Happy August, my friends! I hope this past month was good to you ❤️ and that this post finds you with a happy heart. July was exceptionally hot here, and wildfire season got an earlier start than usual…BUT we managed to get outside every day and enjoy mostly blue skies.
Josh and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary with an epic food food coma 😆 We had a late lunch over at the Lively Up Yourself food cart where we shared the Buffalo Mac Bowl and the B*tchin Chikn sandwich (both were incredible)….then we decided to go to Ben and Jerry’s for sundaes. We both got the Change the Whirled flavor and I HIGHLY recommend it! I am not exaggerating when I say that I then went over 24 hours without eating a single thing because I was SO FULL. But zero regrets because we had fun and enjoyed every bite of food.
Other than that, our days were spent hanging with our crazy crew of animals, daily walks, lots of reading, games, trips to the produce stand, and we fostered another dog for a week.
Oh!!!! And the watermelon seeds we planted have taken off! We have about six sugar baby watermelons thriving ❤️
P R O D U C T S :
Willow LOVES yogurt, so we are always keeping our eye out for new brands. We found this one from Natural Grocers, and I really like that all of their flavors are fruit sweetened (the vanilla is sweetened with apple juice). Something told me to grab two of the vanilla, and I’m glad that I did! Wonderfully creamy, subtly sweet, and great on its own or paired with granola. When we opened the second one, I added a dollop to my smoothie bowl! I would definitely buy this brand again.
Trader Joe’s >> HOLD THE DAIRY! Mini coconut non-dairy frozen dessert cones
Do I really need to elaborate?! Perfect little mini dessert….Willow’s favorite thing about these is the chocolate filled cone ❤️
Trader Joe’s >> Cold Brew Coffee BBQ Sauce
I deeply apologize if this isn’t available for you to purchase – Josh grabbed a bottle from work and warned me it might not be around for long! Tangy and sweet like regular BBQ sauce, but with a slightly spicy kick and a great coffee finish. It is a lot more runny/watery than I would prefer, but the flavor is great!
Even though we’re eating soy, I still really love to keep my eyes open for alternatives. We found this at Natural Grocers, and I was pulled in by the name and greenish hue! It’s a smaller block, but one serving size packs in 17 grams of protein. I really like how it’s pre-pressed, so it made for a super easy dinner prep. We cooked it up in the air fryer like we do with regular tofu, and I was impressed with how well it held its form. The texture was reminiscent of extra firm tofu, and it had a very neutral flavor – I tossed it with coconut aminos, olive oil, garlic, and a little tapioca starch. I’m excited to get this again and try their other options!
R E C I P E S :
Another one of those recipes that was so good, we made it twice! It’s been years since I’ve had regular rice crispy treats, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that I like these more than the marshmallow ones from my childhood. Gooey, sticky dates hold this all together, along with nut butter, and melted chocolate….doesn’t get much better than that! We did a mix of peanut butter and almond butter, and I used the Sprouted Brown Rice Crisps from One Degree Organics. Such great treat!!
I tried to find the crunchy SunButter that Natalie used for this recipe but had no luck….so I used peanut butter (Willow’s favorite). These were super easy to make, and I’m always a big fan of no-bake recipes in these hotter months. Willow loved these as a grab-and-go snack and a post hike refuel.
Messy but delicious! The coleslaw added a great crunch and paired well with the bbq sauce. We added some garlic to the coleslaw to amp up the flavor, and as for the sandwich itself, we added sliced pickles and red onions.
When an extremely rare rainy, cooler day hit Bend, we turned on the oven and baked! And I had recently purchased a new loaf pan that needed a test run….which is how we stumbled upon this recipe! If you love cinnamon like we do, you will not be disappointed. I made one adjustment and used mostly monk fruit as the sweetener in the cake portion, but I stuck with brown sugar for the cinnamon swirl part. I know we’ll be making this again!
B O O K S :
Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1) by Louise Penny
I’ve heard from a number of people that this series gets better after the first few books…I certainly hope so because the 17th installment comes out this year! That’s A LOT of books! I thought this was a decent cozy mystery, relatively entertaining, I enjoyed the small town feel, and some of the humor reminded me a little of The Thursday Murder Club. But Still Life had a few too many characters (I was a bit confused about Agent Nichol), and the story felt abrupt/choppy at times. The POV changed often, and there were times when I had to reread a passage to remind myself whose view we were following. I enjoyed this enough to want to continue with the series, but it’s not something I’m itching to dive into.
The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
Part one (Amber’s POV) was a huge struggle for me to get through – it was slow and boring AND I found her to be absolutely awful. But I kept going because I wanted to see if I had guessed the twist correctly. Part two is Daphne’s POV, and I definitely had a harder time putting the book down! The pace picked up a little and puzzle pieces were put together. Without the satisfying ending, I would have knocked the rating down to two stars. Without spoiling anything, I also gave this book a lower rating due to some of the content – horrifying and upsetting to read.
The Comfort Book by Matt Haig
“Even though I have largely recovered from depression, the door is never quite closed, always slightly ajar. I sometimes feel it, light like the ghost of a breeze, very much there. Unseen, but felt.”
I really enjoyed this book and rather than sit and devour it in one sitting, I opted to savor it…To read small snippets at a time over the course of a few days. I admire Haig for his transparency, his openness to talk about the hard stuff, his determination to normalize the conversation about mental well-being. These pages were a great mix of personal stories, inspirational quotes, lists (songs, books, movies), wisdom of historical, creative minds, and moments of reflection. I certainly went through a number of post it tabs to mark my favorite passages to go back to as reminders. Haig continues to be a breath of fresh air and a voice to be heard.
I didn’t love this quite as much as Reasons to Stay Alive or Notes on a Nervous Planet, so I’m giving it somewhere around 4.5 stars.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
I enjoyed this more than I expected to! Such a great mix of characters, and the friendships that formed were incredibly heartwarming. The story was entertaining – full of adventure, humor, and a few twists! Willow read the physical copy on her own and then listened to the audiobook with me. Really looking forward to the next installment and as a family, we have been watching the Disney+ series (which I highly recommend).
The Butterfly Garden (The Collector, #1) by Dot Hutchison
I never got around to rating this one on Goodreads, because it took me a couple of weeks to really process what I read. The Butterfly Garden is super dark and disturbing, creepy and twisted, and it’s not one I would go running to recommend to my friends. I thought this was actually really well written – the narrator pulled me in, and while I won’t go so far as to say I enjoyed it, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Parts of this story were hauntingly beautiful, and as a whole, it’s one I know will stick with me for a long time. It wasn’t until after I finished this book that I heard it’s actually the first in a series…not sure when I’ll continue on, but I now know what to expect.
A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman
Five stars for making me anxious and uncomfortable and tense pretty much throughout the entire novella. I was constantly waiting for something to happen. The author also did a really great job writing these characters – very realistically captured the teenage persona.
But what in the world was that ending?!!!
Seeing as this is a novella, there wasn’t time for a lot of character building or deep exploration, so there were obviously moments when things felt rushed or glossed over. Overall, I did enjoy the writing and premise.
Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations #1) by B.B. Alston
Absolutely LOVED this one! Willow and I chose to read this together, and we both really enjoyed it. Full of magic, adventure, and great characters…and twists we didn’t see coming! As a parent, I really appreciated the messages throughout this book and despite being a work of fiction (and fantasy), the relationships and some of the experiences felt very realistic. Amari is a strong, resilient girl who doesn’t let anyone disrupt her mission to find out what happened to her brother. Really looking forward to future installments in this series!
The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott
I was honestly quite blown away by the writing – so profound and descriptive and often times lyrical. Less than 300 pages, this novel was like being transported into a fable or mythical folktale….A story with hidden meanings, raw characters, and creatures that induced both awe and fear. I don’t want to elaborate much more or share too many of my thoughts, because I think it’s best to go in without a lot of background. If anyone has read this, or if you do in the future, please come back and let me know! I’d love to talk about it with you!
We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange
This was my pick from July’s Book of the Month choices, and I’m glad I took a chance on this debut. Added bonus….the author lives here in Bend, Oregon! These characters were perfectly flawed, which made them feel all the more real – And the bonds and relationships were the glue to this novel. The multiple points of view worked really well, and the chapters (and story itself) flowed without a hitch. Even though I figured out early on where some of the story was headed, I enjoyed every minute. Did I mention that I read this in less than 24 hours???
That’s it for July! Now I want to hear from you! Let me know in a comment below how you’re doing. Highlights?? Reviews of your own?? Anything you recommend?
Thanks for stopping by! Take care and Lots of love,