Monday, February 22, 2010

Interview with JavaGirls

My second interview is with the two women behind the Etsy store JavaGirls. They sell awesome journals, notebooks, and sketchbooks, and I love their slogan: A little caffeine and a lot of creativity!

What is your name?

Java Girls is a two-person team. My name is Ruth Gadbois, and my business partner is Renee Coombe. Renee is the primary crafter in our business, and I do photography, posting, accounting, shipping and banking.

Where are you right now?

We both live in Salem, CT.

How did you choose the name of your Etsy shop?

We have been friends for 25 years. Over these years we've shared many cups of coffee. Actually, the discussion of opening our shop was over a hot cup of java! Therefore, the name, Java Girls, seemed perfect!

When did you learn to create the things you sell in your shop?

Renee is a natural artist. She has been an avid scrapbooker for years. She decided to apply these skills to making altered journals. She is self-taught and a very talented crafter. I am continually amazed at her creations.

If you had to choose one craft to do for the rest of this year, what would it be?

I think we're doing it: altered custom and personalized keepsake journals. Families are very important, and we feel that our journals and notebooks provide a means of bringing families closer together. Our journals are meant to be used and treasured. They are a way to preserve precious memories and express heartfelt thoughts and feelings. It's very rewarding when someone chooses one of our journals. It's not just a product. It is a very precious keepsake.

What author are you recommending today?

I love Mary Higgins Clark.

Why do her books appeal to you?

I enjoy her easy-read style. She's an amazing author. I personally prefer books that are not too deep. I also appreciate the fact that her books have very little profanity. Her books are intriguing, full of suspense, and very enjoyable and entertaining.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"The White Queen" by Philippa Gregory

You may remember me listing this book in my sidebar a couple months ago as the book I was currently reading. When I checked it out from the library that time, it was so new it was still a "7 Days" book that wasn't renewable. I don't have a huge amount of time to read right now, and I wasn't able to finish reading it before it was due. I finally got it again after a few months, and finished it this week.

I love historical fiction. Actually, I just love history. I love learning about how people lived long ago, seeing how different, and yet how similar, they were to people today. Along with mysteries, historical fiction is probably my favorite genre.

But I did not love The White Queen by Philippa Gregory.

I didn't hate it either. This book was well-researched and well-written, no question about that. And the main character, Elizabeth Woodville (wife of England's King Edward IV), is a complex, believable heroine. The dialog was great, and the description was well balanced -- I could envision the world inside the book, but I wasn't overwhelmed with minutiae.

But after a while, I honestly got bored by all the court intrigue and political finagling, the endless alliances and double-crosses. I kept wanting everyone to just settle down and live peaceably for a chapter or two. It didn't help that half the female characters were named Elizabeth, and most of the men were named Edward, Richard, or George. That got a bit confusing at times, trying to keep everyone straight, like the reverse problem from Russian novels where every character has six different names and nicknames. None of this was the author's fault -- Gregory was dealing with real people and real events. They just weren't the kinds that interest me deeply.

So if you like historical fiction about royalty, chock-full of court intrigue and the machinations of power-hungry people, you'll like this book. If that's not your thing, then you -- like me -- may end up wishing for it to end a hundred or so pages before it does.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Interview with TheSquareGrammy

I'm doing a new series of blog posts, starting today. Every Monday for the next few weeks, I'll be posting an interview with a fellow Etsy shop owner. Part of that interview will be for you to get to know them, and part of it will be for them to recommend a book or author. I know a lot of you, gentle readers, are book lovers like me, so I thought this would be a cool way to bring you some new recommendations.

My first interviewee is none other than my own mom. Her shop is called The Square Grammy. Read on to learn more!

What is your name?

My name is Beverly Ohlendorf.

Where are you right now?

I live in Taylorsville, NC

How did you choose the name of your Etsy shop?

I chose the name of my shop because Daniel calls me "Grammy", and we crocheters make Granny Squares, and I'm kinda "square" sometimes (maybe more often than just sometimes) so it all kinda fits together. I like puns.

When did you learn to create the things you sell in your shop?

I've been crocheting all my life. My mom taught me to crochet when I was very little, before I could read or write, I always say. I don't remember not being able to crochet.

I've recently learned hairpin lace, and I'd really like to learn how to make some things to sell out of it. Right now it's just a fun thing to do, but I'd like to be able to create things that look good with it.

What author are you recommending today?

I really like books by Jodi Picoult. I only read certain books by her though, because they're about controversial topis, and some of the topics she writes on are, frankly, not my "cup of tea". I really loved "Plain Truth", "Nineteen Minutes", and "My Sister's Keeper".

Why do her books appeal to you?

Jodi has a very compelling style of writing that keeps you reading late into the night. Her topics are so thought-provoking, and she keeps you guessing right up to the end.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I'd like to offer my Snowflake Scarf for 10% off for just your readers. They can convo me and tell me they're from your blog and I'll give it to them for the discount.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Merseth Morsels

Do you like to try unusual recipes? Do you experiment with food to make it healthier? Have you ever wanted a recipe for homemade peanut butter cups? If so, follow this link to a new blog called Merseth Morsels.

I went to college with Megan Merseth and her husband Jeff a decade ago in Mankato, MN. Thanks to the miracle of Facebook, we've gotten back in touch, and when Megan started her new blog this year, I was quick to follow it. We have quite a bit in common -- we're both stay-at-home-moms with two-year-old sons, and she has a 4 month old, while I'll be having my second kid any minute now. And we both love to cook and bake! But Megan is much more into healthful cooking than I am, which is what fascinates me about the recipes she shares on her blog.

I asked Megan some questions about her approach to food and the recipes she shares on her blog. Here's what she responded:
My journey to truly nourishing real food started back in 2005 after starting to use some "health" products from a well-known company. It was my first step toward a lot of eye-opening research, as I realized the food I was eating was contributing to my less than excellent health. A lightbulb also went on when I was able to connect BBQ sauce (which has Worcestershire sauce containing soy sauce in it) to these itchy red bumps I would get after eating it. Ever since then, I've been abstaining from soy products as much as possible, and if you've ever looked at the ingredient label of anything, there aren't many things without soy in some form. Soy comes under many names, as I've discovered.

Soy is the only "dietary restriction" I try to cook around, although when I'm cooking for my brother-in-law, he doesn't do dairy, so I use olive oil or coconut oil instead of butter. I also stay away from as many refined foods as possible. That includes white bleached flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, and most anything pre-packaged or processed. I will either soak whole wheat or rye flour in an acidic solution overnight or use sprouted grain flour. I usually use real maple syrup or raw honey instead of white sugar.

I also own a copy of the cookbook "Nourishing Traditions" and follow a couple of "real food" blogs which is where I get most of my cues about what constitutes truly nourishing food. I use the term "nourishing" because I strive to make food that truly feeds the body instead of just giving it empty calories. I don't want to jinx anything, but we've had a pretty healthy winter thus far, and I attribute that to taking fermented cod liver oil, drinking raw milk, and eating organic citrus by the box.

Besides all this, I just love to cook and try new things in the kitchen. I'm thinking of making some fermented foods soon, perhaps some fermented marmalade! It's still an on-going learning process for me, though. I'm always reading, trying new things. Never a dull moment!

I live in Minnesota with my two boys ages 2 years (Judah) and 4 months (Andrew), and husband (Jeff) who is a vicar (sort of like a student teacher position, part of his schooling) at Our Savior's Lutheran Church, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. I teach part time as an adjunct faculty member of the music department at Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, giving voice lessons.
Megan posts some truly fascinating -- and yummy-looking -- recipes on her blog, as well as amusing stories about her sons, complete with cute pictures. If you think the pictures I've posted here look tasty, please check out Merseth Morsels! You won't be sorry you did.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Gingerbread Carrot Muffins

I got this recipe from the 3rd edition of What to Expect When You're Expecting. They're supposed to be good for reducing morning sickness, what with all the ginger in them. I haven't had morning sickness, but I thought these might be great to take along to the birth center since we have to provide our own food there. I know muffins usually freeze well, so I've made these up now and I'll toss some in the freezer to take along when the time comes.

I'm not a huge fan of fresh ginger, so I left that out, though I did use the ground ginger. I used wheat germ and chopped pecans, but I didn't toast the nuts cuz grating the carrots was enough work as it is.

These turned out really yummy -- Daniel and I had them with lunch, and he ate a whole one and then asked for more. I think I would rename them Apricot Carrot Muffins if I made them again, since without the fresh ginger it's the apricots and carrots that really stand out.

Gingerbread Carrot Muffins
(Makes 12 muffins)


1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup white grape juice concentrate
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 cup grated carrots


Preheat oven to 375. Line a standard-size 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, flaxseed or wheat germ, oats, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and baking soda. Add apricots and nuts (if desired) and stir to blend.

In another bowl, combine the juice concentrate, eggs, oil, vanilla, and fresh ginger and whisk to blend. Add the juice mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently just until the batter is smooth and well blended; be careful not to overmix. (It took me about 25 strokes to mix the two.)

Gently fold the carrots into the batter. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups, dividing evenly. (Cups will probably be very full.) Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.

Transfer the muffins to a wire rack and let cool completely. The muffins can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days or frozen up to 1 month when individually wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in a freezer bag or container.

Note: Not a fan of ginger? Leave it out and substitute another teaspoon of cinnamon.

Friday, February 5, 2010

And the Notebook Goes to...

...Betsabe! Congratulations, you have won the Extraordinary Women notebook! I'll be emailing you to get your mailing address so I can send the notebook to you.

Thanks to everyone who entered! I'll be doing more giveaways in the future, so even though you didn't win today, you may have better luck next time.

I chose the winner with's true random number generator, if you're wondering....