Tuesday, November 27, 2007

books, books, books, and a movie

I haven't done a book post for awhile - and I've read some good ones. "When Crickets Cry" by Charles Martin was really good. It was a bittersweet story about a man's struggle to survive after his wife's death - and a young girl's friendship giving him a chance for redemption. His story is told in flashbacks which I found very effective.

"The New Year's Quilt" by Jennifer Chiaverini is the latest installment in the Elm Creek Quilters series. It fleshes out a lot of stories that we've read in previous books about Sylvia Compson - and does it very nicely.

For a long time I avoided John Grisham books - I felt that after his first 2 or 3, he was writing for the movies. But his later books have redeemed him in my opinion. This one is not a lawyer book - it's about an NFL player who doesn't survive the NFL - and finds himself in Parma, Italy playing in the "Pizza League." I decided to read "Playing for Pizza" because the first time I went to Europe, I accompanied Mark on a business trip to Parma. We enjoyed our visit there - and I enjoyed reading this accounting of some of the sights I saw when we were in Italy. A light read, but entertaining.

This year, ABC has a Friday night show called "The Women's Murder Club" - that is based on James Patterson's mystery series. I watched the first TV show and liked the characters and started reading the series. I'm on the waiting list at the library for the 7th one now. The main characters are very fun and Patterson tells a great story.

I liked his writing so much that I also started his Alex Cross series - "Along Came a Spider" is the first in the series. I just finished it and enjoyed Alex Cross and the story a lot. I'm totally into mysteries right now, and I'm enjoying Patterson's stories.

Another writer that I just started reading is David Baldacci. I had read several reviews on blogs praising his books, so when I found "Saving Faith" on a garage sale this summer, I picked it up.

That book was so good, I requested "Absolute Power" at the library. I'm about halfway through it right now. Baldacci is excellent!

Another favorite writer that I don't think I've blogged about is Vince Flynn. He lives in the Twin Cities and his books are also excellent. His protagonist is an undercover CIA agent.

Over the weekend, we watched "Hairspray." Too funny. Seeing John Travolta and Christopher Walken in drag is worth the price of admission!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ultimate Italian Squash

I've been in a cooking mood lately. This isn't always the case, so you can imagine how much Mark is enjoying it and encouraging me to continue! A couple weeks ago I found a recipe in the paper for this squash recipe and tried it last night. Mark declared it MAYBE the best squash he's ever had. (Or at least until the next time he has squash!!!!)

Serves 6
3 medium-size acorn squash, split in half and seeded
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 tbsp unsalted butter
6 tbsp light brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
1 (26 oz) jar marinara sauce
5 to 7 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Place the squash halves, open side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet.
(I cut a small piece off the bottom of each piece so they don't tip over.
And I used parchment instead of foil.)
Brush the tops and openings of each squash lightly with the oil.
Place 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon brown sugar in the center of each squash.
Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Bake until the squash is fork tender, 50 to 55 minutes.
While the squash is baking, brown the Italian sausage in a large skillet until cooked through.

Add the full jar of marinara sauce and simmer until the squash is done baking.
I used marinara sauce from a local restaurant - it was nicely seasoned and had big chunks of vegetables in it. (and it was red, not pale orange!!!)

I didn't baste the squash while it baked with the butter/brown sugar mixture - but that would have been a really good idea!!

Remove the squash from the oven and evenly divide the sausage and marinara mixture into the center of each of the squash halves.

Sprinkle with the cheese.
Place the squash back in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the basil - a step I neglected - :(
Serve warm. (Note: these stay very warm for quite a long time - nice!)
To serve, I used these cute pasta bowls I picked up on a visit to a Seattle winery.

It was very yummy and I will definitely make this dish again. I think you could easily get by with less butter and sugar in the first step, but it was very tasty.
I cooked 1 squash that Mark and I split, but I did cook all of the Italian sausage - so now I have 2 packets of 1/3 lb each in the freezer to use another time - and 2/3 jar of marinara for another meal or two.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

never mind

Yesterday morning I was ready to surrender to winter - dig out the snowshoes and ice skates - enjoy the season. But in the afternoon the sun came out - the temps climbed above freezing - and the ice on the lake started disappearing. Hooray!!!! This morning there are a couple sheets of ice still being blown around by the wind, but mostly just broken up stuff along shore. A reprieve - and I gladly accept! As I write this, the sun has just burst through the clouds - I think it's going to be a very nice day. Cool!

Mark took this for me last night. I hung icicle lights inside the porch and then wrapped single strands of clear lights around the railing on the landing and stairs. It's kind of pretty from both inside and out. I love the lights on the porch - it looks like candlelight. Now that I have some hooks up in there, I can envision stringing single strands during the summer for some soft lighting...we'll see.

We also tried to get a photo of the tree on the dock. This was by far the most interesting - Mark was trying to get the light meter or ?? set so the red would show up as red, and he was just holding the camera in his hands. Very cool, don't you think?? The white squiggles near the top are lights that the red coating has rubbed off. We had a good chuckle when we saw this - hope you do too!!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

there was enough for everyone

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving - I hope you all did too. Our son who lives in Minneapolis was out for the afternoon on Thursday - to enjoy a holiday meal with us, catch the game, and do his laundry. It was great having him here, as always. The pooches enjoy holiday dinners too - there's always a handout if they're patient. Here, Kobie sits attentively while Mark carves the turkey - and then lies attentively when he realizes this is a BIG job!

Thursday night/Friday morning we had our coldest temps so far this season. There was a light skim of ice on the lake Friday morning. It was cold again last night, so this may be permanent. There is open water trying to push through the ice - but a few more cold nights and it will be solid. The bigger bays are still open water. I love it when the ice is first forming and when it's breaking up in the spring. As the open water collides with the ice, you can hear a "tinkle" that sounds like crystal - it's very pretty to listen to.

I put an iron tree on the dock. In this photo it looks like barbed wire! - but those are tiny red lights. At night you can see it from across the lake and all up and down the shore. I think it looks very cool. I'll try and get a photo at night to show you. I turned on the outside lights Thanksgiving evening - and have only had to replace one strand so far! I'm sure there will be more that decide to stop lighting before I'm ready to take them down in January!
Our cold nights are taking a toll on my flowers. I have a few rosebuds that still look pretty - but other than that, we're down to sedum. All in all, it was a very good year for my gardens - and I'm already thinking ahead to next spring.
I wanted to share some more info with you about the oil warmer and scented oils. I won mine in a contest Sandra at http://sandrasdance.blogspot.com/ sponsored on her blog awhile ago. A couple people have mentioned that they were going to look for the plug-in warmer. Check out Sandra's site at
She sells the warmers and oils - there is an extensive list of oils available. I love mine!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanks Giving

On this Thanksgiving morning, I want to take just a few minutes and list some of the things I am thankful for.

I am so thankful for my family. Mark is my best friend, father of my children, and love of my life. We share so many interests and have so much fun together that I think the coming years will only get better and better. We have two wonderful sons and a wonderful daughter-in-law who are all generous with their time and love. I love each of them and consider them all good friends.

I'm thankful for the two poodles who live with us. They provide hours of companionship and fun.

We are so thankful to have my parents and Mark's dad in our lives. Mark's mom passed some years ago, and we'll remember her today as every day. We're happy that his dad has someone very special in his life now, and that she's a part of our family too. We're thankful that they all enjoy good health. They all have so many friends and interests - they're much busier than we are!!

I'm thankful for brothers and sisters and in-laws who are all good friends. And I have the best nieces and nephews you can imagine. They all enrich our lives immeasurably.

Friends and neighbors - you have provided support and love and fun - and we are thankful to have you in our lives.

My blogger friends - I am totally addicted to each and every one of you. What a fun place Blogland is!! Thank you all so much.

I'm thankful that we live here - our beautiful lake, my gardens, and the beauty all around us are truly gifts.

I'm also thankful that I have common sense and tolerance towards others. That I have thin skin sometimes so I can have empathy for others - and thick skin so I can accept that others think and do differently than I would and it's okay. I'm thankful that I have a sense of humor - and especially that I can laugh at myself. And I'm thankful that I have enough love to share with others.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'd love to have you as a neighbor

Peter left a comment on the previous post and linked to a very expensive house on Lake Minnetonka. I've included the link again here because from the comment section, I only opened a small window on the site. To look at a 53 mil plus house, I wanted BIG pictures! LOL


As Peter correctly noted, there is a huge range in prices for homes on Minnetonka. Ours is a lot less expensive than this one!! However, on a more sobering note, it appears that pretty much all of the lakeshore on the lake has been developed, and now builders are tearing down anything they can to put up McMansions. The house that went up on our street is a good example: a smaller 40's rambler was torn down and now we have a 5,000 plus square foot house with a price tag of $1.8 million. A more modest home more in keeping with current home sizes and price tags would have been a kinder, more neighborly option, but I guess we will be seeing a lot more of this in the coming years. Makes me sad.

Several communities in the Twin Cities are putting limits on how big a house you can squeeze into an existing neighborhood - which I hope our city will think about in the near future. But at some point, a lot of people will be leaving the lake because the taxes will be outrageous even on their small homes. I have to say that this is a song we heard 30 years ago when we moved out here, so maybe things aren't changing all that much...time will tell.

My prediction for the house we linked is that it will be bought by a developer - 12 acres on this lake is a very nice package - and that house will be history. I'll let you know what happens.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

map of the lake

Connie at "Notes from a Cottage Garden" asked how big our lake is. It's hard to describe our lake - even people who have been on the lake have a hard time picturing it without looking at a map. It covers about 14,000 acres and has about 140 miles of lakeshore. It's made up of connected lakes and bays. From the small lake we're on, you can boat to any other part of the lake. We love it here - the lake is very social - lots of restaurants and beaches are accessible by boat. There are 4 cities that are on the lake. Next year when I have my gps in the kayak, I can tell you exactly how far across our lake is - but I'm guessing it's about a quarter mile from our house to the shore you see in the previous post. If these maps will click bigger, you can find our lake - Black Lake - near "Spring Park."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

all kinds of good stuff

Back in September, Sandra at "The Dance" had a contest on her blog to win an oil warmer, and I was lucky enough to be the winner! It took me forever to pick out the 3 fragrances I wanted to try, but I finally did. And this week it all arrived in the mail. It is so cool. You just put 2-3 drops of oil in the warmer and plug it in, and it makes a room smell wonderful. I love it. Thank you so much, Sandra!! I want to play with these three scents for awhile, but I'm already starting to think about other oils I want to try. Very fun.
Kate at "Kate Smudges..." mentioned this book in one of her recent posts. It sounded like something I would really enjoy having in my library, so off to Amazon I went. I found a used "like new" book for a really good price. It's going to be great fun reading this over the winter. Thanks for telling me about this book, Kate!

Last weekend we had some gorgeous November weather - in the 50's and perfectly calm. I had Mark take some photos for me of the reflections on the lake - I thought it was so pretty. We saw several people out in kayaks - perfectly smooth water and no boats. I have to get a wet suit or dry suit or something so we can use our kayaks when the water gets colder. I sit in water all the time in mine, and the water right now is COLD! But next spring, I plan to be out there shortly after the ice goes out. Do you see who's hunting in my garden?

Miss Tess. She's always on the lookout for critters - or something good to roll in!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

November blooms

Are you tired of my flowers yet? I think their days are numbered. We have had several mornings where the thermometer read in the 20's. However, last Friday I went out in a small flurry of snowflakes and took the first two photos below. The rest were taken today. I have to enjoy them while I can!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

an x-rated meme

A warning: Susie at Susie's Space tagged me for a meme - and I'm blaming her if I lose my G rating. :) The meme had one rule: go to Amazon.com Advanced Search and type your name in the title section.

Lots of fun titles came up - cooking game and fish with Babe and Kris Winkelman - a Kris Longknife novel titled "Audacious" (I thought the sci-fi babe on the cover looked a lot like me actually - lol!)

But the clear winner has to be "Pictures of Kris" - which incidentally does not look at all like me!
Thanks for the tag, Susie!!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day

In honor of Veteran's Day, I thought I would show you a photo of my grandpa, Sam Mills. He was born in 1892 and died in 1993, just a few months shy of his 101st birthday. He fought in World War I, stationed in France. I was thinking about him today and wishing that I had talked to him about the war when I was growing up. But my dad told me tonight that he rarely shared his experiences with anyone - he would just say that we were better off not knowing. Grandpa and Grandma lived around the corner (or through the orchard, if you took the shortcut) from us when I was growing up. Grandma had beautiful gardens, and Grandpa farmed with my dad. They were wonderful grandparents, and we were very lucky to have them living so close. I think of them often.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Gale Woods Farm

While the dogs were at the groomers today, I decided to go to Gale Woods Farm for a walk. Gale Woods is part of our county park system. It's a working farm. They have animals - sheep, cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys, a dog and many cats. They have gardens and farm land. They sell eggs, honey, meat, syrup, and wool. There's a lake for canoeing and fishing, and 3.5 miles of hiking trails. It's beautiful in every season. We went one day when my parents were here this summer - the gardens were beautiful. There are tons of hardwood trees so autumn is a treat. You can ski and snowshoe in the winter. Today was peaceful. Here's what I saw:

Guess I should say that the marshy pond shown in these photos is not the canoeing/fishing lake. My camera batteries died before I got that far!!