Hello friends, I'm unplugging for summer, training for a marathon, enjoying family and friends, taking a photography class, and preparing for Europe. Wishing you happiness, Mari

Life: Conscious Unplugging

Dear friends,  I hope everyone is enjoying summer, finding time to unplug, explore, eat ice cream, catch fireflies, watch movies… and more. The hard part of conscious unplug is what to write when you want to dip back in for a quick update.

June: Don't you love this photo? I don't like to get my face wet and realized moments before running through this ambush what was about to happen... I have posted several photo's from that day to Instagram for all to enjoy.

I'm training for a half marathon in September and a marathon on November.  Trying to stay injury free I'm running just 3-4 times a week.  So far it's working well.

Project Declutter: Real Simple posted this photo to Instagram early June... the caption says "1945, when the average American owned 10,000 things." Gulp.  

Over the next week I found myself looking around our home, realizing very little of the stuff in our home belongs to my husband. Conclusion, most of this stuff is mine?!

Since that day I have been on a mission, to clean out as much as possible before we leave for Europe in August.  As I write this post today, I have gone through EVERY drawer, closet, and room in our home.  Going through a hundred photo albums from my Grandma, removing duplicates, blurry photos and strangers... I have two show boxes of photos.  I brought several bags of clothes to the goodwill, garbage cans full, and ... are you ready for this.... I still have a room full of the last of Frank and Barbara's furniture to donate. In the storage room above the garage sits two sofas, five chairs, four bookshelves, a queen size bed, three coffee tables, and a dozen pieces of framed artwork.  

July: I'm a year older.  The World Traveler flew from Switzerland to celebrate, having seen him for just 36 hours in five weeks... being together was perfect. We had a quiet, lovely day.   

I'm also growing out my bangs (a dreadful process)... here are a few rejects from some photo's my friend took a few weeks ago.   I can't wait to get through this process!  46 was filled with lifetime highs and lows... I hope 47 grants my wish.   Regardless, I will embrace this crazy little life.

Reading:  Contemporary fiction/ new releases are my books of choice this summer.  My favorite two books read so far are Freud's Mistress, and The Marrying of Chani Kaufman. I recommend both! In addition to fiction, I have been devouring cookbooks.  I have a few to review in the fall (preordering a few copies of one of them, love!). 

Sonderborg Denmark (source: google image)
Travel: I'm busy planning/packing for a late summer getaway.  We are flying to Germany to celebrate a friend's 50th birthday.  They live seventy miles from the border of Denmark, so we will day trip to Denmark and explore a seaside village.  Then we are off to Switzerland.

I hope you are having a lovely summer, enjoying family, finding time to unwind with friends, and relax. ~ much love, Mari

Book Review: The Vibrant Table

Why I picked it: In the last two years, I have become obsessed with cookbooks.  I enjoy reading personal stories, and find it amazing to discover how a list of ingredients transforms into an experience for one, or many.

Synopsis: Walk with Anya Kassoff through farmers' markets, local food shops, and her garden and you too will start to see fresh fruit and vegetables as the raw materials for artistic expression. Rose petal and honey sundaes, lemongrass and raspberry tiramisu with cardamom cream, amaranth pumpkin porridge: with these recipes in hand, you will never run out of ways to enjoy fresh, whole foods at home.

Anya's family-focused food blog, Golubka (Russian for "dove"), has a well-earned reputation for unique recipes that please the palate and senses. Her recipes are healthy by most standards--always vegetarian, mostly vegan, gluten-free, and often raw--and every dessert can serve as an energizing breakfast. Her food is fresh, seasonal, homemade, handcrafted, and 100% delightful.

Over 100 recipes include lighter interpretations of familiar classics and embody a fresh, bright sensibility that will inspire you well beyond the table. From breakfasts through sweet indulgences, every recipe tells a story of a balanced and nourished lifestyle, centered around the family table and a bustling kitchen.

Anya's kitchen is part workshop and part art classroom, so many recipes double as food projects that can be done for or with kids. Anya's love for fresh and seasonal ingredients prepared with love is clear.

Quick Take: Have you taken the time to flip the pages of a cookbook recently?  If you read the introduction and the pages between each recipe, you can really get to know the author.  Cookbooks today are part memoir. The author of The Vibrant Table shares a glimpse into her life growing up in Russia, during the 'iron curtain' days. She mentioned her mother spent half her life waiting in lines and learned to use every last bit of food to feed their family.

Food blogger, turned author, this book is extremely useful.  The author explains how to use the book, teaching the reader/user about ingredients and everyday items to keep in the kitchen. She explains oils, nuts, flours, sweet options, etc...

The photography is stunning, the page layout is lovely, and the recipes are creative.

Ingredients for each recipe are listed in a column to the side, making it easy to glance at and confirm you have everything need before getting started. I have made several recipes from the book and can't wait to buy a copy to add to my cookbook collection.

note: I read this book in January (pub date Jun 10), on a cold, snowy weekend. Looking at the photography and reading each recipe warmed me as I sat on the sofa, with a fire roaring, and the football playoffs being consumed by my family. Sharing recipes and ideas with them, we all enjoyed it!

Rating: 5 stars
Source: Netgalley (review copy)

Book Review: Cold Antler Farm

Why I picked it: If I'm completely honest, the cover grabbed my attention, then my eye dropped to the bottom of the cover where I read... memoir (which I love to read).

Synopsis:  Author Jenna Woginrich is mistress of her one-woman farm and is well known for her essays on the mud and mess, the beautiful and tragic, the grime and passion that accompany homesteading. In Cold Antler Farm, her fifth book, she draws our attention to the flow and cycle not of the calendar year, but of the ancient agricultural year: holidays,  celebrations, seasonal touchstones, and astronomical events that mark sacred turning points in the seasons.

Amidst the "lost" holidays of the equinoxes, May Day, Hallowmas, and Yule, we learn the life stories of her beloved animals and crops--chicken, pig, lamb, apples, basil, tomatoes. May apple blossoms are sweet fruit for rambunctious sheep in June. And come September, the harvest draws together neighbors for cider making under the waning summer sun. The living beings she is tending fuel one another--and the community--day to day, season by season. 

Quick Take: I read this book in two days, during a snowstorm, snuggled on the sofa with a fire roaring. 

Jenna Woginrich is a talented writer, reading her craft challenges me to become a better writer, and I'm forever grateful to her. In addition to the amazing writing, the author shares the struggles and triumphs of owning a homestead.  The daily/seasonal tasks that MUST happen can be overwhelming at times, but equally satisfying. 

"I weed my garden bursting with life, I see weeding as a metaphor for the lifelong process of winnowing out that which does not serve me, giving space for all that feeds me and lets me flourish."

"People are drawn to the lives they want to live, at least the stubborn ones are." 

Her story is anchored by an ancient calendar, a year of holiday's and celebration that I found fascinating. I'm a city gal who longs for a simple life, day dreams bring chicken coops, sheep, and the joy of growing my own vegetables. Ah... daydreams.  You can see why I loved this book.

I have also decided I need a handmade broom, clearly every home needs one. 

Rating: 5 stars
Source: Review Copy (Roost Books)

Summer stories, dinners, and travel

Hello friends, I hope you had a lovely weekend, found time to relax, enjoy friends and family, check off a few things from the never ending to-do list. 

Our dinner party (for fifty... gulp) was a success.  A week later we have some fun stories reflect upon: from a gal marching in place to achieve her daily fitbit goal, a vegetarian who eats meat when he feels like it, and a guy wearing a bow tie.  Mr Bow Tie arrived with a pound of beef from his family farm, a bottle of California Absinthe, and a story from Barcelona.

Monday - Wednesday I dashed down to Orlando for a work event, arriving home to a house full of old friends.  We had dinner on the deck and overnight guests.  Enjoying a glass or two of wine, and sharing stories until midnight.

We are not done entertaining...  On Saturday, the World Traveler mentioned we are hosting dinner for 8-10 tonight.  Work colleagues visiting from Ireland, eager to enjoy a home cooked meal while on the road. Tonight will include some of our favorite go-to dishes: steak, roasted potatoes, green beans, salad from the garden, and blueberry crumble for dessert.

Tomorrow night I have book club.

Wednesday is our 26th wedding anniversary. Speaking of anniversaries, this time last year we were preparing to leave for Istanbul and Kilimanjaro.  Can you believe it?  

Last week I mentioned having one more crazy week, then life settles to a desired pace.  Something I haven't had in about a year, so I am eager to embrace quiet for a while.  I accepted a few books for review and can't wait to discuss my BEA discoveries.  bliss...

A quick two hour flight to Orlando provided just enough time to finish The Never Never Sisters. This book appeared in my mailbox a few weeks ago.  I love reading books set in the Hamptons, I know the setting and find comfort reading books set in a location in which I'm familiar. I didn't love this book.

I finished listening to We Were Liars yesterday.  The event anchoring to the story is revealed in the end. I feel like the book ended without a conclusion...  I hoped for an epilogue. Have you read it? Did you like it?

Now for a book I can't stop reading, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman. This book interests me for many reasons, one being that I live just blocks away from a Rabbinical College and community. 

After reading about half of this book, I have even more questions. For instance, if our paths cross when I'm walking the dogs or running the women smile and look away, but the men never make eye contact. I wonder if I fell while running, and hurt myself... can they help?

If you enjoy reading Thrity Umrigar novels, you will enjoy this book.
What are you reading this week?

Books I can't wait to read!

Do you know what I love about air travel? When I have nothing but time, to get lost in a book, I'm a pretty fast reader.

Today I had a two hour flight, to Orlando, gifting me time to finish the book I was reading, The Never Never Sisters.  Sadly I didn't love it, it was good but not a must read.

I took a quick nap once I arrived and started The Marrying of Chani Kaufman.  A book I'm VERY excited to read.

After reading this book, I will be ready for a summer selection.  I can tell Summer is approaching based solely on books like the ones listed below.  Beach reads, with substance.

Have you read any of these books?  They have caught my attention.

:: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ ::

A Triple Knot (pub date: July 8, 2014) Joan of Kent, the renowned beauty and niece of King Edward III, seems blessed with a life of royal privilege until her father is executed for treason and she becomes a ward of the king, living amongst those who deem her the daughter of a traitor. Joan begins to understand the brutal constraints and dangers inherent in being of royal blood. There is one at court who loves her, but his love proves the greatest threat of all.

As an impetuous teenager, she escapes into a clandestine marriage in a bid for freedom, then must hide it for nearly a decade, as her guardians marry her off to another man. After her first husband’s death, Joan—now a mother of four—enters into another scandalous relationship, this time with the heir to the British throne, Prince Edward, hero of Crécy and Poitiers, who has loved her all along. But his devotion comes at a terrible price. Haunted by nightmares of her father’s execution and the ruthlessness of her royal kin, Joan must reconcile her passion for the crown prince with her own conscience.

:: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ ::

Little Island: Grace, Flowers, By the water, Have fun!

These are Grace’s mother’s last words – left behind on a note. A note that Grace interprets as instructions for her memorial service. And so her far-flung clan will gather at their inn on Little Island, Maine, to honor her.

Twenty years ago, a tragedy nearly destroyed the Little family – and still defines them. Grace, her husband Gar, and their three grown children, Joy, Roger and Tamar each played a role in what transpired. But this weekend, they will discover that there is more than pain and heartbreak that binds their family together, when a few simple words lift the fog and reveal what truly matters.

:: ~ :: ~  :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ :: ~ ::

One Hundred Names (pub date: May 6, 2014): Scandal has derailed journalist Kitty Logan’s career, a setback that is soon compounded by an even more devastating loss. Constance, the woman who taught Kitty everything she knew, is dying. At her mentor’s bedside, Kitty asks her, “What is the one story you always wanted to write?”

The answer lies in a single sheet of paper buried in Constance’s office—a list of one hundred names—with no notes or explanation. But before Kitty can ask her friend, it is too late.

Determined to unlock the mystery and rebuild her own shaky confidence, Kitty throws herself into the investigation, tracking down each of the names on the list and uncovering their connection. Meeting these ordinary people and learning their stories, Kitty begins to piece together an unexpected portrait of Constance’s life . . . and starts to understand her own.