Monday, April 24, 2017

Weekend Round-Up Part Two

Westbound travelers can't miss 'Geese in Flight,' which looms above exit 72 on Interstate 94. It has been deemed the world's largest scrap-metal sculpture by 'Guinness Book of World Records.' 
The sun burst is made of over 300 lengths of well pipe and there is more than 4.4 miles of weld holding the sculpture together. The geese and the fake hills below the sunburst were made from 12 oil well tanks that were taken apart and welded back together to form the shapes. 
Geese in Flight stands 110 ft (33.5m) tall, is 154 ft (46.9m) wide and weighs 157,659 lb (71,512.91 kg). The sculpture resembles Canadian geese flying against a backdrop of sky and prairie and is the fifth in a series of seven metal sculptures located along the Enchanted Highway between Gladstone and Regent, North Dakota.

Candace Simar, local author and author from Peqout Lake MN  found poetic inspiration from this metal sculpture.

Dream with me
I dreamed the colors of the western sky
I dreamed the pathways where the geese would fly
I dreamed a dream for you 

Rise with me
Stretch wingtips to the skies with me.

My angels hide in prairie winds
Lifting you still higher
My servants flames of fire 
My will their one desire

Come dream this dream with me!

by Candace Simar
(permission granted for reposting)
Candace Simar is a writer and poet from Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, in the heart of Lake Country. As a life-long Minnesotan, the grandchild of immigrants, Candace nurtures a passion for Minnesota History. She is the author of the Spur Award-winning Abercrombie Trail Series which combines Candace's love of history intertwined with stories of her Scandinavian heritage.
"Birdie", part of the Abercrombie Series, received the 2012 Spur Award for best juvenile fiction and is set in the west. "Blooming Prairie", also part of the series, was honored as a finalist for the 2013 Spur Award.
"Farm Girls" was co-written with her sister, Angela F. Foster. This memoir written in poetry and prose celebrates growing up on a Minnesota dairy farm.

Candace's books are also available in audio, e-book, and large print. She is a member of the Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, the Loft Literary Center and The Crossing Arts Alliance.

Candace (front left) was our recent guest at our Hackensack book club. We met at a restaurant to discuss her award winning "Shelterbelts" and to learn more about the writing process and her life as an  author. 

"Shelterbelts" is a historical fiction novel  that offers all the best of Candace's talents with a mesmerizing read. Her story chronicles Minnesota farming life during a tumultuous time period of World War II.  Candace draws on her Norwegian culture and crafts a compelling story whose characters' stories stay with you long after the book is closed. Grants from Five Wings, a non-profit organization, workshops, along with family and community support helped make "Shelterbelts" become a reality.  

"Shelterbelts" was a finalist for the esteemed 2016 Willa Cather Literary Award and a 2016 Finalist for Midwest Book Award for Contemporary Fiction. 

For more details about the book storyline check out a previous posting on Ever Ready. 

To learn more about Candace, her books and scheduled events go to

It was fun catching up with Candace to learn more about her newest writing ventures. 
Five Star Cengage will be publishing "Escape to Ft. Abercrombie" in 2018.  The novel is labeled New Adult about three children whose family was massacred  during the Sioux Uprising in 1862. Readers follow the harrowing journey of these children through ten miles of tall prairie grasses to reach the safety of Ft. Abercrombie. 
A collection of short stories called "Dear Homefolks" will be published by Evergreen Press summer of 2017. 
Candace's latest historical research project includes the frontier life in the great north woods logging camps. 
Candace for coming to our book group discussion  

Next up for our book group 
"Book Thief" is a well-written book that should be breathed in slowly and appreciated, A masterpiece! 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Weekend Round-Up Part One

Can you believe it? 

Perhaps this is Mother;s nature's idea of an April Fool Day's joke well into the month. And to think yesterday we were enjoying our first margarita of the season watching the dock go in. And today was going to be a boat launching day. Well, maybe not with a frigid day in the forecast.

Cook's Notes: When I got the invite for a themed birthday party for 5 ladies I knew Ina Garten's Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake was the perfect celebratory cake to mark the occasion.   I've had the recipe from Food Network since September 2016  waiting for the chance to make it.  It's a no bake cake and considered one of Ina's most popular recipes labeled Overnight Sensation.  Well it did not disappoint. Every mouthful was decadent and sinfully delicious. It does require a special type of cookie ingredient which I had no trouble finding in larger grocery stores, Tate's Bake Shop Chocolate Chip Cookies. 
I did note online they advertised a gluten free product. These cookies are uniform in shape and thin perfect for layering with a yummy mocha whipped cream topping.   
Remember the old-fashioned chocolate wafer and whipped cream icebox cake your mother made?
A recipe for this icebox cake was previously posted

Well this is Ina's updated version of old-fashioned icebox cake. It took only 20 minutes to assemble plus the overnight refrigerating. The recipe serves 8.  But do note I did make a BOLD move and adapted her recipe. 
Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake
  • 2-1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 12 oz. Italian mascarpone cheese. room temeprature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua liqueur 
  • 2 TB. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 
  • 3 (8 oz.) packages of Tate's Bake Shop Chocolate Chip Cookies 
  • Shaved semisweet chocolate or choclate covered coffee beans for garnish  
  • Ahead of assembly place bowl and beater in freezer to chill about 20 minutes.
  • Grease the bottom of a 8-inch springform pan. 
  • In a chilled bowl combine heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, Kahlua, cocoa powder, espresso powder  and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine and then raise speed until mixture forms firm peaks. 
  • To assemble cake note there will be three layers each of cookies and mocha whipped cream filling ending with filling on top. . 
  • Arrange a single layer of whole chocolate chip cookies on the bottom and break a cookie or two to fill in spaces along the sides for each layer. Divide filling into thirds and spread 1/3 of the filling over cookies. Repeat this layering two more times. Smooth top layer of filling and cover pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. 
  • To serve run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake inner rim. Remove the sides of the pan.  Use a metal spatula to loosen cake from the bottom and slide into a cake stand. or just cut cake while bottom is still attached. Serve cold with a garnish.
Creativity knew no bounds with the two ladies who hosted the party for 5 ladies who were celebrating birthday milestones. The theme: Mary Poppins.
    There were hats 


and each birthday guest got a bag.

Adding to the festive occasion we all I say attempted to sing a Mary Poppins's tune with specially crafted musical words to fit each of the birthday guests. 
 And indeed we did!

Last but not least, this link has some of the most amazing gluten free desserts to tempt you.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The World According to Bella

Another Excellent Adventure
I'm not sure why Mr. C and Mrs. S thought we needed to drive all that way to AZ for an adventure when I can have one right in my own backyard. First off, how many dogs get the chance to see what's inside Walmart or get to walk home unattended without being on a leash? See previous posting for more information. 

But by far my best adventure of the season so far up north has been finding this entire deer leg hoof and all. I was particularly proud of my find but I couldn't understand why Mrs S didn't share my enthusiasm.
A find like this deserved a very fine trade. So in the end I sprung for a bowl of sugar snap peas and half a milkbone. Several hours later when I brought back part of the hide Mrs. S took away my outside privileges for the rest of the day.  I really did not understand why I was being punished.  With just a little more time perhaps I could have assembled enough parts for a whole deer in my yard.    

But I am happy to report staying inside was short lived as the crew showed up to put the dock in. I've had my first swim of the season.

Later while drying out in the sun Mrs. S came outside waving my dog poem book. 
You know I've never thought of myself as being a poet. I'll leave that up to Mrs. S but after hearing the poems in this book I think I can make up one or two myself.  I 'm ready to use verse to show my inner feelings like the dogs who wrote poems in the book. I guess they must have wanted to let humans know how they feel, why they do dumb stuff and how they see the world as they do.  

I do not like to be left alone either. It can be really boring and much too quiet waiting for Mr. C and Mrs. S return. I really liked these poems.   

See what you think.   

The plants are torn
The garbage strewn
The wires chewed
The couch and I had a fight …
I went places I should never go
I saw a side of myself I should never see
I said things to the cat I can never take back
So please don’t ever leave again

Where did you go?
Where have you been?
Do you know how long you've been gone?!
Three hours
Or fifteen minutes
Or six months
The point is
I've been waiting at that door
For eighteen straight years
And every one of those twelve seconds killed me.

Mrs. S liked this one and it made her laugh.
Where Are You? 
I was worried
I was so scared
I thought I had lost you
And the life that we both shared
I searched through the entire house
From the basement to the attic
The living, dining, and bedrooms
Even the trash cans, because I was frantic
Up and down the staircase
Back and forth across the halls
In and out through every door
Louder and louder were my calls
I had given up every hope
I had given in to despair
I had given the bad news to the pet cat
Who gave me a look before re-licking her hair
But just when all seemed lost, I found you
And it gave my heart a rush
To see you sitting-startled, but alive and well
So if you don't mind,
I'll just stay here until you flush.

"I Could Chew on This and Other Poems by Dogs"
by Francesco Marcioliano .  

Love, Bella

Friday, April 21, 2017

Celebrate Earth Day

2017 marks the 47th year of the Earth Day which is celebrated every year on April 22, to honor our planet and shed a light on environmental issues that matter. It promotes an ideal of peace and sustainability for all. The idea for it was first proposed at a Unesco conference in 1969 by activist John McConnell.It was first celebrated in 1970 and made into an international day in 1990 and is now celebrated by more 193 countries every year.

This year's campaign is dedicated to an ambitious goal – to achieve global climate and environmental literacy in the space of three years, by Earth Day 2020.
Family and School Activities: 
Ways to get involved promoting environmental awareness with teaching ideas, lesson plans, and student activities.
Learn more about Treecology and browse some Earth Day activities

50 Earth Day Activities for kids will encourage children to create objects from natural and recycled materials and spend more time outdoors.
Activities for Adults
John Muir also known as "John of the Mountains", was an American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States. He was born April 21, 1838. 

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” -- John Muir

Earth, What Will You Give Me?
by Beverly Mc Loughland

Earth, what will you give me

In summer
In summer,
Earth, what will you give me
In summer


I’ll give you my fields
Made of lilies,
Of lilies,
I’ll give you my fields
Made of lilies
And green.

And what will you give me
In autumn

In autumn
And what will you give me
In autumn
So bold?

I’ll give you my leaves
Made of maple,
Of maple,
I’ll give you my leaves
Made of maple
And gold.

And what will you give me
In winter,
In winter,
What will you give me
In winter
So light?

I’ll give you my stars
Made of crystal,
Of crystal,
I’ll give you my stars
Made of crystal
And white.

And what will you give me
In springtime,
In springtime,
And what will you give me
In springtime
So new?

I’ll give you my nests
Made of grasses,
Of grasses,
I’ll give you my nests
Made of grasses
And blue.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cranberry Tri-Color Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

      A healthy Friday start with Cranberry Tri-Color Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette. 
Tri-Color Quinoa is a blend of white, red and black quinoa that is nutritious. It's 100% whole grain with iron, fiber and complete protein. Quinoa is a great salad addition  with  dried apricots and cranberries, a crunch of pumpkin seeds, a healthy dose of matchstick carrots making this dish irresistible.  The vinaigrette can be made ahead and refrigerated. Recipe serves four.
Salad Ingredients:
  • 4- 5 cups cooked Tri-Color Quinoa (follow package directions)
  • 1 cup matchstick carrots
  • 3/4 cup each dried apricots and cranberries  
  • 1/3 cup salted pumpkin seeds
  • 3 TB. chopped fresh parsley
  •  1/4 cup diced green onions
Salad Directions:
  • Mix all salad ingredients. Moisten with dressing and refrigerate 1 hour before serving. Salt and pepper to taste. 
Cook's notes: Homemade dressings are always better but in a pinch a store  bought balsamic vinaigrette works e.g. this product from Kraft is thick with a bit of a kick to liven up the quinoa.
Pomegranate Vinaigrette Ingredients:
  • 1- 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 5 tsp. honey
  • 1 TB. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
Pomegranate Vinaigrette Directions:

  • Bring pomegranate juice to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally about 15 minutes or until reduced to 1/4 cup. Transfer to a small bowl. Cool completely (about 30 minutes). Whisk in olive oil, honey, vinegar, mustard, pepper, and salt and pepper. _____________________________________________________

April Rain Song
by Langston Hughes

Let the rain kiss you.

Let the rain beat upon your head

with silver liquid drops.

Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

The rain makes still pools

on the sidewalk.

The rain makes running pools

in the gutter.

The rain plays a little sleep-song

on our roof at night.

And I love the rain.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Little of This and a Little of That

Two of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpieces
Mona Lisa
The Last Supper
Cook's Notes: Think outside the box 
10 Different Fruit Wraps for Breakfast
 10 Fruit Wraps
Copy Cat Healthy Version of Starbucks Spinach and Feta Wrap 
It's high in protein and packed full of nutrients. A much healthier twist on the original- 
Naturally gluten free!

Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

From "Words Under the Words: Selected Poems." Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash 
On a no-pasta diet? Tasty spaghetti squash is a great stand-in for carb-dense noodles. Spaghetti squash is so versatile and easy to make! Enjoy it with salt and pepper as a side dish, drizzle it with butter and grated cheese, or top it with tomato sauce to replace your favorite spaghetti dish.
One cup of cooked spaghetti made from white, enriched noodles, contains approximately 220 calories, 42 grams of carbohydrates and very few nutrients. Comparably, one cup of cooked spaghetti squash provides about 42 calories, 10 grams of carbohydrates, and a host of important nutrients such as vitamin A and potassium.
Once you find out how really easy it is to roast spaghetti squash you'll be craving it more and on the hunt for recipes. 

I found this step by step video on how to roast spaghetti squash helpful.
This link had easy recipes.
Southwestern Spaghetti Squash Burrito Bowls
Seasonal Plate
Cook's Notes: This recipe is based on the chipotle burrito bowl concept. The cooked spaghetti squash stands in for the traditional cilantro lime rice. The shell is filled with healthy southwestern ingredients.  Recipe inspired by
The burrito bowl serves 2  with a half for each serving but if you cut each half again then you have 4 servings. The photo above shows one half of the cooked squash. It was served with Apple Cranberry Slaw recipe that was previously posted. 
and Spring Special: Cupcake a la Mode
If you like a little more heat increase cumin, chili powder and oregano to 1/2 tsp. each.  
FYI: My husband had finished most of his meal before he learned he was eating squash which is his least favorite vegetable. He was surprised at how mush he liked it served in the burrito bowl. So maybe just maybe kids will spring for this too.   

  • 1 medium sized squash
  • 1 TB. olive oil or Herb or Lemon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup each  red onion, diced and red and yellow sweet mini peppers
  • 3 garlic cloves. minced
  • optional 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. each cumin, chili powder, oregano
  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup canned steamfresh Mexi-Corn or frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 cup chunky salsa
  • juice of one half lime
  • 1-1/2 cups fat reduced Mexican Four Cheeses
  • 1/4 cup torn cilantro
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and cover baking pan with parchment paper or foil that has been lightly sprayed  with cooking spray.
  • Rinse squash and slice lengthwise. Scoop out flesh and lightly grease inside. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
  • Turn squash halves upside down on baking sheet. Bake about 45 minutes as it depends on the size of the squash.You can test to see if it's done by scraping the inside with a fork. Strands should come loose as you scrape all the way down to the flesh.
  • While the squash is roasting prepare the filling. 
  • In a small bowl mix the spices.  
  • In a large skillet warm one tablespoon of oil. Saute onions, garlic, jalepeno, peppers and spices about 5 minutes.
  • Add in beans, corn and salsa. Cook on low heat until all ingredients are warmed. Keep warm.
  • Remove squash from oven, cool a few minutes then scrape spaghetti strand out and place in a bowl. You will have about 2 cups. 
  • Fill squash burrito bowls with corn and bean mixture.  Sprinkle each half with lime juice.  
  •    Top with spaghetti squash strands and cheese.
  • Broil 1-2 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately. 


Lost Poems
Author unknown

I wrote a bunch of poems,

stapled them together,

took them to a friend’s house.

But they somehow slipped

through the floorboards

And disappeared.

I never got those poems back.

I tried to rewrite them

but they weren’t the same.

One night two months later,

sleeping over at my friend’s house,

we heard restless sounds,

strange little noises

that my friend insisted

were nothing but squirrels or mice.

But I pictured my lost poems

scurrying on little feet

between the floors.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Small Bite-Big Flavor

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough. 
-Rabindranath Yagore
Spring Special-Cupcake a la Mode 
Cook's Notes: The concept of this recipe caught my attention. A small cupcake topped with ice  cream, drizzled with caramel sauce and sprinkled with toasted almonds seemed  easy and simple to put together. But then as I read further into the recipe the cupcake got even better. It is flourless gluten free with a dense chocolate taste. The texture is spongy and reminds me of a lava cake. A scoop of ice cream turns a fudgy flourless chocolate cupcake into a celebration worthy dessert. I suppose you could shortcut the recipe by using a box cupcake mix but then you'd miss the yummy delicious flavor found in this recipe. 
The recipe is adapted from Southern Living April 2017. 
Cooking Tips:To help the cupcake rise nice and high in the pan make sure the eggs are at room temperature and don't over whip them. I used a standard 12 cup muffin tin. The recipe makes 12 cupcakes. The centers will deflate some as they cool and best eaten the day they are made.   
  • 1-1/4 cups dark chocolate or bittersweet chocolate chips (8 oz.) 
  • 6 TB. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp.salt
  • 1/4 tsp.espresso powder
  • 5 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ice cream-vanilla or fudge ripple
  • jarred caramel topping
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds  
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line 12 cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  • Separate egg whites and yolks into two different bowls. 
  • Place chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high until mixture is melted about 1 minute. Stir every 15 seconds. Stir in vanilla, salt and espresso powder. Use a whisk to mix well. Cool slightly and whisk in egg yolks. Set aside to cool. Add creme of tartar to the egg whites and beat until soft mounds appear. Add in sugar a few tablespoons at a time. Beat until stiff mounds appear. Fold chocolate mixture into the egg white mixture 1/3 cup at a time using as spatula.  
  • Bake for 30 minutes until centers are set. Cool on a wire rack and remove wrappers to serve. 
  • Top each cupcake with a small scoop of ice cream, drizzle of caramel sauce and sprinkle with toasted almonds. 
Blue-Butterfly Day 
by Robert Frost

It was a blue-butterfly day here in spring.
And with these sky-flakes down in flurry on flurry
There is more unmixed color on the wing
Than flowers will show for days unless they hurry. 

 But these are flowers that fly and all but sing:
And now from having ridden out desire
They lie closed over in the wind and cling
Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire. 

mire:a stretch of swampy or boggy ground.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Peeps Weekend Round-Up

A springtime tradition at the Pioneer Press paper in St, Paul, MN is the annual Peeps diorama contest.  Its here imagination goes wild as participants make creative dioramas on a variety of themes. 
The following article was from April 16, 2017 Pioneer Press Sunday paper. 
2017 Pioneer Press Peeps Awards
by Bob Shaw

The Pioneer Press Peeps Diorama Contest entries show a growing number of serious themes — ranging from political commentary to tributes to the dead to commemorations of historic events. Could it be that Peeps, in the contest’s 14th year, are evolving into a legitimate artistic medium?

This year there were plenty of frivolous pop-culture entries depicting movies, TV shows and books. But the entries included 11 related to various political marches and four honoring deceased hometown hero Prince.

Six were apparently pro-Trump, or at least respectful. Two were opposed. One showed the spirits of dead people ascending into heaven, and another depicted the Dakota pipeline protest.

Jill Schaefer of Minnetonka was not joking when she used Peeps to memorialize the 90,000-person women’s march in St. Paul on Jan. 21. “It was super-moving to me — so many people coming out and speaking their mind,” said Schaefer. “I am commemorating an important event in history. It was so impressive.”

As another sign of an evolving art form, Peeps artists have begun to debate about their craft. Some say it’s best to let the Peeps grow stale and hard, others say fresh Peeps are the best for use in art. “Peeps are very sticky to work with. But they tend to get wrinkled when they are stale,” said Rod Bland of St. Paul, who received honorable mention with a DNA-themed diorama.

As an artist, he’s searching for the perfectly aged Peep. “There is a sweet-spot in there somewhere,” he said.

And the winners are...
First Place

Moby Peeps
Second Place
Beauty and the Peep
Third Place
Peeple Rain
Honorable Mention
Peeps March
I did like this pun  
to view other entries go to
Cook's notes: Some previous postings of creative ideas using Peeps.
Imaginative Peeps Poetry  
Ode To A Marshmallow Peep
by Tara
O Marshmallow Peep! O Peep of my heart!
Thy sugary goodness delights me—
Thy bright yellow outside,
Thy soft squishy inside—
Such delicate texture excites me!

O Marshmallow Peep! O Peep of my love!
Thy chicken-like shape is so dandy—
Thy soft curving tail
Thy small pointy beak—
The planet’s most marvelous candy!

O Marshmallow Peep! Oh Peep so divine!
With all of these blessings I shower thee—
But I can’t sit and stare
And admire thee there—
I’d surely much rather devour thee!