Happy April, my friends! It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these posts or shared anything in this space. I think there’s a lot of truth to the seasons of life, and I hope that with Spring here, I will take hold of more opportunities and get back into a rhythm. Winter was somewhat of a blur with holidays that flew by too fast and some bumps in the road, but as a whole, we’re all healthy and happy. And I hope the same goes for those reading this.
The last few months have been spent doing much of the same: reading, homeschooling, adventuring outside, catching up with family + friends, and fostering more dogs! And now that it’s April, we’ve begun the official countdown to Willow’s 10th birthday. I’m in a state of disbelief as we’re nearing the double digits, but I’m also super excited to see what this next stage brings.
P R O D U C T S
Happiness in Plants (HiP) >> Salted Caramel Oat Milk Chocolate
A few months ago we moved some things around in our kitchen to make room to dedicate a drawer to chocolate (thank you, Julie, for that idea). It’s mostly stocked with chocolate chips and a few random bars. We recently stumbled upon this brand while we were at Market of Choice! There were a few flavors to choose from, but as a family, we decided to try this one first. Not only is oat milk my top favorite when it comes to lattes, but it is becoming my first choice in chocolate! This bar was so smooth and creamy with the perfect balance of salty and sweet. I will definitely pick up another flavor or two!
Trader Joe’s >> Vegan Buffalo Dip
Not too many dips come close to beating Trader Joe’s Tzatziki dip, but this one is definitely high up there. Great flavor, texture, and incredibly versatile. We enjoyed it with fresh veggies, chips/crackers, rice cakes, and paired with tacos and veggie bowls.
Earth Harbor >> Ahoy Love Nourishing Cream Cleanser
In March, Whole Foods had their annual Beauty Week Sale – so I took that opportunity to try this cleanser. I’ve become a big fan of Earth Harbor products, and there hasn’t been a product yet that I didn’t love. As we’re approaching the warmer months, I start shifting away from oil cleansers, so this Ahoy Love cleanser is perfect. The light, creamy texture and subtle floral scent is really nice, and it doesn’t feel heavy on my face. I also like that it leaves my skin feeling soft and moisturized.
R E C I P E S
Super Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Kale Soup >> Nora Cooks
My dear friend, Jill, recommended this recipe to me and we tried it right away! If you have a picky eater, this just might be the soup for you. Loaded with some great veggies, lots of flavor, and deliciously creamy – We will definitely be making this again. You can blend it smooth for those who don’t like a textured soup or leave it as a chunkier soup. This is great with some fresh sourdough bread and rice or quinoa!
Best Homemade Vegan Brownies >> eat with CLARITY
This was a random find and a keeper recipe! Really easy to make, short ingredient list, and a great way to get your chocolate fix. I used a regular all-purpose flour because that’s what I had on hand, but I would like to try making them gluten-free as the recipe was written. I think that might be why our brownies weren’t as fudgy, but more cake-like instead. I also used a mix of sugars (coconut, monk fruit, and raw cane sugar), so I did not get that shiny crust. None of that really matters as long as it tastes good, right? The whole pan was gone in one day…We did share with friends though!
Ginger Sesame Meatballs >> Minimalist Baker
These little flavor bombs were a huge hit! Even Willow ate them…just don’t tell her that there were mushrooms in there. We’re always looking for ways to sneak some variety into her meals and this was perfect. The fresh ginger, mushrooms, green onion, and garlic paired with tamari and maple syrup made these “meatballs” really savory with a touch of sweetness. I love how they had a slightly crispy exterior and a tender center. We served these with steamed broccoli, brown rice, sauteed kale, and a drizzle of tahini. Next time I would love to try her teriyaki sauce recipe to go with these.
B O O K S
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley // young adult, mystery
This was a fabulous debut novel and I will definitely keep an eye out for more from this author. I thought the writing was beautiful and while there were some heavier/possibly triggering subjects within the story (addiction, sexual assault, death/grief), Boulley addressed them in a mature, sensitive way. The story was steeped in Native American culture and traditions, which I found very fascinating…Along with the language. I loved the characters and twists that I didn’t see coming.
What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma by Stephanie Foo
WOW!!! I’ve read a number of books on trauma, and this one definitely takes the cake. She is an incredible storyteller and writes in such a relatable way that I found myself sobbing at her heartbreaking past and her realizations. Her journey is raw and real. I appreciate her sharing all parts – the ugly and the beautiful; her vulnerability left me both speechless and empowered. While I may not have experienced the horrific physical trauma she did, her mental/emotional trauma hit home. I found a lot of solace in her story and would highly recommend this to others haunted by trauma.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel // sci-fi, post apocalyptic
I picked this one up at a used book sale a few years ago and finally read it! It took me a bit to get into the story, and it never fully picked up pace…BUT it certainly got interesting. I absolutely loved how everything connected (characters, events, stories), and the writing was beautiful. I do wish that the characters were a little more developed and fleshed out, which is why I didn’t give it a full five stars. I’ve heard from a few people that they enjoyed the television mini series – I believe it’s on HBO Max.
The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith // contemporary fiction
3.5 stars rounded up
This was my Book Of The Month pick for March and as I’ve let some time pass after reading it, I’m realizing that it was good book in the moment. I read it when my mood needed a quick, heart-felt escape. But looking back, I’m able to see that it lacked the character depth I love and focused too much on an unlikely romance. This novel does revolve around grief (the sudden loss of Greta’s mother), and I did get a little emotional at parts of it…Since it did make me feel and I appreciated some of the character growth, I bumped up the rating.
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio // mystery thriller
The writing in this one was pretty amazing, BUT since I’m not too familiar with Shakespeare, I had moments of difficulty. This novel takes place at Dellecher Classical Conservatory – a very prestigious, competitive college where each year the number of students gets cut if performances don’t meet standards. The main characters in this novel are the seven remaining fourth year students/actors. We follow along in their rehearsals/performances of Shakespeare plays – obviously the language was very different during that time and even when the characters weren’t rehearsing, they would often times converse in Shakespearean quotes/language. I got the basic gist, but I felt like I had to pay extra close attention and almost translate or breakdown the conversations.
I thought how this novel was set up was really creative. Rather than parts and chapters, we have “Acts” and “Scenes” – and the prologues are the present day timeline with Oliver and the investigator of the case, while the “Scenes” take place in the past (10 years ago). I was also blown away by how atmospheric this novel was. Dark and moody, I could paint a picture in my mind of the stage when they were rehearsing and of the lake where everything changes. If We Were Villains was a well done mystery-thriller that combined friendship, love, betrayal, and truth.
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani // middle grade, historical fiction
“When you divide people, they take sides.”
Willow and I read and listened to this one together and it sparked a lot of deep conversations. This book takes place in India in 1947 and we follow Nisha’s story through her diary entries written to a mother she never got to meet (died giving birth to Nisha + Amil). Nisha and her family become refugees as India has been split into two countries with a divide between Muslims and Hindus. It’s a heartbreaking, fictional story based on real events, but we got so wrapped up in the writing that it felt like we were reading an actual diary. Full of a wide range of emotions, wonderful characters, and beautiful writing – It’s no wonder that this book was nominated for several awards.
There were some parts that were difficult for us to read – The journey Nisha and her family made was awful and there were some semi-violent scenes. Definitely one I would recommend reading with your child.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess (The Celestial Kingdom Duology #1) by Sue Lynn Tan
4 – 4.5 stars
My sweet Willow gave this to me for my birthday and little did she know it was on my to-read list! Not only is the cover stunning, the writing didn’t disappoint. This was a rollercoaster ride full of magic and myths, love and betrayal, and sacrifice. I was pulled into this story immediately by both the writing and strong female protagonist and was satisfied with the ending. My biggest complaint (that had me rolling my eyes) was the love triangle, which definitely gave it the YA feel. Looking forward to the second book!
Gallant by V.E. Schwab // young adult, fantasy, gothic horror
This wasn’t my favorite book by V.E. Schwab but I still enjoyed it. I was intrigued by the main character’s (Olivia) silence – she is unable to speak, and the writing was wonderful. Very atmospheric, dark + eerie, and the illustrations really added to the haunting vibe of the story. I think there was a lot of potential for this to be a five star read, but it didn’t have the depth and fullness I usually get from her novels.
Me by Elton John
Elton John has always been one of my all time favorite musicians (Tumbleweed Connection has my heart), so it was fun to learn more about the man behind the music. I listened to the audiobook and read the physical book – I highly recommend going that route. While he didn’t narrate the audiobook, Taron Egerton did a pretty good job of channeling Elton John. I love autobiographies like this one because they help you to see that they’re a regular person underneath all of that fame. His struggles were very real – drugs, alcohol, health, family, and more. Never in a million years would I have thought I could find myself relating to anything in his life, but I was blown away by the similarities in family dynamics. I really enjoyed reading and listening to this one – he’s a great storyteller with a lot of life lessons to share.
The Vanderbeekers: Lost and Found (#4) by Karina Yan Glaser // middle grade, fiction
Willow has read and reread this series multiple times, and I’ve been making my way through it. She warned me ahead of time that this book was a little sad…But I had no clue it would make me cry. I absolutely adore the Vanderbeeker family and all of the other characters in this series. They’re a beautiful biracial family full of love, humor, and relatable experiences. Each installment has its own heartwarming story and/or lesson. In this specific book, I really enjoyed Hyacinth’s growth and how the community came together once again. I can’t recommend this series enough…no matter what age.
Thank you to everyone who read to the end of this post! As always, I would love to hear from you – How you’ve been, any new finds that you’d recommend (and ones I should steer clear from), what you’re reading and/or watching. Speaking of that, as a family, we’ve been watching the Marvel movies in order and it’s been so much fun revisiting ones I haven’t seen in a long time! We just finished Spider Man: Homecoming….Love that one!
I hope you have a great month ahead and take care!
Well I typed this long comment, then Audrey came in NEEDING music off my phone and it disappeared when I returned . Happy to see you back!!
I hate when that happens! Thank you for coming back and saying hello! Give Audrey my love!
Oh I can’t tell you how happy I was to see your wrap up is back! I missed it so much! Willow is glorious and I can’t believe she’s almost 10! Thanks as always for the newsy, informative, helpful stuff. It’s so wonderful that you foster the doggies. Definitely trying those Ginger Sesame Meatballs yum. I just made No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies by @beamingbaker and I highly recommend you try them. They are sooo easy and absolutely delicious. (Notice how I stopped using exclamation points a few sentences back so as not to look crazy even though each of my sentences should have one 🙃) Anyway I hope you and your family have a wonderful April and I look forward to reading next months wrap up. Love you!
You’re talking to someone who for sure overuses the exclamation points! I can’t help it! Haha!! I will for sure check out those no bake chocolate pb cookies! Thank you for reading and always supporting ❤ Wish you could be here to celebrate Willow's bday – we sure do miss you and Ted. Can we PLEASE catch up over the phone soon??? Love you, my friend!
Oh yeah I love your new picture (even though I loved the one with you and little Willow too) 💕
It was so hard to replace that photo!! It was definitely a favorite….but SO old!