Snowy Day Reads

Much like the rest of the Midwest, I am currently under winter storm warnings and could potentially get a foot of snow today.

Last night's chilly sunset...

Last night’s chilly sunset…

... To this morning's snow!

… To this morning’s snow!

I love a good snowstorm. (So long as I don’t have anywhere I need to be.) I love to cozy up with a blanket and a cup of coffee or red wine. Maybe bake something warm and delicious like cookies or bread to pair with a soup. Just relax and watch the snow fall Or a Sex and the City Marathon. Perfection.

But, thanks to a December full of decadent Holiday meals and the ever so popular New Years ambition, I have challenged myself to go the next twenty-five days sans caffeine, alcohol and sugar. So, that means no coffee, no wine, and no baked goodies for this snow storm.

For the record… This challenge to myself sounded a lot better two weeks ago… with a cookie in one hand and Merlot in the other.

And even Sex and the City has sounded better. E! has been playing reruns all afternoon all winter break so I have had my fill of witty puns, shoes I can’t afford and “fabulous!”

For a quick moment today, I thought, “Oh no… What am I going to do?”

Then my dear mother’s voice popped into my head (… Happens more than I care to admit): I could pick up a book and read it.

I do love to read and it’s one of those things I always find myself wishing I had more time for. On the flight to Denver I started Comfort Me with Apples a memoir of a food writer in the 1970’s in California. There are recipes sprinkled throughout the book based on the author, Ruth’s, restaurant reviews and travels. I enjoyed it on the flight, but since we have been home it’s been pushed onto the back burner.

Until now. I have a funny feeling I won’t be going anywhere for the next forty eight hours, plenty of time to finish the book, get some work done… and maybe even clean the kitchen.

… But, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

At least it's pretty!

At least it’s pretty!

If you are snowed in and looking for something to download here are a few of my “Bloom” themed favorites:

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Career and Life Inspiration:

The Adversity Advantage Written by Paul G. Stoliz and Eric Weihenmayer-

I received this at a conference in San Diego in 2008. The conference was for graduating hospitality students across the nation who had made it through the first two rounds of interviews with a major hotel company. They actually ended up not hiring any new grads that year due to the recession.

Now that I am a bit older, I understand why they gave us this book. It follows Eric, a young man who went blind in his teens but inspired many by continuing to mountain climb. The biggest lesson that I took away from this is that setbacks are inevitable and adversity isn’t something that brings your down; it’s fuel.

I reread this book when my company cut my position across the nation in 2011 and I found myself without a job. In what could have been a really depressing time, I made an effort to try new things, focus on my passions and learn more about my strengths. It ended up being a time in my life that I am very thankful to have had. It helped shape who I am today and taught me that I am so much more than a job.

Bossypants Written by Tina Fey-

I have never really gotten into SNL or 30 Rock so I didn’t know much about Tina Fey, but her book was on a list of books that all women in their twenties should read. So, I picked it up at the library. I loved it. And, the list was spot on: It’s a great message for twenty-something women.

It chronicles Tina’s childhood to college years at UVA to Chicago where she was part of the Second City, a comedy tour that has been the start of many other SNL stars, and to where she is today. Tina fought her way through the male dominated profession. At one point, she was told that for every woman on the stage there needed to be two men and that no one would watch two women comedians. Well, she went on to prove all them wrong when she rocked SNL alongside Amy Poehler with the Sarah Palin skits. (And, they will also be side by side at this Sunday’s Golden Globes!)

She convinces you to never accept “no” for an answer, to not let gender stereotypes stop you, and to work your butt off to get what you know is your destiny. All while having a good sense of humor and not taking yourself too seriously, of course.

PS- I got this as a book on CD and listened to it in the car. (I love listening to books while driving… it’s incredibly refreshing compared to Top 40 Radio.) It is read by Tina so you are able to hear all the inflections in her comments and sarcasm… the way she intended. It’s hilarious. I literally didn’t want to get out of my car whenever I arrived to my destination… even home!

Homesteading Inspiration and Tips:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle written by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver-

I reference this book often in “Bloom” and that’s because it’s quite possibly the inspiration for the garden, the chickens, the changes Adam and I have made to our way of life, and this blog.

Barbara challenges her family to eat only local food for one full year. So, that’s food from their garden, Farmer’s Markets, and other local growers. Barbara’s family didn’t start totally from scratch. They had backyard hens, raised meat chickens, and had a garden for years so they had the knowledge and experience before they began this challenge. But, it was still incredibly eye opening, informative and inspiring.

I listened to this one in the car just over a year ago and would often come home rattling off my new found knowledge or tidbits to Adam. This opened up the conversations that led to us getting the hens and planting our garden. And the Kingsolver family’s challenge is something we have entertained. (We’re not there yet. Maybe someday!)

I feel the most important lesson I learned from this was not what chickens need to lay great eggs, how to plant garlic, or the impact of shipping food around the country everyday, but was a simple line that I carry with me every day: “We cannot be expected to know what we haven’t been taught.”

This line struck me so much that I actually had to stop the car and write that one down.

It’s true. I had no idea that corn grew with only two ears per stalk. But, how would I? I didn’t grow up around agriculture in any way. My high school didn’t offer one horticulture or agriculture class. I didn’t even know FFA was a thing. I only knew what 4-H was thanks to a sample resume in a Sophomore year English class where the teacher had to explain it to us.

I know people in rural communities who probably think people like me (… or who I used to be) are “idiots.” “Yuppies.” “Oblivious.” And I know people in cities who think agriculture is “totally backwards.” But, what both groups are is uninformed. We have so much to teach each other. So much to learn.

Chicken and Egg Written by Janice Cole

This is a memoir of Janice’s first year raising three backyard hens in suburban Minnesota. She tells her stories throughout the seasons with her hens and includes seasonal recipes, showcasing just how versitle eggs really are.

She add lots of facts that have been incredibly helpful as a hen owner, but also make you think about the chicken and eggs at the store. She doesn’t try to convince you to raise your own chickens, but encourages you to make informed decisions about the eggs and chicken you put on your plate.

I hate to use the word “cute” to describe this book, but it is really cute. The photography is beautiful and simple. Her stories are fun and real. And she named her hens Lulu, Cleo and Roxanne.

I mean, come on. How cute is that!?

Cooking Inspiration:

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics Written by Ina Garten

Ina is the Queen. She has tons of great books that I adore, but this one takes the cake. I rented this from the library and had eight post-it notes, highlighting what I wanted to cook, on the first ten pages. So, to Amazon I went and now it’s mine.

I love Ina’s simplistic, fresh style of cooking. The recipes don’t call for anything too crazy that would have you running to specialty stores or scouring the internet. A lot of the time, they are items already in the house.

There are tips and tricks throughout the book from “What to serve with drinks” to “Top Flavor Boosters.” She also adds cooking tricks like “Different ways to puree soup” and brands that she likes to use when preparing specific dishes, making it easy to create her, seemingly, impressive dishes.

This is one book I know will be a reference for me for a long time.

The Real Girls Kitchen Written by Haylie Duff

I want to live in this book. Haylie has such a fresh, southern California, beachy-boho vibe to her recipes and the styling of her book. It’s totally right up my alley. Many people think of Hollywood or L.A. when they think of southern California, but this book is the SoCal, thanks to a summer internship there in 2008, that I know and love.

I wouldn’t consider this a diet book by any means, but it is full of healthy recipes. However, Haylie takes healthy and turns it from “What I shouldn’t eat” to “What I should eat.” She uses tons of great power foods like kale and beets in her recipes and makes them look divine. She is not a huge fan of heavy creams and mayo, so she has recipes featuring protein packed Greek yogurt to cut the calories but keep the flavors.

The stories throughout the book are also really fun. I read it cover to cover in one night and have made a handful of the recipes since then. Adam’s favorite is the “Spicy Chicken Noodle ‘Sick’ Soup.” Ever put chili flakes or jalapenos in your chicken noodle soup? Try it and you will from here on out!

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Stay warm out there! I will be in here, wrapped up in a fleece blanket, with my book and… water.

Not quite perfection… wine would get me there. But, I will be strong. ‘Cause it’s still pretty darn good.

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