A Catch-Up

Is it possible to write a post which can summarize June through October 2015? I’ll hit just a few of the highlights…

A few photos from June 2015

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That Grandbaby

  • Baby August Edward was born on 9/27/15 at 3:08 PM.  I had the pleasure of witnessing the birth, and it was amazing and beautiful. Marissa was so calm and excited to meet her little man and he is perfectly beautiful. He was born on what would have been his Auntie Abbey’s 31st birthday, and that night was the Harvest Blood Super Moon.
    Ah, I love being Nana Nette.

A few photos from July 2015

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  • Early June, we took a drive on windy roads to Chippewa Falls in an attempt to go through the Leinenkugel Brewery. It was a popular destination that day and we couldn’t get a spot on a tour, so we bought some beer and drove on home. On the way home we drove through Ellsworth, WI and saw signs for “Showdown in Curd Town,” a tractor pull, so we stopped in!  We had a burger and curds and watched FOUR HOURS of a tractor pull! What good people watching that was!
  • Later in June was our week at the Lake. We had family time, alone time, time in the Cities and time at the end of the dock.  We enjoyed searching for a winery in Waconia on our way to St. Cloud to watch the All Star Football game on a blisteringly hot Saturday.  We saw the touring company of “ONCE” at the State Theatre in Minneapols and watched an airshow in Mankato. No pelicans at the lake this year, but it was still great to be there!
  • The 4th of July was filled with family fun, minus Chris as he had to work.  The boat parade was fun, the weather was hot, and the food was good.  Due to the epic road trip coming up in August, Ferragosto was condensed to a weekend this year; relaxing time with girlfriends, meals at the resort, and good cocktails at the end of the dock.
  • After Ferragosto we took a whirlwind road trip in the Mini – across South Dakota, through Wyoming, and to Colorado.  We drove beautifully scenic roads through Rocky Mountain National Park, stayed in Vail, and then drove to the top of Pike’s Peak. We slept in a retro motel, stayed at a beautiful resort, and in the lovely company of family.  It was a great time with great weather and great roads.  Chris is a great driver but I was still very nervous on those windy roads!
  • Late September into October we celebrated the Birthdayversary in the Cities. We planned to stay close to home due to the impending grandbaby arrival, and he arrived just in time to complete the celebrations that week with hours of baby cuddling.  :)  We also had great meals out (Pizzeria Lola, Salut, Louis Ristorante, and Christos), and went on the Surly Brewery tour and ate at their delicious gastropub.  We stayed at the lovely Covington Inn – a B&B on a boat – and had wonderful family time.

August 2015

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Taylor Swift

  • Koni and I accompanied Gracie and her friend Taylor to the Taylor Swift concert in St. Paul in mid-September.  We thought we were going to hang in the Parent’s Lounge, but Dana surprised Gracie with floor tickets and we took her seats she had since her birthday.  Gracie and Taylor were noticed by Taylor Swift’s mother and got backstage passes after the show, and we tagged along to chaperone and moderate the emotions. :)  Ms. Swift doesn’t have to meet her fans, but she does and it was really a sweet time.

A few from September 2015

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Movie Minutiae

  • Spy – Melissa McCarthy vehicle; was fine, but not very memorable :)
  • Ted 2 – I never saw the first Ted movie, but I indulged my man and saw this one. Maybe I should have seen the first. :)
  • Inside Out – a great movie; that’s all.
  • Minions – I haven’t seen Despicable Me, so the love of Minions is lost on me. But it was fun to take Kaydee to her first movie in the theatre.
  • Magic Mike XXL – a great time with the girls. I still am going to try to get Chris to watch this!  it was so much lighter than the first and a lot of fun.
  • Trainwreck – Saw this one twice; I’m an Amy Schumer fan and this movie was great. So much fun. LaBron was amazing!
  • Ricki and the Flash – This was an unexpected treat! Fun to see Meryl Streep in this role alongside her daughter. Very thought-provoking and it had great music!
  • A Walk in the Woods – An adaptation of Bill Bryson’s book with Robert Redford (looking old!) and Nick Nolte (acting old!). A fun romp.
  • The Martian – a great movie! I don’t like to feel tense during movies and this one was light and fun.
  • The Intern – pretty predictable, but still lots of food for thought. A fun night at the movies!

October 2015 – just a few on the computer so far!

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Book Briefs

  • The Rumour – for book club; Elin Hildebrand’s Nantucket is always a fun place to visit.
  • Paper Towns – I didn’t see the movie, but the book was fascinating.
  • We’ll Always Have Paris – a memoir about mother/daughter travels and facing mortality
  • Someday, Someday, Maybe – an actress-wanna-be in NYC; light and fun.
  • Summer Blowout – a good summer read; very light
  • You’re the Best – the Satellite Sisters ode to friendship – great essays and conversations.

Work continues to be challenging and humbling, the Cosmo Girls are up and running for another year, the baseball season turned into the football season and now we are looking forward to basketball.  I love getting to as many events as work allows!

At the last football game of Trajan’s junior year I was talking with Kai, a 5 year old we know and love, about my new grandson. He was very astute when he said, “So you’re a grandma AND an aunt!”

“Best jobs ever,” I said.  The best.

Baby books!

I’m going to be a Grandma!

I’ve known for quite a while now.  I picked out my name (Nana ‘Nette), bought a 4-door car for car-seat ease, and helped plan the gender reveal get-together with the families.  But I haven’t purchased an outfit or a piece of equipment yet – so far all I’ve bought is baby books!

Upon learning the news, I bought The Belly Book for Marissa

The Belly Book - documenting the 9 month journey!

The Belly Book – documenting the 9 month journey!

and From Dude to Dad for Adam.

From Dude to Dad - the Diaper Dude's Guide to Pregnancy

From Dude to Dad – the Diaper Dude’s Guide to Pregnancy

Then for fun (and because it’s so brilliant), I bought Hickory Daiquiri Dock by Tim Federle.

Hickory Daiquiri Dock - Nursery Rhymes with a twist (of lemon!)

Hickory Daiquiri Dock – Nursery Rhymes with a twist (of lemon!)

I know that I’ll be buying little boy outfits and nursery items soon enough, but I also know that this little one will have a great library of books at his disposal!  Woot!

Do you have favorite books – for mom and dad or for baby boys?

What’s up?

It’s been a while since I did an “update” blog, so thought I’d ramble a little.  I listen to a new podcast by Gretchen Reubin about Happiness and she said that a tradition that she and her family have is weekly email updates to each other.  I think it’s a great idea and wonder if it’s something that we could establish in our family.  I started a “Grimsrud Women” Facebook group, hoping that it is somewhere we can use, so we will see!  I love communicating and remaining connected with those I love!

Deadra and I used to email each other weekly – we should do that again.  Last time I spoke with Deadra she mentioned that she thinks of this blog as a way that I keep people updated, and I suppose it is.  It’s also my way of remembering – storing the activities and thoughts of the moment in one place.

So in an effort to update

  • Not so many movies, in the theatre anyway.  Pitch Perfect 2 at the late show on a Tuesday is about it since McFarland.  I have caught up on some Netflix, though.  Binge-watched Grace and Frankie, which was fun. Now watching Season 2 of Orange is the New Black – season 3 comes in June.  We watched Non-Stop the other night – a Liam Neeson scary thing – and a few others from our DVR that aren’t memorable right now.  I am watching the finale of Season 1 of The Outlander as we speak – using the blog to distract me from it!  It is a little more violent and graphic than I like.  Uff.
  • I really enjoyed reading Me Before You – a wonderful story! SO original an interesting.  Really captivated me, which is good for my reading slump.  I finished listening to The Weird Sisters this morning – that was fine. Took me a while, so the continuity gets lost.  Now what to read next is tough.  I started one on the Kindle but it is not grabbing me, so I’ll move on, I think.  Maybe my DNF (Did Not Finish) list will exceed my TBR piles.
  • We celebrated quite a few things in the past few months – so much to celebrate!  I passed my LICSW test, Gunnar turned 18, Trajan turned 16, Chuck and Carolyn were surprised with a 25th wedding anniversary party, and Sierra passed her GED!  We also celebrated with our Christmas gift of Billy Joel tickets!  It was a great concert, even from way up high!  He is a fun performer to watch.  To add to the evening, we had dinner at Gluek’s before the show and they were playing all Billy all the time, and believe me, there was a lot of singing aloud at every table!  Because, who else can you sing to, but Billy Joel!  There was a moment when three women – all strangers – were singing at the top of their lungs together in the bathroom – and we sounded great!  Good times…
  • Cosmo Girls went bowling in April and had a Garden Party in May!  It was a great way to end the year… in a seasonal porch, listening to the rain.  So much fun with those girls!
  • We had our Take Note! Spring Concert and it was great!  A good concert with SMU students there to add to the show!  Singing is just sooooooooo good!
  • You know what isn’t good?  My new haircut.  Uff.  That was a tough lesson.  I don’t believe I’ve ever cried over my hair before – I don’t think I’m that kind of person.  But I cried on Friday.  I’m over it.  I hate it but I’m over it.  I can handle a bad hair day, but I guess a bad haircut is a different story.  Luckily it’s summer and my hair will grow fast! And I won’t need it cut for quite a while!
  • We tried some new restaurants – Schweich’s Hotel in Kenyon, Casablanca’s in Rochester, and Riverside on the Root in Lanesboro.  It’s so fun to try new places, especially locally!  We also took the MINI to Winona with Jenny and ate at the Blue Heron cafe, explored the Marine Art Museum (a MUST SEE!) and walked around Lake Winona.  Was a perfect day!
  • And of course, we learned the gender of my new grandbaby!  It was a wonderful meeting of two families to support these two youngsters as they journey towards parenthood!  They had the ultrasounds with the reveal in an envelope and picked out two outfits at BabyGap and the clerk was the first to know!  She wrapped up the little BOY outfit and the moment we all learned was priceless. Chris and I joked that we were going to show up in t-shirts that said “We’re here for the SEX,” but we held back.  It was a great night.  So much joy with babies.  Can’t wait.

So there’s an update.  I would like to challenge Marissa to spend a little time with her blog, as she is an incredible writer and it would be a great way to remember her thoughts and feelings and joys during this time!  Are you up for it, Mo??

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Well, off to read!  For real!


I certainly don’t cook as much as I used to, and my baking (which I love to do and used to be good at) is often sub-par, but I still love to look through cookbooks! Although I have a cupboard full of them, I use the internet and iPad apps most of the time to search for whatever recipe has the most positive reviews (or has the most ingredients in my house!).  Last night I was at the grocery store trying to figure out what ingredients I would need to make a delicious chicken casserole and I remembered my mom’s recipe from the old Highland Prairie Cook Book.  I did my best guessing and today I pulled it off!

Cook Book Cupboard - well-stocked!

Cook Book Cupboard – well-stocked!

I know that my cookbook cupboard is missing some staples, but I’m thankful that they have traveled with me through the years.

The cookbooks in my cupboard can tell stories, for sure.

  • Some I’ve had since I was a child (Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls),
  • some are discarded library books (Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook, Russian Cookbook, Cookbook of India), 
  • some are books – fiction and non-fiction – filled with recipes (A Homemade Life, Bread Alone, Lunch in Paris),
  • some are basic and standard (Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray),
  • and some are specialty (coffee, chocolate, Christmas, party food, Trader Joe’s).

I have a few years of Eating Well and Cook’s Illustrated magazines tucked up in there, as well. I have one old blank journal that I filled with handwritten recipes, with numbered pages and a typed index in the front and back. Quite a hodge-podge mixture of recipes in there – literally soup to nuts!!   I also have a recipe box which is filled with hundreds of hand-written recipes – mostly desserts and sweets!

In the cookbooks, you can tell the well-loved recipes by the stains on the page. The Gingerbread People recipe in Betty Crocker is on a torn and stained page with notes for future reference – obviously a well-used recipe!  Those old church cookbooks are fun, especially when you know the people who contributed the recipes.  From the Highland Prairie cookbook I always make Karla Holland’s banana bread recipe, Darlene Johnson’s sugar cookie recipe is amazing, and of course, recipes from Mary Jo are delicious! I bookmarked every single rhubarb recipe in there – there are quite a few!  And where else do you find the classic Norwegian recipes or the favorite “funeral sandwich” meat you love?

Today I made these delicious Brownie Cookies at request.  They are delicious.  They’re from the Pioneer Woman website (click here for the recipe), and I wrote it down to share with the requester.  And I’ll write it down for my recipe box – it’s a keeper!

Brownie Cookies - delicious!  An internet recipe

Do you have a favorite cookbook?   What are your favorite cooking apps or websites?

Club Day Chicken ‘N Dressing – Mary Jo Grimsrud, Highland Prairie Anniversary Cook Book 1854-1979

1 (8 oz.) package seasoned bread stuffing
1 stick margarine/butter
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups cooked diced chicken
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 can cream of mushroom soup
grated cheese (topping)

Mix packaged stuffing with melted butter and water, toss lightly to blend.  Place half of mixture in buttered 12×8 baking dish. Mix chicken, onion, celery, mayonnaise, and salt. Spread over stuffing.  Top with remaining bread mixture. Beat eggs slightly and add to milk.  Pour over bread mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Take out one hour before baking, spread with soup. Bake uncovered at 325 degree oven for 40 minutes.  Sprinkle top with cheese. Return to oven for 10 minutes.  Serves 8-10.

My own MINI March Madness


Here we are again – the beginning of a new month!  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I have an affinity for the 1st of any month.  April 1 happens to be my half birthday, so now it is also my SIX MONTH ANNIVERSARY!  Wahoo!  Seems like that just happened AND that he’s been in my life forever… life is so good.

Here’s a recap of all the goodness of March –

We started the month off with a double date with Beth and Doug to see “Almost, Maine” in Lanesboro.  It was such a great play and a fun night out in Lanesboro!  Highlight (outside of the theatre) was asking at the Legion if they served any food and the (harried, busy) waitress said, “No.  We just have pizza.”  We chuckled, ordered it, and it was sooooo good! Hegge’s pizza is the bomb!

We ended the month with celebrations for Beth’s birthday at Osaka for a Tepanyaki style dinner, followed by a Blues Fest at Wicked Moose.  I got Chris on the dance floor, which was a first (and won’t be the last time!) So fun!.

Singing the birthday blues!

In early March, Chris and I attended the Minnesota Monthly Food & Wine Show at Target Field in Minneapolis!  Jenny and I had planned to go for months, but she was ill so Chris went instead.  We didn’t get even close to falling down drunk, like some that we saw, but we did enjoy the little corner of spirits and made sure to stop sampling with plenty of time for metabolizing before driving home.  It was a lot of fun – and a lot of people!

Outside Target Field on a beautiful day!

March brought me my MINI!  Chris and I drove to the Cities to look at a few cars one beautiful Saturday.  I was certain I was going to get another Honda, but manual transmissions are becoming fewer and fewer… so we went in search of some different car dealers in the Cities.  We never got past the first, as I knew I didn’t need to look any further after I drove the MINI Cooper S.  So we went back the next week with my car and did the trade and then back the next week for my “Second Delivery Date” with an expert and to get the bonnet stripes installed.  Ah.  It’s a fun ride!

My MINI! Woohoo!

March also brought sunshiney warm days and a big snowstorm.  We looked for patio dining and couldn’t find any yet, so we encouraged friends to open their patio and enjoyed a roaring fire with s’mores.  Good stuff.  And then the snow came and schools were closed.  Crazy Minnesota March.

A campfire at the Chalet

March brought $2 burgers with the family a few times.

During Lenten season, I went to confirmation with Gracie and got to talk with her about what we think it means to be a Lutheran.

A 3 movie month is pretty solid!  I saw Cinderella with Gracie, the March birthday girl.  We loved it – it was beautiful and romantic.  The story you know and love told wonderfully.  I saw The Second Most Exotic Marigold Hotel with Jenny – and it was very fun!  Many laugh-out-loud moments, some tears, and a big old dance scene!  Yay!  And last night I saw McFarland, USA with the crew in Rochester.  What a movie!  It was so good.  A story about coaching, field-working-high-schoolers, and the community.  It was very incredible – and the end with the real guys was the best. Just so good.

I binge watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix, and that is a hoot.  Very clever and fun!  (Dang, now I have the theme song in my head!)

I read The Kitchen House for book club and am listening to The Weird Sisters.  It’s hard to know what to read next, as my TBR piles continue to grow and grow!  Someone, help me out here!

And lastly, we celebrated Tony’s last night in Madison with Supper at Bandung Indonesian followed by champagne cocktails and martinis at Opus Martini Lounge.  Tony and Chris left early yesterday morning for their trek across country to move him to Rhode Island. They arrived safely this morning, a mere 24 hours after leaving Madison.  Tomorrow Chris will get to New Hampshire for some family time in before flying home to me on Sunday.  Ah.  Next time I’m going with.

Looking forward to April, although it will be a different sort of month with Chris starting to work overnights.  I work overnights the rest of this week and again the end of the month, so that will keep things interesting around here!

Happy April, all!

February Fairly Flew!

Time just keeps “March”ing on, doesn’t it?  Hard to believe we are moving into the end of the first quarter of 2015 – and creeping up on the 6 month anniversary of my wedding/birthday!

So far #marriedlife2015 is just grand.  We both work crazy hours at our job, which means we have random days off during the week and every other weekend off together.  We try to make the most of our time off.  In January, we had a daytrip to LaCrosse, WI where we met Chris’s friend from high school who is moving from Madison to Rhode Island in a few months.  We visited the Dahl Automotive Museum and Pearl Street Brewery, Buzzard Billy’s and the Starllte Lounge and then drove to the Ponderosa for movie time by the fireplace.

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Two weeks later we drove to Madison to see them before Tien moved mid-February.  We weren’t able to make the going away party, so had our own time with them, which was very fun.  Chris and I got there early and enjoyed a Restaurant Week restaurant, a Mustard Museum, and then we enjoyed a pub meal before retreating to their bar for darts and drinks.  Saturday we walked on State Street, went to the Madison Modern Museum of Art and then visited my old “haunts” – Ella’s Deli and Few Street!  Was quite a blast from the past.  My old stomping grounds revolved around a 4 year old, so they weren’t too exciting, but it was a great reminiscence.  We also had a delicious Vietnamese meal before we travelled back to Rochester.  It was a great weekend.  Next time we go there it will be to drop Chris off for his road trip to Rhode Island / New Hampshire with Tony!  Less than a month away!

Mom, Marissa, Gracie and I had a little daytrip to the Cities for Mom’s birthday in early February.  We went to Marissa’s apartment and said hello to the kitties, and then went to an art open house at Pam Weisdorf’s home  Afterwards we had a delicious hibachi meal and avoided all malls.  It was a nice little road trip!

In January, Chris’s new little granddaughter was born – Emilee Ashlyn.  What fun to hold a baby!  And what fun to witness Chris’s discomfort at the same.  He says he’s afraid he’ll drop her. She is a little peanut, but growing every day, as babies are supposed to do.  We took her big sister, Kaydee, to Soccer World one bitterly cold morning and played during their open gym time.  That was a hoot.  Fun to be inside, warm, and running around on fake grass.

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January and February means there is basketball almost every day of the week if you want.  It was fun to watch Rees, Gracie and Trajan play basketball.  And fun to witness Gunnar sign with SDSU for his collegiate football career. And I made it to section wrestling to see Trevor wrestle a few!  Phew, there is an abundance of sports in the winter!

February also means SocialICE – a yearly festival of the cold!  They moved it back a few weeks, so it coincided with Marissa’s birthday weekend.  They were hoping that it would be warmer, but it just wasn’t to be.  Chris and I went for about 45 minutes on Thursday night and it was sooo cold (-5).  Hot drinks were not hot, cold drinks were freezing – literally.  Chris had a beersicle.  We eventually moved inside for a cocktail at the Doggery.  Saturday we went back during the daylight with the kids, because the ice sculptures are really fun to see, but it got cold and windy and crowded fast, so we didn’t last long.  We celebrated Marissa’s birthday with the family tradition of pizza and ice cream cake!  Delicious…

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And the Oscars 2015 happened, as well!  I haven’t seen all the movies up for Best Picture, including the winner, but I did see a few.  I already loved The Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood.  I thought The Imitation Game was ok and American Sniper was very hard to watch.  I haven’t seen Birdman (the winner), Whiplash (looks painful), Selma or the Theory of Everything.  I have seen a few movies in the theatre in 2015 – Into the Woods (Rees’s “worst movie ever,” but I loved it!), The Imitation Game (just OK, not super-great), Paddington (sooooooo fun… used to LOVE Paddington!), and Still Alice (the book is SO much better – this is a watered down version, but with a great performance).

At home we’ve watched The Long Way Round series (documentary about a motorcycle trip around the world! Love it!  Ewan McGregor, so fun), The One I Love, The Wolf of Wall Street, They Came Together, The Hundred Foot Journey (nice little movie – I read the book!), The Edge of Tomorrow, and 84 Charing Cross Road (such a sweet story about this eccentric woman – so fun! Very true to the book!)

And speaking of books, we had book club last week.  We read The Perfume Collector and had great fun planning our French food theme!  Lots of fromage, French Onion dip, potatoes au gratin, quiche and croissants.  Topped off by French silk pie!  What was the book about?  Hmmm…   It happened in France in the 50s and was about gifts and independence and the role of our senses.  I read it in December, so had trouble with the details but we had a good discussion anyway!

Other books I’ve read in 2015 include: The Beautiful Daughters (see review here – it is released soon!), Yes Please (audiobook read by the author, Amy Poehler!  Loved it!), The Supreme Macaroni Company (Adriana’s book continuing with Valentine’s life in NYC), and Apple of My Eye (sooooo good!  Helene Hanff is quite the character and brings NYC in the 70s to life!  Loved it!)

I can’t decide what to read next… so I’m catching up on magazines.  Looking forward to diving into that next good book, though!

Would love to hear what you’re reading, what you’re watching, what you’re doing, while waiting for spring weather to arrive! Comment below!

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. ~Hal Borland

We have a winner!

A few days late, but scientifically chosen*, the winner is NANCY!

Nancy – get in touch on Facebook or by email with your snail mail address and I’ll get the book to you soon!

*Names were written on identically sized pieces of paper, folded identically, and then one was chosen by my beautiful daughter, who happened to be visiting.  :)  So scientific.

The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart

If you know me, you know I love authors.  I love to listen to them talk about their books, about their writing process, about their view the world, about the books the love to read.  I’m also loyal to authors.  If I like a book, I will continue to follow that author to see what they will come up with next.

If you know me, you also know I’ve been in a reading slump – planning a wedding and getting married takes a lot of brain power and time!  So when Nicole Baart, (an author I’ve followed since I read her book The Moment Between in 2009) posted on Facebook that she was looking for members of a “street team” for her newest book, The Beautiful Daughters, I applied!  The opportunity to read an Advanced Reader’s Copy, offer it for a giveaway, and then to receive a copy of the book when it is published on April 28, 2015 – I love stuff like that!  I was tickled to be chosen for her Street Team and for The Beautiful Daughters to be the first book I read in 2015.  Bonus:  She sent her favorite chocolates, book marks, signed book plates, and homemade soap made receipt of the package even sweeter!

Below is the description of the book from the Digital Catalog at Atria Publishing (a branch of Simon and Schuster), the tentative cover design, and a little info about Nicole Baart, the author.

Below that is my review and details on how you can get your hands on my ARC!!

The Beautiful Daughters – 

The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart

The Beautiful Daughters
by Nicole Baart

From the author of Sleeping in Eden, described as “intense and absorbing from the very first page” (Heather Gudenkauf, author of The Weight of Silence), comes a gripping new novel about two former best friends and the secrets they can’t escape.

Adrienne Vogt and Harper Penny were closer than sisters, until the day a tragedy blew their seemingly idyllic world apart. Afraid that they got away with murder and unable to accept who they had lost—and what they had done—Harper and Adri exiled themselves from small-town Blackhawk, Iowa, and from each other. Adri ran thousands of miles away to Africa while Harper ventured down a more destructive path closer to home.

Now, five years later, both are convinced that nothing could ever coax them out of the worlds in which they’ve been living. But unexpected news from home soon pulls Adri and Harper back together, and the two cannot avoid facing their memories and guilt head-on. As they are pulled back into the tangle of their fractured relationships and the mystery of Piperhall, the sprawling estate where their lives first began to unravel, secrets and lies behind the tragic accident are laid bare. The former best friends are forced to come to terms with their shared past and search for the beauty in each other while mending the brokenness in themselves.

Nicole Baart’s lush and lyrical writing has been called “sparkling” (Publishers Weekly), “taut and engrossing” (Booklist), and “evocative and beautiful” (Romantic Times). The Beautiful Daughters is another exquisitely rendered, haunting story that will stay with readers long after the last page.

Nicole BaartNicole Baart is the mother of four children from four different countries. The cofounder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, she lives in a small town in Iowa. She is the author of seven previous novels, including, most recently, Sleeping in Eden. Find out more at NicoleBaart.com.

My review:

I really enjoyed this book.  I love books with rich character development.  I love beautiful descriptions.  This book has all that, plus a suspenseful plot with insight into how tragedy affects people.  The book also tackles sensitive topics, but I don’t want to spoil the suspense.

Some of the passages that I re-read and bent the pages for include:

Regarding Adri’s father, Sam:

“Her father was one such daydreamer, the kind of man who spoke volumes in silences and heard God whisper in the song of distant stars keeping watch over the land that he plowed.”

Regarding Adri’s fiance’, David:

“In his personal life he was sensible and composed, able to take up and set aside the mantle of a playboy as easily as donning a coat.  To laugh and joke and drink until his imposing mother slipped into the room, a quiet and watchful revenant whose presence instantly sobered and reined in her son.”

Regarding The Five:

“Jackson was hand in hand with Nora, a new girlfriend who didn’t quite fit.  Harper couldn’t help resenting her.  When Nora was around, they were quick to pair up, but when it was just the five of them, they were a unit.  A fist clenched tight.”

This book is about young adults who meet at a small college in Blackhawk, Iowa.  Adri and her brother Will grew up on a farm in Blackhawk, and David grew up at Piperhall, a mansion down the road.  Along with Harper and Jackson, The Five become fast friends and spend most of their out-of-school time playing grown-up at Piperhall and when Harper suggests a trip to commemorate their college graduation and mark endings and new beginnings, they are unaware of the tragic event that will happen and change their lives forever.  They scatter – Adri to Africa and Harper into dark relationships – and are called home five years later when the matriarch of Piperhall dies.

This is a page-turner and I’m so thankful it was the first book I read in 2015!

Now, to get your hands on my Advanced Readers Copy, please COMMENT BELOW with the FIRST BOOK YOU READ OR ARE READING in 2015!  If you share this blog post on Facebook or Twitter (and share the link), you 10933699_10152994556774210_1188091013014551439_nwill get extra entries!

I’ll pick a winner WEDNESDAY JANUARY 28.

How to sum up awesomeness?

2014I like to end each year by looking back and thinking about the big things and the little things, summing it up and tucking it away to be recalled in the future.  2014 was a big year.  Here is a sad attempt to summarize its awesomeness.  (Lots of links you can click on if you want more info or fun videos! Anything underlined is a link.)

Movie chat!

Movie chat!

I saw some movies in the theatre.  In no particular order, I saw Inside Llewelyn Davis, Her, The Lego Movie, The Great Beauty*, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Saving Mr. Banks, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Divergent, 12 Years a Slave, Belle, Neighbors, Chef, The Fault in Our Stars, A Million Ways to Die in the West, The November Man, Boyhood, Unbroken, Wild, The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay Part 1, Dumb and Dumber To, St. Vincent, and Gone Girl.  (*Rochester Int’l Film Fest)

Some were seen alone, some with girlfriends, some with family, some with Chris.  Some felt like they were MADE FOR ME (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Boyhood, Chef, St. Vincent); others not so much, but I love a movie in the theatre, no matter what.  (Thankful for that Mayo discount and living within walking distance to a theatre!)

Netflix DVD watching also happened, including The Salt of Life, 20 Feet from Stardom, Austenland, Iron Man 1, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, 10 Years, August Osage County, Blazing Saddles, What’s Up, Doc?, Here Comes the Boom, Love Is All You Need, My Life Without Me, The Tiger and the Snow. 

None of them stand out as wonderful, except 20 Feet from Stardom – that was fun.  I blogged about that around Oscar time last year.  Some were sent back without being watched – life was just too busy to sit on the couch in 2014!

Great seats for our first show!

Great seats for our first show!

The stage and Proscenium

The stage and Proscenium


In 2014 I saw some things on a stage.

Musicians – The Skivvies at 54 Below with Koni and Troy in NYC, Jeremy Messersmith at First Ave for Marissa’s birthday, Jim Brickman with Chris for Valentine’s Day, Paul McCartney at Target Field with Mom and Dad, Marissa and Chris

Comedians – Lorna Landvik at her Party in the Rec Room at Bryant Lake Bowl in January with John and Deadra, Mike Birbiglia at the Pantages with Marissa (on a whim, due to horrific driving conditions keeping me in the Cities longer – so glad we went! Thankful we weren’t later arrivers!!)

Plays – in Minneapolis Jenny and Chris and I saw Peter and the Starcatcher, and it didn’t disappoint the second time!  We hung out after and listened to the actors talk about their magical performances night after night… So fun.

Authors – only one in 2014!  Allison McGhee, a Minnesota author.  I still haven’t read any of her books, but she was fascinating to listen to!  I do love to listen to and meet authors!

And speaking of books – you can click the BOOKS I READ IN 2014 page on my blog to see the list of books that I did accomplish in 2014.  I didn’t meet my reading goal (again, not a lot of time to sit around and read in 2014!) but I changed my goal and hopefully set a realistic goal for #marriedlife2015.

Heading in to the first show of our trip!

Heading in to the first show of our trip!

And speaking of plays, can’t forget Broadway!  I had TWO trips to NYC in 2014! The first was in early January – a girl’s weekend with my sister-in-law/great friend, Koni.  We ran through airports to catch planes, celebrated the arrival of our luggage, we braved their elements (12 degrees, which was 30 degrees warmer than we left) and were the only ones to show up for the  cupcake walking tour of the Lower East Side.  We ate delicious meals, we SHOPPED, we saw THREE Broadway shows (Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder – the Tony winner of 2014! – Cinderella, and Matilda!), we saw people singing in their underwear at 54 Below (the Skivvies – click to see a video!), we celebrated when our flight home was cancelled, as it meant we had a bonus day to see our 3rd show, hang around the Superbowl celebrations in Times Square, and enjoy more Cake Boss treats.  Read ALL about it here.

One of everything!  Yes, please!

One of everything! Yes, please!Also in 2014:

Also in 2014:

  • Birthdays were celebrated – at wineries, at the Lake, at restaurants.
  • I went to as many kids’ sporting events as my schedule would allow.
  • I continue to love my job, crazy schedule and all.  Coming up on my 3rd anniversary on January 30.
  • Someone drove through our Target exit doors, right after Chris and I walked out. Quite freaky!
  • Choir continues to bring joy and happiness to me and all who participate – can’t wait to start up again!
  • Marissa met a man that she enjoys immensely, so that’s fun for mama.  She continues in graduate school, hoping for an early spring graduation.
  • Cosmo Girls continued to meet monthly – a solid crew of amazing women that I am thankful for!
Cosmo Girls at RAC 2014

Cosmo Girls at RAC 2014

And then of course, last but not certainly not least,
we got engaged in July and married in October 2014!

The ring arrived!

The ring arrived!

Proof that he is the ONE?  When we were discussing the hows and whens and wheres of getting married, he said, “Can we get married in New York City?” Um, yes!  Most people think it was my idea, but it was his idea, which is why I love him so.  He knows how to make this girl happy.  I’m very lucky!

July to October was spent hammering out details, planning, organizing, and celebrating.  Chris moved in with me in July and that adjustment has been surprisingly smooth (further proof that he is the ONE!).  I had a wonderful, abbreviated Ferragosto week at the lake, which was almost like a Bachelorette week.  So much celebrating and planning and laughing!

It was great fun to plan the week in NYC for family and friends.  Everyone was so joyful and lovely.  The blog detailing the events of Wedding Week 2014 can be read here: #woohoowedo2014.  I’ll end this never-ending blog with the ceremony that Chris and I worked on in the hopes that we would have time in the chapel for more than just vows – and we did.

2014 was sure filled with blessings!  Looking forward to #marriedlife2015!  More adventures await!

LOVE Sculpture!

LOVE Sculpture!

-NYC Wedding Ceremony October 1, 2014- 

POEM – Deadra
READING (If time before vows) – Robert Fulgham

OPENING PRAYER – Dad – He did his own prayer :) 

Dear God, for the joy of this occasion we thank You. For the friends and family who are here today to witness this joy, we thank You.  For the significance of this wedding day we thank You. For this important moment in an ever growing relationship we thank You. For Your presence here and now and for Your presence at all times, we thank You. In His holy name. Amen.


Your very presence here, in this city, in this building, shows how much you love and support Chris and Danette and their life together.  Will you promise to continue to surround this couple in love, offering them the joys of your friendship?  Will you support this couple in their relationship, at times of conflict, offering them the strength of your wisest counsel and the comfort of your thoughtful concern?  At times of joy will you celebrate with them,nourishing their love of one another?

(Hope for enthusiastic “WE WILL” from all!) And they said “WOOHOO WE DO!”

During this ceremony, Chris and Danette will exchange rings.  These rings are a strong and visible sign of their love and commitment to one another. Chris and Danette ask that you, very important and loved members of their lives, hold their rings in your hands for a moment and warm them with your love.  Say a silent prayer or make a wish for Chris and Danette and their future together.


1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge,it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

POEM – Deadra

i carry your heart with me ~ e.e. cummings ~

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear
no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

VOWS – Jimmy 

Benediction – CLOSING PRAYER – Dana

The wedding is not over – it has just begun.  Marriage is not something said and done, but a promise, whose fulfillment is acted out over time.

So for Chris and Danette, we simply pray that the promises of marriage have a long and complete fulfillment; that their love is nurtured and shared by their families and friends; and that the seasons be joyous along the way. In God’s name we pray. Amen.

READING Union  ~ Robert Fulghum ~ Read by Marissa at Starbucks

You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point,you decided to marry. From that moment of yes, to this moment of yes, indeed,you have been making commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks – all those conversations that began with, “When we’re married”, and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” – all those late night talks that included“someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” – and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.

The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word.”

Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another. Shortly you shall say afew words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.

For after today you shall say to the world –

This is my husband. This is my wife.

WalkieTalkieBook Club blog – 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

I’ve had better years, but I’ll keep plugging away!  I still love to write!  Hopefully in 2015 I’ll do more of it!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 50 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.