added Ginger-Sesame baked tofu (recipe from Thug Kitchen cookbook)

For the Thai Peanut Dressing

1/4 cup peanut butter

2 Tablespoons rice vinegar (I had white wine vinegar, so that’s what I used and it worked just fine)

2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice, from one lime

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce (I use tamari)

4 Tablespoons honey

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1-inch square piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 teaspoon salt

A bunch of fresh cilantro (half for the sauce, half to sprinkle on top of the salad)

Blend all ingredients for the dressing in a blender. Then, chop all the veggies. Pour the dressing over the veggies. Add tofu or other protein, if desired. DEVOUR! 🙂

Next Stop: Book World in Baxter!

Book World, here I come!

The Seven Stones Book Tour’s next stop is at Book World in Baxter. I’ll be signing books from 11-2pm on Saturday, and am just so excited! I LOVE touring with my book. It is literally a dream come true and part of me still doesn’t believe it’s real, even though I’ve been at a different book store every weekend in June!

July is going to be even BUSIER! After a short break for the 4th of July holiday, I’ll be traveling almost non-stop. Here’s what’s going on in July:

Thanks to Krista at Blue Cottage Agency for making it happen! I hope to see you all at my author events. 🙂

Reader Photos!

Thanks for taking me on vacation, Jenn!

Thanks for taking Seven Stones on vacation, Jenn!

People have been uploading pictures of their copies of Seven Stones to social media! THANK YOU! I love getting these pictures and messages about how much you are enjoying my story. Social media is a wonderful way to get people interested in and talking about Seven Stones. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the pictures, comments, and reviews that have been posted! Want to tell people what you think of Seven Stones? Go to Goodreads, Amazon, or LibraryThing to post your review! I’ll also copy your review on my website for the world to see. You’ll be famous. 🙂

Love it!!!

Love it!!!

Book of the Week: Anne of Avonlea

I did not grow up reading Anne of Green Gables like so many other little girls. I was too busy reading all the Star Wars and Dear America books I could get my grubby mitts on, and I scoffed at poor Anne.

I only picked up a copy for the book club I was leading last year–and instantly fell in love. Anne Shirley is the type of girl I would have loved to be friends with. She is feisty, smart, and has the same luck for getting into trouble that I do. I’ve been hesitant to read the sequels because I figured nothing could compare with Green Gables. So far, Anne of Avonlea has delivered in the same delightful ways the first novel did. If you’ve never picked up one of L.M. Montgomery’s classic books, I highly recommend doing so! Anne is a perfect summertime read.

Word Count

784 words this week. What a stinker. After being sick last week, I found myself running around like crazy trying to do all sorts of catch-up work. When I finally had down time, I was flighty and distracted. I have the ideas in my head, I just couldn’t tackle them on the page this week. My goal for next week remains the same: I WILL hit 3,000 words.

Happy Friday!

19
Jun

Friday Favorites: Beagle & Wolf Author Festival

Well, it is Friday and I am quite pleased to announce that I AM feeling fabulous! That Italian Wedding Soup really did the trick: I’ve been slurping bowls of it all week and am finally starting to feel like myself again. It got a little dicey there for a while. I lost five pounds in four days–yikes! But don’t worry, I am doing my very best to eat my way back to normal. My appetite has revved up and really am feeling great. Get ready, Park Rapids! Local author coming at ya!

So, besides the return of my good health, here are a few other things that made the Friday Favorites list this week!

Beagle & Wolf Books and Bindery Author Festival!

Next stop on my Seven Stones Book Tour: Park Rapids, Minnesota! This event is quite different than the regular book signing or reading. This is an all-day literary extravaganza! Over 30 other Minnesota authors will be at the festival, doing readings, and signing books! Come at 1:30 to hear William Kent Krueger read from his newest book, and stick around to say hi to me at my table! I’ll be there from 1:30-3:30. So stop by to grab a few books, meet authors, and have a grand time!

Apricot-Ginger Tea Scones

earl grey

When I started feeling better, I knew what I wanted more than anything else: a cup of tea and a chewy, fluffy scone. I whipped together a batch of my Earl Grey Scones with Lemon Icing, but added dried apricots and ginger to give it a little kick. Man, am I glad I did! This new version adds a lot of depth to the scones and really brings them to the next level of delicious. I’m definitely making them again and again! And for those of you who may not love traditional dry scones, these have moisture and fluffiness while being dense and not too sweet. They have Shane’s stamp of approval (who is a self-proclaimed scone hater). I only had powdered ginger at the time, but I will use fresh ginger next time! To make my Apricot-Ginger Tea Scones, follow my Earl Grey Scone recipe and add:

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

2 tsp powdered ginger (1 tsp fresh grated ginger)

Book of the Week: Vegan Cookbooks!

I’ve been playing around with incorporating more plant-based recipes in our diet. We are really good at eating our fruits and veggies, but Shane and I (like most Wisconsinites) tend to go a bit heavy on the cheese and dairy. So, to mix things up and keep meals healthy, I’ve been checking out purely plant-based foods to mix into our weekly meals. The results have been some truly delicious, super healthy foods! Here are some of my favorite vegan cookbooks, along with the recipes we’ve been trying. Whether you are vegetarian, vegan, looking to eat healthier, searching for something new to try, or scrounging for a Meatless Monday recipe, these are my favorite vegan cookbooks:

Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon

The Oh She Glows website has been one of my go-to cooking blogs for a while. When Angela released her cookbook, I knew it would be a winner! Oh She Glows is without doubt the most used cookbook in our house. Here’s a few of our favorite recipes you’ll find inside: Mashed Cauliflower with Mushroom Gravy, Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas, Pumpkin Custard Pie with Coconut Whipped Cream, Grilled Portobello Salad, Roasted Beet & Hazelnut Salad, Gym Rat Smoothie, Pumpkin Pie Smoothie, Avocado-Basil Pasta.

YumUniverse by Heather Crosby

You ever come across a recipe that totally changes your life? That is the YumUniverse recipe for Pad Thai. Game changer. Another completely delicious and new favorite in our home is her recipe for Buckwheat porridge. Sounds weird, but it amazing and simple.

Detoxinista by Megan Gilmore

Usually, when I hear the word “detox,” I cringe. I don’t believe in juice-fasting or any other type of fasting. Your body craves nutrition, and that is exactly what I give mine. Meghan’s approach to “detox” is not what you think. Her cookbook is all about incorporating whole foods into your diet in very easy and tasty recipes. I have been following her blog for years and just got her cookbook. Here are some of my favorites: Chocolate Breakfast Smoothie, Chinese Cabbage Salad, peanut butter cups (from her website), healthier–and tastier–Klondike bars (website).

And, of course, the Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck cookbook. There are just too many amazing recipes to list, but check out this post for that awesome soup recipe!

So, there you are: my top picks for cookbooks! They all have no-fuss, easy recipes that result in truly delicious food. What are you waiting for? Go check them out and have fun experimenting!

Word Count

2,248. HUZZAH!!!! Next week’s word count goal: 3,000 words!

Happy Friday!

 

12
Jun

Friday Favorites: Seven Stones Book Tour!

Going on TOUR!

Going on TOUR!

Another awesome week filled with delicious food, friends, and maybe even a little writing. So many cool things happened that it is hard to choose just a few favorites! One of the big highlights was getting to interview Candace Simar, of course, but the biggest is coming up on Saturday. That’s right, folks! The next stop on the Seven Stones book tour is at Caribou Coffee in Baxter, Minnesota. I’ll be selling & signing books, drinking coffee, and visiting with old friends and new readers! Grab a latte and join me from 1-3pm. 🙂

So, those are the BIG highlights, but here are some other great things about this week that made the list for this Friday Favorites:

Our First CSA Share!

Shane and I are officially registered for our very first CSA half-share! CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and means that we get our produce directly from a local family farm. How it works is you pay the farm a specific amount of money prior to the season–think of it as an investment in the farm. The farmers take that money and use it to buy seed, machinery, updates or whatever else they need to make their farms amazing. In return, you get a delivery of whatever they are growing every week.

The farm we have chosen is Northern Lights farm in Solway, Minnesota. They are an organic farm that also offers truly free range eggs, grass fed Highland beef, honey, a variety of seasonal produce, and bread in their weekly shares. The season begins during the last weekend in June and runs for 18 weeks. The total cost of the half-share (big enough for a family of 2-4, or in Shane and my case, two rabbit spouses 🙂 ) comes out to be about $16.00/week. How cool is that?! For $16.00/week we are going to have super fresh, healthy, organic produce right from our community. I’m SO excited!

I am passionate about everything CSA’s stand for: supporting local agriculture, organic farming & food, and eating tons of delicious, fresh produce. Everyone I know who has participated in CSA loves it, and I’ve wanted to try being a part of it for years! Northern Lights is just such a perfect fit, and the share will definitely save us money while supporting great causes. I’ll be posting pictures of our weekly CSA haul as soon as it begins!

 

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

You heard me. Chocolate melt-in-your-mouth heaven coating thick, rich peanut butter. Whipped together in a matter of minutes. The best part? These mini-cupcake sized treats are totally devoid of refined oils, sugars, wax (yup, that’s an ingredient in Reese’s) or artificial anything. And did I mention that they are FREAKING DELICIOUS?!

One of my favorite cooking blogs posted a recipe for homemade peanut butter cups a while back, but I was a little intimidated to make candy. Turns out, I had nothing to fear! All you need is a microwave to melt the coconut oil, a whisk, two bowls, a muffin tin (cupcake liners optional), and a freezer.

This recipe from Detoxinista is a new staple in the house of Lee. Seriously, why WOULDN’T you try it? Go make some. Right now. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

 

Book of the Week: Persuasion by Jane Austen

If you couldn’t tell from my Jane Austen Tea Party, I am a pretty big fan of her novels. Jane has always been one of my absolute favorite authors, and such an inspiration for me. She was a feminist back when women were regarded as little more than property, and her witty, funny, and clever writing style charms and endears me. The woman’s got it all.

I’ve almost read all the Austen novels: I’ve just got Persuasion and Lady Susan left to go. So far, Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility have been my favs, but they might have to make room for Persuasion to join the list. While Lizzy Bennett will always be my favorite heroine, I dig the story between Anne and Captain Wentworth. Grab a cup of tea, a homemade peanut butter cup, and settle into some classic English literature!

Word Count

Drum roll please…1,315. Still off the mark from 2,000, but I’m going to try again next week. It’s more than last week, so PROGRESS! I think my main word count limitation is not having a steady writing schedule. I’m going to try to implement one this next week and see how it goes. Wish me luck!

Happy Friday!