April 2020 in Review

Hello, my friends, and happy May! How is everyone holding up?? I hope you’ve been able find some happiness, humor, and light through these times ❤ Each and every one of us is missing something…whether it’s seeing extended family and/or friends, sitting down at a favorite coffee shop or restaurant, visiting the library, or maybe you’ve had to cancel a long awaited trip. Definitely strange and difficult times for all. BUT there’s still so much to be grateful for.

*Highlights from April*

  • Willow turned eight! Such a strange time to celebrate a birthday and while it was incredibly sad and unfortunate to not have family and friends over, I REALLY appreciate those who helped to make her day really special! From decorating the front fence with a handmade banner and balloons, leaving gifts on the porch, seeing family from a distance, and all of the sweet messages and videos – she definitely felt the love ❤ I used supplies I had on hand to make her some decorations (thank goodness for the Cricut and a huge supply of cardstock) and baked her a cake (which I carved into a layered donut)! She had an awesome day.
  • Officially paying off all student loans!!! This was a huge accomplishment and we are so proud and excited! We celebrated by baking cookies 🙂
  • Watching trees blossom and the seeds we planted sprout! We’ve got kale, lettuce, and broccoli growing now and we hope to plant more seeds soon! Our garden is slowly coming together and I can’t wait to see what the month of May brings.IMG_3412


Raspberry plant and two varieties of mint doing really well:

  • Watching Some Good News on YouTube…the three of us look forward to new episodes coming out because they’re just full of feel-good stories, humor, and they restore your faith in humanity! You will cry happy tears, that is guaranteed.
  • Going for a drive to nowhere in particular! As many of you know, we’ve been down to one car since November, which hasn’t mattered too much during these last few weeks with the “shelter in place” order – but Willow and I desperately needed a change of scenery. On one of Josh’s days off, the three of us went for a drive around town with the windows down and just feeling the wind on our faces and seeing the snow-capped mountains recharged our spirits.
  • I’ve been slowly making my way through Brené Brown’s podcast: Unlocking Us and I’m really enjoying it!
  • Supporting one of our local indie bookshops (Roundabout Books) by placing some online orders….AND someone from the shop personally drops the order(s) off on your porch. Feels good to show some love to a small local business AND get some new books – it’s a win-win!


P R O D U C T S:

Kite Hill Sour Cream >> We actually tried this back in March when we had taco night at a friend’s house…I just forgot to mention it! This is hands down THE best dairy-free sour cream I’ve tried. Most other brands have a weird texture or an off flavor, but Kite Hill nailed it with this formulation. Ultra creamy, just the right amount of tang, and honestly tastes just like the sour cream I used to love as a kid. We’ve enjoyed it on tacos, in veggie bowls, and salads. We found this at our local Whole Foods.

April in Review

DRAFTOSAURUS >> Willow received this game as a birthday gift from a cousin and it has been so much fun to play! Part strategy, part luck, Draftosaurus is both easy + challenging. It’s a quick game to play and a great way to test your addition skills 😉

April 2020 in Review

Vivo Life >> For several months, I’ve been seeing YouTube channels promoting/using products from this company and it wasn’t until last month when we decided to give them a try. I have done my own research on various supplements and tried many different brands out, but have always found something to nitpick – whether it’s the ingredients, the price, taste, packaging, or convenience factor. I am in NO way saying this is the brand you should choose or the supplements you should take (please consult with your doctor), but after a few weeks of using these products, I am happy with our decision. I’m not the biggest fan of capsules and chewable vitamins so I am happy to switch over to a liquid form. Vivo Life also has my vote because I love their glass packaging for the Vegan D3 + K2 Complex and Vegan Liquid B12 Complex – the ingredient list is short and easy to recognize and pronounce. We also decided to give their protein powder a try…which is very pricey. Protein powder isn’t something we use every day, but I love to have it on hand for those days when you just need an added boost. This bag of Perform Raw Plant Protein & BCAA (Madagascan Vanilla) will last us a long time because we tend to not use the full intended serving size recommendation. Upon opening the protein powder bag, you get hit with a wonderful smell of REAL vanilla and not the artificial junk. I love how smooth this powder is – sometimes I just use a shaker bottle with some almond milk – and how it’s not overly, sickly sweet. They have also ditched including a plastic scoop (which made me happy) and their ingredient list is awesome: organic, soy-free, grain-free, no added sugar. You can set up a delivery schedule/subscription for any of their products (which lowers the cost of the products), so it’s a great, convenient way to shop. I found a coupon code through Kate Flowers’ YouTube channel for 10% off my order, but I know there are a lot of other channels that offer codes as well.

Trader Joe’s Dill Pickle Hummus >> If you love dill pickles, you will love this hummus! Perfectly tangy, just the right amount of dill, and so creamy. I’ve been enjoying it with carrot sticks and red pepper slices!April 2020 in Review

Trader Joe’s Jicama Wraps >> I love the crunch of raw jicama and how it just serves as a vessel or utensil for any of your favorite dips. Josh grabbed these from work to add to our taco night and while these will never replace my favorite grain-free tortillas, I loved the freshness of them. I tried one cold, straight out of the package and then lightly heated another one on a skillet…both were pretty good. I could definitely see using these over the summer to make salad wraps! If you’re looking for a low-fat, low calorie, low-carb option…this is for you.

April 2020 in Review

R E C I P E S:

20-Minute Jackfruit Tacos >> Detoxinista >> Like many of you, we’ve been working a lot with what we have on hand and when we found a lone can of jackfruit, we decided to use it for this taco recipe! I’ll be really honest, in the past, I’ve been disappointed with jackfruit taco recipes, but this was delicious! Seasoned perfectly and the texture wasn’t off-putting. Definitely adding this into our taco rotation!

April 2020 in Review

Perfect Red Lentil Soup >> Detoxinista >> In my opinion, one can never have too many red lentil soup recipes (kind of like chocolate chip cookie recipes) and this one did not disappoint! While the recipe, as written, is delicious, it’s also a great base to play with. Whether it’s increasing the spice/heat level or adding in extra ingredients (veggies or meat/meat substitutes), it can easily be adjusted to suit your cravings or what you have on hand. We served ours with some quinoa and it was incredibly satisfying.

1-Bowl Fudgy Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins >> Minimalist Baker >> When you have a bunch of ripe bananas and you don’t want to throw all of them in the freezer for smoothies, I highly recommend trying this recipe! The recipe title says it all…Fudgy and chocolate??? Sign me up! One bowl, simple ingredients, and easy to make. I went through a crazy baking frenzy a couple of weeks ago (baked three different treats in one day), so some of these muffins went into the freezer…which held up really well! Sadly I lost the photo for these (and most of the others for the recipe section in this post), but know they looked and tasted great!

1-Pot Curried Chickpea Soup  >> Minimalist Baker >> Another easy and delicious recipe from Minimalist Baker! This meal comes together really fast and uses pantry staples, which is super convenient. Not only is this dish comforting, but it’s also satiating as it’s packed with protein, fiber, and fat from coconut milk. We’re suckers for all things curry, so we made this one as soon as I received the email for it. This had a strong curry flavor, slight sweetness, and just the perfect amount of heat. When I make this next time, I think I’ll skip the vegetable broth to make this a thicker stew-like dish.

1-Pot Chickpea Shakshuka >> Minimalist Baker >> Reminiscent of chana masala, but with different herbs – it was good, but not one that we’re racing off to make again. It was a great way to use some of our pantry staples!

Tunisian Soup >> Cool Beans cookbook >> This was worth every minute of preparation as it ended up being one of our favorite meals from April! Deep, rich flavor and creamy texture, this soup was the epitome of comfort food. We had to make a major adjustment to keep it gluten-free…omitted the hearty rustic bread, but served it up over some rice with sauteed kale. The color of our soup was way different than the one shown in the book, but who cares because it tasted incredible! I’m happy to report that Josh surprised me with a copy of this cookbook, so now I won’t be sad to return the library copy. Can’t wait to try more of these recipes!  **(see my March Review post for more on this book and the recipes I tried)**

April 2020 in Review

Chunky Monkey Cookies >> Feasting on Fruit >> A last minute baking session before the end of the month and I chose this recipe for a few reasons: (1) You can’t go wrong with one of Natalie’s recipes, (2) I had every ingredient on hand, and (3) it involved chocolate! I used the DIY paleo flour blend that she linked within the recipe – it called for arrowroot OR potato starch and I used arrowroot. These were delicious! Mine turned out puffy and not as pretty as Natalie’s, but we certainly enjoyed them! I did find the dough to be really sticky and hard to flatten a bit (hence the puffy cookies shown) and had to bake them a little longer than suggested…mostly due to our crappy oven 😉 These are like banana bread in cookie form, which is nice because they’re more portable than a slice of banana bread. I loved the crunch of the chopped walnuts, the addition of chocolate chips, and the not-over-the-top banana flavor. I will definitely keep this recipe for when we have more ripe bananas on hand!


B O O K S:

April 2020 in Review

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman {non-fiction, personal development, relationships, Christian} >> I am ashamed to say it took me this long to read! We were gifted this book for our wedding (almost 11 years ago) and I think a part of me thought it would be silly to read. Little did I know that I would end up learning a bit more about myself and ways to grow. I did, however, find this book to be dated in quite a few areas AND in some parts, somewhat offensive. Overall, though, The Five Love Languages was insightful and introspective. He also has the five love languages for kids and teens – which I could see being helpful as a parent.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh {non-fiction, memoir, humor} >> Humorous and entertaining, quick to read, and now I need to go investigate her blog! She shares her inner thoughts and battles with depression, but not in a heavy way. You’ll laugh and I wouldn’t be surprised if you found yourself relating to a lot of what she writes. The drawings are hilarious and the stories involving her dogs were my favorite. AND I just found out she lives in here in Bend, OR!

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow {young adult, fiction, fantasy} >> I enjoyed the characters and the idea of this story, BUT it dragged a bit and the pacing was slower than I would have liked. I still gave it four stars on Goodreads because, overall, I really liked the book.

Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicles #3) by Jay Kristoff {adult, fantasy, fiction} >> This series!!! The twists and suspense, the dark humor, and the characters. Oh how I LOVED these characters. I’m honestly still processing the ending because a part of me had hoped it would have gone another way, but Kristoff sure knows how to wrap up a series. I will definitely seek out more books written by him.

Love Poems for Married People by John Kenney {poetry, humor, adult} >> While I found a couple of these poems utterly hilarious, as a whole, this book just wasn’t for me.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1) by Jessica Townsend {middle grade, fiction, fantasy} >> Willow and I went through massive Harry Potter withdrawal and needed a new book to get lost in together. With Willow being a pretty advanced reader, she gets easily caught up in her own lengthy chapter books, so I look forward to our read aloud time. We LOVED this book! It has been described as Harry Potter-esque and I’d have to agree. Obviously nothing can match the sheer brilliance of that series, but I think we’ve found some new characters to love. We’re diving into the second book soon!

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd {historical fiction, contemporary fiction} >> Another book that took me a long time to pick up, but I’m so happy I finally did! The author did a wonderful job setting the scene (South Carolina in the early 1960’s) with the right amount of description and dialogue…but it was the characters and relationships that really pulled me in. For being a fairly short book, there were a wide range of emotions felt, which I found to be rather impressive. I have one or two more books by this author on my shelf and I’m excited to read them!

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) by Neal Schusterman {young adult, fiction, dystopian, fantasy} >> I had been debating giving this series a go for a while and when a friend (and her soon to be 13-year old son) said it was good, I had to read it! I was a little worried about reading a dystopian novel during this time, but I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it was a little dark…we’re talking about two teenagers chosen for scythe apprentice, but Schusterman kept graphic details to a bare minimum. I really liked how I thought I knew which direction the story was going to go and then being thrown for a loop. I enjoyed the writing, the world, the characters, and oddly, how it made me think more deeply about death. I think what I liked most was that I hadn’t read anything like it…very original concept.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear {non-fiction, self-improvement} >> I was on the library waitlist for this e-book for a long time and when it finally became available to me, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Just a few weeks prior to this, I had been talking about my struggles with some personal goals and self-improvement, and Atomic Habits really opened my eyes.  James Clear lays a very simple groundwork to help lead to desired results and his book helped me to see where I have gone “wrong” in the past, but to also see how I was successful in other areas. Goals are great, but creating small habits will be what gets you to those results…having a system in place to set yourself up for success. Yes, some of what Clear states seems pretty obvious or overly simplistic, BUT makes so much sense. When I look back at goals we’ve achieved (like paying off student loan debt), we did it because we had good habits in place and a solid system. Then when I look at personal goals I never reached, I now see why. I appreciated the examples he gave because it helped me to see how his method works…how to actually create new habits. Overall, I enjoyed this book and have walked away with a new + refreshed perspective. Excited to put some of these ideas into action!

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1) by Rick Riordan {fiction, middle grade, fantasy} >> I read this book maybe nine or ten years ago, but just finished reading it again with Willow and I have to say, I enjoyed it even more the second time around! We also had her Greek Mythology book nearby to read about the different gods and monsters as they came up, which was fun to solidify an image in our minds.

The Girl Beneath the Sea (Underwater Investigation Unit #1) by Andrew Mayne {crime fiction, mystery, thriller} >> This was my pick from the (free) Kindle First Read options and I chose it because I’ve liked other books by this author in the past. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations. I found the main character to be underdeveloped – my hope is that since this is going to be a series, we’ll learn more about her as it progresses. The pacing was relatively consistent and there were some suspenseful moments, but the story never pulled me in. I might give the second book a try when it comes out.


Thank you to everyone who read this to the very end! I would love to hear from you: how you’re doing, what you’ve been up to, how you’re staying sane, recipes you’ve tried, books you’ve read, and anything else you’d like to share!

I hope you have a beautiful weekend!