Tuesday, October 17, 2017

My Relationship with Potato Leek Soup


A decade ago, I booked a spontaneous trip to Switzerland, which I briefly highlighted in my book, 'Running Away to Europe'. I was about to get engaged, but something didn't feel right. We broke up. I needed clarity. So at 24, I celebrated one of my most memorable days.

I took a train ride through the Alps from Switzerland along the Northern border of Italy. It reminded me of my favorite movie, "Under the Tuscan Sun" when Frances Mays character played by Diane Lane says, "They built a train track through the Alps, before there ever was a train... meaning they want me to have faith." This day gave me faith.

I savored fresh pasta for lunch in Tirano, Italy. Then took a bus through narrow Italian villages along the Northern rim of Lake Como. We stopped for a quick break, I ventured into a gelateria. I couldn't believe I was eating gelato on Lake Como! It was the moment that ignited my love for independent travel. It proved that being brave and doing something scary, instead of choosing a safe path could led to personal growth.
We stopped for the night in Lake Lugano, Switzerland. I fell in love that day... with the Italian lakes, potato leek soup, and my own destiny. We took a cruise around the lake, then stopped on the Italian side of the lake for dinner a little lakeside restaurant.  Our tour group ate out on the deck with red and white checkered tablecloths on a late Septemer evening as the twinkling lights of Lugano glistened across the water. They served us the best potato leek soup... ever.

For the past decade, I've made variations of the soup. Sometimes I have it pureed, sometimes chunky. Sometimes I add heavy cream and a dollop of sour cream, and sometimes just pure broth. But every time I start the smell those sauteed leeks in the pot, it reminds of that magical day. It reminds me of independence, self-discovery, and how sometimes it can be hard to let go of something good.

If this blog post intrigues you, you can check out my book 'Running Away to Europe' for more travel and relationship tales. I will also be writing a book about the Switzerland trip too. For more information or get on my email list, check out www.nicolettejohnston.com for author updates and blog posts on writing!


Potato Leek Soup

2 leeks
3 cloves of garlic
3 potatoes
6 cups of broth
1 cup of heavy cream (optional)
1-2 tbsp sour cream (optional)
fresh chives or dill

Rinse leeks well, and chop in thin slices up to 1/2 inch where green stems begin. Satuee until lightly softened. Add garlic. Add broth (or water and bouillon cubes). Add potatoes at same as broth. Cook until pototoes cook through. Add heavy cream if opting for a creamy based soup. Remove from heat. Leave chunky or blend if desired for a pureed soup.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Snow in September

A Mom Diary Entry


Everything was going good. I was listening to one of my favorite encouraging podcasts by Brooke Castillo while cooking spaghetti, when I realized I needed to quickly harvest our entire crop prematurely before the snow came within the next 30 minutes.


It was like our own version of If A Mouse Had A Cookie. Because I had to put the chickens in the barn, but first I had to prepare their scraps to lure them into the barn. Then I had to pick all of our cucumbers and green tomatoes, Google to see if should pluck 4-5 inch green cantaloupes. (Still don't know, but pulled them anyway, we'll see if they turn into chicken scraps.) I left the pumpkins. Oh yes, quickly grabbed a spare laundry basket to pick the apples.



I couldn't forget to harvest my flowers too for dried floral art. Did I mention my kiddo, fell and scraped her hands in the middle of all of this? So I had to take an intermission to play Doc McStuffins and apply an Elsa bandage.

We came back in and I reheated our cold spaghetti. Which she never really ate, because low and behold she always has to go to the bathroom during every meal. So why did she pee her pants in front of the toilet? Still don't know. She never told me, even though I told her mommy wouldn't be mad.

Did I mention, that I brought not one, but two bees in the house too from the flowers? That was fun. Back to the podcast.



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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Zucchini Bread





Smells like something delicious is baking in the oven... we are having fresh baked zucchini bread with California walnuts, zucchini our neighbor's garden and farm eggs from our chickens. 


Even though I followed the recipe from my favorite cookbook, 'More from Magnolia' I added two cups of shredded zucchini instead of the recommended one cup. It turned out beautifully!
 

I must admit, I was actually craving the cupcakes on the cover. 
Maybe another day... I've been telling the kiddo that the dog's birthday is this month.  
So now anytime we go to the store, she wants to buy things for Hank's birthday.
I feel a dog birthday party coming in my near future...

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Koi at Fairytale Town

This week I took my little one to Fairytale Town in Sacramento and to the Sacramento Zoo with her Grandpa. We fed the koi fish.


Fairytale Town is hosting the ScholarShare Children's Book Festival on September 16 and 17 and offering Free Admission. If you are in the Sacramento area, this will be a fun event for kids to play and meet children's authors.

Promoting events for college saving programs was my job as the Public Information Officer for the Nevada State Treasurer's Office. Our office administered college saving programs for Nevada, and I certainly had fun with such sponsored events. College savings accounts are something that are dear to my heart, and I even opened one for my daughter when she was just 6 months old! I knew that if I was only putting away $15 a paycheck from that early on, it would pay off in the long run for my daughter. Not to mention, our state has some great matching grant opportunities!

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Grandparent's Day

Today is National Grandparent's Day, and it's been a very long time since I've written a truly heartfelt post. I've been wanting to for awhile, but when you go silent for years, you're never really sure where to pick up.


I lost my grandmother on July 27th, just six weeks ago. She is last the biological grandparent I had still living and I was very close to her. She died within the very same hour I hit the Publish button on Amazon for my first book. I was in a race against time to get it finished before she passed. (Which is why there were still a few typos, now corrected; the cover wasn't exactly what I wanted, everyone else received their book before I did, because I left immediately for her funeral.) But all I wanted was to fulfill my dream knowing I finally finished a book. I accepted that she would never get to read it, I just wanted her to know that I accomplished it. A goal I'd been striving for nearly two decades, since I've started five books and never finished one until now.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer at the end of May, so we knew she had a limited amount of time left. My daughter and I flew to Tennessee in June for our final visit with her to say good-bye. I was so grateful for that time with her. More importantly, I was so grateful that my daughter got to spend the time with her in June and got to experience my roots in Tennessee.


My daughter was born a preemie at just 28 weeks and three days and only 2.8 pounds on December 15th, 2013. She was due on March 7th (which would have been the one year anniversary of my grandpa's death.) My grandmother (along with my Dad) flew out to see her in the NICU that Christmas when she was just two weeks old. I tease that she came too early because I was watching too many Hallmark Christmas Movies and she wanted to be here for Christmas. Yes, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas in the NICU with our daughter hooked up to the incubator, oxygen tanks, and respirator. I found out the true meaning of a Christmas Miracle that year. That was the last plane trip my grandmother ever took, and I'm so grateful.


In June, my grandmother knew I was struggling internally with not being happy in my career path. The last good conversation I had with her on the phone, I wanted to tell her that I was going to finally be happy. I had given my notice at my job a few days prior. But I also didn't want her to stress, because I wasn't entirely sure what the next chapter would entail. I'm still trying to figure it out. But as I was editing my book, I saw the same person I was six years still battling with not being happy in my career. I had achieved my goal of lasting five years to get vested in the state PERS system, but I was dying on the inside. I was a tired working mom, prediabetic, feeling the fire ignite in me again to do something more fulfilling with my life, and to give my daughter the better hours of my day before she starts kindergarten. I also couldn't publish that book with those same struggles of not being true to myself. It was eating at me. So for the past month and half I've been relaxed and a better mother. Spending time taking her to the park, going to all the karate classes I missed out on, going to the library, and trying to figure out what is next.

I wanted to tell my grandma that I was making changes to be true to myself and my daughter, but I knew it wouldn't matter, she would just know. I didn't want to cause her any more stress or worry, so I just told her how much she meant to me.

My husband drove my daughter and I to Tennessee for her funeral and it was one of the most touching things he's ever done for me (three days there and three days back). We don't have a big marriage presence on social media, because we keep that side private, and I will be honest: marriage is tough.

The past few years of my life have turned out so non-traditional. Back when I was blogging for those who knew me back then, knew how happy and cheerful I was trying to portray everything. (But if you read the book, you will discover I had my own struggles back then too.)

I would have loved to continue blogging through my first home (a cute Cape Cod we fixed up), but I found out I was pregnant within the month of buying the house. I was sick and tired and I was unsure if we would even stay together. We were not married then. Life was not easy. As much as I wanted to live the perfect blog life, it was not in the cards for me.

I knew my grandmother's life was not easy either. There were so many things I wanted to ask her in June as I sat on her couch after my daughter went to bed, but I let it go. I decided there were some things she probably thought I didn't need to know. I asked her if she ever regretted anything, or wished if she would have done anything differently. She knew I was in dire need of answers and guidance for my own life. She told me that although things were not always perfect, she wouldn't have done anything differently.

Many people have asked me about the next book and what I've been up to since the ending of my book, and yes I have part two half completed, which would cover much of my journey mentioned above. I'm still deciding... it's still very personal. But I also have a couple of fiction books in the works too. I'll keep you posted.


Thanks for hearing me out.

So on this Grandparent's Day, CHERISH THEM! 

I know I'm still wondering how I'm going to get through the rest of my life
without ever seeing or talking to her again...

'Running Away to Europe' can be found on Amazon.


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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Author Interview

I'm very excited to be able to share my author interview with you! Many people have asked questions about my book, 'Running Away to Europe', and in this interview I give a brief background and read the book jacket.

For those that were avid blog followers back in the day, you will discover that the book really does contain so much more than I ever wrote about on my blog.

For those that are new to the blog from other avenues of social media and book publicity... you can discover more of the journey and photographs that aren't covered in the book on my blog under the Europe Trip 2011 label. So the book and blog both contain some similar themes, but are also completely different from each other. The two go hand and hand for the full story. Enjoy!



Thank you!

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tana French

About to curl up and dive in...

Today I was excited to find the new book by Tana French, The Trespasser. Many years ago I blogged about Tana French here and here. I'm very excited about it, because I've read 4 out of 6 of her books, and she only writes every year or two. Somehow I missed her 5th book because I was busy with life, but I did look for it at the library last week. So, when I was browsing new books today at a major retailer, I was beside myself to come across her name.


The second link (mentioned above) also includes a review I did on: Eat, Pray, Love. Coincidently, it is similar to the excerpt below from my memoir, Running Away to Europe.

"On the plane, I sat next to woman who spent half her time in the States and half her time in Sardinia. I didn't know much about Sardinia, other than the fact that I'd seen ferries going there daily in Nice. We talked a little bit, but 'Eat, Pray, Love' was on and I wanted to watch it. I told the woman that I'd pretty much just had the same experience as Julia Roberts in the movie. Though my trip didn't turn out nearly as glamorous as the movie, hence the reason I was returning home early, but I'd had a similar mission for clarity as Elizabeth Gilbert when I booked the trip. I certainly had a newfound respect for her because I too needed the distance and time to heal. When I first read 'Eat, Pray, Love' I was frustrated, because I saw so many things in myself. I wanted to grab her, shake her, and tell her to move on. Yet, I couldn't do it myself either. Now, I completely understood her and respected the healing process."  - Running Away to Europe





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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Leather Bracelets





We've been busy bees the past few days creating inventory for our shop! Available soon for purchase. Stay tuned!

If you absolutely can't wait, message me. Gypsy Soul and Wanderer are $18. All other bracelets are $15. Shipping $3 (US).

Have a wonderful week!


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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Wisdom of a 3 Year Old

After a trying day of no nap, I put my little one to sleep early, and sought a shower to unwind. She patiently waited for me with her door cracked peeking out.

"Get to bed," I say exhausted knowing the bed time games are only about to begin.

"Mama, pink clouds!" she replies and my heart melts. I can't turn her down. I set the tiny bouquet of yellow roses I had in my hand ready to refresh so we could step outside on the porch.


Every night this summer we enjoy the sunset together as it sinks below the mountains that back up to Lake Tahoe. After all, she was the one who pointed out to me that at dusk the clouds first turn 'lellow', then orange, then pink, then purple. I never paid much attention to the exact color sequence of dusk until she pointed it out a few weeks. Turns out she was right.


We walked back in, and I told her to go back to bed. She follows me to the kitchen. She can't resist watching me with the roses, 'lellow' is her favorite color after all. She hugs my leg tight and kisses my rear.

"Hey Mom! You have a wedgie!" she says.



This post marks the first of my 'Mom Diaries'.


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Monday, August 21, 2017

Coneflowers


These purple coneflowers, otherwise known as Echinacea have been in bloom for about 4-6 weeks in our garden. They are beautiful in bouquets I've made around the house. Did you know the entire plant is edible? I honestly haven't sampled any of our own crop yet, but I've done a little research and have dried some of the leaves and petals.

A few days ago, we discovered these beautiful white and lime green coneflowers down the street when I was on a jog with my daughter, Allison and black lab, Hank.


At three and half years old, Allison is beginning to share an affinity of flowers with her mom. She has spent nearly every weekend with me outside in our rubber boots planting, watering, pruning, fertilizing, and making floral arrangements with me. When we bought our little acre last March, it was such a pleasant surprise to see all kinds of flowers bloom from spring to fall. We spent the first year discovering what our property offered us. Then in fall we ordered over 300 tulip bulbs to begin experimenting to see how they would do in Nevada. (Will share later!)

After all the snow we had last year, our garden is flourishing and we've had a plethora of flowers. When the tulips bloomed first, I recorded the dates, for how long they bloomed, then came the roses and peonies. Oh yes, we grow magnificent peonies! They do surprising well in our climate. Then we had irises, day lilies, coneflowers, and more roses...

It has been a fun (but exhausting at times) journey to discover and tend to our garden, but I love every minute of it. We are now starting to dabble with drying the flowers to create art out them.

"Where flowers bloom, so does hope."
 - Lady Bird Johnson

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

We've Been Expecting...



Eggs!

We got baby chicks a week after Easter. That's right, I'm the proud mama of 12 chickens! This week we finally had a pleasant surprise! Every week I've been running to the store thinking this is the last week I have to buy eggs. We consume about 4-6 a day in our household, so we are really excited for fresh farm eggs. Remember when eggs were so expensive a few years back? We used to joke that eggs cost more than our monthly diaper supply. Thankfully that is no longer the case! I'm sensing there will be some breakfast recipes on the blog in the near future...

Loving the farm life!


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BOOK JACKET READING

Author Interview

I'm very excited to be able to share my author interview with you! Many people have asked questions about my book, 'Running Away to ...