June 2020 in Review

Happy Summer and happy July, my friends! How are you? How are you holding up? I don’t know about you, but June felt both long and short. It flew by in some ways and stood still in others. Maybe it’s because of the lack of normalcy and heavier emotions, but I’m ready to start a new month! All things considered, we had a pretty good June: did some social distancing visits (outside) with family and friends, explored a new-to-us nature spot, “celebrated” Josh’s birthday with epic brownie sundaes, got lost in some good books, took care of a couple of caterpillars for a bit (Willow fed them most of our homegrown lettuce!), and we took on a last minute “emergency” foster dog. Oh!! And we received an air fryer from my parents as a Mother’s Day/Father’s Day/early wedding anniversary gift, and we are obsessed. I’ve used it every single day since we got it, and I’m amazed by the results! Everything is crispier and cooking time is so much shorter.

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Hunting for and finding four leaf clovers!

<< J U N E in Review >>

P R O D U C T S :

Trader Joe’s Creamy Almond Cultured Yogurt Alternative >> Josh brought these home from work so we could give them a try, and they reminded me a lot of Kite Hill yogurt’s texture and consistency. Definitely not something I would eat on a regular basis because they’re REALLY high in sugar content (much too sweet for my liking), but I do like that they have 5 grams of protein per serving. Both flavors are ultra creamy and smooth.

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Sea Salt No Grain Tortilla Chips >> Late July Snacks >> Thank you, Julie, for finding these for us, and thank you Costco, for carrying them! All three of us loved them, whether dipped in salsa, hummus, chickpea mash, or plain, they’ve become a new favorite. I think I even like them more than Siete’s grain free chips…These didn’t seem as fragile. We will have to grab another bag next Costco run!

June 2020 in Review

Epic Mature Cheddar Flavor Block >> Violife Foods >> Josh came home with this from a recent Whole Foods shopping trip, and it didn’t last long. If you read my previous post, you know my love for Violife Foods, so you can probably imagine our excitement over a new product from them. Upon opening the package, it smelled the way I remember real cheese smelling like, and the first taste…blown away. If there’s anyone reading this who is on the fence about going plant-based because they love cheese too much, this is your ticket in. I cannot say anything about how it melts, because we only got as far as slicing/cubing it up to eat with crackers – which was REALLY good. I’m obviously a little sad that there’s not much as far as nutritional value goes (zero protein), but that’s honestly how most vegan cheeses are…but they’re an excellent treat!

*My mom texted me as I was typing up this review to let me know she tried this cheese on toast! She said, “Wow, it tastes and melts just like cheddar! It’s sooo good!”

June 2020 in Review

Mediterranean Herb Veggie Pita Crackers >> Simple Mills >> This is what Josh and I ate with the cheddar cheese I talked about above! Another Whole Foods find and new-to-us product. Willow wasn’t a big fan because she said they were too crunchy/hard, but Josh and I really liked them. It’s been ages (over a decade) since I’ve had an actual pita cracker, but it was very reminiscent as far as taste goes. I would definitely get these again.

June 2020 in Review

Grain Free Burrito-Sized Tortillas >> Siete Foods >> Yet another Whole Foods find that Josh picked up, and I seriously gasped when I saw how big they were! Ha! I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I had a burrito, so this was a real treat – And Willow got to try a burrito for the first time ever! She said it was really tasty and really big 🙂 I was very impressed with how they held up – Didn’t break apart once stuffed and rolled. We tried them for taco night and again for breakfast burritos (which we made chickpea flour “eggs” and roasted potatoes). Big fan of these, but will keep them as a treat due to the price. You only get six to a pack and I think they’re $9.99!

*The link above is to Siete’s website to buy six packs of these…which is ridiculously expensive. But I at least wanted you to be able to read more about them if you wanted.

June 2020 in Review


R E C I P E S :

Vanilla Orange Waffles >> The Vegan 8 Cookbook >> My friend Julie reminded me about this recipe and we ended up making it twice in the month of June! The only adjustment I made was that I replaced the cornstarch with arrowroot or tapioca starch. These were fluffy, tender, and that orange flavor really popped! Very reminiscent, texture-wise, of waffles I ate back in the day that contained eggs and/or dairy. I piled a ton of fresh berries on mine…Along with some vegan butter and maple syrup. SO GOOD!

June 2020 in Review

Vegan Cheeseburger Pizza with Special Sauce >> Cadry’s Kitchen >> What a fun way to change up pizza night!!! We grabbed frozen crusts from Whole Foods to keep things super simple, used Trader Joe’s meatless burgers (kind of like Beyond Meat burgers), and of course used Violife’s shredded mozzarella + cheddar. The magic happened after the pizza came out of the oven though….sliced dill pickles, chopped onion, lettuce, and special sauce…This pizza was incredible! So many flavors and textures going on – between the crunch of the pickles and gooey melted cheese – my mind was blown. Definitely making this again!

June 2020 in Review


B O O K S :

June 2020 in Review

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune {fiction, fantasy} >> Hands down my favorite book from the month of June, and I feel pretty safe saying my favorite book of the year. All. The. Feels. The House in the Cerulean Sea pulls you into a world like no other with characters you can’t help but fall in love with. Speaking of characters, this book is very character driven, so don’t expect a book filled with plot twists and epic adventures. There is some excitement and wonder, and despite my guess early on as to how the story would play out, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the details. There are so many things I loved about this book (seriously pretty much perfect), but I think my favorite was the character growth/development. It was truly beautiful to see…And I say “see” because Klune wrote in such a way that I could see the characters come to life in my mind down to every little detail. I could smell the salt in the air and hear the waves, and I really felt like I was transported to a completely different (and magical) world right alongside Linus. This book felt like I was being wrapped up in the best, biggest, warm hug – just a beautiful, feel-good story full of hope.

Five big wonderful stars for this book! I borrowed this via ebook from my library, but ended up buying a physical copy so I could loan to others….and for Willow to read in the next year or two.

The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4) by Rick Riordan {fiction, fantasy, young adult/middle grade} >> This was Willow’s least favorite book in the series, and when I asked her the rating she would give it, she said “two stars.” She didn’t like the underground labyrinth – felt it was too scary with too many monsters. I do think this was the darkest book in the series, and more mature than the previous books. Luckily, it still contained plenty of humor to keep Willow’s interest. And I appreciated some of the more adult-like humor…There was one point where I was laughing so hard I had to stop reading!

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb {non-fiction, memoir, psychology, self-help} >> As someone who has sat on both sides of therapy – as a patient/client and as a professional – I found this book to be absolutely wonderful and relatable. Lori begins seeing a therapist after a breakup rocked her world, and we sit with her as she explores her inward struggles + questions, while we also follow along with a few of her patients. I love how this brings awareness to mental health and the courage (and vulnerability) involved in taking action to “seek help.” It was beautiful to witness the setbacks and growth in both Lori and her patients – proof of being human. I cried happy and sad tears, and found myself rooting for every single person in the book (except the ex-boyfriend, of course). The humor throughout provided some relief and I found the chapters to flow really well. Nothing felt forced and no loose strings. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone encompassed so many emotions and subjects, and I found it to be not only highly introspective, but also served as a gentle reminder that we may not know the full picture – someone’s past, their story, and their struggles.

Sorry I Missed You by Suzy Krause {fiction, contemporary, chick lit} >> This was my pick from the May Kindle First options because I was looking for something a bit more lighthearted, heartwarming, and easy to read, but it ended up being incredibly difficult for me to get through. I was intrigued by the idea, but the execution fell apart for me. Three strangers who have all been “ghosted” end up as tenants in the same house – three very different women (ages, personalities). Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into the story or the characters. I did enjoy the unlikely kinships that formed, but that’s about it. Lots of repetition, pretty choppy, and me saying, “what in the world am I reading??”

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo {historical fiction, magical realism, mystery} >> I’m a big fan when characters, timelines, or events are woven together in novels – but the author didn’t stop there. She also managed to interlace folklore and superstition, dreams and supernatural, culture and family, mystery…and a little romance (which I could have done without). I really enjoyed the characters, especially Ren, and the atmospheric feel – which is what I want from a historical fiction novel. There were a couple of pieces that I didn’t care for: a specific entangled character and at times it felt too multi-layered. Overall, I thought The Night Tiger was beautifully written and intriguing. I would love to read more from this author.

The Toll (Arc of a Scythe #3) by Neal Shusterman {young adult, fiction, dystopia, fantasy} >> I did not expect it to take me almost half of a month to finish this book, especially after absolutely LOVING Thunderhead….but sadly, this ended up being the weakest book in the series. It didn’t grab me like the previous two, maybe because I wanted more from my favorite characters. There were times when, I hate to say it, I was bored. Wasn’t sure what to think of the new character (Jeri) thrown in, and overall, The Toll just lacked…something. The last few chapters made up for the rest, and I actually did like the ending. Wish I had enjoyed this one more!

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell {contemporary, adult, fiction} >>

Upon finishing this book, I had no clue how to rate it…By no means was this an “enjoyable” read, but it was one that I couldn’t put down. Disturbing and dark, heavy and real. Despite being a work of fiction, I felt like I was reading a very personal account of a deeply traumatic experience…a memoir.

We follow along with 15-year-old Vanessa through the grooming/seducing/manipulation, and the wildly inappropriate (disturbing) relationship with her 42-year-old teacher. Much of it was difficult to stomach and yet, the author pulled me in. We’re inside Vanessa’s head – her confusion and loneliness at age 15 and the effects of the abuse at age 32. It’s absolutely heartbreaking because you want to shake Vanessa, tell her to wake up, or make her see that she is so much more.

I found the first half of this book to be well paced, but there was a lot of repetition and drawn out details…at times it felt very long. I wanted more from some of the characters (for example, Vanessa’s mom) and maybe the psychologist in me wanted to dive deeper into why. I think I’d rate this somewhere between 3.5-4 stars.

“The nine other students pack up their things and leave the classroom to carry on with their lives, to practices and rehearsals and club meetings. I leave the room, too, but I’m not part of them. They’re the same, but I’m changed. I’m unhuman now. Untethered. While they walk across campus, earthbound and ordinary, I soar, trailing a maple-red comet tail. I’m no longer myself; I am no one. I’m a red balloon caught in the boughs of a tree. I’m nothing at all.”

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher {mystery, thriller, fiction} >> I couldn’t put it down, but it was more because I needed to see how it ended than actually enjoying it. I thought it started off pretty good (minus some of the cringe-worthy language), but then it got crazy in a bad, what-the-heck kind of way. I’m honestly tired of reading books with female lead characters who have alcohol/dependency issues. Thanks to a friend warning me about this book, I didn’t go into it with huge expectations. Entertaining but in the end…disappointing.

The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5) by Rick Riordan {young adult/middle grade, fantasy, fiction} >> What a great way to wrap up the series! Willow and I both gave this five stars, and we felt it was a pretty solid book. Adventure and humor, twists and turns, this one kept us entertained and wanting more! We really enjoyed the characters, and if you ask Willow, her favorite was Mrs. O’Leary the hellhound.


 

Well, that wraps up this lengthy review! As always, I would love to hear from you – things you’ve tried, books you’ve read, shows you’re watching, or just what you’ve been up to – So leave a comment below or shoot me an email about your month. I hope July is good to you!!! Stay healthy and safe ❤

Lots of love,

Mandy