July 2020 in Review

Hello, my friends! How’s everyone doing? We survived a hot month and another 31 days of this pandemic. I almost didn’t write this month’s post for two reasons: (1) my time management skills have not improved 😉 and (2) it’s just been emotionally rough for me these days. As an introvert, I’m kind of built for social distance, but not for long stretches of time. It’s all caught up with me, and I miss so much of the normal day-to-day aspects of life. BUT we won’t dwell too much on that in this post because I’d like to keep this on the lighter, happier side since many of you reading this are looking for a distraction and non pandemic related! So let’s dive into some highlights from July:

  • Our dishwasher working again after washing dishes by hand for the last eight months!
  • Celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary with a break from cooking for the first time since the pandemic….we ordered take-out from our favorite local pizza place.
  • Watching Down to Earth with Zac Efron on Netflix…highly recommend! It’s always nice to find a show that we can watch together as a family. We also got a good laugh out of The Floor is Lava!
  • The continued social distance visits, FaceTime chats, and texts with family and friends. So grateful ❤


P R O D U C T S :

PIQUE Tea Crystals >> Ginger Digestion Elixir >> Thank you to my sweet friend, Jen, for sending me a box of this. There’s so much to love about these little packets! No steeping required, great hot or cold, convenient, and most of all…the taste! I love the gingery, spicy bite, and it’s great with or without a little sweetener. I’ve linked this to their website, but you can also order through Amazon.

Four Sigmatic Mushroom Ground Coffee with Lion’s Mane >> This in not a new product to me, BUT I have to share that I’ve been LOVING using this to make cold brew. Since the pandemic, we’ve been finding things to treat ourselves to every now and then…this is one of mine. Definitely on the pricier side, but I genuinely love the flavor (nutty + bold), and it makes me happy. We’ve been ordering it through Amazon.

Trader Joe’s Herbed Tahini Sauce >> I think the name says it all! If you love tahini like I do, then you need to grab a container (or two). This was creamy, tangy, herb-y, with a slight kick from the chile flakes. I enjoyed it with fresh sliced veggies, but I’m thinking we need to get more so we can try making a potato or pasta salad with it!

Organic GoodPop Freezer Pops >> These instantly took me back to summertime as a kid, but are way better! No artificial coloring (so no crazy colors here), the flavors are from 100% fruit juice, AND there’s no added sugar. They’ve become one of our favorite refreshing summer go-to’s…so our freezer is stocked. You can find them at Whole Foods, but I’ve provided a link in the product name above to their website to learn more! Thank you, Julie, for introducing us to these ❤

EFFi Foods Probiotic Chickpea Granola >> About a year ago, I stumbled upon this brand while shopping at Whole Foods….It was on sale so I decided to give it a try and LOVED it. Back then, the flavor I had tried was their Gentle Pecan, and it was wonderful. Crunchy, slightly sweet, and satisfying on it’s own (or with milk or yogurt). Josh recently found their Wholesome Raspberry flavor as a “last chance” buy, so he grabbed a bag for us. I didn’t like it as much as the pecan option, but found this was delicious with almond milk. What impressed me most about this little bag is the ingredients – they combine legumes + grains, nuts or seeds, and use coconut sugar + maple syrup as the sweetener. There’s no artificial ingredients, nothing I can’t pronounce, and they use ingredients I would use at home. I promise…there isn’t a strong chickpea flavor, in fact, I found it to go undetected! With our Whole Foods not carrying it anymore, I might look elsewhere, or shop around for online sales.

R E C I P E S :

Paleo Vegan Pancakes >> The Real Food Dietitians >> I stumbled upon this one while doing a search for “grain-free vegan pancakes” and ended up pleasantly surprised. If you’re looking for fat, fluffy pancakes, this one isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for a recipe with minimal ingredients that’s easy to whip up, then here you go! We loved the flavor and texture of these, and they reminded me a little of crepes. I loaded mine with fresh strawberries and a generous drizzle of almond butter.

Vegan Feta Cheese with almonds >> Cadry’s Kitchen >> Thanks to Cadry, I now know how to blanch my own almonds!!! This cheese was so simple to make and delicious to eat. We ate it with crackers, on salads, in pasta, and veggie bowls. Make this and I guarantee you’ll be putting it on everything. I plan to make this again so I can try her Fried Stuffed Olives.

SunButter Chocolate Chip Mug Cookies >> Natalie Jo >> Formerly known as Feasting on Fruit…I encourage you to go check out her website makeover! Love you, Natalie! You probably already know the adjustment I made – swapped out the SunButter for peanut butter for my family, but that didn’t change the deliciousness of this treat. Since this makes only two servings, I made the next recipe below for myself since it was a single serving. I stole a bite of Willow’s before topping it with vanilla ice cream, and it was perfect – Gooey, chocolatey, and very reminiscent of a blondie. I wish I had a photo to accompany this little review, but our minds were too focused on diving in! I love how this was written for oven use, and our little toaster/convection oven worked really well – so no turning on the big oven and heating up the house. Next time we grab another pint of ice cream, I will make this again.

Chocolate Chip Tahini Mug Cake >> Jessica in the Kitchen >> Have I mentioned how much I love tahini?? So when I was investigating single serving mug cakes/cookies and found this, I jumped right on it. It required a longer baking time than the recipe above, but it was worth the wait – I just distracted myself by washing some dishes. The cake itself seemed really gooey and possibly not quite done in the center, but since I was topping it with ice cream, I didn’t care. I loved the flavor and the short ingredient list – would love to give this another try. The only adjustment I made was that I used coconut sugar in place of regular sugar.

Crispy Almond Flour Waffles >> Natalie Jo >> I failed to snap a photo of these waffles, but let me tell you, they were incredible! Since we were going to eat these for breakfast and not use them to make ice cream sandwiches (I will do that next time though), I doubled the recipe and made bigger waffles. Since we have a Belgian waffle maker, it requires a lot more batter than most recipes call for…so I think we got four “bigger” waffles. They were crispy and light, and they made the perfect vessel for a pile of fresh berries. While I do eat grains on a pretty regular basis, I do love to change things up with a grain-free option. We have a list of waffle and pancake recipes that we rotate through, and I will definitely keep this one to use again!

Chickpea Omelette Sandwich >> Pick Up Limes >> I have admired Sadia for a few years now – watching her YouTube videos is a form of therapy for me. Her peaceful demeanor, calming voice, and her colorful, nourishing creations are not only a form of art, but also inspiration. So why in the world was this the first recipe I finally tried?!? If this is any indication of how her recipes are, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be seeing more reviews in future posts. This was hands down the best chickpea omelette I’ve ever had. The texture was oddly reminiscent of eggs, it was full of flavor, and incredibly satisfying. I loved the addition of a flax “egg” and the chopped red pepper + onion. I added some fresh minced garlic, which I highly recommend. Due to being low on bread, I ate this on a piece of toast with mashed avocado, chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, and a sprinkle of kelp.

B O O K S :

Eight Perfect Murders (Malcolm Kershaw, #1) by Peter Swanson {fiction, mystery, suspense} >> Overall, I thought this was a pretty solid mystery that kept me on my toes, and I enjoyed the twists that I didn’t see coming. I loved the Horowitz vibes, and this just had a classic mystery feel to it.

Forest of Secrets (Warriors, #3) by Erin Hunter {fantasy, fiction, middle grade} >> Willow has read almost every single Warriors series, so I’ve been very slowly making my way through them as well, because talking about them together has been a lot of fun. It’s like our own little book club. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book (gave it five stars on Goodreads), and I hope the series just keeps getting better. This was a fun, adventurous, slightly suspenseful read with great characters.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides {fiction, mystery, thriller} >> It wasn’t until after I read this book that I found out it was the author’s debut novel….I was blown away. I could not put this one down!! Short chapters, intriguing, and kept me guessing…and second guessing. I know there’s some divide on this one – you either loved it or hated it; saw the twist coming or it threw you. I went into this one with very little background info and skimmed the premise because I wanted to be surprised…and I’m glad I did. I felt this was good psychological suspense/thriller novel, and I would definitely read other books by this author.

The Griffin’s Feather (Dragon Rider #2) by Cornelia Funke {fiction, middle grade, fantasy} >> For me, The Griffin’s Feather wasn’t as enjoyable as the first book, but I still had a lot of fun reading it with Willow. When I asked her how she would rate it and why, she said: “I would give it five stars! It was adventurous, exciting, funny, and you got to meet new favorite characters!” I appreciated the short chapters as they made for easier stopping points and the fun characters. I struggled a bit with pronouncing some of the names/places which broke up the flow of the story, and there were times when I felt the pace drag, BUT overall, an entertaining book!

The Au Pair by Emma Rous {fiction, mystery, thriller} >> This had an intriguing storyline but the execution was weak. I think this had a lot of potential to be a great book, but there were elements I could have done without and too many entanglements that (in my opinion) made me roll my eyes a bit. I did really like how the chapters were set up (Seraphine – present day and Laura – 25 years ago) and how they merged together towards the end – I thought that was really well done. I did see a couple of things coming, which was okay…but the ending had me round down to three stars instead of rounding up to four. I would give this author another go, so I’ll keep my eyes out for future books.

Fiber Fueled: The Plant-Based Gut Health Program for Losing Weight, Restoring Your Health, and Optimizing Your Microbiome by Will Bulsiewicz {non-fiction, health, nutrition} >> If you’ve been reading along with my journey here, then you already know my struggles with my gut and food. It has been almost a lifelong adventure full of trial and error, mistakes, bumps in the road, setbacks, emotions, and most of all learning and growth. I went along with the latest trends and fads, or listened more to social media influencers as opposed to my own body…my own gut. Reading this book felt like someone finally turned the light on for me. He covers a lot of ground in this book, and I found all of it incredibly fascinating. While some of this wasn’t new information to me, a lot of it served as a gentle reminder and a much needed push. Eat the rainbow takes on a whole new meaning to me, and my little family will often times make a game of his system to see how to get the most “plant points” in a snack or meal. I love when my beliefs or choices or challenged (in a friendly way), and this book definitely had me sit back and reflect on my “whys.” He discusses gluten, soy, probiotics, legumes, and so much more. We live in a society so caught up on protein, that fiber is left behind. The last part of this book talks about his four-week plan, which includes shopping lists, meal plans, and recipes. After taking a look through all of the recipes, if we don’t do the plan in its entirety, we will definitely be making a lot of them. I love that there’s no restrictions, no eliminating foods, but focusing on abundance of color and variety.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty {contemporary fiction} >> I have read a few books by this author and have had zero complaints….but this one was a mess. I almost abandoned it several times but when I made it to the halfway point, I thought, “well, now I need to see it through to the end.” The halfway point is also when this became utter chaos…and not in a good way. I wasn’t a fan of the characters, the storylines (there’s 11 of them) were pretty boring, and I literally wondered what the point/purpose was. Do not recommend unless dying of boredom is your thing 😉

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel {literary fiction, mystery} >> I would give this five big stars for the writing alone, because I was blown away. Carefully and eloquently written….almost poetic and definitely beautiful.

“What I’m suggesting is that the lens can function as a shield between you and the world, when the world’s just a little too much to bear. If you can’t stand to look at the world directly, maybe it’s possible to look at it through the viewfinder.”

The Glass Hotel is full of details and layers that connect events and characters like a well-crafted puzzle. Mandel has a very admirable gift for creativity. I did struggle a bit with the timeline (we go back and forth over a period of 19 years), and I also needed to remind myself about who a couple of the characters were. This probably wasn’t the author’s “fault” but rather my tired mom brain reading late at night! It took me a while to get through the first part of this book, but parts two and three held my interest and pulled me in. I admit to being a little bored by the Ponzi scheme/financial aspect, but it obviously ties a lot together and plays a bigger role. Mandel did a pretty good job using that scheme as a stepping stone. The aftermath is when we really get to the emotions behind it and the character development. Another struggle of mine…Paul. Just wasn’t a fan and at times I was downright irritated. Overall, I did enjoy this and thought it was a great read. The way everything came together was really well done.

Beach Read by Emily Henry >> {contemporary romance, chick-lit} Do not be deterred by the cover or genre, because I’m pretty sure you’re going to love it. Just a great feel-good, easy, entertaining book.

”People were complicated. They weren’t math problems; they were collections of feelings and decisions and dumb luck. The world was complicated too, not a beautifully hazy French film, but a disastrous, horrible mess, speckled with brilliance and love and meaning.”

The book I didn’t realize I needed to read…who would have thought?! First of all, contemporary romance typically isn’t my thing. I usually gag (hehe, I will forever think of Gus now) at the dialogue or the unrealistic romance, but Beach Read was not the stereotypical “chick-lit.” I did not expect to relate so much to January, to cry right along with her…goodness, did I cry a lot over the last few chapters. It was seriously cathartic. This story is told through January’s point of view, and I felt like I was literally in her shoes – experiencing the heartache, tension, anger, and happiness. I really enjoyed the January-Gus dynamics and banter…sure there were cheesy/awkward moments, but man, did I laugh. It was a much needed change of pace from the books I have been reading, and a wonderful distraction during these crazy times we’re living in. I adored these characters (even the minor ones) AND the writing. I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty and depth, the perfectly worded analogies, and how it covered a wide range of topics and emotions. I couldn’t put this book down, and I didn’t want it to end! Definitely keeping this author in mind for future reads!

*I’m also reading The Lost Hero with Willow – we have over a 100 pages left, so I’ll include a little review in my next monthly review.

Phew! You should get some sort of prize for reading this to the end….Or I wish I could give you a giant hug! So I’m sending virtual hugs to all of you! If you have a moment, I would love to hear from you. Let me know in a comment below how your July was, and if you have new recipes or products you’ve tried, please share. And books!!! Good or bad, I want to hear!

Take care, stay safe, and have a wonderful month! Happy August!