March 2021 in Review

Hello, my friends and Happy Spring! With all of the windows open here at home, the neighborhood kids playing outside, the sun warming the sidewalk, and cold-brew steeping in the fridge, it feels like the start of summer! I can’t help but get distracted while typing up this monthly post. We were blessed with a number of warm, sunny days this past March which allowed for extra time outside, whether that meant longer walks or taking some of our favorite indoor hobbies out to the backyard.

To push myself a bit and change up my exercise routine, I completed Blogilates 21-Day Tone Challenge…and it kicked my butt at times. One video a day for 20-30 minutes but most were intense and often used weights. I did a couple of Chloe Ting challenges a while back, but got bored with doing the same videos over and over…and multiple videos a day. Do any of you have a favorite YouTube channel for exercise?? I’m still doing Yoga with Adriene every day, and I love how she comes out with a monthly calendar for suggested videos!

The biggest news from March…We adopted a puppy! He started off as one of our foster dogs, but we quickly learned that he was a perfect fit for our home! Never would have expected to find all that we were looking for in a smaller dog, but that’s one of the many things fostering has taught us. Meet Hank! He came to us from Mexico, he LOVES to cuddle and wants to be friends with everyone – humans and animals. At only five months old, we’ve got plenty of training to do, but we couldn’t be happier with this new addition.

P R O D U C T S :

Sweet Citrus Shampoo & Conditioner Bars >> The Good Fill

My friend Shanna introduced me to The Good Fill – a zero waste shop located in Nashville – and one of the first things I ordered was the shampoo and conditioner bars. I haven’t had much luck in the past with bars, but in my quest to find a less wasteful option and ditch the plastic packaged stuff, I gave this a go. Verdict….I’m in love! Not only does my hair feel clean and soft, but it doesn’t look flat like shampoo bars have done in the past. AND my hair looks shinier! There are other scents to choose from, and they also offer liquid shampoo and conditioners that can be purchased in a pre-filled container of your choice (amber glass, aluminum, or recycled plastic) OR you can order refills which “come in a BPA-free pouch made with 93% less plastic than a plastic bottle. All refill pouches should be returned to us in the envelope you receive with your order that includes pre-paid postage. Simply empty the pouch contents into your own container, then place the empty pouch back in the mail for us to clean, and refill for the next customer.”

The shampoo bar has up to 70 washes, and the conditioner bar has up to 50.

Other things we purchased from The Good Fill (click on the bold for more details):

Laundry Detergent – we purchased the pre-filled 32oz glass mason jar (64 loads of laundry). So far I am really liking this detergent, and we plan to order a refill in the future. I’d say if you’re interested and have a 32oz jar on hand, you could just order the refill…which is what we could have done!

All Purpose Cleaner – we ordered a refill pouch since we already had an empty spray bottle. The 16oz pouch was $4.95, and while it’s the right price point, I think next time I would pay more to get the concentrate (the 16oz will make over a gallon of cleaner). Great subtle scent and does what we need it to!

Dog Shampoo – while Hank did not enjoy his first bath, this shampoo bar made my life easier! No fighting with a bottle, less mess, and a little goes a long way. I’m a big fan! And Hank was super soft!

Compostable Doggie Bags – definitely pricier than your standard doggie bags, so we’ll see if we continue using.

Stasher Bag – Pocket Set – we grabbed these to hold dog treats since we’re in the middle of training a puppy and need to always have some on hand!

Daily 30 SPF Sunscreen – we purchased the 4oz pre-filled aluminum bottle. I really like the scent, but getting the sunscreen to rub/blend in requires patience! They advise mixing it with a lotion or already moisturized skin for easier application.

R E C I P E S :

Goodness! It was an amazing month for trying new recipes and discovering some favorites!

The Best Tahini Cookie Crisp Cereal >> Upbeet & Kaleing It

Thank you, Diana, for thinking of me and texting me this recipe! First of all…TAHINI!!! And second, can we all just take a moment to appreciate the name of her blog?! I’ve never actually tried cookie crisp cereal as a kid, so I don’t have anything to compare it to…BUT I really enjoyed this! Cereal for breakfast isn’t my jam, but I had it for dessert and it was SO good. I did use coconut sugar instead of cane sugar, and I used a vanilla creamer. Next time I plan to make them smaller and possibly flatten them a little to get a bit crispier!

Apple & Cinnamon Porridge >> Deliciously Ella app

After hearing about some of the recipes my friend, Shanna, was making off of this app, I had to download it! So far we’re really enjoying it, and I love how Willow can look through it to bookmark the ones she wants to try. The first recipe we made was this Apple & Cinnamon Porridge, and we ended up making it a few times this month! With the apple grated, it passed our finicky eater’s approval (she doesn’t like chunks of things in pretty much anything), and Willow skipped the addition of raisins – she likes raisins, but not in things. I bulked my bowl up with chopped walnuts, hemp seeds, and a spoonful of almond butter.

Curried Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup >> Deliciously Ella app

This was a flop, in my opinion. I followed the recipe exactly, but ended up with a soup as thick as hummus, and it looked nothing like the photo. Oddly enough, Willow loved it and enjoyed leftovers the following day. We had to add a ton of extra liquid (a mix of broth and milk) to thin it out. I didn’t take a photo because it honestly didn’t look very appetizing!

Creamy Tomato Pasta Bake >> Deliciously Ella app

I didn’t have high expectations for this recipe after making the above mentioned soup, but all of us really enjoyed it! Since this involves making your own tomato sauce and white sauce, it took some time and extra dishes, but the end result was incredibly comforting. I admit to being really nervous about the white sauce, because it called for a lot of nutritional yeast – we know how that flavor can often times overpower. But it worked really well! More importantly, it got approval from the pickiest eater.

Vegan Ranch Dressing >> Cadry’s Kitchen

We adore ranch dressing and have tried so many different recipes, but most use cashews…which means there is a blender involved…which means more dishes to wash. Sometimes you just want something you can whip up really fast! When I saw this recipe of Cadry’s, we had to try it immediately. Willow has declared it her new favorite dressing, and I was so impressed with how much it not only tasted like the real deal, but also had a similar mouthfeel. We enjoyed it with fresh veggies, salad, and fries. If you’re looking for an easy dressing to make, and don’t mind using a dairy-free mayo, give this a go! You won’t be disappointed!

Vegan Parmesan and Herb Polenta Fries >> Minimalist Baker

This was one of my favorite recipes that we tried in the month of March! It had been years since I had corn grits/polenta, so I was really excited to make this. We used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Corn Grits and followed the package directions as opposed to Minimalist Baker’s because her cooking time was much longer than what we needed. Other than that, I followed her directions and used her vegan cashew parmesan….These were amazing! The flavors and texture had me going back for more. We warmed up some marinara to pair with these fries, but also the above mentioned ranch dressing. HIGHLY recommend!

6-Ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat Crumble Squares >> Oh She Glows For Dinner Cookbook

I can honestly, without a doubt, say that we have yet to make anything from Oh She Glows (blog or cookbooks) that we didn’t enjoy! These oat crumble squares were no exception…The love is in the name of the recipe – chocolate, peanut butter, and oats. There are actually three components to this decadent creation: oat crumble, PB drizzle, AND chocolate-peanut butter sauce. Essentially it’s a rich, creamy, fudge-like center sandwiched between two layers of oat crumble. In other words…It doesn’t get much better than that. I think the PB drizzle I made turned out much thicker than intended, but no one complained 😉

Baked Oatmeal 4-Ways >> Eating Bird Food

We made the Chocolate Chip option first and it was a HUGE hit….Willow ate three that first morning. The next time we made the Apple Cinnamon variety, and it wasn’t as highly approved. Josh and I liked them because they weren’t overly sweet and the diced apple worked well. But if I had to choose a favorite, it would definitely be the chocolate chip variety. That one contained mashed banana, peanut butter, and chocolate chips – it felt heartier to me and had more flavor.

Tomato Mac & Cheese >> Deliciously Ella app

This was not love at first bite. If I’m being totally honest, I took one bite and almost dumped my bowl. But then I remembered that we have a three-bite rule for Willow, so I had to do the same. After the initial overly tangy first bite, the flavor grew on me, and oddly enough Willow really liked it! Granted she ate around the tomatoes and didn’t let my initial reaction ruin it for her. Like the pasta bake recipe above, the cheese sauce was heavy on the nutritional yeast and almost identical in the ingredients it called for. I don’t think I would make this again.

B O O K S :

The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

5/5 stars

This was a slow burn, character driven novel that took me by surprise. It stirred up feelings very similar to when I read Circe and The Song of Achilles – tragic but incredibly beautiful. It was a story about love, loss, friendship, motherhood, strength, and finding oneself. I not only fell hard for the main character, but also felt deeply for all that she experienced.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

4/5 stars

If you’re looking for a fun, humorous, mystery novel, look no further! It takes place in a retirement village where you follow a small group of seniors trying to solve murders. Full of laugh out loud moments, great dialogue, and likeable characters, I had a hard time putting it down! Mary Bradley, if you’re reading this post, I thought of you when I read this and think you would enjoy it!

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

4.5/5 stars

I picked this for my March Book of the Month book since I enjoyed Daisy Jones & The Six…there were a few options that I debated between! This novel had the depth that I was missing in Daisy Jones & the Six – I really felt the emotions in this story and got a true sense of the characters. While both novels followed an interview/oral history format, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev flowed smoothly – It contained a great amount of detail and showing to the point where I felt like I was transported back to the 70s…the characters and events felt incredibly real. And the way the author plugged in some true moments/events in time and names (whether in footnotes or the actual text of the story) only added to the real life feel. I also REALLY LOVED the strong, no BS, female characters and how this novel addressed some issues we’re still facing today.

Break Your Glass Slippers (You Are Your Own Fairy Tale, #1) by Amanda Lovelace

5/5 stars

This was my first Amanda Lovelace book, and I will certainly pick up her others. Short, easy-to-read poetry that packs a punch. As someone who battled disordered eating, body dysmorphia, toxic relationships (family, friends, romantic), low self-worth, and psychological/emotional abuse, her words really struck a chord. I loved the messages and reminders to be yourself, to recognize your worth, and take a close look at who is in your life. This little book is full of empowering words and moments of reflection…I plan to pass it along to Willow when she gets a bit older.

Running with Sherman: How a Rescue Donkey Inspired a Rag-Tag Gang of Runners to Enter the Craziest Race in America by Christopher McDouggall

4/5 stars

I started off reading the physical copy of this book, but I also borrowed the audio which was narrated by the author himself. If it wasn’t for Sara over at Roundabout Books, the chances that I would have picked this up on my own were pretty slim. But I am SO happy that she recommended it to me! This was so much more than a story about a donkey…It highlighted some deep issues (suicide, mental health), healing, compassion, purpose + belonging, and the bonds between humans and animals. The human relationships/bonds were absolutely beautiful as well, and honestly had me dreaming about living in such a tight knit community like the Southern End.

I loved how the healing went both ways…human and animal…And following along on this journey with Sherman hit on a number of emotions. Plenty of laugh out loud moments, tears, and cheering for everyone involved. There were times when I felt the story dragged a bit or seemed somewhat repetitive, but overall I really enjoyed this one. I do recommend the actual book though to be able to see some photos, and if you’re interested, check out this quick YouTube video!

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

4/5 stars

I really enjoyed Nella’s and Eliza’s chapters (1791, London), but Caroline’s present day chapters is what kept me from giving this five stars. I wanted to hear more from Nella and Eliza!! The writing and depth in their pages held my interest, and I got a wonderful sense of the atmosphere and emotions. I think I would have preferred the setting to have remained in 1791 and followed their journey, as opposed to adding in Caroline to piece together the history. Overall this was a great debut novel, and I would definitely seek out more from the author!

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

5/5 stars

You guys, I LOVE MATT HAIG!!! And I’m totally convinced that we could be great friends.

”We aren’t encouraged to talk about our mental health until we are mentally ill, as if we have to fake being in 100 percent full health. Stress simply isn’t taken seriously enough. Or it is taken so seriously that people are ashamed of talking about their bad mental health days. Either way, this leads to more people becoming not just stressed, but ill.”

His unfiltered, honest talk about mental health is seriously refreshing. In a world that still suffers with the stigma around mental health/illness, Haig shines a light on the reality…there is NO shame in depression, anxiety, etc., and talking about these conditions shouldn’t be viewed as flaws or weaknesses. The awareness needs to be made to help people feel less alone, to not live in fear.

In this book, he addresses the issues that fuel anxiety, such as social media and the news. We live in a world so plugged into technology that we are missing out on what is right in front of us. I appreciated the reminders on how to live more in the present moment, but also how Haig admits to his imperfections…How he is trying and not always successful in implementing his own tips and nuggets of advice. He’s human and a work in progress – like all of us.

Notes on a Nervous Planet is deeply thought provoking and gently pushes you to recognize how to make some changes. I love how this is part memoir that will make you laugh and appreciate the author, and part soul therapy that will give you a mood boost, and the encouragement to take on this wild thing we call life.

Five big stars….I don’t think there’s anything Haig will write that I won’t adore.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

4/5 stars

While I didn’t love this book, I did love how it made me feel. How it got me excited to finally commit to a writing practice…To throw out all of the excuses, squash the doubt, and just WRITE! I thought some of her ideas were really helpful and they seem easy to implement, but I also found some to be repetitive or dated. There were also times when her wording rubbed me the wrong way, but since I tend to rate books mostly on how they make me feel….I’d say Goldberg was rather successful. She gave me the push I needed to move forward. Who knows, maybe this book came into my life at the exact moment I needed it to.

I really liked the short chapters and easy to follow guidelines – such as creating a list for writing practice, or letting go of needing everything to be “perfect” to get started. Goldberg really hammered home the importance of remembering why you want to write and to be intentional with your practice. Don’t just numbly write because you’re trying to check it off your to-do list for the day.

Reading this book also made me miss the days when I would sit in a coffee shop for hours and write. It also made me see that I need to carve out time each day to put pen to paper.

I would love to hear from you! How was your month? Did you try anything new, find any recipes you would make again, or read any books? OR did you watch any shows or movies?

I took Cadry’s recommendation from my previous monthly post, and I watched Ted Lasso…TWICE! OMG. Easily the best feel-good, funny show with some really loveable characters. If it wasn’t for the language, I’d have Willow watch it! Speaking of Willow, we watched Tiny World (also on Apple TV) and used it as part of our science curriculum – what a fascinating series! Josh and I have also started The Queen’s Gambit, but we’re slow going since our time to watch stuff together is incredibly limited.

Thank you for stopping by to read these rambles of mine! I hope that April brings a fresh start, new beginnings, and lots of hope.

With love,