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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The First Read Through: Step One of Revising

I hate writing first drafts. Some of you know that already. I hate them because, it takes forever to get what's in your head down on paper. And then, after you've done all that, it's most likely crap. That's not to say that all of it is crap, but chances are that most of it is.

Yes, I wrote all of that

But with revising, you can prefect your manuscript. It makes you feel accomplished each time you fix a plot hole or add more depth to a character. You can add new scenes, take out old ones, even completely rip your work to shreds. But, you know that whatever you do is for the good of the story. That is why I love revising. Well, at least the idea of revising. I'll probably hate it by the time I'm done.

This is my first time revising a book. Ever. I'm sort of nervous and sort of scared, because I'm not sure what to expect, but it can't be any harder than writing a book. At least, that's the way I see it now.

It took me a long time to decide on how to do my revising process. I looked at numerous blog posts by experienced authors, publishers, editors, literary agents, you name it. They each had their own unique style of revising. From their advice, I pooled together my own revising steps. Today is all about step one.

The Read Through:

It literally kills me to do this. I want to dive right in. Get started completely turning my novel inside out. But instead, I have to patiently read through it and mark what needs to be fixed on a separate sheet of paper.

The main point of doing a general read through is to find plot holes. Like, if a character (unintentionally) disappears for several chapters. That's a plot hole. My main problem is forgetting that the MC (main character) is carrying something with her. Or sometimes her injuries will mysteriously heal themselves. Not good.

Also, I tend just to narrate the story and not give any of the MC's thoughts, feelings, or emotions. Which is why my first draft turned out a little dry and sparse on the emotional side. My beta-readers have (not so subtly) pointed this out.

What I really want to do during the first read through is look at every individual line and consider it thoughtfully. Unfortunately, that's not the way the first read through works. The goal is to look at the whole picture.

I was looking at Veronica Roth's blog and reading a post on her editing process for Divergent book 3. During her read through she posted these wonderful questions to think about while reading. So, I'm going to borrow them today (paraphrased of course), because I think they really do sum up the whole first read through process.

  • Do all the characters have a clear presence throughout the story? If they're missing, are they supposed to be?
  • When you reach the ending, have you built your story effectively?
  • Is the pacing right?
  • Have you unloaded too much information on the reader in some places?
  • Are there any extra elements in the story (for example, characters, scenes, etc.)?
  • Is there anything that needs to be added to the book?
  • Are there any plot holes?
  • And these next few are ones I've come up with, is the voice the same throughout the story?
  • Are the readers missing information (MC's thoughts, twists in plot, etc.)?
  • Are the minor (and some of the major) characters just 'there'? 
  • Does the MC go through a change during the story? 
So, those are all the questions that are running through my head as I read through. I've been too busy to sit down and read the whole thing at once, but, trust me, I'm getting there. And once I do, I'll continue my revision series.

Continue Reading...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Balsamic Tuna Salad

I have an obsession with balsamic vinegar. I basically put it on every thing. From veggies to meat. I haven't tried it on fruit yet but I will soon.

I also know I promised a post on revisions but I'm feeling lazy so I decided to post a recipe.

To tell the truth, I never really liked tuna salad. You know, the kind made with mayonnaise? I don't know why. I'm just strange like that. Maybe the tuna flavor was too strong? Who knows.

But this isn't very tuna-y at all. Of course, it is fish so you can taste it some, but the balsamic vinegar complements it wonderfully. Add a little bit of crunchy celery and onion and its perfect.If you don't like tuna, canned salmon would work as well. Maybe even chicken. If you try it out with something other than tuna let me know in the comments!

The balsamic dressing works on salads, too. Or just with raw veggies. Maybe even with pasta? As you can see, I have an obsession with this stuff, too. ;)

The best part about tuna salad is that it's so easy to make. Not to mention quick. It's also perfect for an on-the-go lunch if you make it ahead.

My favorite way to eat it is on a leaf of iceberg lettuce. But if you can have bread, that would work too. Or just eat it by itself!

Balsamic Dressing: 

Dash of salt and pepper
3 tsp. ground thyme
3 tsp. dried basil
3 tsp. dried oregano
3 T. olive oil
6 oz. (roughly 3/4 c.) balsamic vinegar

1. Put ingredients into a glass jar with a lid (so you can shake it). Add them in order.
2. Shake!
3. Pour on anything your heart desires. Refrigerate left-overs. The oil might harden, so it's best to put it in some warm water at least 10 minutes before using.

 Tuna Salad:

1 can of tuna
2 T. chopped celery
1 T. chopped onion
2-3 T. balsamic dressing (recipe above) 

1. Break up tuna with a fork.
2. Add all of the ingredients and stir until well combined.
3. And that's it!

Inquiry of the Day:

Do you like or loathe tuna salad?

We obviously know my feelings about it!
Continue Reading...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Paleo Month: The Rest of Week One (Minus the Weekend)

I meant to post on Wednesday. Obviously that didn't happen. But I have a very good excuse! I was finishing up a speech for English and it took up most of my day. Plus I was kinda stressed out, so, yeah- that was why I didn't post.

Okay, onto the good stuff. Since I'm a few days behind on posting what I ate each day during week one of our Paleo month, I'll just give you the whole menu now. Why am I doing this? Because maybe the curious reader out there wants to give Paleo a shot and needs somewhere to start. Or maybe you're just struggling with what to make for dinner. Whatever the case may be, I hope you benefit somehow from this post. Even if it's a few weeks or months from now.

By the way, I failed at taking pictures. When something yummy is put in front of me, I hardly want to stop and take pictures! I hope you can sympathize with me. I also apologize in advance for all the links. But I wanted to give credit to the people who came up with such amazing food!

To see what I ate on Day One visit this post.

Day Two:

Breakfast: Porridge with some cinnamon honey, blueberries, and walnuts

Lunch: Mulligatawny soup (this soup has diced chicken breast, carrots, chicken broth, curry, we added cabbage, and coconut milk stirred in), and lots of raw veggies on the side

Dinner: Baked butternut squash gnocchi topped with tomato sauce, steak with sautéed onions and mushrooms, and steamed broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, yellow squash, and zucchini

Day Three:

Breakfast: Butternut squash porridge with cinnamon, honey, blueberries, and almond milk

Lunch: leftover gnocchi, TJ's basil and sun-dried tomato chicken sausage, and vegetables

Dinner: Saffron "rice" (without the saffron) and fish or pork shoulder steaks

Day Four:

Breakfast: Porridge with blueberries, walnuts, and honey

Lunch: Eggy Wrap with mesquite turkey, shredded carrots, Boston lettuce, and Dijon mustard, cucumber and red bell peppers, walnuts and blueberries, and sweet potato chips

Dinner: Curry chicken tenders from TJ's, green beans, and baked sweet potatoes

Day Five: 

Breakfast: TJ's chicken apple sausage, and butternut squash porridge (using sweet potato) with blueberries, walnuts, cinnamon, and almond milk

Lunch: turkey wrapped around a lettuce leaf, carrots, cucumbers, red bell peppers, a Clementine, walnuts, cherries, and golden raisins

Dinner: Turkey chili and grain-free cornbread

 Again, sorry there aren't any pictures. I wish I could remember to take them, but like I said- when food's put in front of me I will start to eat it before I think, "Shoot! I should've taken a picture!" 

Inquiry of the Day:

What was the best thing you ate this week?

The best thing I ate this week was the butternut squash gnocchi. It was delicious!

Tomorrow, a post on starting to revise my novel!

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Day One of Paleo Month

We started eating Paleo yesterday and I have to say it wasn't so bad. I ate a lot more veggies than I usually do and felt great about everything I was eating. Originally, I meant to take pictures of all my meals, but obviously that didn't happen. I'll try better today.

Yesterday, for breakfast we had pancakes (We used the frozen waffle recipe from the Eat Like a Dinosaur cookbook. For future reference, they're better waffles.) and chicken apple sausages from Trader Joes. Even though the pancakes got kinda burnt they were still tasty with maple syrup. But, then again, what isn't tasty with maple syrup? ;)

For lunch, we had guests, so we served this filling for spring rolls. We used that filling and rice wrappers on New Year's Eve to make spring rolls. But rice isn't allowed on the Paleo diet, so we just made the filling. It had cabbage, carrots, ground turkey, fish sauce, soy sauce (even though soy isn't allowed on the Paleo diet, we used Bragg's because basically none of the harmful stuff in soy is in Bragg's amino acids), onion, ginger, and garlic. I wrapped mine up in a Boston lettuce leaf taco-style. It was even better than the rice wrappers!

For dinner, it was our breakfast-for-dinner night, so we had the zucchini latkes from, again, the Eat Like a Dinosaur cookbook, and omelets. I had a very interesting omelet. It had roasted butternut squash and red bell pepper in it. I have to say, it was really good! I dipped some in balsamic vinegar and that really brought out all the flavors.

Today, I'll do better to take more pictures. We already had breakfast and I failed to take a picture of that, but hopefully I'll remember lunch and dinner.

I also want to start revising my novel today. I was hoping to print it out yesterday, but I didn't have time. For those of you that don't know or remember, I wrote a novel in November (I participated in National Novel Writing Month) and then I took a month off. I didn't touch my novel during that month. Some of you are probably asking, "but wouldn't you have started revising at the beginning of January?" Yes and no. I finally finished writing my whole novel on December 20th, so that is why I'm starting to revise now. I can't wait to get started!

Oh, and we have freakishly cold weather in Indiana now. It's like three degrees outside right now. Brrrrr!

Okay, I think I'm done rambling. :)

Inquiry of the Day: 

Is it cold now where you live?

If it isn't, I envy you! It's not even snowing now! I'm not a happy person when it's cold and there's no snow. 
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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Simple Basil Pesto

Sorry it's been so long since my last post; school is really starting to get back into full swing mode. That means no time for posting. :( But the school year's half-way over already! Woo hoo! :D

I would've taken pictures of the pesto, however I was to busy gobbling it up to stop and take pics! I promise I will take pictures, though! I made this really yummy pizza last night with pesto instead of tomato sauce. I put green, yellow, and red bell peppers, onions, and chicken with a dash of nutritional yeast on it. Unfortunately it wasn't Paleo, because I used this crust. But it was still one of the best pizzas I've ever had!

This is actually on Udi's gluten-free crust. It was my mom's pizza. And it has cheese

The pesto, however, is Paleo! And easy on the wallet because it uses walnuts instead of pine nuts. It's vegan, too, and you don't even miss the cheese! Bonus!

But beware, it is an unsightly green color. It looks like toxic waste. That is until you mix it with spaghetti or put it on pizza. Then it becomes a bright spring green color. I ate it with rice pasta the other night, but, for a grain-free option, you could use zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. I even found a recipe for sweet potato linguine in this book! I haven't tried the recipe yet, but I really want too.

This is only the second time I've ever had pesto (The first was at the Spaghetti Factory with lobster ravioli. Yum!), but I definitely know it won't be the last!

2 c. packed basil
1/4 c. walnuts
1/2 c. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 T. nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt   

1. Give the basil a whiz in the food processor until it is roughly chopped.
2. Add the walnuts and blend until the walnuts are pretty fine.
3. While the food processor is on, drizzle the olive oil in slowly.
4. Once it's incorporated into the pesto, add the garlic, nutritional yeast, pepper, and salt.
5. Blend well.
6. Serve with pasta, gnocchi, on pizza, or on top of chicken. No matter what way you serve it, it's delicious!

Inquiry of the Day:

Are you a pesto are tomato sauce person?

I like them both equally, but my favorite sauce to put on top of pasta is this recipe.
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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Butternut and Black Bean Scramble

Yesterday, I told you how bad legumes were for your body, but now I'm giving you a recipe with black beans in it! I'm such a hypocrite, I know. I still believe that legumes aren't the best thing for your digestive tract, but we have tons of beans in our pantry to use up.  And believe me, I'm not complaining about it. I could eat beans for every meal if it was up to me!

So onto the recipe. Lunch yesterday was one of those "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" recipes. We had some things in the fridge that needed to be eaten: tons of roasted butternut squash, lots of beans in the pantry, green onions, and the rest of the ingredients were added to improve the flavor.

I was in sort of a Mexican mood yesterday. Luckily, we had cilantro and avocados (for guacamole). Many moons ago, I tried guacamole and hated it. The taste, the pasty texture, the green color, it was all gross to me. But yesterday was a day of many milestones. I tried guacamole again and decided I like it! Which is good, because the more ways I can get avocado into my diet the better.

You need a condiment on this recipe to improve the flavor. I recommend salsa, guacamole, or sour cream, but you can top it with whatever you desire. It's a great dip for tortilla chips, too. My favorite way to eat it is topped with lots guac and with crushed chips. :)

2 green onions, chopped (including the ends)
1/3 c. chopped bell pepper (any kind will do, we just happened to have yellow on hand)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
scant 2 c. roasted butternut squash
1/2 tsp. cumin
heaping 1 tsp. chili powder
dash of garlic powder
2 T. roughly chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Saute onions and bell pepper with a dash of salt and pepper in a large pan over medium-high heat.
2. When bell pepper is soft, add the black beans and butternut squash.  
3. Stir to combine and let cook for a few minutes 3-4. Add cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder.
4. Let cook a few minutes until piping hot.
5. Stir in cilantro and season with more salt.
6. Serve with guacamole, tortilla chips, or other condiments of your choice.

Makes about 2 1/2 servings

Inquiry of the Day:

Have you ever tried something a long time ago and hated it then but love it now?

I used to think I hated pineapple, but I can't get enough of the stuff now!
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Monday, January 14, 2013

Becoming Paleo

You all probably know that my family and I are going to try eating Paleo for a month. We've tried out a few Paleo recipes and, much to my disappointment, I've felt better after eating meals without grains and legumes (not dairy, because I don't eat it anyways). Why to my disappointment you ask? Because I love legumes. More so than grains (quinoa is an exception). I love bean salad, curries with chickpeas, chickpea flour pizza crusts, black beans in stir fries, re-fried beans, and the list continues. Giving up legumes will be especially hard not only because I love my beans, but also because soy is in everything. Have you ever noticed how expensive soy-free chocolate is? It's cheaper, albeit not as tasty, to make your own.

However, that's not what I came here to talk about. I'm here to explain why we're going Paleo and my view on some of the controversial Paleo foods. There are three simple reasons why we're trying out the Paleo Diet.

1. I Have A Sneaking Suspicion That Grains Are Not Doing My Tummy Any Favors

This is perhaps the most important reason why I'm going grain-free. If this Paleo thing does make us feel better I will probably never put grains back into my diet, but maybe try soaked and sprouted legumes every once in a while.

Grains, legumes, and dairy all contain anti nutrients. Anti nutrients are, in simple terms, compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients. How lovely, I know. Whatever nutrients these foods have are not absorbed by the body. All of these also have lectins, proteins that protect the plant from people who treat to eat them. Lectins damage the walls of the intestines, trick your body into sending it through the intestines undigested, then, to make things even worse, is seen as an invader by the immune system. The body proceeds to attack not only the lectin, but your own body as well.

Here's another reason why grains, legumes, and dairy are so bad.

2. As My Sister Puts It, She Wants To Get "Skinny"

Since I am at my ideal weight, I don't want to lose any more. But I want to get abs, and awesome calves and thighs, and biceps. Not like body-builder muscles, but enough to make me look toned. Hopefully, by getting started now, I'll be in shape for the summer. ;)

3. It's Time To Cut Out The Junk- All Of It

All those "healthy" gluten-free goodies, the non-gluten free goodies, sugar laden items, foods with MSG and other junk, and basically anything else that isn't "real food" needs to go. That means anything that has little nutritional value, lots of sugar, and artificial ingredients gets thrown into the garbage. I can't tell you how excited I am for our "Purging Day" this Saturday. It'll give me great satisfaction to finally throw all this junk out of the house.

Some foods like butter (full fat kind), ghee, agave, and other ingredients are constantly being debated as to if they are Paleo or not. Ultimately, I think it is up to each individual person to decide if they want to eat something or not. My family will probably cut dairy out for a month, see how will feel, and then add raw, hard cheeses and butter to the occasional list.


I think that since agave comes from a plant it is completely okay to use. A little bit here and there won't kill anybody. There are many reasons why agave isn't considered Paleo, but for now I plan to use it until I see significant evidence that it is bad for me.

Unrefined Sugar

This is also called raw sugar or evaporated cane juice. Generally, I don't use much sugar at all, but there are some things where I just need to. Like colored sugar to decorate cupcakes with or powdered sugar for special treats. As with agave, a little bit here and there won't kill me.

Grape seed Oil 

Most vegetable oils (with the exception of olive oil) are not allowed on the Paleo Diet. Oils such as safflower, soybean, corn and sunflower oils all have a very high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Grape seed oil has a lot of omega-6s as well. But so do nuts. And do Paleos not eat nuts? No, they eat them quite a bit. We use grape seed oil fairly sparingly in our house. A 1/4 cup of it in a batch of muffins that yields a dozen hopefully won't damage my daily omega-6 to omega-3 ratio too much. We don't deep fry very much either, but when we do I'll probably continue to use grape seed oil.


Most Paleos don't eat potatoes. However, my dad and I will both be eating potatoes during our Paleo month. Neither of us can afford to lose any more weight, so, to maintain it, we will need more carbs. All the people I've read about who eat Paleo don't eat many carbs because they are trying to lose weight. I'm not trying to lose weight, so I'll be eating starches with at least one meal a day. Maybe even two.

Tapioca Starch (Also Called Manioc)

The same deal that makes potatoes controversial also makes tapioca starch debatable. I say use it, because it helps bind things together. Plus, not that much is necessary to make a recipe work. Most recipes that call for tapioca starch only use a tablespoon or two. It's fairly inexpensive and is a great replacement for the more expensive arrowroot powder.

I think this post has gone on long enough so this is where I leave you. Tomorrow's post brings a new recipe to look forward to!
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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Paleo CoCo Wheats

Say what!?

Paleo CoCo Wheats???? Is that even possible?

Yes, it is. And the best part is, they taste exactly like them. Well, as close as you can get to the real thing anyways. It's creamy, chocolate-y, and has just the right amount of sweetness. Plus, they're super easy to make.

I used to eat CoCo Wheats almost everyday for breakfast. With a splash of creamer they were basically dessert for breakfast. But I loved them. And they were easy for me to make on my own, so they were the ideal breakfast at the time. Looking back, I cringe. That was a lot of sugar for breakfast. They were wheat, too. *shiver*

In a few weeks, my family and I are going to try eating Paleo for a month and see how we feel. Which means no oatmeal for breakfast. It makes me very sad to think about not having oatmeal anymore, because I love to have something hot for breakfast on cold winter days. But I think this is the perfect substitution.

Inspired by this recipe. And my mom came up with it, by the way.

2. T. unsweetened shredded coconut
1 T. pumpkin seeds
1 T. flax seeds
1 T. chia seeds
1 T. cocoa powder, unsweetened
1/4 c. walnuts.
1/8 tsp. salt
3 dates, chopped
3/4 c. boiling water

1. Add all the dry ingredients (not the dates) to a powerful blender, such as a Vita-Mix. Blend into a powder.
2. Meanwhile, boil the water. The quickest way would be to put it in the microwave (we don't use our microwave, but it's fast) or in a stainless steel electric kettle.
3. Pour water into Vita-Mix and slowly increase speed from low to high. Blend until smooth.
4. Pour into a bowl. Top with shredded coconut, strawberries, cherries, almond or coconut milk, nuts (almonds or pecans would probably be good), or even chocolate chips.

Inquiry of the Day:

What was one of your favorite breakfasts growing up?  

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Being a Good Beta-Reader

Today's post is all about taking criticism and giving it. Please note that I am in no way a professional on this subject and this post is based on speculation only.

I'm terrible at taking criticism.

There. Now it's out in the open.

Hearing people speak against my writing brings me close to tears most of the time. First I get sad. Then angry. And then I plot revenge. So, yeah. I need to work on that. If you're anything like me, you'll understand.

I get that critique partners and beta-readers are there to help, but I having trouble accepting their help. I like to do things on my own. My way. I also like to be in control of things, which is why handing my manuscript over to a complete stranger scares me so much. Yet, it also excites me. It reminds me that my manuscript is about to get that much better.

So, here's my method of coming to terms with critiques. Step number one, read through all of the critiques. Every single one of them. Let your anger or sadness start to boil inside of you.

Step number two, scream. Shout, yell, sob. I don't care. Let your emotions out. Trust me, it helps. Most of the time, I grumble and complain to myself. I let anger seethe in my brain. I make plans to get back at my beta-reader. And that leads us to step three.

Step number three, cast your feelings aside. They don't really matter anymore. Mull over the critiques for about a week or so then come back to them. This is really the most important out of all the steps. If you step away from your computer for awhile, you'll come back with a much clearer head and you'll probably be able to see what your beta-reader was talking about. It is during this step that I do my best work.

That's how to take criticism. Now onto giving it better.

The most important thing to remember is to ask questions. If something doesn't makes sense ask about it. Why did this person do that? Where did she come from? Why is he mad at so-and-so? If you are confused, then the writer didn't do their job write (see what I did there?). They shouldn't have to explain things step by step to you. Anything that doesn't sound right, ask the writer to change it. Whether it be sentences, paragraphs, or whole chapters. No one said revising would be easy. And don't forget to tell them what you like! You have to give good news with the bad otherwise people will think you're really sadistic.

All-in-all, I'm much better at dishing out criticism then taking it myself. And, remember, you don't have to listen to a word I say. It's just my experience with critiquing. At any rate, I hope you've benefited somehow from reading this post. Or, at least been amused by it. ;)

Inquiry of the Day:

How are you at taking criticism? More importantly, how do you deal with it?

I've realized that I've been lacking in the recipe department of late and I promise to be back on track soon!    
Continue Reading...

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Science Behind the Paleo Diet: What Other People Say About It

Instead of bombarding you with my thoughts today, I'll highlight some other peoples' excellent thoughts. All of these are about the science behind the Paleo diet.

Ever since I got the Eat Like A Dinosaur book for Christmas, I've been deeply intrigued by how the Paleo diet works. Why are grains, legumes, and dairy bad for us? I was told that beans are good for me. How can you be saying that they aren't?! In the end, it all makes sense. I would explain why, but, frankly, that would take a whole other post and I'm not sure I could explain it right.

I've also been trying to figure out how my views as a Christian fit into the Paleo diet. For those of you that don't know, the Paleo diet is sorta based on evolution. For a while I was extremely confused, but I came to a conclusion a few days ago. Hopefully either this week or next, I'll share my thoughts on that with you. But for now, read these awesome posts!

"Christians, Christianity, and the Paleo Diet: Are They Compatible?" (Make sure to watch the video!)

"Spill the Beans: Are They Healthy Or Not?" 

"Does the Bible Say We Should Eat Grains?" 

Why Grains Are Unhealthy 

Paleo is EXPENSIVE!!!

And, since I run a food blog, here's your recipe for the day! I haven't made these yet, but they sure look good! :)

Paleo Fish Tacos:

Inquiry of the Day:

What are your thoughts on the Paleo diet?
Continue Reading...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top Recipes of 2012

I thought about doing a post like this a few weeks ago, but decided it might come across as vain. However, lots of other bloggers are doing it so I thought I might as well jump on the bandwagon! (To see some of  these post: visit the Spunky Coconut, Glutenfreehappytummy, and Chocolate Covered Katie.) I know it's a little late, but better late than never right?

After giving it some more thought, I realized that it isn't really vain to do something like this. It's just showing what you, the readers, want! Plus I always love to shed some light on old favorites. ;)

The recipes I'm going to post today are based on the number of views each recipe I've posted has. They're in order, one being the most popular and 10 the least, and I can personally vouch for the deliciousness of all of them.

1. Pumpkin Scones

2. SunButter Truffles

3. Roasted Roots

4. Molasses Cookie Larabars

5. Chicken Soup

6. Vegan Lemon Muffins

7. Cinnamon Donuts

8. Raw PB&J Cookies

9. Dairy-Free Vanilla Fudgesicles

10. Cookie Dough Oatmeal

Continue Reading...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Best of '12: Books

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a great 2012 and 2013 is even better!

Some of my resolutions for this year are:
  1. Exercise regularly
  2. Limit desserts to once a week
  3. Read 60 books this year
  4. Restore my health once and for all!
Since I missed a post on Sunday, I'm posting my last "Best of 2012" list today. It's still kinda unreal to me that it's 2013 now. Hopefully you'll pick up one of the books I recommend to kick off 2013!

1. Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

 The Son of Neptune, Percy, Hazel, and Frank met in Camp Jupiter, the Roman equivalent of Camp Halfblood, and traveled to the land beyond the gods to complete a dangerous quest. The third book in the Heroes of Olympus series will unite them with Jason, Piper, and Leo. But they number only six--who will complete the Prophecy of Seven?

The Greek and Roman demigods will have to cooperate in order to defeat the giants released by the Earth Mother, Gaea. Then they will have to sail together to the ancient land to find the Doors of Death. What exactly are the Doors of Death? Much of the prophecy remains a mystery. . . .
With old friends and new friends joining forces, a marvelous ship, fearsome foes, and an exotic setting, The Mark of Athena promises to be another unforgettable adventure by master storyteller Rick Riordan.
The first book in the Heroes of Olympus series is The Lost Hero and the second is Son of Neptune. Personally, this is my favorite out of all of them so far. Probably because Percy and Annabeth are back in the picture. It's really interesting to read the story from Annabeth's, Percy's, Leo's, and Piper's point of view. This is definitely a page turner and will keep you hooked till the very end!

2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games," a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.

One of the best books on the planet. I swear it. Suzanne Collins knows how to keep readers interested with all her plot twists. Her characters are really realistic and the underlying themes of the book are really deep. After reading the book, I felt slightly guilty. This is definitely a book that makes you think.

3. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

 When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

Wow. Just wow. This a very fast paced book where you're dumped into Thomas's world not knowing anything about him or what is going on. Yet, you keep reading. James Dashner adds lots of unexpected twists to his book which is what kept me reading until the very end.

4. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

 Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom—the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged, because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it…somehow. In this breakthrough story—reminiscent of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly—from multiple Coretta Scott King Award-winner Sharon Draper, readers will come to know a brilliant mind and a brave spirit who will change forever how they look at anyone with a disability.

This is a realistic fiction book and I can't put into words how much I love it. It's such an eye-opener. You cry, you laugh, and you truly feel like you're living Melody's life along with her. If there's only one book you read on this list, this should probably be it.

5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

The heart of Book 7 is a hero's mission--not just in Harry's quest for the Horcruxes, but in his journey from boy to man--and Harry faces more danger than that found in all six books combined, from the direct threat of the Death Eaters and you-know-who, to the subtle perils of losing faith in himself. Attentive readers would do well to remember Dumbledore's warning about making the choice between "what is right and what is easy," and know that Rowling applies the same difficult principle to the conclusion of her series. While fans will find the answers to hotly speculated questions about Dumbledore, Snape, and you-know-who, it is a testament to Rowling's skill as a storyteller that even the most astute and careful reader will be taken by surprise.
A spectacular finish to a phenomenal series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a bittersweet read for fans. The journey is hard, filled with events both tragic and triumphant, the battlefield littered with the bodies of the dearest and despised, but the final chapter is as brilliant and blinding as a phoenix's flame, and fans and skeptics alike will emerge from the confines of the story with full but heavy hearts, giddy and grateful for the experience. --Daphne Durham

I just had to add this. It is one of my favorite books on the planet. Even though Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is my favorite movie, the Deathly Hallows is my favorite book. I cried multiple times. And I laughed. J.K. Rowling couldn't have given readers a better ending to the Harry Potter series.

6. Eat Like a Dinosaur by the Paleo Parents

 Don't be fooled by the ever-increasing volume of processed gluten-free goodies on your grocery store shelf! In a world of mass manufactured food products, getting back to basics and cooking real food with and for your children is the most important thing you can do for your family's health and well-being. It can be overwhelming when thinking about where to begin, but with tasty kid-approved recipes, lunch boxes and projects that will steer your child toward meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and healthy fats, Eat Like a Dinosaur will help you make this positive shift.
With an illustrated children's story describing the paleo diet, and colorful, mouthwatering photographs of recipes without grains, dairy, soy and refined sugar, this book is written for children. For those with food allergies, the top 8 allergens have been visually marked on each recipe for children to self-identify recipes that may contain eggs, nuts, fish, or shellfish.
Parents needn't panic! Details on the tools and products your family needs to get started have been provided, as well as an assortment of tips to help you along the way. Eat Like a Dinosaur will inspire your entire family to shop for new ingredients and get into the kitchen together. Let Matt and Stacy, the Paleo Parents, show you how to make the transformation in your family's life. With positivity, practicality and an appreciation for the fact that even the healthiest children sometimes want cupcakes and chicken nuggets—this book simply provides healthier ways to give kids the foods they love.

This has to be one of my favorite cookbooks ever! The frozen waffles are delicious and I can't want to try the Fool's Gold Chicken Nuggets. Even if this is a book directed at younger kids, it contains superb paleo recipes that even non-Paleos will like.

7. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

One choice can transform you--or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves--and herself--while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable--and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

Amazing. That one word sums the whole book up. I hate the ending, though. Actually, I hate cliffhangers in general! But doesn't everyone? Again, this is another page turner. Sometimes you'll hate Tris, but sometimes you'll love her. I think that's what makes a character a good character. When you actually feel like they're a real person. Veronica Roth does an excellent job doing this. Oh, by the way, read Divergent first.

Inquiry of the Day:

What are some New Year's resolutions you made? What are your favorite books? 

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