Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Welcome to My Website!

Latest Book Updates: 

The Plus One is a companion novel to Keeping Christmas and is now available in ebook and print. For those of you who wanted Rachel to find love, this is her story! Click on the link up above to my books for adults to find out more.

People ask me what kinds of books I write, and I never answer with one genre because I love to write a little of everything! My middle grade books are not currently available *sad face* but my contemporary sweet romances are. You'll always find book updates at the top of this post so you know the latest!

What's coming next? How about the first in a zombie romantic comedy? Yup. Zombies. Not gross ones, though.

So pull up a chair and have a look around. You know where to find me if you need me.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

I Tried Hungryroot, and Here's My Thorough Review

I was completely new go the idea of mailed food kits, and thought they were something I would never try. Especially as someone who is a vegetarian trying to eat more whole-foods plant-based diet. But I kept seeing ads for the Hungryroot meal order kit on Facebook. And while I generally go out of my way to avoid hyped products, this one intrigued me. 

When I saw that Hungryroot was vegan (I'm trying to use less dairy) and didn't use wheat (I don't tolerate wheat starch well), that was a plus. Pretty much all their dishes are made in ten minutes or less. They basically give you prepared produce, protein, and sauces, and you assemble them to make your dish.

All of their meals are fewer than 500 calories a serving, and some are under 300. And then you have calorie room for fruit or treats and extra protein during the day if you want. A lot of their food is also on the lower end of carb counts which is important to me as a diabetic. And since my healing back still limits how much time I can be on my feet, the idea of a week's worth of plant-based meals really appealed to me. They do use soy, but they have some soy-free meals, and they have more things in product development. I wouldn't be surprised if they have more soy- or nut-free options in the future.

They have two plans (I took this from their website):
The Good Life
  • 5 meals (2 servings each)
  • 5 sides, snacks or sweets
  • $99 per week ($79 for your first box)
The Starter Set
  • 3 meals (2 servings each)
  • 4 sides, snacks or sweets
  • $69 per week ($59 for your first box)
But you can customize your box to include more meals and fewer sweets, or all breakfasts, or multiples of your favorites, so that's nice. And they have a progress bar thingy that goes up or down as you add and delete, so it's easy to see how much room you have. It also won't let you add things to the cart you don't have room for. As a brain-tired mother who can't deal in the abstract most days, I appreciate that.

So when I found a fifty-percent-off discount, I had to try it. I went with The Good Life subscription. I loved that I could customize my box, and I did, substituting a breakfast item for a savory item and switching out meals and treats I found more appealing than others. I made sure to include their Chickpea Almond Cookie Dough and their Black Bean Brownie Batter, as people rave about them. And since there is no eggs and no flour in the dough or batter, you can eat them raw!

When I received the box, the items at the bottom were cold. Everything at the top was barely cool at all, and the ice packs were either mostly or all melted. If I hadn't been home to receive the box that afternoon, everything would have been hot by evening.

My first box was mostly a hit. I figured I would spread the dishes out over a week or more. Here's my break down and how many stars I give each dish/item out of five.

Sweet Potato Pad Thai--least liked of the bunch. I think the sauce got watered down too much, and I tasted more vinegar than peanut, but maybe that's how Pad Thai is supposed to be? Never had it before this. Wanted to love this, but wasn't really a fan of the sweet potatoes in this dish. Kohlrabi noodles would be amazing. I ended up adding some peanut butter, onion and garlic powder, and soy sauce to the leftovers to give more flavor. But it is a fan favorite, so I'm likely just in the minority of folks who don't care for this one. ★★

Ginger Tahini Yuba Noodles--I could eat packs of these every single day. I tried them cold. They were closer to the feeling of thin seitan strips than actual noodles, but I liked them better that way. ★★★★★

Black Bean Brownie Batter--ate every bit of uncooked batter over a week. I recommend using it up before five days, as it got a little weird tasting by day seven. (Could also have been because I kept sticking my fingers in to get bites.) But that just means you don't have to try to make it last. SO GOOD. I'm going to try to replicate this on my own. ★★★★★

Chickpea Almond Batter--not so fond of this raw. I scooped out about two tablespoons at a time and cooked in a ramekin in the microwave for an individual "cookie" I ate hot with a spoon. VERY good that way. Also going to try to replicate. ★★★ raw, ★★★★★ cooked

General Tso's Tofu--Good. Pretty rich. The lemongrass tofu had a slight taste I didn't care for, but it's not the seasoning--it's from the type of tofu used. Not too noticeable if you don't look for it. I loved the texture. ★★★★

Lemon Kale Caesar Salad--I love the concept. The artichokes were almost pureed (was expecting a little chunkier), and I would have preferred a fresher artichoke flavor. A little extra lemon enhanced it. I didn't care for the chickpea Alfredo turned into dressing, as it tasted more like a thin hummus. A cashew-based dressing or even just olive oil and vinegar would have been better. It would have been four or five stars with better dressing. Quinoa and kale are an amazing combo. And thanks to these guys I know I like raw golden beets. Great mix of textures minus the dressing. ★★★

Kohlrabi Tofu Eggplant Pasta--oh my gosh. I love this dish so much I could eat it EVERY day. I never had kohlrabi noodles, and after I tried this dish I called all over tarnation trying to find a grocery store that carried kohlrabi. No one does. So I will only be able to get kohlrabi noodles through Hungryroot until I plant a fall garden.

The eggplant caponata is amazingly perfect. I added almost another tablespoon to the dish because I like richer flavors. I don't know how they got the burgers so firm, but they were perfect as well, crumbled into the dish. I would eat this every single day for weeks and not get tired of it. ★★★★★

Warm Lentil Moroccan Carrots--I didn't know what to expect from these, but they ended up being one of my favorite dishes. The only thing I would change is cooking the lentils a little bit more as they were quite undercooked, which is the only reason I took off a star. Leftovers are equally delicious. The coconut curry's heat is well balanced with the sweet carrots and savory/tangy lentil salad. I don't like things that are too spicy, and this was perfect. ★★★★
Crispy Sprouts Brussels Bake--I put off making this because it used the oven and the mix of ingredients seemed weird. I should have made it sooner.

Tip: don't add extra salt to the sprouts as they say you can before baking. The cheese is salty enough. But weird as the combination of all the ingredients went, it was so delicious. It vies with the kohlrabi noodles for being my favorite dish. Don't be afraid of adding the black bean, corn, and cucumber salad to this as recommended. Takes Brussels sprouts to the next level. ★★★★★

Crispy Coconut Hash--would have loved to try this, but I opened the bag of sweet potato ribbons today, and they were slimy and sour. I checked the date and it says "best before June 21," which is today (Thursday). They're so gross now that they likely would have been going bad had I opened them a few days ago (Monday would have been the fifth day since they were delivered last Wednesday, and the meals are supposed to be guaranteed fresh for five days past delivery), so I was really disappointed in that. It may be a result of the produce being at room temp when I opened the box, even though I immediately unpacked it and put everything in the refrigerator. I could make my own sweet potato ribbons, but that would kind of defeat the purpose of paying extra for meal prep.
Verdict: Would I get Hungryroot again? If I had the disposable income, yes. At full price it is expensive for a person who cooks everything from scratch. But if you're the type who gets fast food a few times per week, you'd probably spend close to the same amount for Hungryroot while saving your health. I ate so much better this week as a result. I would just hope having ingredients go bad wouldn't be a regular occurrence.

If you want to try it, I have a coupon for $30 off your first box. That makes The Good Life box $69 to try, or The Starter Set box $39. You can skip weeks or cancel your subscription very easily if you decide it's not for you without talking to a real person. (I always have my husband cancel things like cable over the phone because I'm scared of salespeople.) But you may end up loving it just for the brownie batter!

Full disclosure: if you go through this link, it'll give you the $30 off, and give me $30 off a box, too. I'm not an affiliate, but I do get rewarded when you order through the link. I'm seriously considering making an order of brownie batter alone and freezing most of it!

If you order, tell me how you like it! And if you have any questions I can answer for you, please ask in the comment section.

***Disclaimer***I am not in any way connected with Hungryroot other than being a customer. My opinions are wholly my own.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Strollin' (Strollin'), Strollin' (Strollin'), Strollin' By a River

This week I got permission from my physical therapist to start exercising by walking on land (vs in a pool) occasionally for 20-30 minutes. So what did I do tonight on my fifteen-week post-op anniversary?

I walked on a paved river trail with my husband, about 2.5 miles. I wanted to get moving with my recovery since I set a goal to climb Mount Timpanogos next summer. (More on that in a different post.) 

I also wanted to break in my new running shoes. (Life-changing shoes--more on those later, too.)

Yes, that was ambitious.

Yes, I was barely moving at the end of it.

Yes, I looked like a drunk person because for the last mile I kept losing my balance and hanging on to my husband's arm.

Yes, I screamed when a black cat darted along the road in the dark. James saw it beforehand. I didn't because I was making sure I didn't trip and I was looking out for bigger nocturnal predators.

Like cougars or bobcats or bears.

On a trail loop in the city.

I didn't say I was rational.

But it sure felt really good to complete that trail when a month ago I was still walking with a cane and spending most of my days in bed. Yeah, I still hurt all the time, and have to rest a lot, and spend a lot of time in bed. But things are getting better.

If you had a fusion, or any physical challenge or surgery, you might be led to believe that your recovery will look like this:

All my research told me that either the fusion would take or it wouldn't. That I would rapidly continue to get better, or I would stay not feeling so great or be worse off after surgery.

Here's what it's been like for me:

My graphing skills suck, but you get the drift. 

The fact is that everyone is different, even with how they heal.

Five weeks ago, I couldn't even sit in a wheelchair for a full hour at a time. I spent most of my day at a beloved writing conference lying on a couch with a back brace. I wore it often and walked with a cane until about two weeks ago. Then magically, right at three months, I started healing at a much faster rate.

Healing isn't linear, regardless of what kind.

I'm learning to be gentle with myself. To toss out expectations and do what I can reasonably do every day. And push myself when it's safe to.

After all, I'm tough. I am literally part titanium now.