Category Archives: Contests! Win a signed hardcover of THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS!

Personal Winter Retreat

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Happy 2014, everyone! 

I hope your holidays were full of comfort and joy.  And even if they weren’t, I’m glad to find you over here in 2014– in the world of possibility and personal transformation!  To that end, every year at this time, I take the months of January and February to focus on my writing, and I give my blog to writers in hopes to shine a light on their words and wisdom.  Because I have worked with over one hundred people now at Haven Retreats, I have met some remarkable human beings, and this year, I have decided to run a series in honor of them and their rich experiences on retreat.  I hope that their stories will inspire you to take a stand for your creative self-expression, no matter where you are in your journey.  You do NOT have to be a writer to come to Haven.  Just a seeker, with an open heart, a willingness to be vulnerable and step outside your comfort zone, and a commitment to dig deeper into your self-awareness.   There is still room for 2014 at Montana Haven, as well as Telluride and Cabo.  Here’s the link with dates and more info!

In the next weeks, you will have the pleasure of reading about just what might happen for YOU if you gave yourself the gift of a Haven retreat. I hope you enjoy these transformative stories. I’ll be holing up in my Montana home, working on my novel. Sending Big Sky inspiration to you all for a bounteous 2014!

yrs.
Laura

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Food Can Bring You Back

Thank to all of you who sent in recipes to my Sentimental Recipe Contest. I admit that the stories alone were food for me. As fall tucks us into Montana and the fever to spend long afternoons in the kitchen takes over, I will look forward to trying them all.

To that end, I’ll share a sentimental recipe moment with you that happened just yesterday.

I have not cooked anything in recent history that made me want to weep like this dish did. Where every simple item blends so perfectly with the next that the result is akin to Violet Beauregarde’s reaction to Willie Wonka’s magical gum, hitting on a four course dinner with every chew. One bite: and there it all was, the caulifower, and the lemons, the olive oil, the oregano, the cinnamon, the tomatoes, the onions, the garlic, the feta. And I was back in Greece, where I spent the summer of my 19th year, sitting at an outdoor cafe with cats crawling around my feet, just waking to my senses. I hadn’t relived that moment in over half my life and there it was. There I was. Greece in Montana.

It began as an exercise in trying to figure out how to get my kids to eat a new vegetable. I chose cauliflower and I remembered that I’d loved a particular dish in Greece, went on line, found what seemed like the right ingredients to that particular dish, and made the recipe. By the end of the day, I’d completed an entire casserole-sized portion of this fantastic dish– forget my kids. I’ll make it for them later this week. Sentimental recipe indeed.
Kounoupithi (Baked Cauliflower With Feta and Tomato Sauce)
By Cookgirl on October 27, 2005

• Total Time: 40 mins
• Serves: 4-6
About This Recipe
“Cinnamon is one of the intriguing and delightful ingredients in this Greek dish.”
Ingredients
o 4 tablespoons olive oil
o 3 garlic cloves, minced
o 1 large yellow onions, chopped
o 30 ounces Italian plum tomatoes (I used diced canned tomatoes)
o 1 bay leaves (I used 3)
o 2 teaspoons dried Greek oregano (I used fresh)
o 2 inches cinnamon sticks
o salt
o fresh ground black pepper
o 1 large heads cauliflower
o 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (I used 2 tbs)
o 5 ounces feta cheese (I used 8 ounces)
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a saute pan, gently cook the garlic and onion in half of the olive oil until soft. Add the tomatoes, herbs, spice and seasonings. Cover pan and simmer 5 minutes.
3. Cut up the cauliflower into florets and stir into the tomato sauce mixture. Cover pan and cook another 10 minutes.
4. Transfer the mixture into a shallow, ovenproof dish, and drizzle with the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice.
5. Grate the feta cheese on the top and garnish with black pepper.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 25 minutes. (I cooked mine another 15 minutes until the water from the tomatoes was absorbed and the cauliflower was soft.)

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And the Winner of THE SENTIMENTAL RECIPE CONTEST is…

…Melinda Bryce for her dad’s apple pie recipe!!!! Congratulations, Melinda, you win a signed copy of my book, “This Is Not The Story You Think It Is”! And thank you for sharing the delicious image of your son following in your footsteps and creating his grandpa’s pie!

And thanks to everyone who submitted a recipe, it was wonderful to read your stories and add to my recipe…ahem…repertoire. Stay tuned for my next contest in which another randomly selected reader will win a signed copy of my book…

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Extending THE SENTIMENTAL RECIPE CONTEST! Send in by 10/10


In my book, THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS, I include a recipe that I hold near and dear. Not because it’s particularly hard or original, but because of what it represents to me. It is the tomato sauce commonly made in the summer by Tuscans and put up in jars for the winter. They call it the Pomarola sauce, and for it they use the freshest tomatoes from as close to the sea as they can find. The goal: to capture summer.

To me the Pomarola sauce captures much more than that. It is a symbol of a year in my life in which I found my heart language in a place and a family far from home. It is a symbol then, of finding home inside myself in a time of my life when I was morphing from child to adult. It is with this heart language that I went into the “rest of my life” and it was this heart language which I revisited with my daughter 21 years later (a few years ago). I had longed for it for all those 21 years, aching for it, naming it as the most important year of my life, yet not granting my return. I had realized a few dreams, some of which felt within my control: Getting married, having kids, building a home in Montana. Writing books. But I couldn’t seem to get those books published.

So after years of longing for it, I realized that I needed to stop basing my happiness on things completely outside of my control. I could write the books, and I could submit them for publication, but the rest was out of my hands. I decided to embrace the freedom of this surrender. And I started to look at the un-realized dreams of my life that I COULD control. Going back to Italy, with my daughter, to live with this wonderful family, was just that.

So I booked it and went.
One afternoon, my Italian host mother, Milvia, showed us how to make this sauce, how to can it, what to look for in ingredients. It was magical.

Little did I know that my new philosophy of surrender would be put to the test in a way I never dreamed, when my husband announced he wasn’t sure he loved me anymore and wanted to move out—this just two days after my return home from Italy.

There began a season of my life depicted in my book, THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, wherein I got the chance to practice what it is to embrace the present moment in a place of creating, not wanting. Of claiming responsibility for my own well-being despite what was going on with my husband. Of focusing on beauty and freedom and even joy. On p. 295 you will find a scene in which I make this sauce with my children, shopping for just the right ingredients, and spending the day up to our elbows in tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil, parsley. carrots, celery and pots of boiling water. On p. 300 you will find the recipe.

In re-visiting those pages now, six months after my book’s publication, I find it not coincidence that we came up with twenty-one jars of sauce. Instead, it feels quite deliberate, subconsciously. As if each jar represented of year of not claiming a dream that was completely within my control, and focusing so hard on another dream that was not.

So I pass on this message to you, in the form of a recipe. What is your Italy? What do you deprive yourself of that you CAN create in your life? What place do you long to re-visit in your life? So often I find that there is the nurturing element of food attached to our fondest memories and even our wildest dreams. Afternoons in a kitchen with a grandmother, a holiday feast with family in town from far-away places, picnics on a beach, a particular glass of lemonade. I’d love for you to share those sentimental recipes here. And a scene or story that shares why you hold that food, that memory, so dear.

The winner will be randomly selected and will receive a free signed copy of THIS IS NOT THE STORY OU THINK IT IS. I look forward to this sharing. Yrs. Laura

My Italian Family’s Pomarola Sauce Recipe
This is a light sauce that is the epitome of the summer harvest and is usually canned to capture summer in the middle of winter. It must be made with the freshest Roma tomatoes to get the right consistency, preferably from somewhere close to the sea.

Sauce for one pound of pasta. Serves six.
2 1/2 pounds unpeeled ripe Roma tomatoes
1 onion
1 clove garlic (Americans generally use more garlic than is the Italian custom.)
1 stalk celery- just the white part, not the leaves
1-2 carrots (depending on how big they are)
3-5 leaves basil
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley- no stem
A pinch of salt
A pinch of white sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Cut tomatoes in half. Cut vegetables into small pieces. Rough-cut basil and parsley with scissors. Put all ingredients into stockpot. Simmer, covered, very slowly until the carrot is soft and can be easily mashed with a fork (about an hour and a half). Then pass everything through a passatutto, or food mill– a wide-mouthed hand-cranked strainer. Keep turning the passatutto until only the seeds and skins are left. Then put the sauce back on the stove until it reaches a boil. You may need to cook it for a bit longer to ensure desired consistency.

If you’d like to make a big batch of this sauce for canning, then adjust ingredients proportionately, adding an extra hour or so before passing the ingredients through the food mill, and after returning the sauce to the stove. Working with eleven pounds of tomatoes at a time is a good amount.

At this point you can serve or keep it in the refrigerator for a week, or put it in jars. Use the ones that have a self-sealing lid– which pops as the sauce cools and provides a vacuum seal, making it possible to store for months. The wonder of this sauce is in its fresh ingredients and its simplicity.

Here’s a blurb for my book written by my dear friend and literary hero. If you haven’t read his “Brother’s K,” you simply must.
“With amiability, wit, and a modicum of self-pity, Laura Munson’s memoir reminded me of the twenty-one jars of organic tomato sauce she and her children hand-made. A chapter is like a jar lid: if it doesn’t pop as the contents cool, the seal is faulty and the sauce is worthless. Exhausted from their all-day effort, mother and kids sipped hot chocolates and listened as twenty-one jars cooled. To their satisfaction, they counted twenty-one distinct pops. In reading this brave memoir I counted about the same.” —David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and God Laughs & Plays

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ANNOUNCING: "THINK OUTSIDE THE BARN" CONTEST WINNER!!!


May I introduce to you the…drum roll… “Confounded Sneetch”

Congratulations to E. Victoria Flynn of http://www.pennyjars.blogspot.com!!!
YOU WIN A FREE SIGNED BOOK! My kids (the judges of this contest– skilled out-of-the-barn thinkers) are die hard Dr. Seussians and have always loved this story about racial profiling, even though they see it simply as a tale about the pain and trouble that ensues when we live in a world of Us/Them. Thank you, Victoria!

AND THANKS TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED! Your wit and outside-the-barn thinking truly mesmerized me. I have some of the coolest blog readers around, and for that I am deeply thankful. When I started this blog a year ago and had zero readers (okay, maybe my mother), I never dreamed that I would find an audience out there in cyberland, and especially one so loyal and supportive. You all teach me so much. Thank you for showing up here at These Here Hills. The next contest will be announced soon… Hint: turn to page 301 of my book (THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS)

I’m going to be travelling in the next few weeks doing book promo in the New York, Hartford, and Chicago areas, so I may be thin on the blog entries… yrs. Laura

Hello, everybody. I’ve been having fun barn chasing this summer– which is how, at least this gal, deals with FINALLY getting a book published after 20 years and all that comes along with it. Better than therapy. Thinking outside-the-box as a practice is a total blast. I encourage you to try it. What designs do you see in the world over and over? For me it’s often heart-shaped things, especially rocks. But as a little girl growing up in Illinois, it was always faces in barn fronts. Living in Montana, there are lots of opportunities to engage this childhood fantastical thinking.TO THAT END:

I’m holding a contest here on my blog from now until September 12 (which my calendar tells me is Grandparents Day– seems somehow approriate).

To enter the contest, simply send in your best shot at naming the above barn in the comment section here on this post. Is it a celebrity? A concept? A country? A kind of sandwich? Let your common sense go and dream a little. It’s good for you.
The winner WINS A SIGNED FIRST EDITION copy of my book THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS. This contest will be judged by a team of highly skilled professional out-of-the-box thinkers: my two kids. (14 and 10. Girl and a boy, to be gender fair, but hopefully not ageist, as I’ll probably weigh in too. And probably my husband too– 44 years old, each of us.)

Additional opportunity for the extra outside-of-the-boxers: A signed book will also be sent to the person who sends in the best original barn photo and name…

Please feel free to pass this contest and link along to your friends. Imagine what could happen with a whole lot of people thinking outside-the-box and sharing as much. (Even if you live in the city, I bet there are barns in your life somewhere. If not, feel free to name any building that has a face to you and submit that photo. Could be really interesting…)

To get the out-of-the-box juices flowing, you can see what I did on my summer vacation here:

Kalispell, Montana (side-talker)

Valier, Montana (needs braces)
Belt, Montana (has braces)

Red Lodge, Montana (that mean Nellie Olson)


Lewistown, Montana (Cyclops, the 8th dwarf)
Lakeside, MT (Meow)
Evergreen, MT (Mrs. Havisham maybe better on a foggy morning…)
Great Falls, Montana (Namaste or Burl Ives as the snow man in Rudolph. Can’t decide.)
Whitefish, MT (Hannibal Lecter)
Chester, Vermont (Gerorge Washington and his wooden teeth 1700s barn from Amy)

Kenosha, Wisconsin (a literal face sent in by Robb)
Bartow County, Georgia (Rapunzel Rapunzel, let down your hair… from Lisa)
Bartow County, Georgia (Old Mother Hubbard–the face is in the cupola, her skirts below– from Lisa)


Proctor, MT (Dr. John.)

Proctor, MT (Jim Henson)

Lake Mary Ronan, MT (Tweety bird)

Somewhere in Montana (Little Red Hen)

Libby, MT (Baby Face)

Sweden (A Work In Progress from Terri)

Missoula, MT (Ghost of Christmas Past)
Arlee, MT (Fu Man Chu)
Polson, MT (Not the gum drop buttons!)

NAME THIS BARN!

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Think Outside the Barn

(scroll down to photos if you’re in the mood for visual, not reading. Self explanatory.)
OR go to this link for SO MUCH MORE BARN FUN! http://lauramunson.wordpress.com/category/every-barn-has-a-face/

Have you guys been following my recent obsession? Barns. The fact that they have faces? I’ve been posting them on this blog in the EVERY BARN HAS A FACE category and literally taking off like an addict during the day to stalk barns all around Montana. It’s all I can do to NOT do it right now. And I finally figured out why: I am so interested in perspective and perception and assumtions and expectations. I’m so interested in seeing how they mess with us and inform our reactions. Often, we’ve already made our minds up about something before it’s even happened. We do ourselves such a disservice in this regard. What if we assigned different meaning to the things and people we encounter in our day? What if we surprised ourselves by changing the entry point of our interactions? I think we’d find some freedom there. I think we’d find some humor there too.

Here’s a challenge: Keep a camera in your car. If you are driving anywhere where you might see a barn…look at it like it has a face. Allow yourself to see it. What’s your knee jerk reaction? Who is it for you? Now inspire yourself to turn around, to seize the moment and stop. Take a photo. And send it in to: laura@lauramunsonauthor.com. Tell me “who” your barn is, and I’ll post it in my EVERY BARN HAS A FACE section of this blog. We’ll have some fun. We’ll think outside of the box (barn). We’ll remind ourselves of the power of stopping and playing with life. We’ll take ourselves a little less seriously and in so doing, dare I suggest: we’ll lighten the collective load.
Here’s what I’ve been up to below.
http://lauramunson.wordpress.com/category/every-barn-has-a-face/

Have you ever noticed that every barn has a face? I grew up in the Mid-west and my parents liked to travel and money was tight. That meant there was a lot of time spent in the family station wagon, staring out the window as corn-fields met rocky mountains and oceans, depending on whether we took a left or a right. I saw a lot of barns. And every one of them had a face. I’d keep it to myself because this sort of thinking didn’t go over too well in my family. I was the youngest. I was always saying things that got either patronizing responses or just chirp chirp. I had a relationship with those barns. I still do. So much of how we relate to life is as the beholder. Beauty, barns, and otherwise. I’d love it if you shared your barns with me here. I’d love to see those faces. I’d love to see that you see them too.
yrs.
Laura

Kalispell, Montana (side-talker)

Valier, Montana (needs braces)
Belt, Montana (has braces)

Red Lodge, Montana (that mean Nellie Olson)


Lewistown, Montana (Cyclops, the 8th dwarf)
Lakeside, MT (Meow)
Evergreen, MT (Mrs. Havisham maybe better on a foggy morning…)
Great Falls, Montana (Namaste or Burl Ives as the snow man in Rudolph. Can’t decide.)
Whitefish, MT (Hannibal Lecter)
Chester, Vermont (Gerorge Washington and his wooden teeth– why so long in the tooth? 1700s barn from Amy)

Kenosha, Wisconsin (a literal face and mini-me barn from Robb)
Bartow County, Georgia (Rapunzel Rapunzel, let down your hair… from Lisa)
For more, go to Every Barn Has A Face on this blog! http://lauramunson.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/side-talker/
Send in more!!!

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