THE OPEN BOOK

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!

 

12
Jun

Seven Stones eBook is COMING!

June is here! It is officially summer! The close of my birthday season (aka, the month of May) means one thing: SUMMER!!! The first week of June also meant the start of my very first Summer Reading Program (which is why you didn’t hear from me last week). I have been preparing for this since the end of November, but I still couldn’t believe it was finally here! To say I was a bag of nerves and excitement was an understatement, but it turned out to be an AMAZING week!

We started off with our kick-off carnival where over 240 kids signed up for the program and over 300 people played inflatable carnival games, bean bag toss, ran in our bubble run, and ate tasty fruit kabobs. It was just so perfect!

srp

So many kids excited to READ this summer!

Other highlights of the week included our Mayor Story Time where over 70 people attended. That’s right: 7-0!

story time

Yay, Story Time!!!

And I had my first Level Up! session. Of all the summer programs, Level Up! Is kind of my baby. I got the idea from MLA last year: rotating, ready-made STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs in a kit. We got all the materials from a wonderful grant, I put the kits together, and they are rotating around our branch libraries for kids to enjoy, play with, and learn all summer! The first was Electronic Music, complete with digital drum sets, digital guitars, synthesizer pencils (you can actually “play” your drawings!), and piano gloves! Put that all together, and you have one epic jam session in your library!

Needless to say, it was a crazy fun week! Emphasis on the crazy. 😉

And, yes, my birthday weekend WAS fantastic, thank you very much. Book of Mormon was HILARIOUS, as you might imagine. I got to see some of my best friends and favorite people in the world, and–oh yeah–I GOT TO PET SHARKS AND STINGRAYS!

0528161914b

At the Orpheum Theatre!

You guys made my birthday fabulous!

You guys made my birthday fabulous! And, yeah, Katie is dressed up as Elder Price. 🙂

Shane and I went to the Minnesota Zoo on Sunday where they have an open tank filled with Leopard Sharks, Stingrays, Swell Sharks, and Horn Sharks. The tank is deep enough where the animals can swim or dive deep enough to totally avoid humans if they wanted, but they hardly ever did. These sharks were so friendly and social, they would butt up against your hand like a cat. I was rubbing a stingray’s back like a puppy! If you ever get a chance to check out the Minnesota Zoo, DO IT! I’m going back to see my new friends as soon as I can. 🙂

0529161334

Me and my new friends, the Leopard Sharks!

In book-related news, my publishers have started work on the eBook of Seven Stones! This has been the number one request from readers, and I am SO EXCITED to say that the eBook is ON ITS WAY! The final draft was sent off to the publishers for approval last week, and from there it will be converted into my first eBook.  I will DEFINITELY let you know as soon as it becomes available!

It’s going to be an exciting summer, everyone. Stay tuned!
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!

21
Mar

Happy Birthday, Seven Stones!

PARTY! And by party, I mean read my book.

Seven Stones is one-year-old today! It’s really hard to believe that it was only one year ago that my first book was published by the most amazing folks at Riverplace Press. In that year, I went from novel novice to published author, went on a book tour, spoke at libraries, and met more incredible people along the way. This past year has been magical.

Dream come true!

Dream come true!

On this day last year was one of the most memorable, touching, and meaningful events of my life: the book release party. Honestly? I was terrified that no one would show up or that I would mess up the speech I had to deliver. Instead, I was overwhelmed by how many friends and family crowded into Prairie Bay and the scary speech went better than I could have hoped for. Such an amazing day, and I am grateful for every moment and book printed since then (Ahem, 3 printings in case you’re keeping track).

So much love!

So much love!

Thank you to everyone who made my dream a reality. Who listened to me, encouraged me, and never let me doubt myself. And a BIG thank you to all my readers! If you’ve read my book, you are on my list of favorite people. If you haven’t, check out what readers and critics have been saying, then check it out for yourself.

I have a lot more planned for my little book. Hopefully, I’ll have another book birthday to celebrate in the not-so-distant future!

To celebrate a year in my literary life, I made what Shane has dubbed, “the best things I’ve ever baked”: Cranberry Pistachio Scones.

I got the inspiration for these bad boys from my local tea shop. I went to Curiosi-Tea the other weekend and fell in love with their Pistachio Shortbread tea. One whiff of that buttery tea and I was hooked. I’ve been trying to get into baked goods ever since.

Now, if you’re not lucky enough to have pistachio tea around you, you could also try making this recipe with pistachio extract. Equally delicious. Also, don’t sweat it if you don’t have bread flour. Shane and I have been making all of our own bread since December, so we had it at home. If you have a different kind of flour—like all-purpose—feel free to sub.

The most important thing to do is make these scones. They are insanely delicious, fluffy, and just the right amount of sweet. So put the kettle on, grab a cozy blanket, and curl up with my cranberry pistachio scones. I hear they go great with Seven Stones.

Book Birthday Cranberry Pistachio Scones

Baked Pieces of Heaven

Baked Pieces of Heaven

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached bread flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp Pistachio Shortbread tea

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup almond milk

1/3 cup Sucanat

1 tsp vanilla

¼ cup sweetened dried cranberries

¼ cup pistachios, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, and tea. My tea was whole leaf, so I ground it to a fine powder in my mortar and pestle. Add the coconut oil to the dry ingredients and mix in with two forks or pastry cutter (if you’ve got fancy things like that. I don’t.) until the dough is nice and crumbly.

In a separate bowl, combine the almond milk, Sucanat, and vanilla. Fold in cranberries and pistachios. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined (don’t overmix). Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and flatten into a circle. Cut with a floured knife, dividing the dough into 8 equal wedges (like a pie).

Place wedges on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for about 13-15 minutes, until scones have started to brown and firm up.

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Once cool, drizzle with Pistachio Tea Glaze if desired (trust me, you’ll desire it).

Pistachio Tea Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

3 Tbsp almond milk

¼ tsp Pistachio Shortbread tea, finely ground Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth. Add more icing sugar or milk to adjust the consistency if necessary.

Happy Monday!

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. 😉

 

03
Mar

Girl on a Train (Me!)

The first draft

The first draft

PHEW! Life is returning to normal (or as normal as it gets around here!) and I couldn’t be happier. Last week was nothing short of INSANE. Completely insane, but completely fun. To top it off, I had an adventure to Maryland thrown in.

What does insanity look like? Last Monday, I had two storytimes, a meeting at the high school, and Mother-Daughter Book Club at night. Tuesday, I had a storytime for 60 kids (note: if you want to feel like a rock star, become a Children’s Librarian. I was walking through the hallways of the school with my ukulele on my back and my bin of fun – books and whatnot – when the kids saw me from their classrooms as they were lining up. I walked down the hall to a chorus of, “Ms. Julia’s here! I saw her! There she is!” Brangelina’s got nothing on me). Wednesday, I had a Baby Lapsit in the morning and my Art Early Out for 50+ kids from 2-5. Immediately after clean up, I was on the road to Wisconsin to catch a train.

One of our art projects: Library Kadinsky Tree!

One of our art projects: Library Kadinsky Tree!

Thursday, I was on my train to Maryland for my friend’s bridal shower and bachelorette party (guess who was in charge of planning?).When I got in on Friday, Sarah (the best person in the whole world) took me out for frozen yogurt and manicures. You can see why I went all the way to Maryland for this lady.

Allie, Sarah, and Me!

Allie, Sarah, and Me!

The bridal shower was Saturday at an AMAZING tea room in Ellicott City (a tea party?! No one would have guessed I planned that! 🙂 ).

Tea party in the library! Where else?

Tea party in the library! Where else?

Afterward, Sarah (the beautiful bride) and I rushed home to prep pizza crusts and Allie (bridesmaid #1) bought scads, yes SCADS of junk food. Sarah, in her infinite wisdom, requested a Girl’s Night In theme to her party. And I am all about that life. We ate junk food, played games, and watched movies. Perfect.

So. Much. Food!

So. Much. Food!

Sunday, I was back on the train and headed back to Minnesota. Like I said, crazy but FUN!

A lot of people ask why I take the train instead of fly. Well, first of all, I HATE flying. It terrifies me like spiders terrify Ron Weasley. But, more importantly, a train ride to Maryland means 17 hours all to myself. I booked myself a sleeper car (which comes with all meals in the dining car included!), brought my writing notebook, books, and was in HEAVEN. I got more writing done on the train than I have been able to in a long time because it was just me and the words. Train trips are a writer’s dream. I got to eat, sleep, read, write, repeat. And the best part is that I have another train trip in April (the WEDDING) to do it all again. 🙂

That was my crazy, wonderful week! How was yours?

Happy Thursday!

13
Feb

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix and Book Updates!

If you’ve been concerned about my lengthy absence, worry not! I’m not dead. I’m just in graduate school (which some days makes leaves me feeling pretty close to dead). Nay, dear reader, I’m alive and very well.

The past few weeks have brought about a new semester, but also some exciting news! First, my book has been chosen for my regional library’s teen Battle of the Books competition!!! The library system bought 80 copies of Seven Stones to give to teens who participate in the event! 80 teens are going to read my book!!! AND my library system has asked me to be present on the actual day to sign books and meet my readers.

Hopefully not at the book signing

If that wasn’t exciting enough for you, the Waseca County Historical Society has invited me to speak about Seven Stones in March! It feels so good know how many people are reading the story I wrote and really connecting with it. That’s amazing.

How shall we toast all this amazing? With hot chocolate, of course! I don’t know what the climes have been like in your area, but in Minnesota we’ve had two blizzards in two weeks. With another on the way tonight. Three blizzards in three weeks. The hot chocolate has become mandatory.

Good advice!

But as you know, I am not a fan of store bought packages of anything that contain hard to pronounce (and harder to stomach) ingredients. During the first blizzard (yup, that’s an accurate way to keep track of time up here), Shane and I decided to play around with our very own hot cocoa mix, and I am prod to say that it is fabulous! Real ingredients, real good hot cocoa. All we did was pour the goods into a mason jar and shook it like polaroid picture. Done. Sip. Mmmmm.

Hot Cocoa Mix of Love

Makes 1 large mason jar of mix

Or 2 of these little guys to give as gifts!

2 cups organic nonfat milk powder

2 cups organic cocoa powder

1 cup stevia (I like the baking mix)

1/4 cup Sucanat or other granulated sweetener

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tablespoon cinnamon (optional)

Easiest Directions Ever

Pour all ingredients into a mason jar. Give it a few vigorous shakes. Done.

I like my hot cocoa really chocolatey, so I do at least 4 Tablespoons in a mug of hot water or milk. Snuggle up with a mug and your favorite book. Seven Stones, perhaps…

25
Jan

Vegan Haggis

The man himself: Rabbie Burns

On the 25th of January, Scottish people around the world gather to celebrate Burns Night. This is one of my favorite Scottish holidays because it is so quirky and fun. The night celebrates the birth of the great poet and musician, Robert Burns (or “Rabbie” Burns as he is known across the pond). Burns is known as the Scottish Shakespeare, and if you’ve ever sang “Auld Lang Syne,” you know at least one of his poems.

I love Robert Burns. In addition to being a fantastic poet, he was a fascinating human being: rebel teenager, serious drinker, and all-around ladies man (he had 12 kids from 4 women). Most of all, he wrote his poems in Scots (a Scottish dialect of English that has its own unique vocabulary) at a time when anything Scottish was considered barbaric and lowly. He elevated Scottish culture and language into a proud form of art, and to that we raise our haggis.

Which brings me to vegan haggis. You might be thinking, VEGAN haggis? Why?! Well, let me explain by telling you exactly what the traditional version of the Scottish national food includes: a sheep and/or cow’s heart, liver, kidney, and “lights” (aka, intestines) boiled with oatmeal in a sheep’s stomach, lung, or bladder. Yum, yum. You can’t say the Scots weren’t economical.

The problem is, Rabbie Burns LOVED haggis. He even wrote a poem about it, calling haggis the “Great Chieftain o’ the Pudding Race.” On Burns Night, it is tradition to recite that poem as the host presents the main dish with all sorts of pomp and circumstance.

Now, I have to assume that even the meat lovers out there don’t want to get that intimate with all those organ meats. If you want to celebrate Burns Night without someone else’s stomach in your stomach, try this vegan haggis recipe!

Easy to put together, full of hearty vegetables and protein from the lentils, and best of all, no intestines! What more could you ask for?

Burns Night Vegan Haggis

Recipe adapted from Emma’s Little Kitchen

½ cup green lentils

½ cup pearl barley

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 large carrots, finely chopped

8 oz mushrooms, finely chopped

½ tsp allspice

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 cup rolled oats

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 cups vegetable stock

2 tsp molasses

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Grease a round baking dish or bread pan (like you’re making meatloaf), and set aside.
  3. Put lentils and barley into a large pot, with enough water to generously cover everything by a few inches. Pop on the lid, and bring to a boil, reduce to simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils and barley are tender. Drain any excess water if necessary, and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over a medium heat, Add the onion and carrot, and cook for about 5 minutes until beginning to brown. Stir in the mushrooms, and spices and cook for about 3 more minutes until the mushrooms start releasing their liquid. Next, add the oats, Worcestershire, stock, and molasses. Bring the pan to a boil, and reduce to simmer for about ten minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the mixture is thickened. Season generously with black pepper and salt, and stir in the cooked lentils and barley.
  5. Tip the mixture and pat down into the greased baking dish or bread pan, and cover the top with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 30 minutes more until the haggis is cooked through and firm. Carefully tip out onto a plate and cut into wedges.

Suggested Pairing

Neeps and Tatties (turnips and potatoes), and a cold pint! Also, make sure to stop by your local library before your Burns Night dinner to checkout a book of his poems to read aloud with your guests!

Happy Burns Night!