April 2021 in Review

Happy May, my friends! I hope this post finds you in good spirits ❤️ Spring is well under way here with trees in bloom, an abundance of dandelion puffballs for Willow to disperse, and a rare appearance of rain. April brought many outdoor adventures for us so we could revisit some of our favorite places:

Crater Lake:

The full Rim Drive wasn’t open due to snow, but being able to just take in the beauty of the lake against the bright white snow was breathtaking.

Blue Pool hike:

This is our happy place – exploring nature among the sun soaked trees while listening to the river flowing – it doesn’t get much better than that. But wait….it does!! Making your way to this pristine pool is like something out of a storybook. The color doesn’t look real, and being able to sit and enjoy a snack while admiring this view is pure magic.

Beverly Beach, Oregon Coast:

We love it here and normally camp on the coast, but for Willow’s birthday we had the opportunity to use my aunt and uncle’s Airbnb. The weather was gorgeous, windy with moments of sunshine and zero rain! Willow and I spent hours combing the beach for agates and sea glass. We drove to Yachats to the Green Salmon for coffee and vegan food to-go (it’s usually our favorite place to stop in while we’re on the coast). Sadly, the coffee wasn’t that great, but the food was wonderful! We’ll give them another shot next time because it sounds like they’re in search of a new barista. We also went to Ultralife Cafe for coffee and they have tons of vegan food options at their main locations – we just went through their drive thru spot. Next time we need to check out the main location in Nye Beach. Really good coffee and just might become our new favorite place!

P R O D U C T S :

Pet ID Tag >> Sunday Tails

I was thinking of just popping over to PetSmart or somewhere like that to have a dog tag made, but I decided to check on Etsy for something a little more unique. With Hank being a smaller dog, I knew the regular tags probably would have been too big….So I searched cat tags! Ha! I love how you can customize the design, color, font, and choose what to put on the back (either a phone number or “microchipped”). We chose the Forest design with an Arcadia font. I love how it turned out! So if you’re looking for a small shop to support, definitely check out Sunday Tails!

Handmade Fleece Dog Blanket >> The Northwest Hound

I had learned about The Northwest Hound through fostering with Street Dog Hero. They make and donate blankets for foster dogs, and not only have we personally met Linda (the creator), but we were really impressed with the quality. We purchased one of her large blankets for my parents’ dog, and recently grabbed a smaller size blanket for Hank. If you’re local to Bend, you can skip the shipping charges and pick it up at her house, or she can deliver to you.

R E C I P E S :

April was an indulgent month with way more sweets than we usually do...Since our meals were a lot of repeats or throw together ideas (salads, veggie bowls, tacos, soups), I don’t have anything new to share savory wise.

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies >> Feasting on Fruit

Natalie knows how to make cookies, and these were yet another fantastic creation. They were so good that we made them twice! I searched for chocolate SunButter, as that is what’s called for, but had no luck finding it locally…So we grabbed a jar of chocolate hazelnut spread. Highly recommend that move if you’re not a Sunbutter fan. These were a perfect mix of crispy and chewy, and the pockets of melted chocolate made them even better.

I will make these again with Chocolate Sunbutter, because my SWEET friend sent me some!!! Holy smokes…this stuff is dangerous! Even my non sunflower butter family members are hooked. Thank you, Natalie! We love you ❤️❤️❤️

The Best Vegan Blueberry Muffins with Lemon >> The Vegan 8

Another recipe we made twice in April!! How have I not tried the lemon-blueberry combo before? These were so light and fluffy with a refreshing flavor that pretty much sums up the feeling I get when winter is officially behind us. Ours didn’t get that browned/golden color as shown in her recipe post (I even baked it longer than written), so I blame our oven as always. If you are able to bake with regular all-purpose flour, definitely make these!!

Applesauce Bread (Vegan + Oil-Free) >> The Simple Veganista

My dear friend, Julie, recommended this recipe when I was on the hunt for some new snack ideas, and now I’m recommending it to all of you! Incredibly easy to whip up, your house will smell amazing, and you’re left with a delicious snack, dessert, or breakfast option! I enjoyed my slices plain, warmed up in the toaster oven, while others added a little butter or chocolate spread 😬

Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (Vegan) >> The Simple Veganista

I didn’t want to put all of the ripe bananas in the freezer, so I used some of them to make these muffins!! Huge hit! I didn’t have enough spelt flour on hand, so I used regular all-purpose. I went the route of melted coconut oil and coconut sugar instead of olive oil and cane sugar (she gives options). These had a great texture and flavor, and I love how they were an easy grab-and-go option for Willow. I’ll definitely be making these again.

Best Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes EVER! >> The Vegan 8

In years past, Willow had always left it up to me to create a surprise treat for her birthday – which resulted in me having to one up myself the following year (things got crazy and difficult)! I was SO relieved when she requested a specific dessert: vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting. There are a million options out there, but I remembered seeing a recipe of Brandi’s that we hadn’t been able to try before since we were gluten-free. I had everything on hand already, so there weren’t any extra trips to the store. Verdict??? Willow was over the moon happy!! And I failed to take a photo of the final creation…so bummed. But you can take my word for it, they were perfect. Fluffy, moist (y’all know I’m not the biggest fan of that word, but there you go), and a huge improvement from the dense options we made during our gluten-free days. If you’re looking for an easy to make celebratory treat, give this recipe a try!

Vegan Chocolate Ganache Frosting >> Minimalist Baker

My usual go-to chocolate frosting recipe requires sweet potato, and since we were out at the time, I Googled chocolate vegan frosting and a couple of Minimalist Baker options popped up. We’re huge ganache fans, so I chose this one. If you’re looking for “healthy” I would skip this one, but if you on the hunt for a truly decadent, vegan frosting, this is it. We ended up with a lot of extra which could easily double as a fudge once refrigerated, but I’m sure you could find other ways to use it (cookie sandwiches, waffles, etc.).

Cornbread Muffins >> The 30-Day Alzheimer’s Solution

My mom loaned us her copy of this cookbook, and it’s fully plant-based…Which means there are a ton of new recipes for us to try. It’s been ages since I’ve had cornbread, so I chose to make these first. Either I baked them too long (always hard to gauge with our oven) or it just needed something extra to help with the dryness. I think the texture was great, the flavor was pretty good (could maybe use a little more salt), but they were too dry for my liking. I would like to try again with a shorter baking time!

B O O K S :

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1) by Leigh Bardugo

4.5/5 stars

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)

5/5 stars

I read the Shadow and Bone trilogy four years ago and never got around to the Six of Crows duology until last month…LOVED THESE!! The writing and characters were brilliant, twists and turns kept me on my toes, and the dialogue + banter was priceless. I devoured these two very fast and I’m still thinking about these pages weeks later.

Arsenic and Adobo (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery, #1) by Mia P. Manansala

2/5 stars

I took a chance and picked this for my April BOTM…sadly very disappointed. A lot of this book contained overly wordy sentences – like the author was trying to add more detail, but everything felt a bit forced. Unfortunately the same held true for the dialogue, and it lacked the organic flow. There was so much focus on repetitive food descriptions and not nearly enough on characters or emotions, that we got an abundance of telling to the point where it felt like a play-by-play rundown. I think the mystery fell flat and was much of it was abrupt, because too much time was spent on the weird love triangle and food. I’m struggling to write this review and feel like I’m being really harsh…which makes me feel awful. But essentially, this one wasn’t for me.

Flashback (Keeper of the Lost Cities, #7) by Shannon Messenger

4-4.5/5 stars

I’m really impressed with how solid this series is! Parts of this book felt a lot slower than the previous installments, and there were moments when I got a little annoyed with the romance and love triangle (???) – BUT I do appreciate how it hasn’t been the main focus in the story. There were some darker moments in this book, and for the most part I didn’t see the twists coming. Another semi-cliff hanger ending, and I’m anxious to see where the next book takes us—what will be revealed??? I have some guesses 🙂

What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

3/5 stars

I’m struggling with how to review this one. I had a really difficult time getting into this one until about 60-70% of the way through. The multiple POVs and bouncing timelines didn’t quite work for me, and then we’ve got characters that I felt zero attachment to. If I’m being totally honest, I pretty much disliked all of them. I was hoping for more attention to Gee and Noelle’s voices/stories, but instead it was a messy mix of perspectives that seemed to go nowhere. And for all of the back and forth timelines, I expected more character development…maybe the book needed to be longer, but sadly I was relieved when I finished the final page. I really hate how harsh that sounds!! I would like to give this author another chance in the future though!

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism by Amber Ruffin

5/5 stars

Thank you, Cadry, for this recommendation!! I decided to borrow the audiobook from my library, because it was narrated by the authors – I’m so glad I did. Not only did they provide the intended voice for these stories, but I felt like I got a better sense of everything. Who Lacey and Amber are, the humor, and emotion. The humor helped make these horrible stories “easier” to digest. If you’re okay with cursing, you need to listen to this audiobook or grab a physical copy…I want to check out the physical book so I can see the pictures they referred to!

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

3/5 stars

I really wanted to like this book and even went in with somewhat high expectations due to the positive reviews…BUT it just wasn’t for me. If someone were to ask me what it’s about, I wouldn’t be able to explain it. There were numerous times when I considered abandoning it, because I was so confused and often times bored, but I powered through. AND still feel lost. I’m definitely in the minority if you hop onto Goodreads and look at the average rating. I won’t deny the fact that it was incredibly atmospheric, but that was pretty much all it had going for it (in my opinion). I also liked the format (narrated through journal entries) and it seemed like a great premise, but just didn’t hold my interest.

Be a Work in Progress: And Other Things I’d Like to Tell My Younger Self by John Cena

4/5 stars

I was browsing my library app one evening for new releases and stumbled upon this title…And completely overlooked who the author was. Obviously got a little laugh when I picked the book up and saw who it was!! BUT I was pleasantly surprised by the little gems of encouragement and reminders. This is one that you can read in one sitting as it’s nothing but short sayings paired with illustrations, OR you can pick it up every so often when you need a boost of positivity. I found the messages to be great talking points for kids AND words to live by for everyone.

How was YOUR month of April?? I want to hear from you! Good or bad, I’d love to know what you’ve been up to, what you’ve read, recipes made, new products, or what you’re watching!

Josh and I have two more episodes in Shadow and Bone….I am really impressed with how well it’s done!! The characters are perfect, and it’s wonderful to see favorite books come to life. Willow and I have been watching Tiny World – so fascinating!

I hope you have a beautiful weekend and a great month! Thanks for stopping by to read these rambles of mine.