dolphin love

IMG_6844blogJust got back from two lovely weeks in Florida. Two weeks away from the frigid Michigan weather, work pressures, bill paying, and the general responsibilities and stresses of daily life. It was a much needed breather for me and Mr. Bookbabie. The highlight of the trip was a ride on The Sanibel Thriller, a boat that tours the islands and attracts dolphins who love to play in it’s huge wake. Watching dolphins leap over the waves and zig-zag beneath the walls of rolling water trailing the boat was very healing as I continue to deal with the ups and downs of health problems. Their joy in the moment was so pure and so free, check it out if you’re ever on Sanibel Island!

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.
~Rumi

See more (nearly) Wordless Wednesday here.

wednesday illusions

One travels to escape from it all, but that is the great illusion: It cannot be done, since one travels with one’s mind. ~Ella Maillart

That quotation may be true, but the truth is, that far away sun drenched beach sure looks good to me right now!

See other Nearly Wordless Wednesday participants here.

fall food

I don’t post many recipes, but decided to share one of my favorites today. One of the best things about living in a four season state is changing your cooking with the weather. We’re covering up the barbecues and firing up our ovens and Crock Pots here in Michigan. My sister Carrie, the family cook, made this beef stew for us once and it immediately became an all-time favorite around here. Not only because it tastes so good, but because it’s pretty much a no-fail recipe!

Carrie’s Beef Stew

4 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed, cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs, undrained
1/2 cup hoisin sauce (I use Kame brand because it’s Gluten-Free)
2 bay leaves

1 pound slender carrots, peeled, cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Add meat to pot; sauté until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Push meat to sides of pot. Reduce heat to medium; add 2 tablespoons oil to pot. Add onions; sauté until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Mix meat into onions. Add 1 cup wine, tomatoes with juices, hoisin sauce, and bay leaves. Bring to boil.

Reduce heat to low, cover pot and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrots and 1 cup wine. Cover; simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover, increase heat to high; boil until sauce is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes longer. Reduce heat to medium, add cornstarch mixture and simmer until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Season stew with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Bring to simmer before serving, stirring occasionally.) Transfer stew to large bowl. Sprinkle with parsley; serve.

Okay, so that’s the recipe. Now I don’t know about you, but I always change things up as I go depending on my mood and what I have in the pantry. I like to use lean, thinly sliced steak, I usually make it in a Crock Pot cooking it on low for about 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. I throw in baby carrots sliced in half if I have them, I rarely have fresh parsley around so I skip that or use dry, most of time when I make this all the wine goes in at once, my husband and onions don’t get along so I use onion salt or flakes, and I often don’t get around to the cornstarch. The stew goes great with mashed potatoes or rice. I’ve even made it into a rich soup a couple of times by thinning the stock with a little water and adding frozen chopped vegetables.

The cows in the photo hung out in a pasture near our condo in Jackson Hole. Hmm, their cute little bovine faces are giving me a case of the meat-eating guilt’s, maybe I’ll skip the beef and throw in some tofu next time!

PhotoHunt Saturday: Words

Welcome to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson Hole, Wyoming! The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is no ordinary bar. This gallery-like atmosphere is an awesome display of the true Wild West. The decor alone will keep you fascinated for hours at a time. Wyoming’s landmark watering hole for spirits, beer and wine, The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is located right on the town square in the heart of Jackson. It is famous for its western cowboy flare motif, complete with a large collection of western memorabilia, unique knobbled pine architecture, cowboy murals, animal mounts, and genuine saddle barstools. The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is known world wide for its western dancing and live entertainment. Some of the finest entertainers on the country music scene have been known to hit the stage here, including Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Jr., Asleep at the Wheel, Hoyt Axton, Glen Campbell, Tanya Tucker, Willie Nelson, Commander Cody and the James Cotton Blues Band. The best times in Jackson Hole are had at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar!

See more PhotoHunt Saturday pics here!