Happy Palate!

Chinese food has always been one of my favorite foods. Whether choosing beef, poultry, or fish, there is such a variety ranging from spicy to sweet and sour. Although I have to admit, I love food. Period. I wish I was the type who ate when hungry. Instead, I’m the type who eats to enjoy different flavors and dishes. Since I’ve become a stay-at-home wife, I’ve learned so many things about foods, and the importance of healthy eating. We do stray sometimes, but I try to replace processed, starchy, carb foods with homemade and healthy choices. I’ve replaced much of our potato, pasta, and rice sides with bulgur, barley, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), white beans (cannellini beans), and couscous.

Now my favorite food has morphed into Thai Food. The fusion of lemongrass, curry, coconut milk, ginger, to name a few, are gorgeous on the tongue with the heat of chili peppers.

After numerous Thai food meals, I’ve come up with my own little Thai Dish that I’d like to share today. It’s called Thai Seafood Bulgur Cuisine.

10 - Seafood Bulgur ThaiIngredients

Shrimps (how many is up to you)
2 Fish Filets (Pangasius or any type you like)
¾ cups of Bulgur
3 small carrots
1 green onions
1 large garlic clove
½ hot pepper (the hotness comes from the seeds, so add as many seeds you want for hotness)
1 cup coconut milk
Coconut oil
Ground Ginger
Ground Lemongrass (if you can get fresh lemongrass, that would be better)
Pescado Sazonador fish seasoning or any other kind you have on hand
Salt and cracked pepper for taste

1) Pour some coconut oil in a deep pan and cook the fish filets over med-high heat along with ¼ of the garlic clove. This takes about 4 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with fish seasoning, ginger and lemongrass. When it’s almost done, add some cracked pepper.

01 - Seafood Bulgur Thai2) While fish is cooking, chop the 3 carrots and green onion and ½ of the hot pepper. Take fish out and put aside. In the same pan on med-high heat, add more coconut oil, the carrots, onion, the rest of the garlic and pepper, again adding as many seeds for desired heat. Cook until carrots are somewhat tender.

03 - Seafood Bulgur Thai3) Add ¾ cup of bulgur and cook with the vegetables for about a minute or 2 before adding 1-1/2 cups of water. Season with ginger, salt, and lemongrass and then let bulgur cook until soft.

4) While bulgur cooks, breakup the fish filet, and remove tails from the uncooked shrimps. When water is almost soaked up by the bulgur, add in ½ cup of coconut milk. Cook for another 5 minutes and then add the fish to the bulgur mixture and another ½ cup of coconut milk. This is a good time to taste to see if you need any additional seasonings.

5) Increase the heat to high and add the shrimps. Cook until shrimp is pink. If need be, you can add more coconut milk. When done, dish out onto plates and enjoy!

11 - Seafood Bulgur ThaiWhat’s your favorite food? Have you ever created your own dish?

Recipe and Foods Orgasm,
Baer Necessities

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Rewards of Reading

It’s been a while since I’ve lost myself in a book, ingested the writing style, and finished with the proud feeling of ‘this is what writing is all about’. Over the summer, I read three books that I fell in love with for the writing styles, the stories, and characters. Fiction writing isn’t as easy as most assume. One must understand language, create a plot and setting where the reader can join in the journey, and flawed characters that you either fall in love with or hate. In my opinion, these books achieved and went beyond the fundamentals of writing fiction.

First Recommendation (Literary Fiction)

The first book I read was The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. Now this woman knows how to write. Mermaids, tarot card reader, contortionist, a mute, and many other odd characters spun into a magical story. First line: “Perched on the bluff’s edge, the house is in danger.”


About
: The Book of Speculation is about a young man, Simon, who is lost to a past. His parents died and his sister, Enola, is on her own destructive journey. Simon struggles with the guilt of not being able to save his childhood home on Long Island Sound. His job is teetering on non-existent. One day he receives an old book from Martin Churchwarry of Churchwarry & Son; sent because he cannot sell it due to damage, and thought the family of Verona Bonn could use it. The book turns out to be a journal of Hermelius Peabody, the head of a carnival. While researching the book, Simon learns about his history and the fate of the women in his family.

Writing: I loved Swyler’s writing style—distinct, avoiding the regular verbs and comparisons. I’d like to share a few sentences that I highlighted. These are surreal descriptions. A reader can feel the emotion from the first one, and visualize the others.

  • Paperback, page 14
  • Paperback, page 108
  • Paperback, page 284
  • Paperback, page 317
“Hunger, his enduring companion, was all that kept him certain that he lived.”
“She is frenzied motion, elbows flinging, hips shimmying, dancing and detonating.”
“The bald back of his head shone in the moonlight as the river coursed over it like a stone”
“The house is in silhouette, hanging off the cliff’s edge, tilting like an Irishman’s cap.”

But her style of writing wasn’t the only thing that captured my attention. Her story and characters were quirky, awkward, and weird, something you don’t find in many books. The past winds up colliding with the present, exploding secrets, bringing understanding and release to the characters so they could move on.

Second Recommendation (Young Adult)

My second book is Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira. I’m not one for young adult books, but this one is an eye-catcher. It doesn’t have the immature feel or regular subject matter I often notice in young adult. Famous dead people, teenager, letter assignment weaves a story of loss and recovery. First line: “Dear Kurt Cobain, Mrs. Buster gave us our first assignment in English today, to write a letter to a dead person.”

About: As the first line reveals, this is about a girl, Laurel, whose first assignment in a new school is to write a letter to a dead person. What was supposed to be a one-letter assignment, turns into a year of writing to dead people to help her overcome the loss of innocence, the death of her sister, and her mother moving away. Laurel speaks to the dead about her experiences, falling in love, grappling with her mother’s departure and her sister’s absence. In turn, her search into their lives answers some questions, and in the end, lets her forgive and heal.

Writing: Even though the story is told through a teenager, the style of writing is poignant. Of course, this might have affected me more than others since I recently lost my sister, but it doesn’t change the fact that Dellaira knows how to grasp a reader’s emotions. Here are a few descriptions I highlighted:

  • Paperback, page 9
  • Paperback, page 26
  • Paperback, page 101
“You used your voice like glue to keep your family together.”
“Each word felt like its own stone, falling to the bottom of a lake.”
“…how there is something fragile like moths inside of him, something fluttering, Something trying desperately to crowd toward a light … Even if I am only Sky’s street lamp, I don’t mind. It’s enough to be what he moves toward.”

Dellaira delves into feelings as her character, Laurel, researches and tries to understand a famous dead person’s actions or words. It’s touching and therapeutic to know that others struggle with depression and hardships, and Laurel connects with the dead through her writings. The letters are her survival manual as she finally learns to stop blaming herself and begins to mend.

Third Recommendation (Literary Fiction / Humorous)

The third story is The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. I hadn’t even heard about this book when it was chosen by my book club. To date, not one of the book club choices heightened my love for words and writing. In fact, majority of the books we read were angry or depressing, so the opportunity to read something funny was refreshing. Books, baby, reading, infidelity, death, romance create this funny, eccentric story. First line: “On the ferry from Hyannis to Alice Island, Amelia Loman paints her nails yellow and, while waiting for them to dry, skims her predecessor’s notes.”

About: The title says it’s about the storied life of A.J. Fikry, but it’s so much more. A.J. Fikry owns a struggling bookstore on Alice Island. A lifelong curmudgeon, his misery increased after the loss of his wife. He lashes out at the community and publishers’ sales reps. Love of drink and little money, sarcastic A.J. has a priceless book stolen from him, and is given a small gift with ten fingers and toes. His interactions with Amelia, the new sales rep, and the baby girl left in his bookshop tilts his sorry world. A.J. acquires feelings for Amelia, a romantic, raises baby Mia, and soon finds that there is life beyond books.

Writing: Zevin has a way with humor. Her peculiar characters add zest to the story, and I found myself laughing aloud. Several secondary characters clash yet compliment A.J. Here are a few highlighted lines:

  • Paperback, page 72
  • Paperback, page 77
“…despite the fact that A.J. does not believe in God, he closes his eyes and thanks whomever, the higher power, with all his porcupine heart.”
“His breath smells like socks wet from snow.”

A.J. is not your typical bookworm. His pretentious, judgmental attitude doesn’t bode well with many. Recently losing his wife, thinking everyone is stupid, his circumstances are met with humor and hope. Behind A.J.’s disgruntled fits reveals a man with a big heart.

Reading and Engagement,
Baer Necessities

 

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The Writing Gene

Another special guest today, who has lived in some beautiful parts of the United States, and submerged herself in reading at an early age. Please give a warm welcome to Lenita Sheridan.

Describe yourself in 150 words or less.

I moved to Washington state from Alaska when I was in my twenties. I had graduated from the University of Alaska with a degree in English. I substituted in the Puget Sound Area and went to the University of Washington to study creative writing. I graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

Later, I moved to an island in the Puget Sound. I am now an active lady, interested in writing, reading, singing, listening to music, crafts, and walking my dog, a Japanese Spitz named Haley.

Has writing changed the way you read? Explain.

No. I was always writing from when I was old enough to read. I wrote a picture book in first grade.

Tell us about your published works.

I have published a trilogy. They are Guardian of the Gauntlet books. The books are about a special gauntlet, which only works if one has faith in a higher power and the young Princess Camari’s adventures with it.

Most authors dislike selling their books. To practice the art of selling, how would you try to sell me a box of tissues?

I would tell you that the tissues are incredibly soft and wouldn’t make your nose sore in the severest of allergies. I would also tell you they have the ‘flu vaccine in them, so you would be immunized.

In regards to writing, what are you working on now?

I am working on a story about my dog for Guideposts.

Are you a confident or anxious writer? Explain.

I am confident. I wouldn’t have made it through the MFA program at the University of Washington without confidence.

What is your writing process?

I make notes first. Then I compose them into cohesive chapters with pen on paper (I usually write one chapter at a time.) This is my first draft. Typing the chapters into the computer, making changes as I do so, is my second draft. Then my writing group edits it. After using their editing notes to change my chapters, I come up with a third draft. Then I hire a proofreader. After going over the proofreader’s tracking changes, I come up with a final copy.

What specific moment or situation made you want to become a writer?

I made the decision to become a writer in fifth grade. I had been reading a lot of science fiction and wanted to be a published science fiction writer like my grandfather, Maxwell Sheridan, who worked with Ray Bradbury. I later changed to fantasy to utilize more of my imagination.

When you’re not writing, where can people find you hanging out in the virtual world?

They can usually find me on Goodreads or on Facebook. I also have a Twitter account: @lenitasheridan.

I requested a picture from Lenita of a place nearby where she has or lives now. The below is a picture of Mount Baker taken from Whidbey Island.

Lenita
Reading and Writing,
Baer Necessities

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Plenty to Do—Plenty to See

Today’s a continuation to our summer vacation in South Wales, UK. If you didn’t get a chance to stop by last week, you can check out Oh How Lovely to start at the beginning of our journey.

Not far from our cottage was the Carreg Cennen Castle. I never tire of castles. While I roam the ruins, I think back to those difficult times, how much manpower was needed to build and protect, and how easily one fell prey to punishment.

This castle was one of the more impressive ones. At the site of the castle, remains had been uncovered dating human activity to prehistoric times. It’s assumed the first structure built here was around 1197. Due to feuds and wars, including the Wars of the Roses, for control over England, the castle endured damaged. During the Roses’ War, the Lancastrian (House of Lancaster) took hold of it, but a York (House of York) force won the battle and demolished it with 500 men.

We had to keep Shakespeare outside the fenced in area or he would have gone after every lamb. This is a result of his carrying on, wanting to get to them. They ran up on the hill and looked down at the little crazy creature barking at them.

An interesting bit of information about the Carreg Cennen Castle. The second Earl Cawdor owned the castle and began renovations in the 19th century. Ownership shifted to the Morris family, who owns the farmland near the castle. In the 1960s, Cawdor’s legal team worded the deed wrong, including the castle as part of the farm. Today, Margaret and Bernard Llewellyn privately own the castle as they collect 5 English Pounds for every person interested in seeing it.

Our next big adventure was through the Brecon Beacons National Park. These are mountain ranges within the central Beacons and the Black Mountains to the east and west, which make up the National Park.

In the 2000s, on one of the hills, a barrow was excavated. Using Carbon dating, they tested the ashes in the cist, which dated to around 2000 BC. The Beacons have many walking paths and roads that curve in and around the hills. Livestock wanders and grazes.

Here we visited the ruins of Talley Abbey. The White Canons (Premonstratensians) Order was established in 1120. They founded this monastery in 1185. In 1193, the Cistercians began an unholy war because they were envious of the Talley estate. Due to the order being broke, the church wasn’t completed; only the graveled area of the church.

The rest of the pictures were taken in the car, driving back to the chunnel. The first is a tree with feet and the others are from a town called Mayfield.

And that wraps up our vacation pictures.

Where did you vacation this summer? Or do you have any trips planned in the near future?

Outdoors, Old, and Preserved,
Baer Necessities

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