Sunday, August 30, 2020

The harvest is upon us

The bounty of the season is upon us!  Cold mornings trigger plants to really produce, sugars run higher and we get to finally enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Today is butcher day.  I set the water to boil off,  as I sit and reflect on the day ahead.   I am thankful for the knowledge that they had a good life, were treated with kindness and their harvesting will be dealt with the same.  

Knowing where food comes from is more than just understanding, it's a deep respect we have for them too.   Be blessed today.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Finding Hope in a rough year

How has 2020 been for you?   If you are still alive, have a roof over your head, food in your belly, and friends and family to call - then I'd say you're doing pretty good.  The rest is just window dressing.

2020 has been a difficult year for some.  I've not taken the time to make a bunch of posts on the blog this summer.  I have written a hundred different things in my head, even as drafts -  then deleted them.  Let me say it one time - I believe in equality for all, but don't believe all get it.  I believe in personal responsibility and honor to my surroundings (human, animal and otherwise).  I believe that we as a human race can do better for ourselves and our planet.  But I also believe in reasonable goals and acknowledge that it may take many lifetimes to continue towards a peaceful world.  Forward progress is still progress.  If you look back thru history, we've come a long way - but we still have more to do!

So how does that really affect Books N Brew?   I've stayed as a silent witness to many situations this year.  I usually will not speak up in a crowd as I don't like being bullied.  I don't like confrontation very much and would rather walk away then blow up and say some pretty vicious things which I may or may not truly mean.   This right here is my platform.  I don't accept ads for this site, I don't accept endorsements, so I answer only to me.  I choose this space to be free from bullshit or drama or hate.  This is just me, my food, my reading, my friends, my family, and my ideas that are put out to the blogosphere.  Maybe it will reach someone, maybe it won't.  This is a therapy to me to get my words out.    You can read them, you can scroll on by.  That is your choice in life.  

You may be wondering what's been holding me back.  Why haven't I written about this before now?  One word? Anger.   I was so angry at the mob mentality of people that I was seeing online, the social warriors who became bullies to others who didn't believe as they did.  I was angry at people I know pushing others, calling them names and bullying them for not acting out (sorry, bullies of all kinds are not tolerated here).   I was overcome with anxiety just reading news articles about our local and federal governments - not knowing if my job or my husbands job would be secure in the next few years.   I was dealing with swirling emotions as I was staying home, working from home, isolating from family and friends and seeing the "I don't Care" or "I" culture folks who only care about themselves, laugh about being quarantined with too much time on their hands.   I have been disgusted by folks who viciously attack those online when they ask basic questions.  I am tired of people not being courteous as well as I am tired of people not taking initiative and using the correct resources to research their questions.  My heart hurts when people choose to rant and rave about another person / business but make no efforts to talk to the person and or business and try to bring the issues to light.   It's too easy to become inflamed over perceived slights when it could very well be the other party has no clue why you are so upset. What boggles me the most is that our American society has become so self-centered that it's almost unfathomable for many to even think outside of their comfort zone.  

Remind yourself (yes I know it's hard) that others do not have the same experiences as you do.  Try to look at a situation from the other side's perspective.  It's okay to get a little angry at a situation, but don't let it fester.   It's okay to feel anxiety or depression, but if it is stopping or limiting your daily activities or you have a major attack - it's also completely normal to have a chat with your doctor about it.    These feelings and emotions don't make you "crazy", they make you human.  Acknowledging them is the first step, not ignoring them is the next.    We all need a time out sometime and fresh perspective from time to time.   Those are my thoughts, my rant and rave for the summer.    

As for the good parts - due to me working from home, the dog has had lots of attention (he's a bit co-dependent now), we got chickens  (post coming soon!), and even though we've had too much rain in the spring / early summer, the heat finally showed up!  Our tomatoes are now setting fruit, zucchini are pushing into giants, and the best of all, we figured out a way to turn our annual Gumbo house party into a Drive-Thru party!   

If you take away anything from this post - let it be some hope that others are out there feeling just the way you do.  Try to find one positive thing and hold onto it.  Then take that little bit of light, and let it shine for others to see. 


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Soup for spring

The last Tuesday of spring 2020. It has been very wet here in the pacific northwest.  So much that instead of grilling, I have craved soup!  So I indulged. 

Shrimp bisque is one recipe that I follow pretty close.   I have used a recipe I found d at a few times.  It is simply delish!

Wishing warm days, garden growth and more for this last week of spring.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The world keeps turning... the garden keeps growing.

There is no doubt, we are living in strange times amid this virus crisis.  I feel very lucky to live rural where I can walk around my yard and not feel so isolated.

There is a constant in our life that gives hope, no matter how bleak the news of the day is.  Our Garden.  The overwintered veggies are springing to life.  Carrot seeds are popping, same with dill and garlic.  Lettuce, radish and kale seeds are sprouting, and our purple broccoli is showing their pretty heads!
My daily routine is totally changed with this crisis, but I am thankful to be still working from home.  The lack of a commute leaves me more time to devote to our continued sustainability.  Here at Books n Brew, we have always lived by the motto of "why buy it when you can make it yourself", and we will continue that motto long after those who are frantically buying seeds right now, lose interest.  Major plans for a bountiful year are in the works!

Just remember, like grammy told me that the cows didn't know it was the depression, our Gardens don't know we are in a crisis. ❤❤

We did make an investment that will forever change our little half acre, chickens!!
Exciting times are ahead!  The uncertainty of today will not darken the bright light of hope.

Stay safe my friends, be thankful for fresh air, blue skies, good internet, books, and social media to keep us all connected while isolated.  This crisis is not yet over, and this will undoubtedly change all of our lives from this time forward.

Blessings to you.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Irish Feast Week 2020

2020 has had it's challenges.  For the first time ever I planned an "Irish feast week" which started the Sunday before St. Patrick's day and lasted thru the end of Winter. 

It was a challenge only because we didn't have folks to share it with us at our dining room table.  Instead, every day we shared the nightly meal on social platforms -doing a virtual feast of the eyes to our friends and family.   

If you need a good cook book to read, I would totally suggest The Farmette Cookbook.  I used the Patsy's Pies pie crust recipe and it was voted the BEST!

Irish Feast week Preparation

In planning our meals, we wanted to use items more than once, to  utilize leftovers and limit single use ingredients if we could.   We wanted to show that American Irish food was about adapting, using what you have, and being appreciative of simple ingredients.

Our shopping list entailed things such as (not in any order)
corned beef
yellow potatoes
orange carrots
head of cabbage
green onions
Kerry Gold butter
heavy cream
whole grain mustard
dry mustard powder
dijon mustard
Guinness beer
plain beef brisket
beef stock
chicken stock
bay leaf
parsely, fresh
dried herbs like oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, parsley, sage
rye bread
irish sharp cheese
sharp regular cheddar
puff pastry
ground pork
sour cream
more chocolate
"leprechaun dust"
dark chocolate cocoa powder
more beer
ice pack for my foot

Our Menu comprised of a Prep Nigh.  I needed to make sure we had all the items as proprotionate before we started.   The plan was to start with a lot, and use leftovers thru the week, ending the week with a flourish and good memories!

Day 1
     Corned Beef, steamed cabbage & carrots, Mashed potatoes, champ, Irish Sausage rolls, craggy cheddar and green onion drop biscuits plus Guinness mustard
** Everything was made with a little extra in mind **

Day 2
    Irish Bangers, mashed potatoes, with grilled onion gravy and parsley carrots
** using leftover mashed potatoes, adding dried parsley to the steamed carrots and microwaving with a pat of KerryGold butter, using up some leftover grilled onions and beef broth to make the gravy**

Day 3
  St. Patrick's day Irish stew with brisket
** using whatever carrots were left, plus more, adding potatoes, a new brisket, mushrooms, onions, in a white broth plus trimmed brisket (not corned) plus a cup of the strained corned beef jous and of course some beer.

For dessert we dined on the beautiful Chocolate Stout cake in the "mini donut form".  I am going to call these super chocolate bombs, and they were good!!!!!!

Day 4
     Leftover Corned beef hash with cabbage, breakfast style; aka with over medium eggs and rye toast!
** the remainder of the corned beef, plus the steamed cabbage, and mashed potatoes, plus half an onion and a clove of garlic made use of most of the leftovers.

Day 5
   The last meal of Winter - Irish Stew Pie
Using a homemade crust (best one i've ever made), we used all the leftovers from the St. Patrick's stew, added flour as a thickener and baked as a pie.   It was devine and so filling!

This was a fun week of meals to plan.  I'm only sorry that more people couldn't be here to taste each one.

As usual, I don't post the recipes for St. Patrick's Day.  I should, but that would make this post really long!  Maybe next year I'll post them as i go along.  If you want to recreate anything I have pictured here, just ask!   Most of these are just an "as you go" recipe meaning that there isn't one way to make them and they change based on what you have available.

My dream is that one day to host a St. Pats Party, with ALL of these dishes for sampling.   My what a feast that would be!!  

But for now we' re shifting into Spring mode.  That means plantingand planning and using the freezer and canned stores to make room for this year's horde.  Looking forward to seeing what i will do with all my  apple sauce and pickled asparagus!!  We have a great garden planned and should see some greens and radish in just a few weeks.   

Peace and blessings from our house to yours. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

End of Winter

If you would have told me early last month that instead of getting pumped up and stretching out in the cold morning, that I would  be blogging in my jammies, I'd have said you would be wrong!  I had a goal to do two 5ks, the first which should have been today.  I was planning on having to cancel today's due to a foot injury - but now due to the current world situation - I'm getting a refund.   Not just on today's, but on the one for next month too.  In the State of Washington, any public gathering with 250 people or more is henceforth banned, as of Tuesday March 17th.  Happy St. Patrick's Day. 

Covid19 has changed our landscape, our present, our immediate future. It has brougt the realization that most folks were not as prepared as they thought to ride out 3 days, a week, let alone the 6 weeks that our schools and other places / events gatherings will be closed.

I have thought long and hard about this.  I come from Irish_Americans, and this is just one life lesson we have always known.   There comes a time in history when the world becomes smaller - that people need eachother.  This is one of those times.

I would never have called myself a prepper - the term that many of the doomsday preppers - the time when they all thought that shit would hit the fan, i don't have a bugout bag or a cache in the woods.  But I've always believed that we should be prepared in life for any emergency.  I buy an extra bottle of shampoo when it is on sale; same goes for laundry soap, paper towels, toothpaste, coffee, flour, beans, coffee creamer.  My husband is now more surprised when I forget to pickup the one extra spare than when I come home with a trunkful and a smile. 

You see I grew up on stories of the depression from my grandma.  She would say the her father would give milk to neighbors from their cow, as her father used to say "the cow doesn't know it's the depression".    I could never understand why she would freeze a half cup of gravy and mashed potatoes - in a glass jar.  It was a just in case measure.   Most people who squirrel things away, try to use them before the next season.  Too much of this and the effect then becomes a hoarding situation.  I try to not be a hoarder.   If I'm not using it, then I don't need it and out the house it goes! 

Practicality is something that I see lacking lately.   Logic, reason, common sense, self reliance, and due diligence.  These are qualities we all need to focus on, as well as empathy, compassion, selflessness and grace.   Be grateful for what you do have, and if you can help in any way, do.

I placed my new seed order last night. After I do some kitchen prep, my plan is to head out to the greenhouse for the annual end of winter cleaning event.  My lettuce is sprouting in the cold frame. My garlic is popping up, and the leeks are looking fabulous!   I need to pull weeds and dig out the raspberries, transplant the strawberries. 

The world will keep turning on it's axis, no matter how you handle the reality of the  world with covid-19 threats.

Soon the fear and worry of the world will ebb - for now tensions and the unknown are high.  But I have faith in humanity.  I have faith the communities will come together to support eachother.    But mark this on the calendar - this will be a pivotal point in history much like 9/11 and even Columbine.  You will define history as before and after.  Before covid-19 you may have taken for granted being able to purchase such  basic supplies without fear of running out.  It may not cause such devastation, but it will cause a ripple affect and like all other world wide events, will bring out the true nature in others.

My advice to anyone reading this - take a deep breath.  Look around you.  Be thankful for what you have.  Take an Inventory of your own self, your surroundings, and make a list.  Do you have enough for two weeks? Are you being selfish in our needs?  Can you make do with less?  Can you learn to adapt?  What is your worst fears, how can others help ease those fears?  Can you help others ease their fears?  How can you show more compassion in the days ahead? 

Unfortunately when compassion is most needed, greed and scammers come out full force.  Watch out for  your neighbors - please be careful who you gift money to.  Instead gift items like books, food, offer to do a load of laundry, and make sure you validate the source of the monetary request.    Look back thru history - these times are when the rich get richer by buying up stocks and weathering the storms.  And the shady folks thrive in the face of uncertainty.

I choose hope.   My garden will soon be blossoming - and it's my hope to share it with you over the next few months. 

Blessings and peace,

Saturday, February 22, 2020


It's funny how one little thing can change your perspective.     

For me, the last few weeks kept throwing little things at me.  I attended a memorial for one of my mentors.  CK had been a big influence and one my the managers I worked under when I was in my 20s.  When he moves on, I took over his spot and we had always remained friends (the motorcycle industry is small) with him and his wife.  Their relationship was an inspiration to me and I knew that my then current situation wasn't what I wanted.  Fast forward 21 years later and CK lost the long hard fought battle with cancer.   
At that memorial I hung out with some old friends from the industry,  hell they remembered me from those days too!

One of my good friends, whom I used to work with as well, also was there and it was great to catch up.  She was recently laid off from the parent company we used to work for.  A year before retirement, 40 years of experience, the majority of her life the last 10 years has been for the brand she worked for.  
We talked last night about some fun old times, how lucky we were, how our problems or issues are so minute in comparison to the rest of the world that doesn't have a toilet, or even a roof.  

Life sometimes needs to give you a timeout.  It's not fair, it sucks, but you have to get over one through it, gain some perspective and keep trying.
We are never too old for life lessons.  

With all that being said, today I am grateful.  For my husband, my family, my friends, my coworkers past and present, my neighbors, my community, my dog, and this blog.

Have some compassion today, be kind, smile.  You never know when you yourself will be an influence, an inspiration, or just the laugh you share with a friend will give e them the perspective they didn't know they needed.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

View from the Stump house

Mid-winter hasn't been what we've expected.  We have had one snowstorm that lasted over a week.  We have had lots of rain.  Today we've reached 50 degrees, heard the birds chirping and have witnessed new grass growing.  It's a mild winter here in the Pacific Northwest.   It's halfway thru winter, Chinese New Year, and a little less than 2 months before my first 5K. 

Mid-winter is my time to plot and plan my gardens.  To look over my freezer and pantry stores and make plans on what to use up before the next season.   Projects are being planned, wood is being set aside, greenhouse dreams are coming together, and amid all of this, I found time to sit in our stump house and write a few thoughts.   

Today as I look around my yard, I am so grateful for what we have.   I have gardens for food, herbs, flowers, and rocks.  We grow trees from the seedlings that sprout in our yard, and have houses for birds, bats, and lady bugs.  I am sitting in a stump house that shields me from most rain and wind and in a moment will head down to the fire pit to warm my cold fingers.  I choose to focus on what I do have than those things that I can only dream about for now.   

I am content with where I am in life.  But I know that I also will achieve those dreams through hard work.  The view from the stump house will just have to do for now.

Keep moving forward.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Forward progress

Every dream or goal can be attained, so long as you just keep moving forward. Every step is a step in the right direction.

This weekend I knew I had to make a choice of those steps.  Instead of one, I made two!  Two 5K races, both which benefit local charities, and both which are on road/trails in my area.

Why a 5K?  My doctor even asked me that question.  I feel it's due to the accountability of paying an entry fee.   I don't like to waste money.  I can also work up to it over time and I know that some folks that enter are the same boat as myself.  I may never be first, and even if I came in last I know I will finish.  That is the goal - completion.  With my short legs I have to push to complete a 5K in under an hour.  It sucks to get passed by someone in their 70's with long legs! 

But my dreams / goals cannot be obtained with just exercise.  In order to help reach my goal, exercise is only one part. I've been diagnosed with Familial hypertriglyceridemia.  Basically it's high triglycerides (fat in the blood) without having high total cholesterol and passed down thru genetics.  Supposedly it affects about 1% of the population (yay me).  While most of the time people can control it with diet and exercise, there comes a time that extra help is needed.  For the last 10 years I've tried statins, omega 3's, niacin, and a combination along with diet and exercise.  I've tried limiting food groups, removing food groups.  My numbers are still high, so we're trying a new drug and 3 month diet limiting foods with saturated fats and cholesterol and increasing exercise.  We've already made some minor changes, swapping out things like plant butter instead of dairy butter or oatmeal in place of breadcrumbs for meatballs!

I am 1 month in of my 3 month goal.  During the winter months I struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.  It is very common for those of us in the Northern parts of the USA.  It's gotten worse for me the last few years but this year I have a plan.   Treadmill walking 3 times a week, day of yoga, day of weight training, a rest day, and a reading day.  Couple this with dietary changes, and playing with the dog more, and the satisfaction of completing not just one, but two 5K's and keeping a gratitude journal.

Next up, the dietary swaps I've made - and what recipes are getting thrown out. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Into 2020 and beyond

As I started to write out my 2020 "to-do" list, it occurred to me that this year will mark 10 years of blogging on Books N Brew - WA.  I've got Lasagna sauce simmering on the stovetop, bone broth going in my instant pot, and I am about to take down the Christmas decorations.  In this moment though I  wanted to reflect a bit back thru the decade, review where I am now, and look forward into what comes next.

There have been so many changes over the past decade.  I've gone from a single gal with a cat in my one bedroom apartment, to a married woman with a great husband and a dog in a country setting.  Missy Kitty has passed on, but she left a big impression on our hearts that Sauk the Destroyer fills most everyday.

We've lost family and loved ones, friends, and have said goodbye to what seems simpler times (just by seeing the technology evolve).  But we have gained so much more than just trinkets and material things.  We've gained family,  friends, new jobs, new skills, gained knowledge and perspective.  But above all else, we have each other.

As I look forward to this next decade (and man by that time I'll be 51!), I try and think to myself - self, where do you want to be?  How do you want to feel in 10 years?  What if you could tell your 31 year old self ONE thing that you know now, that you had wished you had known then?  Let me give you a minute to think on it.   I'm going to do that myself...

I had to take longer than a minute.  It's a hard question.  If you changed the past, you wouldn't be sitting where you are today.  And neither would I.  But, there is something I could have done, had I realized that time was limited.  If I could write a letter or a cookie fortune that would have hit me in a time that I needed it - it would say that.    Time is limited - Spend it wisely with those you love.

My one regret of the past decade is not spending more time with Grammy.  Grammy passed on at the end of 2010, and in that year I did not get enough visits in.  You could say I was super depressed having just lost my dad.  I fought it and hard, but weekends were spent sleeping.   It was when I started this blog I started to come out of my fog.   I spent more time with friends, I threw the epic St. Pats feast, I threw an awesome Cajun feast, spent time fishing with friends, and I met my husband.   After that meeting, I went and saw my Grams.   I told her I thought I found my one.  She smiled.  It's that smile and even her smirk I miss most on this day.

Thinking of now, what would I wish my 51 year one old self would tell me today?  I know time is limited.   I try and call and visit with my mom and sister and her kids as much as possible (living 4 hours away with a mountain pass between us).  I feel connected via social media platforms to other family members afar.   We have great local friends who we see and embrace those friendships like a warm blanket.   We host a large gathering every year and in that moment  - when everyone sits down to eat, to consume what we've put heart and soul into; and wander about our grounds to see what new things we've done to our place - is when I feel content.

I think my older self would tell me two major things.  One is that the health changes that I am focusing on this year - move more, eat nourishing foods, shifting my mindset and refocusing on positive thoughts, and to let go of stress and drama - are my top priority and will lead to a fruitful decade of life.  Due to some health issues, if I don't turn it around, or at least start the U turn, the next decade after this could be daunting.

The second is that forgiveness - even of those who don't deserve it - is about your own peace of mind.  Forgive those who trespass on you or have done so in the past. Let old wounds heal, scab and scar over.   You don't have to put yourself through pain to heal, but write them down, toss them into the fire and let them go.   Take one step toward a better you by forgiving others, as well as yourself.

So if you are reading this - take a moment to think of one person that you may hold away from yourself.  Maybe they were were unintentionally mean or cruel - with words, actions or indifference.  Change your perspective and try to think of things from their point of view.   Don't cast blame - don't think of the hurt that they caused.  Don't let their words continue to cut you down.  Forgive them for they may not have known how deep they hurt you.   Forgive them for they may also have been facing their own demons.  Forgive them because it's good for you to do so. 

Take three deep breaths (hard for me to do right now without coughing) and let it go.  Only you have the power to not let them continue to harm you.  Holding onto hurt and anger only hurts yourself.  In the grand scheme of all things - it's just better for you to let it all go and focus on the positive and let those hurts be life lessons.

In the last 10 years there have been many folks I've forgiven from afar, some more recent than others.  One in particular comes to mind.   This person was a part of my life in so many aspects.   I was hurt by words, by actions, by indifference and after a long while of saying nothing - I let it be known I was hurt.   Afterward,  instead of throwing a tantrum I left the situation so I did not feel like I was a pawn in the middle of a chess game.   I forgave the person in my mind almost immediately, but I needed distance.  I  don't choose to initiate interaction, and to this day - they've not done the same with me.   I hold no hate or any grudge for this person - even though they seem to still make it difficult for those in mutual circles.  I only hold love of our fond shared memories - and wish them nothing but good fortune.

There are others with minor trespasses that I've forgiven - but not forgotten. Those I'm still working on letting go 100% - but I won't allow any hurt or pain to hold space in my mind or heart.

My little slice of heaven does not have room for grudges and hate.  Our gardens blossom due to time, attention, love, a little luck, patience, and a lot of perseverance. 

My way doesn't work for everyone.  There is no right path to happiness - and some folks will always just be miserable.  You gotta find your own happy!  I have and am looking forward to spreading it in the next decade!

Finally you may wonder what is in store for Books N Brew going into the second decade!  More books, more reading, more cooking - and using food as fuel to help my health journey (more on that later), and more overall happiness and wellness from our little slice of heaven!

Just keep this in mind for 2020 and beyond.    Your future is not yet written.  Do something today that will honor your past, be present, and prepare you for the future.  Take one moment each day - look around you and see how blessed you truly are.

Blessings of light, joy, love, and luck,