Category Archives: Books

Monday…Christmas Eve…I Need More Time!

Where does the time really go to!?!  I know I keep asking this, but I would like an answer.  Since we are not going anywhere for the holidays, and no one is visiting us, I figured I should use this time to get some things done around the house.  Therefore, I have set quite a few goals I would like to accomplish over the holidays, and it looks like I’m going to need more time!  The only thing that is done (and done early) was the present wrapping.

laundry room

One of my major goals is cleaning our laundry room.  Over the past month it has become a dumping ground for everything!  My husband dumps his hunting clothes and junk, I dump laundry and recycling, and our son…well, it looks like he is the clean one and us parents are the slobs.  How did that happen?  So, I will be finishing off this project today!  What are you doing for Christmas Eve?

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Then, I have a massive stack of magazines to get through.  Plus a few books too!  Last night I stayed up late reading again.  A sweet friend of mine (thank you Karen) sent me the book The School of Essential Ingredients for Hanukkah.  She enclosed a note telling me that I should take some time to relax, and that this book would help me to relax.  So far I’m enjoying the book and the cooking in it!  I’m now reading 3 books at once!  How does this keep happening to me!?!

gone girl

I’m still trying to get past the beginning (stuck at pg 39) of Gone Girl.  I keep hearing about how great this book is, but the beginning is kinda slow.  Now I know that there are a lot of books out there that start out slow and then suck you right in and keep you up all night reading.  I’ve read quite a few of those books myself, so I know I just need to steam ahead with Gone Girl and get to that “suck-you-in” part.

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We did get the tree up yesterday!  We waited till the last minute due to our dear sweet dog Hank who has an aversion to Christmas trees.  Last year he destroyed the tree, 9 strands of LED lights, and ALL the Hallmark ornaments on the tree.  Then, just to prove some kind of sick point, Hank chewed through the cord on my Dyson.  This all happened in a 30 minute time span while I was next door at our neighbors.  So, this year we put the tree up at the last minute to avoid any problems.  It is kinda bare due to the ornaments that were destroyed last year, but our son loves it, so I’m happy.

breakfast collage

Well, you cannot have a Christmas Eve post without me mentioning food.  This morning my husband made us some of the best Belgian waffles ever!  It was a yeast dough from King Arthur Flour, and those waffles were divine.  Oh, we had some healthy scrambled eggs to go along with the waffles too!  On a side note…Please enjoy your holiday eating and don’t feel guilty. We all need to kick back and enjoy life and have fun. I know I’ll be smiling while inhaling our chocolate croissants tomorrow morning!

Now, if you happen to be in a hotel with an elliptical, at the gym, or at home with an elliptical, here is a 35 Minute Workout for you.  I did this Elliptical Workout a few weeks ago.  It is a butt burner to say the least.  There was no method to my madness when I was doing this workout.  I just wanted to really work my muscles.  My goal was to pick up the pace and try to go faster for one minute or a 30 sec sprint during each interval.  Remember to stretch afterwards!
35 Min Elliptical

A Winter Wonderland

Last nights book club meeting was a blast!  Since it was our Christmas meeting we had a book swap that involved us being able to steal books from each other, and before it was all said and done with, quite a bit of stealing went down, and there was a ton of laughing to go along with it!  I only had 2 books stolen, but I ended up with the book I started with (I stole it back!!).

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker - Target Club Pick (Paperback)

I now am the proud owner of The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker.  I have read great reviews about this novel, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

The book we choose for our January meeting is, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand.  My friend in Florida, Judy, has been insisting that I read this book for 2 years now, and it has sat in my “to read” pile for just as long, so I know it will be a good one!

Have you read either of these books?

Now on to some amazing pictures.  For as much as I hate the cold white stuff that is everywhere right now, even I have to say that we have been living in a beautiful winter wonderland for the past few days.

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Each night we have “snow fog” and it leaves everything coated in white for the whole next day!  It really is gorgeous!

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The above picture was taken by my friend Heather at Des Lacs Wildlife Refuge.  She is an amazing photographer.

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From these pictures you can tell how cold it must be outside too!  Thankfully I had a crock pot full of pumpkin pie steel cut oats ready for me when I rolled out of bed this morning.  The house smelled great too!

As for today’s workout…I’m teaching my 60 minute spinning class, 300 Core/Ab Workout, YogaFit Yoga for Cyclists (which I did for the first time yesterday and enjoyed), and pilates in the evening.  If you are in need of a workout, check out my Workout and/or Elliptical and Treadmill workouts.  What is your workout for the day?

Busy Monday and a CrossFit Workout

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My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary last week.  There are no real words that can truly describe what everyone must be going through.

There are also several virtual races starting up for Sandy Hook Elementary. Here is one that I found that I thought y’all might be interested it. Sandy Hook Elementary Memorial Half Marathon and 5K. The funds from this race will go to the families affected by the tragedy on 12-14-12.

It is another one of those insanely busy weeks for us!  Somehow we have more than one place to be each day.  Thankfully we are the types that like to be busy and have fun with it, so let this fun week begin!!

Tonight is our local book club meeting.  I love our holiday meeting, because we get to have a book swap!  It is one of those swaps where you have a number, and you can steal the other person’s gift.  Last year we spent the whole entire time laughing, and we hadn’t even had a drink yet!  I cannot wait to have another great evening with the ladies!

Blackberry Winter

Speaking of books…I finally got a chance to finish Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio.  It was such a good book.  I actually stayed up till 3 am to finish it…Yup it was that good!  I have truly enjoyed all of Jio’s novels, but this one is her best one yet!  Blackberry Winter was such a heartbreaking, enticing, suspenseful, and touching story.  Jio did such a wonderful job connecting the past to the present in this moving novel.  I found myself falling in love with the 2 main characters and found myself cheering for them throughout the novel.  If you have not read this novel yet, I recommend you pick it up (or as a gift from Santa Winking smile).  If I write anymore I will end up totally spoiling the novel for you, so I’ve posted the book description below:

Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator’s.
Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 “blackberry winter” storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways.

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Before I forget…I have signed up for another virtual race!  I’m going to have my 13 in 13 all done before September at the rate I’m going.  The Clearwater Halfathon and Marathon virtual runs runs from January 12-27.  You can complete the run all at once, or you can break it up into as many separate runs as you need to.  My goal is to break up the half into 3 separate runs.  Net proceeds (after costs of bib, medal, shipping, administration) will be donated to several small local non-profits to be determined, including running clubs and the Partners For Life Foundation, created by Lorraine Yaslowitz to memorialize her husband Jeff, a K9 police officer in St. Petersburg, FL lost in the line of duty on January 24, 2011. The foundation’s mission is to lend support to families who lose loved ones to senseless acts of violence.

Well, it is time for me to go workout, so I can get the rest of the cooking/baking, laundry, and cleaning done for today. Not to mention I have to come up with a dish to make for our book club meeting tonight. Any suggestions, because I have no clue what to make for once?

This mornings workout that I will be doing is an old CrossFit workout-of-the-day.  As you will notice, this workout is only 15 minutes long, but boy does it pack a punch.  With this workout you will complete the 3 five-minute rounds, performing each exercise for one minute.  Then, rest for 60 seconds between each round.  Write down how many reps of each exercise you complete.  This way, when you go back and do this workout again you can see what improvements you have made and try to beat your previous score.  As always…remember to stretch afterwards!CrossFit WOD

The Fun and Amazing Jenna Blum Part 2

I still cannot get over the fact that I was able to talk with Jenna Blum the best selling author of Those Who Save Us.  It was just a ton of fun to talk with her and learn more about her writing process for the novel, along with some things about herself.100_0653

Today I’ll tell you more about our Skype time that dealt with how Jenna wrote the novel, and interesting fact about the novel, and some things about herself!

woodrowI wrote in yesterday’s post, The Fun and Amazing Jenna Blum Part 1, about how the novel began and that it took her 10 years to finish.  What I didn’t tell you is how a story comes to Jenna and that she wrote the story in two separate parts.  Jenna told us that she is like a “medium” when it comes to writing.  She has to wait for the story to come to her, and constantly ask questions about what a character should do or what comes next.  When writer’s block strikes, she continues to ask herself the same questions over and over again while taking her lab, Woodrow, for constant walks.

Here is an excerpt from her blog, and it is exactly what she told us:

“When I was writing THOSE WHO SAVE US, I think I might have had it somewhat easier in that books were still my primary research source, as opposed to the Internet, which can lead one down such endless paths (and who knows what’s true?). I also incorporated emotional details from interviewing Jewish Holocaust survivors for the Spielberg Foundation–and for visceral detail watched every movie I could find about the era, and listened to German music and took German classes and baked everything that appears in the novel! so I would know as much as possible what it felt like to be my characters from the inside out. I did stop short of sleeping with an SS officer, however.

The sum total of this was 10 years’ worth of research; for my second book, I did the same.

My organizing principle is like Hemingway’s tip of the iceberg theory about writing: I know 90% more than what made it onto the page. And knowing that invisible 90% is what helped give me the confidence in my characters and their situations. I believe that confidence resonates with readers; you’re not showing it off to them, but they feel it by osmosis.”

The first part of the story she wrote was Anna’s story.  Anna’s story takes place in the past during WWII.  This part of the story only took her 6 months to finish.  Anna’s story “came” to her quite easily.  Trudy’s story (which takes place in the present); however, took her 2 1/2 years to write.  Jenna told us that Trudy’s story was a pain to write, and she made a few changes to it while writing.  She then went back and put the stories of the two women together; rotating between past and present throughout the novel.

One of the main questions our book club had for Jenna was:  Why wouldn’t Anna tell Trudy who her real father was?  The answer to that question is a simple one.  “Trudy was asking Anna the wrong questions.”  Not once during the novel did Trudy directly ask Anna who her father was.  If she had, “Anna would have set Trudy straight.”  Had Trudy asked the “right” question, she would have had a different life and relationship with her mother.

Now on to a few fun facts about the fun loving Jenna Blum!

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Jenna has a wonderful boyfriend, Jim Reed, who loves to “Skype bomb” while wearing a large Viking helmet.  This helmet was a birthday gift from Jenna, because, “That is what he should have for his 50th birthday.”  Mr. Reed is an amazing photographer of weather and it’s productions.  I have seen quite a few of his pics on Jenna’s Facebook page and they are beyond amazing!  I have also posted one of his pics below…Pretty amazing huh!?!

Reed

the stand

Lonesome doveGone with the wind

I remembered to ask Jenna one of my main questions for her right before we hung up…I was not thinking very well that night, and just about forgot this question:  What is your favorite book or books?  Jenna has 3 favorite books that she tries to reread every year, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, The Stand by Stephen King, and Gone With the Wind.  Honestly, these were the last books I would have guessed to be her favorites, and it was so neat to learn what she loves to read.

Jenna also listed several other books that she has recently read and loved.  One book she talked about for a bit was Molly Ringwald’s latest book, When it Happens to You. I’ll be reading this story very soon!!when it happens to you

The only other question I asked Jenna was if she was working on her 3rd book yet, and I was sweating buckets asking that question and praying I didn’t offend her by asking.  Thankfully she laughed and told me it was fine to ask.  She is currently in her “good” place when it comes to writing a new story.  Jenna has begun reading short stories again, and that is her “sign” that she is getting back into the writing mode again.  So, for all of you who are out there waiting, keep on hanging in there!!  It will come!!

Oh!!!  How could I forget!!  Those Who Save Us will be turned into a movie!!!  Jenna just submitted her screen play for the story to the producers!!  Yea!!!  I cannot wait to see it on the big screen!  Huummm, wonder if they will need any extras from North Dakota for the movieWinking smile?

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I had the most wonderful experience and time Skyping with Jenna Blum.  She was a ton of fun, and she took her time to talk to us for hours!  Here is a link to her website where she answers other commonly asked questions:  Jenna Blum.  I highly recommend you check out her website and learn more about her and her writing!!

The Fun and Amazing Jenna Blum Part 1

Monday night’s Skype session with Jenna Blum was just so amazing and beyond words!  Jenna was beyond fun and kind, and we all just had the greatest time chatting with Jenna about her book, Those Who Save Us, which takes place during WWII and the present.  Honestly, I’m still on cloud nine right now!  I came home from our Skype/Book Club meeting bouncing off of the walls with excitement.  My poor husband didn’t know what to do with me, and it was a miracle we both got to sleep that night due to me babbling nonstop about my evening.  Oh, and for once in my life I was at a loss for words while we were talking with Ms. Blum.  All normal and coherent thoughts left my head, and I was lucky enough to not have my jaw hanging on the floor with drool coming out during our whole conversation.

As for what I wore for the evening, well for once it wasn’t yoga pants or anything involving workout attire (it is pretty bad when your 7-year-old son points out that you are always wearing something that involves workout clothing).  I ended up going for the casual yet smart look for the evening.

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Here are two pics of Jenna from our Skype session. In one she is doing her best to try to be serious (she is really a total ham).

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I took a ton of notes during our Skype with Ms. Blum, and I really have no idea how to write it all up for ya.  Therefore, bear with me as we explore Those Who Save Us and other little tidbits of info I got from her.  I’ll start out with how the novel came to be.

In 1993 Jenna’s mom “made” her go to Germany, where her family was originally from.  Jenna was not all that thrilled about going to Germany for a vacation.  She was actually hoping for a more adventurous vacation in France, Morocco, Italy, or Arkansas (I swear she said that).  Well, Jenna ended up having an amazing time traveling throughout Germany and seeing all there was to see.    While in Germany Jenna began asking, “How such a great culture (…known for producing great artists in all forms) could produce the worst genocide in history?”  During their time in Germany they visited concentration camps, one of which was Buchenwald.  While in Buchenwald one of the main characters, Anna, “came” to Jenna, and the story began to write itself from there.  However, it was not a simple process, and the final version you read today took 10 years to develop.

While Jenna was working on Those Who Save Us she was also doing interviews for the Shoah Project.  It was her job to interview/document the stories of survivors of the Holocaust.  These interviews also helped her develop a better understanding of the time and helped her develop some of her characters.

The main antagonist of the story, the Obersturmfuhrer (or Big “O” as Jenna likes to call him) is, “Not a monster, but a person doing monstrous things.”  He is a high ranking SS officer during WWII who forces himself into the lives of Anna and Trudy (mother and daughter/main characters).  In order to develop his character and other Nazi officer’s characters, Jenna learned and read as much as she could about Nazi’s from the Nuremburg Trials.

My favorite part of the evening with Jenna Blum was our insights into the characters and what happened to them that was not part of the novel.  Honestly, it was so neat to hear about the lives Jenna created for them outside of the novel.  For example (and this one is my favorite), Anna’s father, Gerhard, “Is a character with no redeeming qualities at all.”  Jenna was kind enough to share with us the story of his “ending”, which is not in the novel.  The horrible Gerhard met his demise towards the end of the war, while sitting at dinner eating a big greasy turkey leg.  Then out of nowhere a bomb drops on him and vaporizes him.  As far as I’m concerned, this is a very fitting end for this evil man!  This is just one of the little stories about the characters from her novel, so if you would like to learn more you will have to Skype with her yourself!

I’m not going to be able to write-up everything we talked about during our Skype time, since Ms. Blum was kind enough to talk with us for over 2 hours.  However, I will have more from our Skype session for you tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is the recipe for the cannoli’s I made for our book club meeting!  They are a bit different from your typical cannoli recipe.  Hence the name.  Also, this is the recipe for the filling in the cannoli’s.  These cannoli’s have Mascarpone cheese in them to make them even richer!  Save yourself the time and go to your local grocery and buy premade cannoli shells in the Italian or specialty food aisle.  This is what I do, and if I can find the cannoli shells all the way up here in “nowhere” North Dakota, I know you will be able to find them in your local grocery store.

Not Your Italian Grandmother’s Cannoli’s

Not Your Italian Grandmother's Cannoli's

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 1 c Ricotta Cheese
  • 8 oz. container of Mascarpone Cheese
  • 3/4 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract or Amaretto liquor
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
  • powdered sugar for garnish
  • nuts, chocolate chips, fruit, etc. to garnish with.

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Then, place the mixture in a plastic bag.  Close the bag and place in fridge for a few hours.  I put the bag in a glass with one corner of the bag in the bottom of the glass, and then fill the bag.  This will make it easier to “pipe” the mixture into the cannoli’s.  See picture below.  Cut the corner off of the bag containing the cannoli filling and begin piping it into the cannoli shells.  The filling is a bit messy and runny, but that is normal.  Once the shells are filled, place the cannoli’s in a freezer safe container and freeze for 1-2 hours.  Remove them from the freezer and place in the refrigerator 1 hour before serving.  Dust the tops with powdered sugar before serving, and any other garnishes you would like to add.  Enjoy!!!

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What I’m Reading

Right now I am re-reading Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum, and reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  The most exciting news is that I will be Skyping with Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us, with my local book club!!!  So, if you have questions…post them!!!  Happy Reading!!!

For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy’s sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.

Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother’s life.

Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Usis a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.