April 2022 Wrap Up

Happy May, my friends! With one month of spring under our belts, I feel like we saw more snow in April than we did in winter! But it didn’t stick, and hopefully now we can truly enjoy all of the trees in bloom and plants coming to life. We haven’t made any garden plans this year – between the dogs, a neighbor’s cat, and the dry climate here – it’s been a challenge to keep things alive.

Besides our sweet Willow turning 10 and fostering a few dogs, our month of April was fairly low key. We got out on some hikes, enjoyed a visit from a friend we hadn’t seen in two years, and started working with a trainer for Hank. Other than that, it was life as usual! We did explore a new-to-us bookshop in Redmond, OR – Herringbone Books – which was a big highlight for us bookworms! Brandon, the owner, was truly a joy to talk with as his passion for books and reading matched ours. It was fun to discuss some common favorites and get some new book recommendations since we seemed to share similar tastes. We’ve already made a second trip back and I know there will be many more. If you find yourself over that way, be sure to pop into Junction Roastery for a cup of coffee!

P R O D U C T S :

Cleveland Kitchen >> Fermented Garlic Italian Plant-Based Dressing & Marinade

I found this on a whim at Whole Foods on sale, and I would definitely purchase it again! Normally I just drizzle tahini on my salads, so it was fun to try something new. Wonderfully bold garlicky flavor with just the right amount of tang. Big thumbs up from all three of us!

Trader Joe’s >> Oat Chocolate Bars

Josh actually brought these home from California back in March and our store here in Bend recently started carrying them. They come as a pack of three small bars and they’re a great way to satisfy that chocolate craving. I love how smooth and creamy they are.

Trader Joe’s >> Non-Dairy Oat Creamer {Brown Sugar}

Yet another oat-based product for the win! Excellent in hot coffee and cold brew.

Trader Joe’s >> Organic Vegan Nacho Dip

We love to make our own nacho dip (especially the recipe from the Oh She Glows cookbook), but every now and then we enjoy testing out any new store bought options. This is definitely a new favorite! Warmed up, this is excellent with chips, veggies, tacos, or veggie bowls.

EVOLVED >> Oatmeal Cookie Dough Filled Mylk Chocolate Bar

It’s funny because I wasn’t overly impressed with this brand when I first discovered them several years ago. While on a Whole Foods trip, I noticed all of these new-to-me flavors and had to give one a try. Not sure how they nailed the oatmeal cookie flavor, but I loved it! The chocolate was incredibly smooth and melted almost instantly in my mouth – probably due to the coconut oil. I was really impressed with the filling and need to go back to try another flavor soon!

Trader Joe’s >> Thai Banana Fritters

As a treat, we air fried these up and served them with non-dairy vanilla ice cream! Willow wasn’t a fan, but Josh and I thought they were pretty good…And they were oddly reminiscent of McDonald’s apple pie!

R E C I P E S :

Easy Vegan Oatmeal Cookies >> Beaming Baker

Willow had a craving for oatmeal cookies one day, and after a random Google search, we made these! They were buttery, chewy, and exactly what she was looking for.

Seriously The Best Tofu Scramble >> Rainbow Plant Life

Since adding soy back into my diet, it has been a lot of fun making some old favorites. We used to make tofu scrambles quite a bit, but they were never as good as this recipe! I remember many years ago, someone taught me to add milk to scrambled eggs and omelettes to make them fluffier and creamy…But I never tried that with tofu scrambles! I was so impressed with the texture and flavor of this scramble. I did add red onion, red pepper, and fresh spinach to ours for some color and a boost of veggies. We will definitely make this again…and again.

The Best Vegan Chocolate Cake >> Nora Cooks

For Willow’s 10th birthday, I took a big risk and tried a new recipe. I settled on this one because there were a ton of positive reviews, and with the exception of powdered sugar, we had everything on hand. I did use monk fruit for the granulated sugar and added some vegan sprinkles (which I would skip next time). This was a very rich and indulgent cake – A perfect way to celebrate a special day!

Super Garlicky Tomato Soup with Smashed White Beans >> Minimalist Baker

If you LOVE garlic, you have to make this soup! It’s the perfect weekday recipe as it’s incredibly quick and easy to throw together…And satisfying. We added some extra coconut milk which resulted in a thinner soup, and used diced tomato instead of crushed (it’s what we had on hand). The bold, rich flavor with pops of garlicky bites was wonderful. I really enjoyed the slight heat from the chili flakes and the creaminess from the coconut milk. Perfectly paired with a slice of sourdough bread! We will definitely make this again and double the recipe!

B O O K S :

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn {historical fiction}

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book was one of my most anticipated reads of this year and it didn’t disappoint!!! Kate Quinn is a remarkable storyteller and perfectly weaves real life characters into works of fiction. In The Diamond Eye, we follow Lyudmila Pavlichenko (Mila) – Soviet war heroine, deadly sniper, Lady Death. And I was immediately sucked in. Alternating timelines and POVs, we bounce between the frontlines in Russia and Washington D.C.

There were times when the pace was really slow and some of the romance had me rolling my eyes, BUT I devoured these pages. And after reading the author’s note and further reading recommendations, I wanted to dive in and learn more about the real Lady Death. Her novels always leave me feeling that way.

Five big stars, and I will rush out to buy anything else Quinn writes in the future.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters, #1) by Talia Hibbert {contemporary romance}

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I probably wouldn’t have ever picked this book up on my own, but after hearing a good bit of hype around this series, I wanted to give it a go. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it! This was such a cute, fun read full of fantastic banter and sarcasm…and some steamy scenes. I haven’t read many books that have characters living with chronic pain, but I can definitely say that Chloe Brown was perfect. Her brush with death in the very beginning of the book made her realize that she wasn’t really living – her illness ruled her life. So she makes a plan to change that, complete with a list to tackle. Which is when we meet Red. This was the book I didn’t realize I needed – it suited my mood, made me laugh out loud, and fall in love with these two “broken” characters. I will have to pick up the second book soon!

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was a slow burn that kept me wondering what happened to Joy…And who was responsible?? The story bounces between present day and the prior months leading up to. There were multiple points of view which I struggled with at times (the four siblings: Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke; Stan the father; Joy the mother; and Savannah). The author did a great job with writing unlikable characters – that added to the mystery – and I enjoyed the occasional humor.

Heartstopper (Volume 1) by Alice Oseman {young adult, graphic novel, LGBTQ, romance}

Rating: 5 out of 5.

After hearing a lot of hype behind this series, and knowing that the adaptation is coming to Netflix this month, I had to check it out. I don’t read very many graphic novels, but as soon as I finished this, I hopped onto my library app and requested the other three novels. I absolutely adored this for so many reasons – it’s just a feel-good, coming of age story and you can’t help but root for Charlie and Nick. I love how bullying is addressed, the representation is beautiful, and my heart just felt so full while reading these pages. I can’t wait to continue this series!

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough {mystery, thriller}

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was pulled in from the beginning and really enjoyed the eerie vibes – I kept questioning Emma’s mental health…What was real?? I got stressed out at times! Ha! I devoured this book in two sittings, but ultimately the ending ruined it for me. I guessed some of the mystery to this story, but I rolled my eyes at the deeper understanding of it all. This was an entertaining read and kept me on my toes, which makes me want to go back and read some the author’s previous books.

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley {mystery, thriller}

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was similar to the author’s previous novel – The Guest List with the multiple POVs, characters with motive, and plenty of twists. I really enjoyed the dark, somewhat gothic feel and the journey to the end – It was just a fun read. Like a lot of mystery/thrillers, it’s best to go in blind.

In My Dreams I Hold A Knife by Ashley Winstead {mystery, thriller}

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This one was very reminiscent of If We Were Villains with the elite college setting, dual timelines, and a murder among friends. The pacing had me burning through these pages to find out what really happened and I was not disappointed. I love a mystery where anyone could be the killer – I was constantly wondering who did it. The author wrote these characters with a lot of depth and just enough unlikability to keep me on my toes. I liked that you followed mainly through Jessica’s POV with a few single POV chapters from other characters. I think that style just works really well in mystery/thrillers.

The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams {contemporary fiction}

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Do you have a friendship where no matter how much time has passed by, you pick up right where you left off? That was how it felt while reading this book – cozy and familiar. Like being wrapped up in the biggest hug by a best friend. I was honestly so blown away by how much I loved this – I’m impressed that this is her debut novel. I felt so connected to and invested in these characters (especially Mukesh) and the unlikely friendship between Aleisha and Mukesh absolutely warmed my heart.

As someone who is a HUGE bookworm, I can relate to the power of books – not only can they impact your life in more ways than one, but they can also serve as an escape. I really enjoyed reading about how the books in The Reading List made some of these characters feel. How they came at the right time, or how they changed their life. Plus, a list of books within a book that takes place mostly in a library?!? I loved it.

There were quite a few characters – We follow mostly through Aleisha’s and Mukesh’s perspective, but there are a handful of others. Each of these characters connects in some way, which I thought was a lot of fun. There’s also an alternating timeline – 2017 and 2019 – that works really well for the development of the characters and story.

This story had so much depth and highlighted a significant range of topics (loss, grief, depression, suicide, and more). Most of the book was just a feel-good, transformative story, but the last 100 or so pages changed gears a bit. It took a turn I wasn’t expecting – one I’m still processing. I sobbed pretty hard at the end (both happy and sad tears) and I wanted the story to keep going!
Five BIG stars!

Nine Lives by Peter Swanson

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This was another new release that I was excited about, but it ended up being a disappointment for me. I had only ever read one other book by this author (Eight Perfect Murders) and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, Nine Lives felt too similar. Once again, there is a link/connection to a popular mystery novel with the storyline. The first time it was done in Eight Perfect Murders I found it to be a clever, original idea. I was intrigued by the premise in this novel, but found myself anxious to get to the end and be done with it. There were several moments when I thought about abandoning it, but I wanted to give it a fair chance. Ultimately, I was a bit bored with the characters (and there were a lot of them) and the “bad guy” reveal was a let down. AND the last chapter of the book had me rolling my eyes – The author could have left it out.

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain {non-fiction, psychology, self-help}

I listened to this one via audiobook from our library, which was narrated by the author. She reminded me a lot of Brene Brown with her relatable stories and gifted storytelling. As a fellow introvert, I felt seen and understood – that my natural tendency to see and feel the light and the dark, the happy and sad, is not a bad thing. That bittersweet mindset can be powerful. I found myself thinking about the book Toxic Positivity while reading this, as they are of a similar vibe – When you dampen those “negative” emotions, you miss out on the opportunity for growth and/or healing. I would love to own a physical copy of this one to refer back to!

I hope you had a great April! Let me know in a comment below if you found any new favorites or maybe you tried a recipe or read a book that was a flop – I’d love to hear.