Posted in Media Mondays

Folksy goodness: Gillian Welch

I listen to music to chill out, and the lyrics are particularly important to me. So, I don’t gravitate to music that shouts over the lyrics. I like understated guitar and piano, and euro dance music is like pretty much the polar opposite of my style. (Fun fact, that’s Nayt’s favorite. We listen to music for VERY different reasons.) The music is important to lay the framework, don’t get me wrong. But it’s more like the carrier for the lyrics to me. Am I making enemies of all my musician friends now? 🙂

I’m a sucker for a moody, broody, soulful female lead vocal. Give me understated, stripped back instrumentals and a croony folk voice ANY day. Pair those with some insightful, poetic lyrics and you have the recipe for a band Jes will listen to forever. For these very reasons, I love the band Over the Rhine. I think I own over 20 of their albums. Once I find an artist I like, I tend to flip out about them and listen to whatever I can get my hands on…on repeat…for like a month.

So, I’m on the hunt for more folksy goodness. And because I work at a place where people sell tons of cds and alongside coworkers who have a vast wealth of music knowledge, I have begun listening to a bunch of new (to me) artists.

I’m pretty naive about the music scene. I rarely listen to the radio. I am not hip to who is blowing up the charts. So, if you all already know about Gillian Welch, you’ll pardon my ignorance to how awesome she is. Cause if you like soulful singers, folksy Americana and storytelling through song, you should check her out. For reals.

Look at Miss Ohio video

Tell me that isn’t perfection. 🙂

Posted in Culinary adventures, Homesteading

Fry bread ambrosia

Holy fry bread, y’all. I don’t know what tribe is responsible for this delectable treat but they are wonderful people and fry bread is insanely good. Imagine a savory dense cake donut. Yeah. Now you feel me.

So, last weekend I was fortunate to attend the Wild Rice Festival at the Harriet Alexander Nature Center in Roseville. Half Price Books donates to this awesome park and animal restoration center, so we get a booth at this event. I was dressed as the Bookworm mascot and got to hug and high five children all afternoon.

But while I wasn’t swallowed by the neon green sleeping bag that is my employer’s mascot, I was eating Native American food. The Wild Rice Festival boasts authentic fare that blows my mind with its savory comforty awesomeness. I had a roasted ear of corn on the cob that was probably the best corn experience of my LIFE. I dunno what seasoning they put on it but MAN, it was goooooooood.

I really love supporting the native groups that are still harvesting wild rice by hand in the traditional manner. So, this year I bought a pound of wild rice, some cream of wild rice soup mix and a fry bread mix. And tonight, we feasted on fry bread, rice soup and chicken made with vegetables that were farmed in the American soil hundreds of years before Europeans settled here.

I’m full and happy. (Who wouldn’t be after eating DONUTS for dinner?) But seriously, it’s super fun to try new ethnic foods. And while I barely scratched the surface here with Native American, I am delighted with what we’ve tried so far!

Go eat adventurously!


Posted in Exploration and travel


Nayt and I visited Afton State Park which is along the Minnesota/Wisconsin border. The St. Croix River cuts the eastern boundary of the park and there are 20 miles of hiking trails, as well as hike-in backpacking camp sites that we want to explore in the future. We hiked for about 3 hours while we were there, and had a great time. It was a first for both of us to hike in the prairie. The bugs weren’t too bad, surprisingly. We did see a ton of dragonflies and one tiny snake crossed our grassy path. It was a good afternoon, with lovely weather and adventurous spirits. We hope to explore more of the wonderful Minnesota State Parks and Forest as we continue to live “up north”. 🙂

Here are some of the photos from the day:

The St. Croix River is wide like a lake at the end of the trail along the eastern park border
Explorer man looks out at the St. Croix
Hello prairie
A first for both of us! Prairie hiking
The grasses here were taller than me
Hello prairie flowers
Prairie flowers were so captivating!
An overlook view of the St. Croix River
It was a good day, gorgeous weather and great to be together outside!


Posted in Things I'm reading


Just to answer a few assumed questions this post’s photo may bring:

“Yes, this IS a photo of the buy counter at my Half Price Books.”

“Why yes, we DO have a lot of books! It is summertime and people sell us a lot of books.”

“Yes, there ARE days that I am overwhelmed by this volume of material that needs to be priced and sorted and then shelved. But every once in a while, I stop and remember that I sell stories for a living. And that makes me really very happy.”

I’d like to talk to you about books today. 🙂 Yay! Books!

As a child, I read very quickly. My mom tells this story every once in a while to illustrate that point: the two of us were waiting in a doctor’s office. She had a book open on her lap that we were both silently reading. I asked her to turn the page so I could continue reading before she was done with the content herself.

I believe at this time, I was something ridiculous, like 5 years old.* Mom was amazed at how quickly I could read. As a girl, I frequently was lost in books, needing reminders to do silly things like eat dinner. Something about story captivated me. I couldn’t get enough. And so I’d move through series of books at a rapid pace, devouring stories, picking up new titles as soon as I’d finished with others.

As an adult, I’ve found fast reading to be a hindrance. Because I move quickly through books, I rarely recollect the plots unless the content is particularly exceptional. During a summer reading challenge in Ohio, during which I read 60 of Madeleine L’Engle’s young adult novels, I began to critique fast reading. If I couldn’t remember what I had read, what was the point? So, I began reviewing books on Goodreads as a way to remind myself what resonated with me about what I was reading.

For those of you unfamiliar with the site Goodreads, let me share with you how wonderful it is. Goodreads provides a place to keep track of books you have read, search for new reading material and socialize with others over books. It is a great resource for book clubs, and even offers free giveaways! You can set reading goals and follow authors. It will recommend titles based on how you review others. It is a great resource! I have been using it regularly (since 2009) to challenge myself in a multitude of areas.

I thought I’d start a little recurring section of my blog, in which I share with you books I’ve read recently that have stuck with me. Sure, you could just be my friend on Goodreads. Sure, you could read the books I review there. But how many of you will realistically do that? 🙂

Before we dive into the book I want to talk about today, you should be aware that I have a ranking system I use via Goodreads:**

  • 1 star: “I regret reading it and would never recommend it”.
  • 2 stars: “I didn’t particularly like it but it might be someone else’s style.”
  • 3 stars: “I enjoyed reading it and felt the plot was developed. Won’t read again.”
  • 4 stars: “Very enjoyable read, elements of it resonated with me. Solid plot. May pick up again. Would recommend.”
  • 5 stars: “Fabulous plot. Deeply resonates with me. Made me think about important things in a new way. Want to talk about aspects of it with everyone I know. Would read again. Highly recommend.”

In the 2016 calendar year, I set a goal for myself to read 50 books. This is actually a low number for me in case your reaction was “50 books!?!?! Are you insane!?!?!” Keep in mind that I work in a bookstore, have no children (i.e. lots of spare time), and I currently shelve in the children’s section. It would be very easy for me to meet my goal simply by reading what I shelve every day. I tell myself that children’s picture books can only count towards my reading goal if I review them. This way, I can’t “cheat” and finish my reading goal in a week by reading a bunch of Berenstain Bears books. 🙂

So, here’s a book I finished recently: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman. At 504 pages it is certainly not a picture book. It’s a reimagined history of the Jewish exile from Jerusalem circa 70AD when Rome invades. I’m just now beginning to feel okay with the idea of historical fiction. For me, blending history and fiction is dangerous, especially since I have a vivid imagination and a particularly bad memory. I fear remembering the fiction, not the truth. And that possibility has kept me from reading many titles, especially religious fiction. (The Left Behind series, for example, does more harm than good. In my opinion.) But something happened to change my mind about historical fiction. In 2012, my fabulous book club in Ohio read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Strangely, reading the fictionalized story of Dinah didn’t give me any trouble. In fact, I was interested in the historical “what if?”.


image courtesy of

Fast forward 4 years. Imagine me at that overloaded buy counter, and I pick up The Dovekeepers with its gorgeous cover. I am drawn to it. I flip open the cover to read the synopsis and set it aside for myself, thinking, “I can read historical fiction now. I want to read this book.” So I did this August, and I’m glad I did. Via Goodreads, I gave it 4 stars. The characters were exquisitely drawn and the historical reimagining was both well-researched and just plain interesting to read! The book follows 4 different women who are the dove keepers. Each is strong and overcomes her demons, which is something I personally love in a book. Give me character growth over drama ANY day. My favorite character was Shirah and I was rewarded with an entire section of the book told from her perspective. I would recommend this book to fans of The Red Tent. I would recommend for fans of historical or religious fiction. And I would recommend for fans of well-executed female characters in typically male-dominated historical narrative.

It was good to read something that kept me wanting to read again. Every time that happens, I feel like it was a worthy use of my time. What have you read recently?




*Mom, can you confirm the age I was in this story?

**yes, I’m a dork & take reviewing books a bit too seriously now