Saturday, April 21, 2018

Review: Food Blog - A Pinch of Healthy by Marjorie

Recipe: Red Beans and Rice in the Slow Cooker

I found this recipe on Pinterest in April of last year and it's amazing! Coincidentally, I just made this recipe again almost exactly a year later.

This recipe calls for an onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, chicken andouille sausage, dry red kidney beans, salt, black pepper, white pepper (optional), hot sauce, thyme, bay leaves, water, and cooked rice. For roughly $8, it's enough for 10 servings or more with the rice. I say $8 because the first time I made this recipe, I already had a majority of the ingredients, including substituting some for others. For example, I had a different kind of sausage in the freezer, and used some dried cranberry beans I had in the cabinet instead of kidney beans. I also used wild rice I already had instead of the jasmine rice she used. In total, at least in my local grocery stores, the cost is probably closer to $12. The second time I made this recipe, I used Italian sweet sausage and canned kidney beans instead of dry beans and white rice and it was just as good. I think just about any variation of this recipe will come out amazing!

The total time of 8 hours 45 minutes was a high estimate because it really only took me about 30-45 minutes to prep and then 6 hours on the high setting. I'm not really sure why the prep time comes out to be 2 hours and 45 minutes for her - maybe that includes shopping for the ingredients because it wasn't the time for soaking the beans. Also, the total cook time may vary depending on your slow-cooker.

One thing I love about this post too is that she provides a link to tips on how to make the recipe in less than 90 minutes on the stove top instead of in the slow-cooker. Her photos are good quality, and it's easy to read and follow the recipe. Marjorie does an amazing job of sharing recipes that are delicious, inexpensive, and healthy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Poem: These Are The Days

Since most of what I've been writing for the last year or so on here are book reviews, I thought it was high time I finally get around to posting a poem. My writer's block when it comes to anything other than reviews has been strong until recently. Some poetry is slowly starting to work its way out of my system.

I started this poem on April 16th on what would've been the 12th anniversary of my relationship with my ex who passed away suddenly in 2013. While our relationship had turned into only friendship by the time he passed, he still holds a very dear place in my heart.

These are the days... for missing you.
These are the days... for standing strong.
These are the days... for moving on.
These are the days... for making waves.
These are the days... for living in the moment.
These are the days... for making memories.

These are the days... we've all been waiting for.
These are the days... we wanted to share together.
These are the days... with only your memory by my side. 
These are the days... we dreamed of when we were young.
These are the days... we never thought would arrive.
These are the days... taken to the Extreme.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Review: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Bucks

Chosen to be the July 2017 read for my book club, I enjoyed reading this story again from an adult perspective. I had read it as a teenager and vaguely remember having a much different take away from the book than I do now.

I initially picked up a copy because I grew up a couple miles from The Pearl S. Buck House in Pennsylvania and had visited it with my Girl Scouts troop. I was fascinated by her living abroad as a child, and her work to provide humanitarian aid to impoverished children.

Synopsis: This tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. The humble Wang Lung glories in the soil he works, nurturing the land as it nurtures him and his family. Nearby, the nobles of the House of Hwang consider themselves above the land and its workers; but they will soon meet their own downfall.

Hard times come upon Wang Lung and his family when flood and drought force them to seek work in the city. The working people riot, breaking into the homes of the rich and forcing them to flee. When Wang Lung shows mercy to one noble and is rewarded, he begins to rise in the world, even as the House of Hwang falls.

Review: Pearl S. Buck had the ability to write characters of such varying personalities and backgrounds exemplified by his aunt and uncle who acted entitled to his father's success as a farmer, and his wives major difference. O-lan, his first wife through a chosen marriage, was caring, humble and hardworking. His second wife, whom he had purchased, was spoiled, entitled, and complained about lifting a finger to work. He was also in awe of the differences between his children, admiring both their strengths and their weaknesses.

The first time reading this as a teenager, I remember feeling frustrated with Wan Lung and wondering why he seemed to perpetuate the innate sexism that was so rampant and obvious as early as the first few pages. He held so much disdain for his father, but then supposedly couldn't wait to have a woman in the household to take care of him and the chores. His attitude towards women irked me in so many ways that I didn't read the book again for over a decade. It was when I reread this for book club last summer as an adult that I had a different perspective and understanding that it was the time period in which he grew up, and his culture that made him who he was, particularly towards women. I also noticed that he loved his wives, and his children, but was in a way "restricted" to the ways that he was brought up and the culture they lived in that dictated the gender roles they were required to fulfill.

Throughout the novel, Wang Lung relied on the earth to supply all his needs through his hard work. The physical labor helped him to focus on the important things in life. This is a story of perseverance, the strength of the human spirit, of love, partnership, and sacrifice in a marriage and family - things that transcend time and all cultures.

To learn more about Pearl S. Buck International, visit

Review of The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Paperback, 357 pages
Published Sept. 2004 by Washington Square Press, first published 1931
Dates Read: May 22 - July 2017

Review: Love Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want by Rachel Cruze

If you're already familiar with Dave Ramsey's teachings, then you'll understand what Rachel talks about in her debut novel. She's much more conversational in her writing, and gives her father's 7 baby steps a younger twist, making it targeted at those in their 20s and 30s who are just starting out with new life that may include things like student loan debt, first time purchases of cars and homes, getting married, having kids, and how important it is to not fall into the comparison trap.

The 7 Money Habits she talks about are:
1) Quit the comparisons
2) Steer clear of debt
3) Make a plan for your money
4) Talk about money (even when it's hard)
5) Save like you mean it
6) Think before you spend
7) Give a little...Until you can give a lot.

I was disappointed that she didn't go into more detail about the comparison dilemma that many of us experience, commonly known as "keeping up with the Jones's." This attitude is especially important in this social media age where we're so quickly and so often bombarded with our friends and family's "yay me!" posts about their latest vacations, latest and greatest tech purchases, new car/home, parties, weekend getaways, etc. Although I was grateful for the reminder that I am on a different journey than everyone else and that I shouldn't be comparing myself to others, I wish she had spent more time on the topic considering the premise of the book.

She spent A LOT of time talking about money in relationships in Chapter 4, and significantly less time on money for single people. This is an issue because although money is referred to as the leading reason for divorce, it's also why many single people are struggling. I'll give her credit to pointing out that money arguments aren't always about money - they're about communication, trust, and honesty. I did like that she pointed out that if you have different values about money, then the relationship is not going to work out and that it's important to have conversations about it before getting married, not after. As a single person, I'd have appreciated a little more time spent on money, budgeting, accountability, and even money in dating. I understand that she's married herself and she spoke about her experience, but I was hoping for a little more information and advice on resources for single people.

Cruze is a self-admitted spender and that her husband is the saver. She's essentially saying that she struggles with staying within the budget, and it's her instinct to be more free-spirited with her spending habits, whereas her husband Winston is the natural saver who checks the budget and accounts on a regular basis. I especially liked the story she shared about one of their vacations where he told her she didn't have to worry about the budget and she could spend whatever she wanted, but then she realized that it had become a habit to know how much money she was spending and that was more important to her than not worrying about it. This was the best example I think she used to drive home the point of creating good money habits and that it's possible for even the most free-spirited of spenders like herself. 

That said, this book is clearly written by someone who is not in debt, and while her advice is "don't go into debt" and she gives reasons why, it's not really written to help those who are already in debt and/or struggling to live. It's definitely written as a piggy back book to her father's teachings and with the assumption that one is familiar with his concepts and their lifestyle already. This book is more for those who are just starting out as a teen about graduate high school, or those who've already reached debt-free status, and/or newlyweds.

Love Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want
by Rachel Cruze
Audible Audio
Narrated by: Rachel Cruze
Published: October 2016 by Ramsey Press
Dates Read: March 17 - April 5, 2018