February 2021 in Review

Hello, my friends! Happy March and last few weeks of winter. I hope this post finds you well, in both health and spirits. It seems like last month was a rough one for many weather wise between the snow and frigid temps, but I hope things are looking up and spring comes early.

I wanted to take a moment to say thank you for the outpouring support regarding my previous post. Your emails, texts, and comments meant so much – Sharing your personal stories with me, your struggles (current and past) only solidified my pull to open up about my journey. Being able to relate, support, and encourage one another is my favorite part about this space of mine – A true sense of community and connectivity. Thank you for being here with me!

February flew by, which seems to be a running theme. Days and weeks passed with thoughts of wondering how and why??? I’ll admit to having a few moments of questioning what I’ve done with my time, but I think that’s me trying to get over my need to go, go, go. I’ve honestly really embraced living life at a slower pace – And my body is happier for it. We were blessed with lots of sunshine, warm weather, outdoor adventures, quality family time, good food, and an abundance of books. Family and friends spoiled me with plenty of new books for my birthday…We definitely need a separate room for a home library!

The stack I received for my birthday!! Have you read any of these?? Let me know!

I wrapped up my second round in The Plant Fed Gut Online Course with Dr. Will Bulsiewicz. My first time in the course back in September/October was life changing, and this second time around was just as incredible, if not more so. I’ve healed even further, connected with more amazing humans, and walked away feeling even more empowered. I know the course is expensive, but if you are struggling with gut issues and/or mental health, I can’t recommend it enough…And I promise it will be worth every penny. His knowledge and passion for helping others is truly phenomenal. And embarking on a healing journey with a support group is such a gift. Or maybe you’re someone who is interested in a plant-based diet but don’t know how to dive in…Or maybe you’re skeptical…This course is a perfect guide.


P R O D U C T S :

Trader Joe’s >> Ground Fermented Black Garlic

I fell in love with the actual black garlic bulbs from Trader Joe’s, but as of a few years ago, they’re not around anymore. The slightly sweet, creamy texture, and less potent than traditional garlic…it was the best. Thankfully Josh came home with this last month and it has been getting a lot of love. You really need to be heavy handed to get the full flavor, but I’m enjoying the convenience of a little shaker jar – No peeling cloves here. We’ve been using it on avocado toast, pasta dishes, and salads. Let’s hope this item stays around for a while!

Youth to the People >> Protect the Planet Refillable Minis Kit

It took me a long time to finally take the plunge and buckle down on my skincare routine. I personally struggle with dedicating money to the quality products. I’ve always been one to bounce around from product to product, brand to brand, and never felt totally satisfied. I’ve even tried making some of my own facial care products, but adding that to the long list of homemade items we already tackle, I ultimately decided to leave that to the experts. To make a long story short (gosh, I’m so sorry!), I spent some money I had saved to invest in this kit and the results were incredible…And fast. For the last three weeks or so, I have stuck with this routine and used nothing else – my face has never been happier! Not only is it softer, smoother, and more hydrated, but it also has a glow that I can confidently say hasn’t been there before. Willow even told me that I look younger! Sold. I can’t go back to anything else now 😉 I know it’s pricier than I would like, but it’s high quality, completely vegan, and a little goes a long way. If I had to pick one thing from this kit that I could live without, it would be the mist – the other items are game changers for me. Totally NOT sponsored, but if anyone is interested in trying any of their products, here is a link for $15 off your first order of $50 or more: http://rwrd.io/3oysbl7?c

Endangered Species >> 55% Oat Milk + Dark Chocolate Chips

Josh came home with these one day, because he found them on sale at Whole Foods! In the past we would have completely passed them over due to containing soy lecithin, so it was fun to try out a new-to-us product. They’re like mini chocolate chips, and they are very reminiscent of real milk chocolate chips! We used them to bake up some chocolate chip cookies, and I was super impressed with how they maintained a “softness” almost melt-in-your mouth feel. Upon checking out the Endangered Species website, I noticed they have a 75% dark chocolate chip option, which I would LOVE to try. Would we buy these again??? Only as a treat since their regular price is quite steep (around $7/bag). On sale…totally worth it.

They work beautifully in cookies 🙂

Sushi Roll | The Sushi Go! Dice Game >> Gamewright

I know this might be a weird one to add in this post, but since I know there are some fellow game lovers out there, I wanted to share it! A coworker of Josh’s loaned us this game, and we had SO much fun! It took a couple of rounds for me to get the hang of it and start playing strategically, but more than anything, I enjoyed laughing and learning a new game with my family. We’re adding this to our list of games to buy in the future.

Seed + Mill >> Organic Tahini

If you know me, you know my LOVE for tahini. I add it to just about everything…Both savory and sweet. Thanks to my dear friend, Shanna, my quest to find the BEST tahini is over! Seed + Mill really knows what they’re doing. Not only is this tahini smooth and pourable, but it’s SO good that I could literally eat it right out of the jar. There’s no grittiness or bitter taste, and the only ingredient is sesame seeds….I have found that you don’t even miss or need salt. Thank you for the gift, my friend! I’ve added it to my salads, pasta, waffles, and used it to make cookies! I definitely need to order some halva to try….But what kind?!?

R E C I P E S :

Bruschetta Veggie Burgers >> Oh She Glows for Dinner

I was gifted this beautiful book from a very dear friend of mine, and while I have yet to officially dive in and make a bunch of the recipes, I’ve spent a lot of time carefully reading over the pages and drooling over the photos. We did make these veggie burgers pretty soon after receiving this cookbook, and Josh + I LOVED them! The first night we had them on a bun, and leftovers were even better in a salad! I really loved the mix of flavors, textures, as well as the balance between fresh ingredients and canned. They held together for the most part – definitely recommend her directions to allow them to sit for 10 minutes after baking. Be on the lookout for more recipe reviews from this book! And thank you, Shanna!!!

Easy Peanut Butter Patties (AKA Tagalongs!) >> Minimalist Baker

Messy and far less pretty than Minimalist Baker’s photos…But who cares when they’re delicious!!! Buttery shortbread style cookie topped with creamy, sweet peanut butter, AND covered in melted chocolate??!? It seriously doesn’t get any better than that. I didn’t have the right size cookie cutter, so I had to improvise with a small jar – I ended up getting 12 cookies instead of the 16 the recipe is supposed to make. My peanut butter filling seemed a bit stiff/thick compared to hers, but I’m not complaining. These were a huge hit in our house! We will definitely make these again.

Vegan Gingerbread Pancakes >> The Vegan 8

It’s been a lot of fun to branch out and try recipes that I’ve had to avoid or skip over in the past. Now that we can eat beyond a gluten-free diet, I’m recognizing just what we’ve been missing when it comes to pancakes and waffles. No more dense, heavy as a brick, long list of flours needed for pancakes. It is so wonderful to pull out a simple all purpose flour, not to mention the light + fluffy factor of the end result. Don’t get me wrong, we still make a ton of gluten-free recipes, but transitioning into a regular diet has meant reducing the cost of what we spend on flour! Okay…Let’s get into the review of these pancakes! If you love ginger like we do, you will love these. They have a rich, warm, spicy flavor and they’re pillow-y soft. I’m getting used to cooking with some new pans (I plan to talk about them in a future post) so I’m pretty sure mine weren’t as fluffy because the pan needed to be warmed longer OR my baking powder needs to be replaced. But besides that, these were a huge hit! Everyone went back for seconds, and they would have gone back for more if I had doubled the recipe! Next time! The only photo I was able to snap really quick was of them still in the pan (sorry for the bad quality), because people were HUNGRY! Highly recommend this recipe…definitely double it!

B O O K S :

The Humans by Matt Haig

I actually finished reading this one at the end of January, but since I didn’t get around to writing up a monthly post for January, I needed to include it here…Because it’s one of my favorite books so far this year. It’s official…Matt Haig is my favorite. Not only is he a master of intertwining humor and heartache, but he does it so effortlessly. Since he himself battled with mental health struggles, he has the ability to add a realness to these characters. This story felt absolutely believable despite the plot, and I found myself rooting for everyone. I laughed out loud a bunch and also shed a good number of tears. The short chapters made this book super easy to pick up, and I thought the titles were hilarious!

Lodestar (Keeper of the Lost Cities, #5) by Shannon Messenger

Another wonderful installment to this series! It’s always a joy when you can find a book that holds the interest of both child and adult. Willow and I both gave this one five stars because the worldbuilding and character growth is phenomenal…It’s also full of magic, adventure, friendships, and strong female characters. These are pretty hefty books though (this one is 688 pages) and Nightfall (book six) is 798 pages! We just wrapped up the sixth book and can’t wait to continue on. Willow actually completed the 7th book, but I haven’t started it yet. Highly recommend to those who enjoyed Harry Potter.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I’m sure there are many of you who read this in school, but for some reason, I just now got around to it. Originally published in the 60’s, I had to remind myself a number of times that this was written in different times – and language has changed A LOT since then. But I loved it. The story both warmed my heart and broke it, and the range emotions I felt while reading Charlie’s “progress reports” were all over the place. I felt anger towards the people who took advantage of him and sadness at his situation. This is certainly a book that will stick with me for years to come.

Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

This was my first abandoned book of the year. I very rarely do that, and I tried really hard to keep going, but I had to finally give up at page 160. Butler is well known and loved, so I’m hoping to have better luck with the next book I pick up of hers. I’m going to chalk it up to being the “wrong” book for me – I couldn’t get into the writing, and I found a number of parts to be disturbing…It received an average rating of 4.21, which obviously tells me other readers enjoyed it.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

The Four Winds took me longer to read than I expected, but once I hit the halfway mark, I was fully engrossed and picked it up any chance I had. This was a slow burn, and the first half definitely felt it. Like most of Kristin Hannah’s novels, this one was also very character driven…And it was another story of survival. I honestly haven’t read much in regards to the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, and the devastation surrounding that time – while this was a fictional story, it opened my eyes to a historical period I want to educate myself more on.

This story is told through the perspectives (third person) of Elsa and her daughter Loreda, and we get a feel for their complicated relationship and hardships. As much as the human cruelty broke my heart, I loved these characters and truly enjoyed watching them grow and come to life. I was also in awe of the resiliency and the fire within the characters to rise above…especially Elsa.

The Four Winds is both tragic and beautiful, and it will make you cry tears of utter pain and sadness but also joy. Truly an amazing, heartbreaking story that felt so real. My biggest complaint was the inconsistent pace, but other than that, I really enjoyed this novel.

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

I know that I could have plowed through this little book in one sitting, but I chose to savor it and read a few poems a day. You don’t have to love dogs or be a dog mom/dad to appreciate this book. I found that so many of the poems in here served as gentle reminders and lessons for life in general. Thought-provoking, heartwarming, humorous, and beautiful.

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

I really enjoyed this one, and it would have been a five star for me had there been more consistency and less cringe-y romance parts. I could have done without some of the inner dialogue. It took me a bit to get into the story, as the first half or so felt rather slow, but the last 100+ pages flipped to where I couldn’t put it down. I’m also unsure about that ending…so weird. Casey’s story felt true to life in many ways and very relatable – I appreciated her journey and growth, and how she stood her ground for what she believed in. I’m also a fan of books about books! I even jotted down some of the titles of other books mentioned within the text.

That’s a wrap! As always, let me know in a comment below (or message me) what you’ve been reading, eating, trying, or watching! Speaking of watching…I’ve been making my way through Firefly Lane on Netflix while on the rowing machine. Definitely some differences from the novel, but I’m enjoying it! Hope you all have a great week!