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Five on Friday {Keep Calm}

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Hello Friday!  What a crazy week it’s been here.  We live in Westchester County, right in the middle of the New York Coronavirus crisis. While neither the school district that I work in or my kids’ school have closed…..yet, there’s lots of panic going on around here.  Stores are out of hand sanitizer, cleaners and even toilet paper! Everything is getting canceled to promote social distancing. Saturday my son is working stage crew for our middle school play. They have limited the audience to one parent per cast/crew member, but I think we are going to drop him off and watch the live stream of the show just to be on the safe side. Then the plans are to lay low for the rest of the weekend. Here are five from this week:

1.  Weekend Fun – My daughter has qualified to apply for the National Junior Honor Society. She needs volunteer hours, so the two of us spent four hours last weekend volunteering at a local food pantry and then making sandwiches for a Midnight Run. Then after my son and I went to the grocery store to buy supplies for Supper Club (see below) we went to our high school track. He wanted to practice running but then convinced me to walk the nature/wellness path with him. It was a beautiful day and a nice walk with him.

2. Reading – I just finished Her Daughter’s Mother by Daniela Petrova.  This is my monthly book club read and book club is next week, if it doesn’t get canceled before then!

The Joker dances on a set of stairs. Below him are the words "Joaquin Phoenix", "A Todd Phillips film", "Joker", "October 4".

3. Watching – I made it about halfway through Joker before I had to go to bed.  But Dana and our daughter stayed up and watched the whole movie. Dana and I also just started watching Mad Men on Netflix for the first time.  We are enjoying it, but it’s infuriating on so many levels about how women were treated in the 1950’s. Plus, all the smoking (and drinking even when pregnant!).

4. Cooking – This week’s menu included Vegan Mac & Cheese, Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos, veggie burgers and fries and Vegan Spinach & Artichoke Pasta.

5. Supper Club – Sunday we had our monthly supper club.  This month’s theme was Thai. I made a Vegan Pad See Ew with tofu.  I couldn’t find wide rice noodles so ended up using regular pad Thai rice noodles.  Dana made Tropical Thai Coconut-Tapioca Pudding for dessert.

ICYMI this week on the blog: 

Thursday I wrote about the Westchester Knicks.

Sharing with Friday Favorites!  Have a great weekend!

21

February Reads {2020}

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February flew by and even though it’s a shorter month, I still managed to read 7 books. I even had my first 5 star read of the year! I’m sharing my February reads with Steph and Jana’s Show Us Your Books linkup.

3 Stars

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Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown – Alice and her husband move from the city into an old house in the suburbs. In the basement she discovers an old, 1950’s cookbook from the previous owner. Alice ends up cooking her way through the book and learns that she and Nellie Murdoch have a lot in common, despite the several decades separating their lives. Overall, I found this to be just an okay.

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The Soul Searcher’s Handbook by Emma Mildon – For those looking to learn and connect more with their spiritual side, this book gives a light overview of all the different areas of everything New Age (crystals, feng-shui, numerology, astrology, etc.). I found this book to be a good, basic intro of a variety of topics.

4 Stars

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American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins – After a tragic incident, Lydia and her son Lucas are forced to leave Mexico. They travel as migrants through dangerous conditions, hoping to make it to the United States. Only after I was halfway through reading this book did I discover all of the controversy surrounding it. Mainly, that this story wasn’t the Caucasian author’s story to tell. Regardless, I thought it was an enjoyable story and has me interested in reading more about Mexican migration into the United States.

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Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate – This story takes alternates between 1939 Memphis and present day Aiken, South Carolina. In 1939 Memphis, when Rill and her four siblings are alone on their family’s houseboat, they are taken into custody of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society Orphanage. Present day, Avery Stafford, is a daughter of wealth and privilege, being groomed to take after her father’s political footsteps. On a publicity visit with her father to a nursing home, she meets a woman who leads her on a journey that uncovers secrets from the past. This was a goodreads choice 2017 winner. It was also my book club’s February book pick, so I did a reread and liked it as much this time as I did the first read.

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The Escape Room by Megan Golden – Four coworkers at Stanhope, a major investment/financial firm are invited to an Escape Room activity. However, they didn’t realize this “game” would involve them locked together in an elevator where all of their secrets are revealed. I’ve debated between a 3 and 4 star rating for this book (3.5?) . This was such an unrealistic thriller and all of the characters were unlikable. However, it was a fast-paced read that had me interested in how it would end.

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The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica Spotswood – Kat, Bea, Vi and Des are four sisters who live in a small town with their grandmother. The story takes place over a summer, as each girl goes through her own drama. This book was a read off of our own bookshelf (actually, my daughter’s!). It is told in alternating POVs of each of the sisters and was an enjoyable contemporary YA read with feminist and LGBT characters.

5 Stars

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Regretting You by Colleen Hoover – At 17 Morgan gets pregnant and marries her boyfriend, now husband, Chris. Present day and Morgan now has a sixteen year-old daughter, Clara, who is interested in a boy that Chris tells her is no good. When Chris is involved in a tragic car accident, both Morgan and Clara’s world is forever changed when they learn the secrets that Chris was keeping. Colleen Hoover is on my favorite authors list, and this book did not disappoint. When a book gets me in tears, it usually rates a 5 star read!

Five on Friday {Spring Ahead}

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Happy Friday! This Sunday we lose an hour of sleep as we “spring ahead.” I’m super disappointed with the lack of snow this winter. But I have to admit, I’m loving these spring temps! And it’s going to be lighter earlier! Coronavirus has hit Westchester County, so there’s been some panic. You cannot find hand sanitizer on store shelves, schools have closed, and some people have been quarantined to their homes. And of course, yesterday, Dana came down with a cold. Hopefully, he will be better by Sunday, since we have our monthly supper club. Here are five from this week:

1. Weekend Fun – Saturday Dana and I went to Woodbury Commons outlets. C. was on a Boy Scout camping trip and A. went ice skating with some friends. I was in desperate need of some pants and found some at Ann Taylor Loft and the Old Navy outlet. On the way home we stopped at the newly opened Aldi’s in Monroe-Woodbury. It’s the closest (only) Aldi’s near us. We found a bunch of vegan food items including vegan sour cream. This was our first time trying it and I have to say that it’s not that bad!

Sunday evening after C. came home we went bowling. It’s been on his family bucket list for awhile. None of us did very well but it was a fun night out together.

2. Watching – This weekend Dana and I watched Parasite, winner of the Academy Awards: Best Picture.  We also watched Gemini Man, starring Will Smith. I started binge watching The Stranger on Netflix.  It’s based on Harlan Coben’s book, which I read several years ago, but I don’t remember anything about it…#bookamnesia!  It’s so suspenseful and I highly recommend!

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3. Reading – I haven’t gotten in much reading time (because, see above!). I’ve been slowly making my way through Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson. It’s a suspense/thriller book, which is usually my favorite genre. But it’s moving a little slow for me.

4. Cooking – This week’s menu included Vegan Meatballs with pasta, Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Cialntro Chimichurri Sauce, Lentil & Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus Wraps and Sheet Pan Garlic Tofu & Brussels Sprouts.

5. Baking – This week I had time to bake. I never was a big baker, but since becoming vegan, this was my first time baking anything. I am always a fan of muffins since I can freeze the leftovers. I made Vegan Cranberry Orange Muffins. They were super simple to make and used applesauce instead of eggs. The muffins had a different consistency than what we are used to, but they were moist.

ICYMI this week on the blog: 

Thursday I wrote about the Westchester Knicks.

Sharing with Friday Favorites!  Have a great weekend!

Family Fun at the Westchester Knicks

Did you know that Westchester County has its own basketball team?! For years, the Westchester Knicks have been playing at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. Our family tries to attend at least one of their basketball games every year, as they are a lot of fun and close to home!

The Westchester Knicks are part of the G League, the NBA’s minor league basketball association. This year there are currently 28 teams that are part of the G League. Each team is affiliated with an NBA team, with the Westchester Knicks affiliated with the New York Knicks. Some of the G League players that you see now have a chance to be drafted to an NBA team in the future.

If you have basketball fans, seeing a Westchester Knicks game is a great way to enjoy some family fun at a reasonable price. Ticket prices start at just $11.50! And with 25 home games a season, there’s plenty of opportunity to catch a game or two. For those die-hard fans, season passes are available.

The team mascot, Hudson, makes an appearance at all of the games. Plus, there’s lots of entertainment including the dance cam, guest participation activities and a half-time show.

Food is available for purchase at the concession stands (one on each level). The Westchester County Center serves Nathan’s hot dogs, fries, chicken tenders and more. You can also purchase a variety of snacks like hot pretzels, popcorn and nachos.

As of this posting, there are four more home games where you can see the Westchester Knicks in action. Cheer on our county’s home team and enjoy some family fun!

The Details:
Westchester Knicks
Westchester County Center
198 Central Avenue
White Plains, NY 10606

Parking: $15 in the Westchester County Center parking lot

Tickets: Ticket prices range from $11.50 – $147.50+ based on seat location and ticket demand.

Schedule: Please check the Westchester Knicks site for most up-to-date schedule. The basketball season runs from mid-November through the end of March.

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Five on Friday {Happy Leap Year!}

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Hello Friday, I’m so happy to see you! We don’t have any major plans this weekend, which is actually nice, since I feel like our past few weekends have been pretty busy. My son is on a two night Boy Scout camping trip, so we won’t be seeing a lot of him this weekend. Plus, it’s been a super busy couple of weeks at work and I can really use the downtime to relax. Here are five from this week:

1.  NYBG Orchid Show – Saturday we went to the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) Orchid Show.  I had seen ads for the show and I had to go! I love orchids, despite not being able to keep them alive for the life of me.  We ended up buying a family membership for the year and I can’t wait to go back in the spring when the outside gardens will be in bloom.  The orchid show was beautiful and I have a post linked below if you’d like to see more pics!   

2. Reading – This week I finished Regretting You by Colleen Hoover. This was my first five star read of the year! I love Hoover, so I may be a bit biased.  However, this was such an emotional, but good read. 

3. Westchester County Knicks Game – Sunday we went to the Westchester County Knicks game.  Dana heads up the Westchester Chapter of the Binghamton Alumni and this is their annual family event.  It’s always a fun time watching the basketball game.  Unfortunately, the Knicks have been on a losing streak, and lost this game too.

4. Cooking – We’ve been cooking up a storm.  This week’s menu included Lasagna Soup, Vegan Alfredo, Roasted Potato Tacos with Chimichurri Sauce (pictured above) and Garlic Sesame Noodles.  I also made Chickpea Salad Sandwiches for lunch during the week. 

5. Eating – Monday we had a February birthday celebration for two of my HR colleagues. One of our coworkers made these Mardi Gras cupcakes. How pretty are they?! I brought one home for the kids to share.

ICYMI this week on the blog: 

Tuesday I wrote about the NYBG Orchid Show.

Sharing with Friday Favorites!  Have a great weekend!

2020 NYBG Orchid Show

Step into a colorful world of flowers at the New York Botanical Garden’s 18th annual Orchid Show. This year’s show is the masterpiece of floral designer to the stars, Jeff Leatham. Inspired by the kaleidoscope, Leatham transformed 30,000 square feet of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory into a dazzling, colorful feast for the eyes.

Thousands of orchids are on display at the orchid show. From pinks and purples to whites, yellows and oranges, you’ll see orchids of all shapes and colors, from all over the world.

The exhibit begins with a show stopping 10-foot tall mirrored orchid sculpture that sits below hanging rows of purple and pink orchids.

In the opening gallery you will also find the Leatham vanda orchid, named after the designer. Each gallery has its own unique color scheme and vibe.

To get from the desert gallery to the rain forest gallery you will walk through a kaleidoscope tunnel of color. Teens will love the Instagrammable photo ops!

In the rain forest gallery, orchids decorate colorfully painted bamboo posts. There’s also a staircase where you can get an elevated view of the rain forest.

One of the last galleries, “Rise and Shine”, features arches of orchids in shades of orange, yellow and red. Below the arches sits a giant reflecting pool.

You can visit the NYBG Orchid Show now through April 19th!

The Details:
NYBG Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Gardens
2900 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
(718) 817-8700

Dates: February 15 – April 19, 2020
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday and select holiday Mondays, 10 AM – 6 PM
Parking: $20

Tickets:
Weekdays: $23/adults, $20/seniors (65+), $20/students w/ID, $10 children (2-12), Free/children under 2
Weekends and Monday Holidays: $30/adults, $28/seniors (65+), $28/students w/ID, $15/children (2-12), Free/children under 2

Tips:
*Get there early! We arrived a little after the 10 AM opening and it was crowded.

*Dress in layers. Although we visited in February and it was cold out, the temperature inside the gardens was very warm!

*Strollers have to be parked outside the Conservatory.

*If you think you’ll be visiting the garden again during the year, it’s cheaper to purchase a membership.

*Food is available for purchase at the Pine Tree Cafe (casual eatery) and the Hudson Garden Grill (sit down restaurant).

*Enjoy a 25 minute tram ride around the gardens, included with your admission. Hold on to your admission ticket, as you will need it to board the tram.

*Because it is winter, there is not much blooming in the outdoor gardens. This was a quick trip for us and even with the tram ride, our visit was about 2 hours.

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Five on Friday {February is Flying By}

Hello Friday! February has been flying by and I can’t believe the month is almost over! I am so ready for the weekend though.  Even though it was a four day work week, it felt super long! I got no posts published this week on the blog.  I’ve been working on some major projects at work and have been literally sitting and staring at my computer screens ALL day.  Coming home the last thing I wanted to do was sit with my laptop. The kids had no school this week and it was nice to not have any after school/evening activities.  Here are five from this week:

1.  Supper Club – This past weekend we hosted our monthly supper club.  This month’s theme was Latin American. I made Oyster Mushroom Ropa Vieja and Dana made Cauliflower steaks with Chimichurri Sauce and tostones.  I say this every month, but it was a delicious meal!

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2. Reading – This week I finished The Escape Room by Megan Goldin.  It was a fast paced thriller which had some aspects that were a little unbelievable.  But overall, an enjoyable, fast read. I also had book club this week where we discussed this month’s book, Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate.  This was a reread for me, but was as good of a read as the first time I read it.

3. Circus – Sunday night the Royal Hanneford Circus hosted us for their evening performance.  Despite performing in Westchester for over 50 years, this was the first time we had seen this circus.  It was a great show and a fun night out.

4. Walkway Over the Hudson – Monday we all had off from school/work.  Since it was such a nice day we drove up to Poughkeepsie and walked the Walkway Over the Hudson.  There’s always beautiful views of the Hudson River.

5. Eating – After our walk we found a new to us restaurant near Vassar College for lunch.  Twisted Soul Concepts has a variety of vegan menu options. One of our faves were these Korean Grilled Tofu Steamed Buns.

Sharing with Friday Favorites!  Have a great weekend!

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Five on Friday {President’s Day Weekend}


Happy Valentine’s Day! Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of the holiday.  I feel like it’s become an overly commercialized Hallmark holiday. So we aren’t really celebrating in a big way, but we did get some chocolates and candy for the kids. The kids have a week off for February break starting tomorrow. I only have a three day weekend but we are hoping to squeeze some family fun in. Tomorrow night we are hosting our monthly supper club – which should be another delicious evening! Here are five from this week:

1.  All-County Concert – last weekend my daughter played her alto saxophone in the All-County concert.  This concert is where kids from 5 different school districts come together to play in one band, orchestra or sing together. There was a mandatory almost 8 hours of practice before the concert.  Plus she put in lots of practice time on her own. The band did an amazing job and even played a Lady Gaga mix!

We surprised her flowers and chocolate for such a great job! 

2. Reading – This week I finished Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown. It was an okay read, but I didn’t love it.

3. Eating – last weekend after a very chilly walk by the river my husband and I stopped at Peaceful Provisions.  They make vegan doughnuts and we enjoyed this deliciousness! 

4. Buying – I’ve been on the lookout for a large tote pocketbook for work. My only criteria was that it needed to be large enough to fit a book and have an outside pocket for my keys and phone. I found this bag at Marshall’s and am loving it. It even came with a matching smaller hand bag and a clutch/wristlet. I love all things gray plus it’s PETA vegan approved. 

5. Cooking – This week’s menu included Vegan Buddha Bowls (pictured above), Portabella Mushroom Reubens (minus the cheese), veggie burgers with fries and ramen soup. 

ICYMI this week on the blog:

Tuesday I shared my January reads.

Sharing with Friday Favorites!  Have a great weekend!

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January Reads {2020}

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January flew by and I did A LOT of reading! This year, I set my annual goal of 75 books again. I was short last year by TWO books! But, I’ m off to a good start for this year. I can’t remember the last time that I read 8 books in one month! I’m trying in the new year to read at least 5 books a month: one book off my own shelf, one historical fiction book, one YA book, one non-fiction book and one fiction book. I realize sometimes I can double up on my reading, like reading a YA historical fiction or a historical fiction book off my own shelf. I’m not very good at sticking with reading goals though, so we’ll see. We are almost two weeks into February and I only have one book read! I’m sharing my reads with Steph and Jana’s Show Us Your Book linkup. Here are my January reads:

2 stars:

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Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World by Bob & Jenna Torres – Around mid-December, after watching Game Changers on Netflix, our family decided to go vegan. So, being new to veganism, I decided to read this book. Some of the information was useful, but I found the author to be so condescending and having a “holier than thou” attitude about being vegan. Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan.

3 Stars:

Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer – Delilah is a high school loner who prefers to spend her time reading. When she discovers that she can speak to Oliver, one of the characters in her favorite fairy tale book, the two try to create a plan where they can be together. Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors. I own almost every one of her books so I had to get this book that she co-wrote with her daughter. I’ve had this for years and finally decided to read it off my shelf. This book is VERY YA and I wasn’t a big fan.

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Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis – This book is geared towards women who want to achieve their goals. It overs motivation and advice in her tell-it-to-you-straight manner, but didn’t really tell me anything I haven’t heard or read before. I enjoyed Girl, Wash Your Face more and after listening to a few episodes of her podcast, I think I’ve had enough of Hollis.

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The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald – Abi Knight’s teen daughter is brain dead but being kept alive because she’s pregnant. The police rule her fall as an accident. But Abi is determined to find out what really happened that night to her daughter. This was a good, suspenseful read.

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Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson – This book opens at 16 year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony. The story then goes back to the past and tells the story of her parents and grandparents and how they all got to this moment in time. The chapters weren’t labeled and I found the jumping from different character’s stories to be a bit disorienting. Overall, I found the book to be an okay read.

4 stars:

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The Arrangement by Robyn Harding – Natalie Murphy is a poor art student trying to survive in NYC. She learns about being a sugar daddy from a classmate and thinks that she’s found the answer to all of her financial problems. Then she meets Gabe and ends up falling in love with him. So when he unexpectedly ends things with her, she doesn’t take it very well. This was a fast-paced, suspenseful read for me.

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Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – Emira, is a 25 year-old African-American woman who makes a living babysitting two white Caucasian children. Unfortunately, she’s involved in a confrontation at a local grocery store, when the security guard thinks that she has kidnapped the toddler she is watching. The incident ends up being videotaped and mom Alix, attempts to make things right for Emira. I went into this book not knowing anything about it. I was pleasantly surprised at Reid’s writing and her take on race and privilege.

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What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon – Anne Gallagher was very close with her grandfather Eoin. When he dies, she fulfills her promise to him and brings his ashes back to Ireland. During her visit she ends up being transported back to 1921 and is mistaken for her great grandmother, whom she looks just like. Anne adjusts to living in Ireland and during this time period meets Thomas, who helps her navigate this new world. This book is historical fiction and time travel. It started out super slow for me. I only stuck it out because this is my work book club’s current read. I am glad that I finished reading, because about half-way through the story picks up and had me hooked.

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Five on Friday {Where’s Winter?!}

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Hello Friday! For once, I can say the week feels like it’s flown by! It’s been busy with the usual and as always, I’m happy for the weekend to be here. In the beginning of the week we were expected to get some snow/sleet yesterday……but nothing! Rainy and 40 degrees. It’s too warm for snow! Today, there’s a high of 51 degrees…..in February! I’m not going to lie, I don’t mind not having freezing temps. But this is winter. I want snow days (one of the few things I like about the season!) which require SNOW!! Here are five from this week:

1. Date Night – Last Friday night the Westchester Broadway Theatre kindly hosted us for their press night production of Five Guys Named Moe. I have a blog post linked below all about the show. It was a great production and a fun date night out.

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2. Watching – This weekend Dana and I watched Hustlers and the Downtown Abbey movie. Both were good in their own way. I didn’t realize that Hustlers was based on a true story. And even though I didn’t watch the Super Bowl or the half-time show, I did see pictures and everyone’s comments. Both Hustlers and the half-time show prove that J. Lo has an amazing body and I hope to look that good when I’m her age!

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I also watched Miss Americana on Netflix. If you are a Taylor Swift fan you have probably already watched this! And even if you aren’t a big fan, I recommend watching. I enjoyed watching her evolution from teen country star to modern day music wonder woman.

3. Reading – I am almost finished reading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. After a family tragedy, a mother and her son attempt to escape Mexico and find refuge in America. They go from middle-class to migrants as they make a long and dangerous trip. I think this book is a good read. In my opinion, it’s well-written and had me invested in the story from the beginning.

I was halfway through reading it before discovering all the controversy over this book. Critics have pointed out that Cummins, who has identified herself as white, is writing the story from the perspective of Mexican American characters. They believe that this isn’t her story to tell and allege that Cummins has written many errors in her descriptions of Mexico. Oprah selected this book as her book club selection and after lots of backlash about the choice has stated, “….this selection has struck an emotional chord and created a need for a deeper, more substantive discussion.” The book is already being adapted into a movie.

4. Cooking – This week we made Peanut Tofu with Coconut Rice, Instant Pot Pad Thai Stir Fry (not in the Instant Pot), Spicy Beanless Garden Chili, Mediterranean Wraps and Vegan Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. We’ve been cooking A LOT and eating at home most of the time. A lot of restaurants don’t offer very many vegan options. Plus, we feel like we can make pretty tasty food at home which is a lot healthier and cheaper than what we’d get eating out.

5. Internet Reads
*Any other documentary fans? I’ve got some watching to do….but I love that Miss Americana made the list!
*It’s almost time for spring cleaning! I can use all the help I can get!
*I love the sleep score tracking on my Fitbit. However, I’ve been noticing that I need to work on getting better sleep. Even though I’ve been going to bed before 11 PM every night, I’m barely getting a little over six hours of actual sleep. Any sleep advice I can find, I read! I’m even thinking about getting a weighted blanket. Do any of you use a weighted blanket?

ICYMI this week:

Wednesday I wrote about Five Guys Named Moe.

Sharing with Friday Favorites! Have a great weekend!