Weekly Journal

Still chugging along on Campside. I am working the edging so the end is near. But with over 300 stitches per row, it’s not speedy enough for me. I might cheat and knit the swatch for my next project tonight. Slippery slope…

Longer, warmer days are making it possible to grill more. Looking forward to trying this marinade tonight for some easy chicken tacos.

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Listening to Brian Southall’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as I try to get outside and exercise again. Not running, mostly walking and a little strength training. I need motivation, and a good audio book that feeds my inner hippie does the trick. (And humming Penny Lane all day is a nice side effect.)

What’s working for you this week?

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Easy Monday Dinner – Fat Sandwich

My husband and I lived in Charlotte, NC many years ago, and when we reminisce about our time in the Queen City, it is often the food. Not sure if it was really so special, or if it was that special moment of a marriage before kids when you had extra time and money to splurge on good food.

We both worked in Southpark and I can’t remember the name of the place but it was in the shopping center adjacent the mall, near the Park Hotel, and it was one of my favorite lunch splurges with my coworkers. The best thing on the menu was a simple steak sandwich served with fries, and we called it the “Fat Sandwich.” I can’t remember why, maybe because it was so hearty you wanted to nap the rest of the afternoon, but it was delicious. Here’s the quick way I recreate this, making a simple Monday night dinner for my family:

Fat Sandwich- Serves 4

  • 1 decently thick NY strip steak, trimmed and sliced thin
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • hamburger bun (optional)

Heat the olive oil and saute the onions and peppers until golden. Set aside on a paper towel.

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In the warm skillet, melt the butter and add the steak. On med-high heat sear each side to suit your taste. It usually takes 2 mins each side to sear but leave the middle pink. I do this in batches to make sure it is all evenly cooked.

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After removing the steak, drop the bun into the steak drippings to brown briefly. My husband and kids prefer no bun, so this buttery toasted bun is the last step for mine alone.

Variation- We have also added zucchini to the onion saute and served over rice, as well as served in tortillas with cheese and salsa.

What is your favorite quick and delicious food? Do you also reminisce about BK times (before kids)?

Main photo of Mark and I (BK times) in a visit to Asheville, NC

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Weekly Journal

High – Low… I have picked out my next knitting project and the yarn is ready: Entrechat by Lisa Chemery. But I lack half of the last chart for Campside, plus the edging. Feels endless, but I must resist the urge to quit.

High – Low… We planted more bulbs, lillies mostly. But it’s been way too cold to plant the shasta daisies and black-eyed susan seeds. C’mon 50’s, I need you to stay!

What has been your high and low this week? Grab some of that leftover Easter candy and chat with me!

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March Reading

Before We Were Yours Lisa Wingate
A fictionalized account of a real-life black-market adoption ring, run through the hands of Georgia Tann and Tennessee Children’s Home Society, a well-respected orphanage in the early twentieth century. Scandalized by being exposed as a front for a broad black-market adoption ring in 1950, Georgia Tann died before she could be prosecuted for the many kidnapping and murder charges of children who died or suffered in her care. The home provided the backdrop for this heartbreaking story of an impoverished river gypsy family that was splintered and very nearly destroyed by Miss Tann and her deadly operations. I would highly recommend reading this powerful story.

Miss You Kate Eberlen
This romance of near-misses was a fun read. While I had trouble identifying with the characters, and thinking that some of the encounters might be a bit unbelievable, it was a fun journey. The female character was very loveable, but she was consistently shorted in the good partner department. I’ll let the final match be yours to judge. I think this would make for a great spring break vacation read, perfect to leave behind for the next guest and free up some souvenir space in your carry on.

All Time Best Appetizers (Cook’s Illustrated)
I have to bring appetizers to a dinner party this month, so I was doing a bit of research. I need to be able to bring something that I can make ahead, but that can be kept at room temperature or chilled, and I’m having trouble coming up with something creative. Ultimately I think I will bring a cheese tray, so this book wasn’t resourceful for me. It was fun to flip through, but I wouldn’t recommend for a home reference.

Slow Knitting: A Journey from Sheep to Skein to Stitch Hannah Thiessen
I enjoyed every second of this one. If there’s one problem I tend to have with knitting (other than gauge), it’s choosing the right yarn for the project. The more I knit, the more I know that I need to consider more than just the weight and color of the yarn. Fiber content determines the price and softness, hello cashmere!, but it also can determine how much it snags or pills with wear, the halo or felting that might occur over time, or break easily during the process of knitting. This book was masterful in helping understand not just the design but the reasoning behind making a good fiber choice to get the product you want to keep forever. And with most hand-knit sweaters costing upwards of $100 in materials (and many months of time, if knitting is your meditation as well), you want a sweater that will wear well. I especially loved both the Grow and Spruce patterns.

Small Great Things Jodi Picoult
Racism is so important and difficult, so complicated and oversimplified. My daughter had to write a brief 1-minute presentation a week or so ago on how to solve terrorism, and her simple solution was as close to any oversimplified answer for any big, complicated “ism”. Listen with humility and understanding, and with resolve to be respectful and more tolerant in the future. This is a great story for that prescribed listening. Listening to the experience of an educated, loving, capable black nurse, and understanding just how precarious the ledge she is balancing on can feel. Also understanding who is vulnerable to these hate-building movements and how to support those future generations better. Resolve to change with one thought, one action at a time.

Educated Tara Westover
I heard Tara speak on NPR, and put myself on the hold list at the library. Then I read an editorial on the book in BookPage and knew I couldn’t wait, so Amazon delivered the hardcover to me. Tara grew up in remote Idaho, raised with radical theology and a family with mental health issues. I don’t feel this is a book about Mormonism, because I do not think the twisting mental issues that shaped her father’s fundamental Mormon theology reflect mainstream Mormonism, but it would be interesting to hear what Mormons think of the story. I know my own Christian beliefs are much less conservative than previous generations, but respect for the past and hope for inclusivity in the future is not always easy to balance (or for a congregation to navigate). Forced with choosing between the sucking vacuum of her family and an education, Tara takes us through her life as she finds a future of balance between respect and mercy for her family but withdrawn from the actual emotional and physical violence. I passed this title to my sister, whose book club is soon to feature.

My April stack is pretty tall, but work is pretty crazy in the spring, so I am happy to have the escape planned. What’s on your reading list this month?

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Food Mood Shifters

Fill in the Blank: It is impossible to be sad/anxious/angry when eating _______.

Emotional eating has always been my diet downfall. If I had to make a list of my top 5 yummy, feel good treats it would be: jelly beans, cream cheese pastry, toast with blackberry jelly, cherry cola, and coffee ice cream. Sugar is my very obvious crutch.

Not sure how I can flip this without giving up sugar, which would be very near impossible. So yeah, portion control? Use as small rewards for doing things that I should (like exercise and lots of water?).

No plan of action just yet. So for now, you guys can just drool with me over this very delicious toast.

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Buttered Toast with Blackberry Jelly

What are your food mood shifters?

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What’s Working

In between this dodging this crazy spring weather, with work, school, and home life echoing Mother Nature, we are managing to do a few things that bring us peace and joy. Here’s a short list:

Have you listened to the Goop podcast? The opening episode features Oprah, talking about Maya Angelou among other things. This is excellent food for a good, long walk or car commute.

Eating more good vegetables. If there’s one great thing about spring in the south, it is shelves full of excellent produce in March, making it easier to sustain a “protein plus three” diet. It isn’t local, but it won’t be long before we can get much of this at our farmer’s market, and this pleases me so very much.  Eating the rainbow has helped me miss the flu and other viruses that have been passed around too much the past few months.

Spring Cleaning- I ordered both a clean out bag and a donation bag from Thredup, and tring to sort through 6 bags (!) of clothes that the girls and I purged cleaning our closets these last few months. When we shop this year, I will remember these piles of clothes and try to make more responsible purchases.

What is working for you this month?

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February Reading

Sorry to have been silent for a couple of weeks! Here’s what I have been up to:

Practical Magic Alice Hoffman, Is it wrong to like the prequel better? I felt like it made more sense, the characters were more developed, and that overall it was just more. Maybe it’s the evolution of the author?
Whispers in the Mist Lisa Alber, I enjoyed this mystery. Set in Ireland, it had enough mystery and suspense but it was not gruesome or violent. It’s the second of the County Clare Mysteries, so it dips into the characters from the first (which I haven’t read), but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I might not go back to read the first one, but I will definitely check out the next two in the series.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon Kelly Barnhill, I enjoyed it, but it was a bit too fantastical and strange. It was described as a coming-of-age middle grade fairy tale. The characters were interesting but it was slow, and not enough content that I think a 5th/6th grader would enjoy. I wanted to love it, but I don’t think this is one for me to share with the girls.
I am Malala Malala Yousafzai, My oldest had the student version in her 6th grade language arts syllabus, and this is one that I wanted to read along with her class so that we could discuss. It is a story I will never forget, and makes me appreciate just how priviledged I am to be a female born in America. Malala helped me understand the background of the Middle East conflict. While I have grown up with this conflict, it is very easy as Americans to turn a blind eye. It helped me understand how the world views America’s involvement in the continued conflict and just how much international aid and diplomacy are needed for progress. But I also understand that our efforts as world citizens might not bring about progress as quickly as we all want to see it because the problems are centuries old.
Uncommon Ground Tom Hanks, I had the audio version and enjoyed it but I didn’t finish before it expired. Tom does the narration, and his voice is perhaps more interesting than the stories. I might try this again once the popularity dies down. I wouldn’t wait in line for this one.
America’s Test Kitchen (A Cook’s Illustrated publication) I love these publications, so perhaps I should subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated or Cook’s Country. I follow them on Instagram, and I love learning the development of the recipe, from equipment testing to ingredient mistakes and tweaks.
Victuals Ronni Lundy, This was such an interesting cookbook and story from start to finish. I plan to buy this for my uncle’s birthday, because he loves cookbooks and will appreciate the Appalachian history and local flair. The photography is stunning, and these recipes feel like home.

My March stack is featured in the photo above… I can’t wait to share! Are you reading anything great that I should know about?

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