Tag Archive | Humor

A Recipe of My Own

The other day, I was forced to create a recipe of my own. A friend gave me a bag of squash linguine from Sunrise Creative Gourmet. She received it as a gift and didn’t think she would like it because she doesn’t like squash. Since I never made that sort of pasta before, I tried to find a sauce to go with. The Sunrise Creative Gourmet website recommended making an olive oil and parmesan cheese sauce. It also indicated that roasted vegetables, chicken, or salmon would make a good addition. While I searched the Internet for a more specific recipe, a recipe that called for a third of a cup of olive oil looked like a good place to start. The rest of the ingredients didn’t sound appetizing, so I made it up as I went along, keeping the Sunrise Creative Gourmet’s suggestions in mind.

While the water for the pasta was heating up, I poured the olive oil in a large skillet. I had already sliced the chicken into bite-sized pieces. As the chicken cooked and filled the house with a delicious-smelling aroma, some of my favorite recipes came to mind, and this is what got combined:

Chicken, Squash Linguine with Olive Oil
and Parmesan Cheese Sauce

Ingredients:

1-16 oz. package of linguine (squash, if you can find it; regular, if you can’t)
1.25 pound package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 big clove of garlic, minced
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
½ cup red pepper, chopped into ½-inch pieces
15 grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup lemon juice
½ to 1 cup of shredded parmesan cheese

Directions:

Cook linguine according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook chicken in olive oil over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic, onion, and red pepper and heat until red pepper is cooked through. Add tomatoes, parsley flakes, salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and lemon juice.  Cover pan and simmer until tomatoes look a little wilted. If the pasta is done cooking, drain pasta, add pasta to skillet, and mix altogether. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy.

The flavors blended together nicely.  The funny thing is that the pasta didn’t really taste like squash! It might have been that the onion and garlic overpowered that taste. Any old sauce would have tasted okay, but it’s better to have this recipe of my own.  Besides, this concoction disappeared faster than it took to make. If you try it, let me know if you like it!

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Garth Stein – Author Event

A couple of weeks ago, I saw Garth Stein, the author of The Art of Racing in the Rain. Eden Prairie Reads* sponsored the author event which was held at St. Andrew’s Church. Mr. Stein was introduced to the crowd by the chair of the committee. A grand entrance was made from the back of the church as the crowd of about 100 people applauded. When Garth dropped something on the floor, the clapping stopped, but Garth asked us to please continue with our applause until he got to the podium. The audience complied.  🙂

Mr. Stein started his talk by saying, “Wait a minute.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket, took a picture of the audience, and told us he would post our picture on his Facebook account. He also said he had to take care of a little business before he started his reading. He asked us to sign up for his newsletter and giveaways after the event. He also explained how he likes to write books, but he also needs people to read them. He thanked the booksellers, librarians, and teachers and asked us to please buy books from bookstores.

Garth Stein Event
I’m way in the back!

Mr. Stein then recited:

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

Someone in the audience knew that this stanza was from a poem written by T.S. Eliot. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, I discovered after I googled a few key words.  Mr. Stein read a few lines from the beginning of The Art of Racing in the Rain and told us that the question people ask him most is:  Where did the idea come from? “So many different places. It’s like a stew. All the different ingredients come together.” He talked about how he moved to New York from Seattle in 1983 and worked on documentary films. In 2001, he moved back to Seattle. While working in New York, one of the films they were working on was about Mongolia and how they believe dogs reincarnate as men. The idea really stuck with him. When he was back in Seattle with Billy Collins, a poet, Billy read his poem The Revenant, a poem from dog heaven. More ideas came to Mr. Stein and he was able to write the book very quickly even though the main idea of it came to him about six years before.

At the beginning of his writing career, Mr. Stein drove around to different book stores and asked if he could speak there. When he was in Plano, Texas, he did a reading for the one person who showed up. He asked his fan if he would like to just go to the coffee shop instead, but the guy said “no” – he wanted Garth to do a reading for him. It was from his book Raven Stole the Moon. His wife is his first reader and wondered what he was doing during the day while he was touring with Raven Stole the Moon because the book signings were in the evenings. She figured out he was going to the movies – the movie ticket that she found in his pocket was a big clue. She thought it would be a good idea if Garth wrote during the day, and that’s when he wrote The Art of Racing in the Rain. He sent the manuscript to his agent, and he waited. He waited, like his dog Comet likes to wait for pancakes to get made on Saturday mornings: very attentively. He watched his phone for several days. When his agent finally called, Garth asked, “What did you think?” The agent said, “It’s narrated by a dog.” The agent didn’t know how he could market a book written from a dog’s point of view, and Garth replied by saying, “Victor Hugo wasn’t a hunchback.” So Garth fired that agent. Garth sent his manuscript to many agents and they all thought the same thing – they didn’t know how to get it published. When he was at a Literary Lions gathering and was getting introduced to people at his table, he told them how frustrated he was since he couldn’t find an agent. One guy at the table said, “My book is written from the point of view of a crow!” That book is called Song of the Crow, by Layne Maheu. It’s a story about Noah’s Ark, and that’s the tale of how Garth found his new agent.

Garth talked about how aspiring authors ask him what information he has to help them get started writing a book. Garth said that it’s like Pin the Tail on the Donkey. You start at one point and work your way around. You can move the pin as many times as you like.

Garth’s new book is called A Sudden Light which is based on his play Brother Jones. It’s a spiritual ghost story. He shared the story about his father’s death and how a “mystical thing” happens to him when he’s writing.

Garth was currently reading The Brothers K, a sports book by James Duncan. He also recommended reading The Trouble with Poetry. Some of his favorite authors are Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; John Steinbeck; and Flannery O’Connor.  Universal Studios is working on making The Art of Racing in the Rain into a movie, and Garth has written some children’s books with Enzo, Zoe, and Denny, characters from The Art of Racing in the Rain.

This was my first time going to an author event, and I thought it was very entertaining and inspirational. How about you?  Have you ever attended an author event?  What did you think?
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* “Eden Prairie Reads is a community grassroots group whose purpose is to promote reading, encourage discussion and strive for a new level of connection in the Eden Prairie community. We try to select books that will have broad appeal in the community while at the same time challenging us to think, and talk about issues we all face.” For more information, check out their website at http://www.epreads.org.

No Crumbs Were Left Behind

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For Christmas, my husband surprised me with a gift of a weekend getaway for both of us at the Ann Bean Mansion in Stillwater. As the temperatures dropped, my vision of wandering around Stillwater to shop sunk like the rapidly decreasing temperatures. We knew it was going to be a hibernating sort of weekend, and we decided it would be a great time to hang out in a mansion instead of being cooped up at home.  Besides, it gave us a reason to be lazy and just relax, which is always nice.

Before we went to the mansion, we stopped at Pub 112 in downtown Stillwater for dinner.  To warm my bones, I had a Sunburnt Nutty Irishman which is made with Tullamore Dew, Frangelico, Bailey’s Irish Cream, River Moon Coffee and topped with whipped cream.  I also ordered the Guinness Beef Stew.  The beef was tender and accompanied by root vegetables, peas, mushrooms, fresh herbs and topped with baby red mashed potatoes.  The green stuff that adorned the plate tasted like kale.  When I asked the waitress what it was, she confirmed my suspicion and said it was deep-fried.  The crisp kale was different prepared that way, and I wondered if all the nutrients got fried away too.  As I savored each bite, hubby enjoyed his burger.  After we cleaned our plates, we were off to find the mansion which was just a short trip away.

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When we entered the place, it felt warm and cozy even though the entryway is quite large.  We were greeted by Jeremy, the innkeeper.  Jeremy and Erin, a husband and wife team, have been innkeepers since 2004.  Jeremy told us that the mansion was built in 1880, and he escorted us to the Hersey room.  Mr. Hersey was part owner of Hersey, Bean and Brown Lumber just when the town of Stillwater was getting settled.  To read more about the history of the mansion, click here.

Jeremy brews his own beer and told us about the never-ending supply of warm chocolate chip cookies that can be found in the dining room.  After we got settled, we ventured off to find the cookies with melted chocolate chips.  We had to restrain ourselves from visiting that room too much, but we did go there a few times!

We explored the living room, and I took these photos.

I enjoyed looking at the antiques and the beautifully carved woodwork that surrounded the rooms.

Mr. Hersey’s room, below, was quite large and is heated by a fireplace.

Looks like someone forgot their shoes!

That night, besides eating cookies, we lounged, watched TV, and I browsed through the History of Stillwater where I discovered that Mr. Hersey was quite the lumberman. It was very quiet even though we heard other guests come and go every once in a while. I was surprised that the old windows in the building didn’t make the place too drafty, but closing the shades helped a lot.  The still night turned into a peaceful morning.

We had breakfast in our room, but guests do have the option of eating in the dining room, if they’re feeling social that is!  Somebody knocked at our door, and left a sumptuous tray of food without being seen.  No crumbs were left behind at this meal either!

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Menu:
Merlot Poached Pears with Yogurt and Granola
Cheddar Gougere with Tomato Jam
Buckwheat Blini with Dutch Apple Compote and Sausage
Peach Mango Crumble

St. Michael's

Thankfully, our old van turned right over even though the temperature was still below zero.  We visited the Church of St. Michael for mass a few blocks away.  We got to explore another beautiful old building that is one of the oldest parishes in Minnesota that was built in 1853.

We had such a nice and relaxing time, we’re thinking about going back again when the weather gets warmer or maybe we’ll go when it’s below zero again…

To Keep Them

Not changing something is sometimes a relief. For instance, the grapevine that was planted in our garden before we arrived will stay. My husband and I have often talked about whether or not we should tear it out, but the backdrop of leaves makes a pretty sight, acts like a canopy behind the flowers, and it gives us some privacy. We have to watch our grapevine closely and cut away any little tentacles that reach out to wrap themselves around innocent flowers. When their direction gets changed that way, the vines grow to take a trip along a neighboring tree. They stretch and climb as far as they can. We let it go along the trees because we know it will be fine once freezing temperatures arrive. It’s too bad that other things live in the grapevine and are causing problems.

Last spring, I planted a tray of multicolored zinnias among the daffodils, irises, and yellow-four-o’clock flowers. As I checked the zinnias each day, I noticed some sort of insect got ahold of their leaves and worried they wouldn’t blossom and mature as they should. After they were planted, of course, I read zinnias like to have a lot of breathing space, plus it didn’t help that little bugs live in the grapevine. I hoped the zinnias would take over when the other flowers settled down. Now the coneflowers and phlox are making a grand appearance in our little garden – our treasure that’s stuck in the corner of our yard as if it’s our own little secret. There are times when I look at other gardeners neatly manicured show places and wonder what went wrong with our little potpourri. Even though theirs are perfection, our garden is more true to life, I think. It’s squished, has blemishes, craves attention, but is beautiful at the same time.

We could thin it out as we should, but we want to keep those flowers, just like we want to keep the grapevine. Almost all of the flowers made their beginning in my mom’s garden. Mom shared with us her daffodils, irises, four-o’clock flowers (which are all done blooming now), and coneflowers. Mom would probably laugh at how I’m taking pictures of flowers all the time because it used to drive me crazy the way she had Dad take pictures of all her little beauties. Now I know it’s another way to keep them since soon the cold weather will take them away.

Next year, we hope to expand the garden out a couple of feet, install a new border, and get rid of the decaying railroad ties that now frame our mixture of blossoms. I hope to plant zinnias or some hardier flower in the expanded spot. Hopefully they will be able to breathe there. We’ll also have to figure out how to trap the pesky pests.

Thankfully, the zinnias are doing better than expected but not looking as good as some of the neighbors. Talking and whispering sweet little nothings to them on a daily basis has helped. 🙂 If things go well, I hope to make another garden in the other corner of the yard.  Maybe if there were more flowers in our yard, our garden wouldn’t seem like such a secret.  I’d like to separate out some of the flowers and plant them in the new garden because I want to keep them.  Then, when the time is right, I’ll share those little beauties just like Mom did!

Weed it and reap. ~Gardening Saying

A Different Sort of Creative Endeavor

I wasn’t sure what to wear the Saturday I dropped off my manuscript to the editor, Char. I met Char about 18 months earlier when I signed up for her workshop that was held at our local community center. Char reads writers’ manuscripts and gives them feedback. I thought her fees sounded reasonable, and I felt like I could trust her to keep my manuscript safe.

I wore my white pants, blue cotton blouse that resembled a handkerchief, and flip-flops as I felt it would be a casual meeting. As I drove to her office, I felt like my manuscript was like some sort of baby sitting in the green folder next to me. Of course, my manuscript was different from a human baby, but it was a baby that had been created in my mind, looked over, rearranged, loved, and thought about over and over again, off and on, for a span of about five years – a different sort of creative endeavor.

When I arrived, Char showed me the way to her office.  We sat down, and she talked about what she planned to do with the manuscript. She said she would read it over and write in any suggestions paying careful attention to any grammatical or spelling errors. I asked that she please make sure I wasn’t saying the same thing over and over again. After reading my manuscript over several times, I was starting to get lost on how things went. She spoke about some of her other clients and her experiences with them so I would know how the process worked. I wondered how long it would take for Char to edit my 148-page, double-spaced manuscript, and she said it would take about a week, but she hoped she would be able to get back to me the coming Friday.

“You won’t leave this sitting somewhere, will you?” I asked pointing to the green folder as I was on my way out the door. That had been my biggest fear about sharing my manuscript – that it would be left unattended somewhere. Babies always need to be supervised.

“No, I will only have it here in my office, and I will take it home with me in this bag. I live across the street.”  Only a very paranoid person would think that something could happen a short distance between Char’s home and office. Hearing that she lived just across the street was a relief to me.  Secretly, I hoped the zipper on her briefcase was in good working order and that no large windstorms would sweep both of them away somewhere into oblivion.

As the weekend wore on, I felt like Char had read a little bit of my story here and there. I wondered which page she was on. What was going on? Was she toward the middle, where I thought it slowed down a bit? I hoped the story was keeping her awake and ready to turn the next page. I felt like she truly was a babysitter watching over my creation.

When Monday rolled around, I looked at my emails, that I was checking about every five minutes, and saw a message from Char that said, “I have just one thing to say … I LOVE the manuscript.” Then I wondered if she read the entire manuscript already, but I realized she must not have because she would have told me. I replied by saying, “Oh my gosh, thank you! I’ve been thinking about you and am glad to hear the positive feedback! Thanks for checking in. I’ll be patiently waiting to hear as to when you’re ready to hand it back to me. Thanks again.” I thought I really kept my cool because what I really wanted to say was, “I’ve been thinking about you and MY BABY. What page are you on? What’s going on in the story right now? Is there one thing that you particularly like?  Do you really, really LOVE it?”

On Thursday, I heard from Char again. She told me she was ready to go over the manuscript with me. The next time she could meet was Father’s Day. Would I have time to get together then? Of course I would, I responded. Even if I had to walk all the way over to her office, which was about 10 miles away, I would be able to meet with her.  In the back of my mind, I thought it was a funny coincidence that I was meeting with her on Father’s Day when the story I wrote is based on my family’s experiences during my father’s illness.  I hoped that coincidence was a thumb’s up sign from the powers that be.

After I (thankfully) drove to Char’s office on Father’s Day, Char reminded me about one of the things we talked about in her workshop – about how every writer has some sort of “thing” that they need to work on. She told me my biggest issue, and I couldn’t agree more, but I’m not going to tell YOU what it is! Char did a good job of finding those types of errors and helped clean up some of my sentences to help my story make more sense.  During our meeting, she gave me a list of traditional Christian publishers to send proposals to. I told her how I was worried about sharing my story because it’s very personal. As I was leaving the office, she encouraged me to try to get my story published because she thought it would help a lot of people who were going through similar situations.

Since that time I realized that my story is inspirational, and I’ve sent out a proposal. If I don’t hear soon, I have a list of other places to send my baby. I’ll keep trying to get my manuscript turned into a book. I’d like to use a traditional publisher or an agent, but if that doesn’t work, I will look into self-publishing.

In the meantime, another story is forming in my mind and right now is five pages long. I’m setting goals of how many words to write per day and when.  Then I’ll look this new creation over, rearrange, love, think about it, and listen for thoughts to include over and over again.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to let it go, just like I hope I’ll be able to let the first one go out into the world all by itself.

If I hear good news about the first manuscript, I’ll be sure to let you know.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed!