Friday, June 29, 2012

Keepin' It Clean...Kinda

I have a new "thing" that I absolutely love.  Over the past few years I've participated in the random 5K here and there.  It all started with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.  Because my grandmother died from breast cancer, I have a vested interest in wanting to do what I can in that arena.  From there, I've expanded my 5K wanderings and in the past couple months have participated in two suuuuuper fun 5Ks.  First was The Dirty 30, which my friend, Kelly, requested we do.  Seriously, for reals, it was a blast.  Here's my group before the race, prior to all the lovely, beautiful, squishy, red mud completely covered our bodies.

And here I am mid-race, relatively muddy at this point.

The best part?  There's going to be another one, coming up in October...a zombie edition.  I'm totally in...  If you want to learn more about what The Dirty 30 is, just click here.  They haven't posted details about the next race yet, but they will be soon!  It's so totally fun and I highly recommend it!  And let me know if you're planning on participating!

The second, totally fun, and not your regular run-of-the-mill 5K?  This past weekend was the first ever Color Run right here in Tulsa!  I ended up "running" this one solo, but my sweet sister-in-law (who happened to be in town, visiting, this past week) took my before and after pics.  With this 5K, you're supposed to start the race in all-white clothing and they throw this powdered "color" on you at various locations throughout the 5K.


And after...

I thought the yellow "Color Run" socks and 80's "Color Run" sunglasses I bought were totally hilarious and completed the look, haha!  If you want to learn more about The Color Run, click here.

Now, I am no runner.  I'll run what I can, but when it comes right down to it...I kinda hate it.  I'd rather walk and that's what I do most of the time when I'm exercising during my normal routine.  But, a little running every once in a while never hurt anyone.  And when it comes to 5Ks, especially fun ones, I kinda enjoy it.  I'll definitely be on the lookout for more 5Ks with a twist in the future!

Have you discovered something new, fun and interesting lately?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Winter Garden

My friend, Nicole, discovered a newly beloved author a couple months ago.  Kristin Hanna has published a number of books and if you'd like to visit her personal website, click here.  Nicole has been inhaling this author's books and has loved every single one that she's read to date.  Winter Garden is the first book I've been able to get my hands on via our book club.  And let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

The gist of this story involves two very dissimilar sisters (Meredith and Nina) trying to fulfill their father's dying request, to get to know their mother.  Neither have ever felt very loved by their mother, Anya; she's just not the "mothering" type.  Because of this, over the years neither daughter has made any real effort to get to know their mother. 

Once each of the three women decide to set aside their differences, an amazing story begins to unfold.  Anya has been telling the girls a very specific "fairy tale" since they were small children...her husband requests that she tell the full fairy tale to the girls on his death bed.  This book is the gradual telling of this Russian fairy tale...that's perhaps not quite so fantastical (or fictional) after all... 

Anya has a very thick Russian accent and if you can get your hands on the audiobook version of this it.  That's how I read this book and the reader did a fabulous job; it adds a little something to the story telling...

Needless to say, I highly recommend this book and can't wait to read another Hannah novel!  Firefly Lane is sitting in my "to read" pile as I type!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Distant Hours

First and foremost, have you even heard of Kate Morton?  I reviewed her The Forgotten Garden a waaaay, long time ago; for that review click here.  That was her sophomore novel and I finished her freshman novel, The House at Riverton, just a short while ago and included it on my "best of the best" blog for the past year. 

The Distant Hours is her most recent book, released in November of 2010.  Having just finished this book, I can say that while Morton was a great author to begin with, I can really see her grow and develop as a storyteller and novelist.  Her writing style is getting more smooth and her stories that much more complex.  Albeit, they're also getting longer...but, isn't that how it goes sometimes?

If I were to describe Morton's writing style I would first ask if you like mysterious novels that have a gothic flare?  Think Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.  She also seems to have a thing for including sisters or other female relatives in her work, so I would definitely consider her a more serious kind of chick lit.

Another thing that's totally awesome about Morton is that she's Australian.  So, there's a slight Aussie tilt to some of her stories, especially The Forgotten Garden.  But, enough about Morton, you want to know if The Distant Hours is good, right?  The best thus far! 

Here's a quick synopsis: Edie Burchill's interest is piqued about her mother's past, specifically her time as a billeted youth in Milderhurst Castle during WWII.  All of this begins with a lost letter delivered to her mother after 50 years.  Edie's mother won't discuss the details of why this letter brings her to tears.  So, Edie slowly throughout the novel, unravels this amazing story that involves her mother and the sisters living in Milderhurst Castle: the twins Percy and Saffy plus the much younger Juniper.  For some reason, after Edie's mother returned home, Juniper went mad.  This leaves her older sisters to care for her these past 50 years.  What happened?  And why?

That's for you to find out!  Below is a video with Kate Morton describing the book. 

By the way, Morton has completed her fourth novel, The Secret Keeper, and it will be coming out in November of this year.  I can't hardly wait!  Read at least one of her novels, if not The Distant Hours, soon!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mushroom-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

So, last week I was a victim of theft.  On Wednesday, I was following through with a healthy routine that I love to partake in during the summer...walking on a trail.  And Tulsa has this great trail system and it's highly utilized by other walkers, runners and cyclists.  Little did I know that there is a path to this trail from my neighborhood...I found this out AFTER I talked to my neighbor about this thieving incident.

I'll start at the beginning.  I drive a coupe and I have darkly-tinted windows.  When I go walk/jog on the trail, I placed my purse behind the passenger seat in the foot well.  It would be EXTREMELY difficult to see in this part of the car unless you are leaning on the window with your hands cupped around your eyes to shade the sun glare.  But, apparently someone did.  And then proceeded to use a slim jim to open my car door and take off with my purse.

Needless to say, my entire Wednesday afternoon was spent calling the police, my credit cards, our insurance agent, my bank, a locksmith...etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...

After all this...I feel so...violated.  I had never been a victim of any real, substantial theft before.  And at this point, since everything has turned out OK thus far, I'm really just angry about the sentimental stuff that was located in my purse.  You know what I'm talking about, the nicknacks and gifts you've acquired over the years.  I had a keychain that was my new last name's initial, which was a gift from my aunt when I married.  My tube of lipstick that I wore for my wedding was in there.  I had a re-usable grocery bag my mother-in-law gave me as a birthday gift.  It's the little things.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm upset about everything else too.  In fact, I found out today it's going to be $700 to fix my window that's off-kilter in the track now...  Thank you, thief.  I really appreciate that.

But, I'm going to continue to do what my husband told me to do yesterday...pray for the thief that did this to us.  Maybe if he or she was in a better financial and emotional situation they wouldn't be running around to trail parking lots stealing from cars.  And my mom did tell me to look on the bright side, at least they didn't take my whole car.

During this entire ordeal, I have learned from my neighbors that there is a pathway from our neighborhood to the public trails and that this might be a better plan in the future.  I'll try it out this week.  But, I can tell you one more leaving my purse in the car for me!  And I am grateful that I have such great neighbors in such a great neighborhood.  One of them actually watched my house for me on Wednesday while I had to run to the bank, which was before the locksmith could get there.  I was panicky because, hey, they had my driver's license (with my address on it!) and my house keys!  So, yesterday I took them a loaf of my famous banana bread in appreciation.

Anyway...what do you do when you feel like I did and need a little comforting?  How about make a wonderfully, tasty meal?  Over the past year, I've decided that pork tenderloin might be my absolute favorite cut of meat.  It's not too fatty and it has a lot of flavor.  This is one of my new favorite recipes and so I made know, just because.

Start out by frying up the bacon, then add in some mushrooms.

After they've cooked for a bit and you've seasoned them well, add in the fresh parsley and breadcrumbs.  Mix it all up and let cool.

Next, you want to prepare your tenderloin.  First off, rinse it well and pat to dry.  Then, lay it as flat as possible on a cutting board.  Looking at it length-wise, about a third of the way over slice the tenderloin about halfway through.  Flip it over and should look something like this.

Then, cover it with some plastic wrap and beat the heck out of it...pretend like it's some thief...or something.  Whatever you need to do to get it to look like this.

Take the filling and lay it on top of the tenderloin and using either some cooking string or soaked toothpicks (which, is what I do), close 'er up.  At this point I hand 'er over to the husband to grill.

He grills it, turning every so often until the thermometer you stick in the meat registers 140 degrees.  And it should look something like this.

Mmmmm....divine.  We paired this tenderloin up with some farmer's market finds: skillet-fried squash and zucchini with sweet corn.   Yummo...I could get used to this.

Once again, for this recipe, simply click here.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sausage and Broccolini Risotto

When I was in OKC last week I didn't get to eat very healthfully.  And I hate that.  Take a girl (me) that eats in my own kitchen for virtually EVERY meal anymore and plop her into an eat-out-every-meal situation.  Yea, no dice.  We were so busy packing and riffling and deciding that the only time I took pause was when my stomach went, "ROAR, GURGLE, ROAR!" 

My aunt's kitchen wasn't fully stocked since she lived alone and we were trying to empty her house, so there was no point in running to the store for "fixins" to attempt to prepare a meal.  So, it was then that a quick trip to Chick-Fil-A, Arby's, Wendy's or wherever was in order.  I cannot tell you how glad I was to be able to cook a relatively healthy meal out of my own kitchen again.  The first night I was home I made this and it was bliss.  I've cooked this recipe a handful of times and it's pretty darn tasty, not to mention a simple-to-make risotto.  If you want to give this recipe a go, you can print 'er out by simply click here.  And might I add that this recipe reheats well for leftovers?

Monday, June 4, 2012


I think today might be the first day that I'm fully recovered from this past week.  My 78-year-old great-great aunt needed to transition from her home into a senior retirement community and her move-in date was this past Friday.  My mother and I were the ones to prepare, pack and move her.  So, this past week I drove down to Oklahoma City and spent the entire week with my sweet little ol' aunt.  My job was to pack her up in preparation for when the movers came on Friday. 

Now, let me give you a little background on my great-great aunt, Naomia.  My aunt is the youngest of nine children and of these nine, the three youngest never married.  So, 42 years ago these three decided to buy a house and live together.  Fast forward 42 years and she's the only one left in this house with all three siblings' belongings.  Needless to say, there's a lot of stuff and it was very difficult for her to decide what to take to her new one-bedroom apartment.  But, we managed.  And while there's a few forgotten items here and there that I know we'll have to get out of the house eventually, it's mostly over.  My Aunt Naomia is enjoying her new digs and the sweet people around her.  She's a tad shy, but it doesn't appear that another shy person lives in this community.  While we were moving her in I can't tell you how many people stopped by to introduce themselves to her, it was so sweet!

Earlier in the week, we found some treasure troves while cleaning out old boxes and suitcases.  I'll share a couple...below is a picture of my great grandparents.  My great grandmother (the second born) is my Aunt Naomia's big sister and who I'm actually named after.  And wowie, my great grandfather is quite a looker in this pic.

Another great find, a picture of my mom when she was 14...her hair (and definitely some wig) all fixed up.  What's amazing is this, she says that she's only wearing eyeliner in this picture.  How pretty is she?!

What's so serendipitous about all of this, you might say, is that I finished Roots last week.  Roots was first published in 1976 and is the culmination of Alex Haley's twelve years of research regarding his family history.  My mother-in-law, Donna, recommended that I read this...I'm sure you remember that half the books I seem to end up reading are always recommended by her!

The purpose of this book is to tell the story of Haley's family from African capture into slavery until emancipation.  When Roots was first published, the reception was mostly positive with some controversies.  Like many popular books, there were a couple lawsuits.  But, for the most part, the book found favor and was even turned into a television mini-series in 1977.  In fact, according to wikipedia, the final episode was the third most-watched telecast of all time by the Nielsen corporation.

What did I think of this book?  Let me first say that there are many sections that are difficult to read, including the passage on the ship over to the United States, slave beatings and rape.  Now, if you're prepared to read about these things...because they DID happen, though maybe not exactly in the ways that Haley writes...then, I think you'd appreciate this book.  The book is labeled as fiction, simply because Haley needed to novelize the research he did.  And there are even controversies and inaccuracies founded by other researchers into Haley's work.  Regardless, I find the stories fascinating because they truly happened.  Maybe every detail isn't accurate, maybe every story didn't happen exactly the way it's spelled out in the book, but the end result is all the same.  Alex Haley came about, as well as many other African Americans in our society.  And it's an ugly story to tell, but it needed to be told.

I would definitely say that I'm glad I read Roots and that I own a copy.  But, will I be pulling it out to read again soon?  No.  It's just too difficult and uncomfortable of a text.  Do I think everyone should read it?  Absolutely.  I feel that you need to read and learn about the past in order to not repeat it in the future.  And this book is an excellent example of such.

My mother-in-law saw Alex Haley speak at a convention shortly after the Roots mini-series was aired.  Donna told me that the one thing Haley said was his advice for everyone in the room was this, and I'm paraphrasing, talk to the older people in your family and get their stories.  Some of the stories in your own family can be way more fascinating than anything you can watch on television or read in a book.  My Aunt Naomia has all of her old journals from years ago and she told me this past week that someone along the way told her to write her own story.  She told me that she didn't feel anyone would be interested enough to read a book about her...I was there to tell her that the opposite was actually true.  And you should do the same within your own family, go talk to an elder in your family today!


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