Author Archives: Laurie Ryan

The Puzzle From Hell

Life has kept me pretty busy for quite a while, and I’m in the process of trying to slow it down just a bit. One thing about me…when I’m this busy, my mind seems to be racing all the time, always thinking about the next thing on my to-do list, or the project I’m currently on. There are really only a couple things that will help me “shut down” when I get like that. One is a good movie. I can work during tv shows, but a good movie will grab my attention and hold it all the way through.

The other thing that will help break my “gotta get my work done” mode is jigsaw puzzles. And one of those puzzles is the subject of this blog. Our kids buy or bring me puzzles to work and I love it…usually.

This past Christmas, one of our daughters brought me what I quickly coined the puzzle from hell. It took me four months to complete. I made myself sit down and find 5 pieces minimum each day. Even my 9 year old granddaughter, a puzzle freak (and very good at them) told her mother (the gifter) that this puzzle was impossible.

It wasn’t quite impossible, but close. When I got down to about 200 pieces, I finally had to resort to sorting them by shape and had to start trying to fit pieces by shape. It was grueling, but the gauntlet had been thrown and I had accepted it.

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Needless to say, I’ll be re-gifting this puzzle…right back to my daughter. :)

Philadelphia Cream Cheese was invented where?

I was making a cheese ball a while back (recipe here) and got to wondering about Philadelphia Cream Cheese. It’s been around for forever, it seems. 127 years, it turns out. I have a sister who lives in Philadelphia, so I think it’s cool that they have a cheese named after the city. Except the cheese isn’t made in Philadelphia. In fact, it wasn’t even invented in Philadelphia. It was invented in Chester, New York, by a guy who thought his cheese needed an urban name and wanted to, apparently, capitalize on Philadelphia’s renown for delivering quality dairy products. Kraft bought the “Philly” label in 1928, but as near as I can tell, this cheese has never been made IN Philadelphia. Hmph.

That got me to wondering about other products named after cities and towns, and if they were invented or made in the cities named after them:

Baked Alaska – Although there are earlier variations on this ice cream and cake dessert, this version, and it’s name, were created in New York, at Delmonico’s Restaurant, in 1876 to commemorate the Alaska Territory purchase.
Boston Cream Pie – Yep. Invented in Boston. (That’s one.)
Coney Island Hot Dog – named after Coney Island, but invented in the midwest, (say it aint’ so!) although it’s origin is a little murky.
Worcestershire Sauce – Originated in Worcester County. (Yay!)
London broil – U.S. origin, circa 1931. Maybe in Philadelphia? (I hear this is not a way of cooking beef that is well known IN London?)
Speaking of London, how about:
Yorkshire Pudding – yep, invented in Yorkshire.
And back to our beginning city:
Philadelphia Cheesesteaks were invented in Philadelphia. In fact, if you’re ever in that great city, I suggest a stop at Pat’s or Geno’s on the South side for a sandwich.

So it seems most foods are actually named for the places where they were invented. Not sure why that makes me feel better, but it does. And I think that’s enough fun for today. It was fun researching these, but now I’m hungry for cheesesteak and pie. :)

Book Clubs

Thought I’d talk about readers groups today. I have the privilege of belonging to Round Table Readers, which used to be called the Tacoma Reader’s Group. Now, I’m an author, as are quite a few of the bloggers in this community. But I belong to Round Table Readers as a fan of books. Because first and foremost, I love to read. I’m kind of a relaxed, I want to be entertained reader. And yes, the stories I love the most are romance. And fantasy. And paranormal. And…well, the list goes on and on…

There are lots of different types of reader’s groups and book clubs. Probably the most well known is Oprah’s Book Club. Wow, that woman has launched many an author’s career! And she’s selected some great books to launch.

There are also lots of small book clubs. People gather, select a story, and everyone reads it so they can come together to discuss the good and not so good (hopefully, no bad). :)

There are library book clubs. Our local library has an online club, where they showcase a different book each week.

Round Table Readers is different. First, it’s the oldest and largest book club in the US. Second, we don’t select and all read the same story. We gather to celebrate all stories, usually with 50+ women (and men). We talk about what exciting title we’ve just finished, and old favorites that sit dog-eared on our shelves. We are run by a couple of wonderful ladies, Ursula and Irene, who find authors to come and speak to us every month.

Author Karla Stover speaks at Round Table Readers

Author Karla Stover speaks at Round Table Readers

It’s a continual reminder of why I sit down at my computer and put stories on the screen. Because lots of others, like me, love to read them. And I am always, always happy to know I’m not alone in that love.

So here’s a shout out to everyone who’s ever opened a book and immersed themselves in a new world. And here’s to the new horizons we’ll crest when we open that next book…

Happy reading, everyone!

Back to the Mountain!

This past week, my husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary by checking off a bucket list item: spending the night on Mount Rainier. Paradise Inn is a venerable old lodge where the rooms are tiny and half of them share bathrooms with the floor. But you know what? That drives folks to a wonderful lobby. I spent quite a bit of time sunk deep into a chair or couch here, reading. We played cribbage, chatted with people and soaked up the ambiance.P1100494

Quick facts: Mount Rainier is 14,410 feet above sea level. Paradise is at the 5,400 foot level. It’s considered a volcano, with its last eruption somewhere in the 1800’s. Each year, a little over 10,000 people attempt to summit the mountain. Only half make it to the top. And each year, a few lives are lost in the attempt. Sigh.

Back to fun stuff. You know, this is probably petty, but the parking lot is always packed to overflowing here at Paradise on Mount Rainier. The park gets 1.2-2 million visitors PER year. We came here on a weekend earlier this year and had to turn around because there was no parking. So getting to relax, have a glass of wine, and watch the lot empty out of all but the folks staying at the lodge was rather nice. :) As well, we got some excellent star-gazing in. It’s not often we catch glimpses of the Milky Way anymore.

For both Mark and I, this is a second marriage. We have been uber-blessed because all five of our children have been happy we got together. In fact, they surprised us will a certificate for dinner in the exquisite dining room. It was excellent!P1100500

We also took in a short hike, to Myrtle Falls. Really, this mountain has something beautiful for everyone to see, no matter your physical capacity. Myrtle Falls is only three tenths of a mile from the lodge. Of course, it’s uphill (and subsequently, downhill) but we even saw a wheelchair on this paved path.

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So I highly recommend anyone in the area make the trip to see this massive reminder of how wonderful our Earth is. Just do it on a weekday, so you can find a place to park.

And hubby? It’s been a great 25 years, and I’m looking forward to the next chapters in our life together!

Laurie

Moonglow Awesome

I had what, for me, is a rare opportunity recently. During last month’s Supermoon, I had the chance to go for a night hike in the hills around Mt. Rainier. It wasn’t a long hike, only 3 miles and a 500 foot elevation climb. But that’s a lot for me. I walk most days, but 1-2 miles on flat, asphalted surface. Not rocky, rooty dirt paths that are going up and down.20140808_200132

We saw deer feeding, mountain meadow lakes and wonderful wildlfowers. Hmmm. Painted Ladies were one of the flowers. I don’t remember the others.

We didn’t do this hike in an hour, or even two. It took us four hours. Mostly because we started early, then stopped at the halfway point with other hikers until full dark had settled over the land, so we could see moonglow on the mountain. I wish I could describe the look of moonshine on Mt. Rainier. I think I’ve seen pictures of it, but none of us were professional photographers with the equipment for night shots. There was an…effervescence to the mountain. It was awe-inspiring and a memory picture I hope I never forget. 20140808_210242

The second half of the walk was done by moonlight, which is a little intimidating for a klutz like me. There were a few spots where the trees were so thick, we had to use the flashlights, but mostly, we navigated by nature’s own light. And no one fell. I’ve never done anything like that before and it was one of the coolest things EVER.

This picture isn’t very flattering, but I honestly don’t care.20140808_205407 I was having SO much fun! And I hope you all get or have gotten the chance to see just how glorious this place we live is, whether it’s on a mountain peak or in our own backyards, eh?

Simple Pleasures

Hubby and I were walking at a local park a while back and came across a family stopped in the middle of the path. Their son, who looked to be around 5 or 6, was crouched down, with a small branch of red berries in his hand, staring at something.

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As we got closer, we saw what he was looking at and I just had to take a picture (with his parents permission, of course.) You see, he’d found a banana slug trying to make its way across the asphalt path. And he’d decided it needed decorating, as shown in the picture below.

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Ah, the simple pleasures in life, eh? His parents beamed like he’d created a masterpiece. Hubby and I chuckled our way through the rest of the walk, talking about the simple things we used to do as kids for fun. Like using cardboard and old wood to make forts that must be defended. :) And how about tossing blankets over dining room chairs to create an indoor fort? Or using an old jar to catch bugs in. Then, to Mom’s disgust, tearing up her flowerbed to make a muddy roadmap that our toy cars and trucks could travel along. (I was a bit of a tomboy growing up…played more with my brothers than my sisters, I think.)

What about you? What did you have fun with when you were growing up? Whatever they were, I hope you are still enjoying some simple pleasures in life.

Roadmaps of Our Lives

P1100068A couple years back, hubby and I bought a world map and decided to hang in on the wall in our house. We grabbed some of those little stick pins, too, and started marking places we’d visited. It turned out to be a cool walk down memory lane as we plunked pins into place we’ve been. It also, to hubby’s chagrin, gives me a visual of how much there is still to explore. There are places I’d still like to see, like New Orleans and Australia. P1100149

 

But there are some great moments stuck on that map. Like seeing the northern lights in Alaska. And visiting hubby’s cousin, who carved an oasis out of a cornfield in Guatemala. I like to look at this map. It’s a reminder of adventures we’ve taken together. A memory map. It brings all the pictures scattered around, and the little knick-knacks picked up various places, into a cohesive story. It mingles with all the family heirlooms and pictures, reminding us how lucky we’ve been to have had the chance to see these things.

 

Do you have memories scattered around your house? Is it a map of the best parts of your life? Of your travels? Family? Do you have a favorite? Mine is quickly becoming this map (well, right after the family stuff, of course). :)