Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Recent Amazon Purchases



From kitchen gadgets, to delicious snacks and of course some clothes, here's a look at some of my favorite recent Amazon buys! 

1. Tinted Eye Roller. Since March when covid/quarantine took full effect, I definitely have taken advantage of not wearing makeup. Seriously, I think I've worn makeup twice in the last four months...and I'm loving it. I've still been using my tinted SPF moisturizer daily, and recently added this tinted eye roller to my everyday routine. Not only does it soothe tired eyes, but the metal roller ball calms under eyes, and also brightens and provides coverage for dark circles.
2. Facial Cleansing Brush. I've long been a fan of the Clarisonic, but sometimes it's a pain in the but to travel since it has to be charged, and is also bulky. These facial scrubbers easily connect to your fingers, and give you the best face scrub you've ever had. It exfoliates your skin without drying it, and also penetrates the skin making your face wash more effective/targeted.
3. Taco Stands. I'm not even sure this needs an explanation! We love Mexican food and enjoy making it at home, but never liked how our tacos would just fall flat on our plates. No one likes a soggy taco, or one that has all of the ingredients spill all over. These are just what the doctor ordered! They fit both hard and soft shell tacos, too!
4. Ruffle Bathing Suit. This cute suit comes in tons of colors and is incredibly flattering. The straps can be detached too, which gives you a 2-for-1 look. I sized up to a medium.
5. Absorbent Hair Towel. This microfiber towel cuts dry time in half. It soaks up all that extra moisturizer, and easily stays in place.
6. Apple Slicer. I love apples, but hate cutting them. This fancy mechanism easily slides over your apples, and slices them easily and effortlessly.
7. Guacamole Saver. Can you see a trend with all these food gadgets I'm buying? And I'm not even done yet. I love avocados, and store bought guac, but hate seeing them overripen and go to waste. This seriously keeps avocados fresh, and is perfect for storage and serving, as well.
8. Ruffle Sleeve Sweatshirt & Matching Shorts. I wore this outfit for our road trip back to Wisconsin. It is so soft, and I love how the ruffle sleeve adds a girly touch to an otherwise basic look. I also love that the length of the shorts hits a the 'perfect' spot, and are a little on the longer side for comfy coverage. Seriously a must have look!
9. Shiatsu Neck & Back Massager. This massager is a miracle worker. It has three different speeds, and also has a heat option, which really helps soother sore muscle. It also comes with a adapter to plug it into the cigarette lighter (is that even what it's actually called) in the car, which makes it great for travel. I used it on our road trip and it was perfect for easing my stiffness/arthritis pain.
10. Foldable Visor. I literally cannot stand having the sun on my face, and this visor provides excellent coverage. It's easy to pack/travel, and is easy to store, as it takes up no room. It comes in a lot of colors, and the quality is great.
11. Smart Fries. Yummy. I LOVE french fries, and even though these don't give me the same satisfaction and curb my craving like the real deal, they are delicious. The come in several flavors (my fav is BBQ), and are an easy healthy snack.
12. Drizzilicious Snacks. These mini quaker cake deserts are sooooo good! 21 pieces are only 90 calories. Order these now, and thank me later.
13. Inflatable Pool Lounger. I've had tons of inflatable pool toys and loungers over the years, and this is by far the best ever. Not only is it practical, but it also has a cup holder which is perfect for your summer cocktails.
14. Ruffle Flounce Dress. I love the cut of this dress, and the price - only $30. It comes in a few colors, and the deep v-neck is effortlessly sexy.
15. Vegetable Slicer/Chopper. Love vegetables, but hate cutting them? This makes chopping onions, peppers, and many other veggies and absolute breeze. Beware though, it is SHARP! I cut my fingers on the blades and it looked like a crime scene. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Easy & Delicious Meatless Spaghetti and Meatballs


Last month, I shared some of our favorite quarantine meals with you. Since then, we've been adding a few things to the rotating 'menu', and adding in take-out here and there. One of our new go-to's is this meatless spaghetti and meatball recipe. Yes, meatless. 

Beyond Meat has become a staple in our household for a while. Not only is it a great replacement for meat, but it literally tastes like the real deal (which for us is key). Their burger patties are probably my favorite, and they also make ground meat and sausage patties/links. Their products contain less sodium and calories then some of their meatless counterparts, and you can easily find it at HEB, Kroger, and Whole Foods. 

This recipe is so simple and is bursting with flavor. It literally rivals the best spaghetti I've had at a restaurant, if I do say so myself ;) What's nice about it is that majority of the ingredients are things you have on hand, which means no additional trips to the dreaded grocery store. 

Here's the recipe!

Ingredients:

-1 ½ TBSP bread crumb
-3 Garlic cloves, minced (less if you don't love garlic, like we do)
-1 TBSP Chopped onion
-1 tsp Chopped basil (chop extra to top your meal with)
-2 ½ tbsp Shredded Parmesan Cheese (I like to use fresh Parmesan vs the pre-shredded, it gives it much better flavor)
-½ tsp Italian Seasoning
-Pinch of Pepper, Salt, and crushed red pepper flakes 
-Rao's Tomato Basil Sauce (only use about 3/4 of the jar, or whatever amount is to your liking)
This sauce is a little on the pricey side (compared to Prego, etc.) but it is so worth it. It has the most amazing homemade taste, and is great for dipping and on pizzas, as well. 

Directions:

-In a large bowl, add Beyond Beef, bread crumb, parsley, basil, onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and parmesan cheese

-By hand, mix thoroughly and roll meatballs into golf-sized balls or make them larger if you'd like
(the 'meat' does leave a greasy coating on your hands, so definitely be sure to wash them once you're done assembling the meatballs)

-Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat

-Using tongs, add the meatballs and cook until brown on all sides, using tongs to turn them over. Once they've 'browned,' remove them from the skillet and place on a plate
I'd say to be fully brown on all sides, the process takes about ~10min. Sometimes I've had them get a little charred and honestly they were still delicious. 

-Clean the skillet to put it back on the stovetop over medium heat

-Pour marinara into the skillet and bring the marinara to a simmer 

-Place the meatballs back in the skillet and reduce the heat a little bit. Then, cover the skillet with a lid and simmer meatballs for up to an hour. We usually let them simmer around 40 minutes.

Serve with your favorite pasta & garlic bread. Be sure to top it with some fresh basil and Parmesan. 


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Book Review - Volume Four


I've been trying to use this time at home to read as much as I can. As we all know reading is a great way to escape, which is definitely needed right now! Plus, I have so many books I'm looking forward to reading that I want to cross them off my list, and there's no time like the present.

I've really enjoyed sharing my book reviews with you in the past. This review features a mix of genres, like usual. Below you'll find a memoir, two suspense thrillers, and two pieces of historical fiction (my favorite). As before, I've included a summary of the book, as well as my rating,1 through 5. 

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose of­fice she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.

As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients' lives -- a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can't stop hooking up with the wrong guys -- she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.

With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is rev­olutionary in its candor, offering a deeply per­sonal yet universal tour of our hearts and minds and providing the rarest of gifts: a boldly reveal­ing portrait of what it means to be human, and a disarmingly funny and illuminating account of our own mysterious lives and our power to transform them.

Rating: 5/5. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought it was incredibly relatable. It not only had me laughing and crying, but after {almost} every chapter I felt like I had just gotten out of the best therapy session of my life. It also really made you realize that even though we think we're all so different, that we're so innately similar - we want to be accepted, we want to be loved, we want to be happy, we want to LIVE...a great read that you won't want to put down.


Cilka’s Journey

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where the commandant immediately notices how beautiful she is. Forcibly separated from the other women prisoners, Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly taken, equals survival.

When the war is over and the camp is liberated, freedom is not granted to Cilka: She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to a Siberian prison camp. But did she really have a choice? And where do the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was send to Auschwitz when she was still a child?

In Siberia, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she meets a kind female doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing and begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Confronting death and terror daily, Cilka discovers a strength she never knew she had. And when she begins to tentatively form bonds and relationships in this harsh, new reality, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.

From child to woman, from woman to healer, Cilka's journey illuminates the resilience of the human spirit―and the will we have to survive.

Rating: 5/5. This book is written by the author of, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, another book I absolutely loved. This is a sequel of sorts to the first book, but chronicles Cilka's journey. This woman suffered incredible hardship, and still overcame due to strength and relentless attitude. It also opened my eyes to the Siberian prison camps, something I didn't know much about. My only complaint was that I wish the ending would have been a bit longer. The author provided you with information to further your research, but I wanted more! The sign of a good book.  

Lost Roses

It is 1914, and the world has been on the brink of war so often, many New Yorkers treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanovs. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia: the church with the interior covered in jeweled mosaics, the Rembrandts at the tsar’s Winter Palace, the famous ballet.

But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia’s imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortune-teller’s daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya’s letters suddenly stop coming, she fears the worst for her best friend. 

From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg and aristocratic countryside estates to the avenues of Paris where a society of fallen Russian émigrés live to the mansions of Long Island, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways. In her newest powerful tale told through female-driven perspectives, Martha Hall Kelly celebrates the unbreakable bonds of women’s friendship, especially during the darkest days of history.

Rating: 5/5. This book was beautifully written and made you feel like you were right there with the characters. As the synopsis says, it really does show how deep the bonds are that we make with others, and how some relationships will follow us for our entire life. Although each woman's story was uniquely different, they intertwined seamlessly. This book is the prequel to, Lilac Girls, which I haven't read yet, but have heard so much about. Interestingly enough, even though its the prequel to that novel, it was written after the other book was published. The story line sparked so much interest in the author, that she wanted to delve deeper! 

The Girl Who Lived

As the anniversary of the murders approaches, Faith Winters is released from the psychiatric hospital and yanked back to the last spot on earth she wants to be—her hometown where the slayings took place. Wracked by the lingering echoes of survivor's guilt, Faith spirals into a black hole of alcoholism and wanton self-destruction. Finding no solace at the bottom of a bottle, Faith decides to track down her sister's killer—only to discover that she's the one being hunted.

How can one woman uncover the truth when everyone's a suspect—including herself?

Rating: 3/5. I just finished reading this book for my virtual book club. It was an easy, mindless, quick read, but left a lot of questions unanswered. I felt like for a shorter book (under 300 pages) that they introduced too many characters that I couldn't keep them straight. I think they also added a few too many twist and turns that at the end I was like "Really?" That being said, I got through this book in only a few days, so if you're looking for something easy check it out. I'm definitely curious to see what all the other women have to say when we discuss it! 

An Anonymous Girl

Looking to earn some easy cash, Jessica Farris agrees to be a test subject in a psychological study about ethics and morality. But as the study moves from the exam room to the real world, the line between what is real and what is one of Dr. Shields’s experiments blurs.

Dr. Shields seems to know what Jess is thinking… and what she’s hiding.

Jessica’s behavior will not only be monitored, but manipulated.

Caught in a web of attraction, deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Rating: 4/5. I read this book in one sitting. It read like a Lifetime movie, but in a good way! With lots of twists and turns, it was interesting and very suspenseful. A great physiological thriller. 
 

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