Shot of Joy 13

Winter hiking!

-having a lot of energy in the mornings – walking to work, even in the rain – the crispness of the air after a rain – the bright sunny days – the weather in general has been quite nice – savoring a warm drink on a chilly morning –

-ginger – visiting the Japanese Gardens for free thanks to my Lan Su Membership – getting my library card – using the library app to read several e-books – all the comics I’ve been reading lately – the Birds of Prey series – Friday morning reading dates –

Spent the afternoon reading and drinking a chai with hemp milk. Nice way to spend a Friday.

-really focusing on my health – learning how certain foods affect me – still going strong on vastly limiting the amount of sugar I’m eating – not feeling tempted by all the treats at work anymore – keeping up with consistent workouts – feeling stronger –

-feeling really positive about some things that are happening, even if it means I’m in a difficult situation now – feeling like the universe is pointing me a really great direction –

Had a rough day today so I bought myself a little treat. #treatyoself #notcake

What things are giving you joy right now? How’s your week been going?

The Nanny

My lovely friend, Elizabeth Barone, asked me if I wanted to read her newest book in exchange for reviews and feedback. I jumped at the chance because I am always down to read a book and even better when it’s free. (I sound like such a miser but really I am just trying to curb my terrible habit of buying ALL THE BOOKS and then crying because I don’t have time to read them all.)

A little bit about Elizabeth’s work:

“Elizabeth Barone writes contemporary New Adult romance and suspense. Her stories focus on the gritty side of being a twenty-something, featuring characters who chose an alternative path in life. (read more on her about page).”

nannybookThe book she gave me for advance review was titled The Nanny With the Skull Tattoos. It was a romance story about a young man, Max, who is struggling to grow up while also caring for a daughter he had very young. He hires a nanny to live with him, Savannah, and romance and heartache and tense times follow.

The story flows quickly and easily. You find yourself moving from chapter to chapter without realizing that in one sitting you’ve easily burned through five or six chapters. The characters are well formed and as you read you want to know them. I found myself very frustrated by Max making stupid decisions and wanting to know how Savannah was going to react to certain things that were unfolding. I also quickly decided who I liked and who I didn’t among the other characters.

The events in the book could be seen as unbelievable if it weren’t for the fact that the characters felt real. When it comes to love everyone has their opinions of “what would actually happen” versus “what is totally unrealistic.” But no matter the situations the characters found themselves in you didn’t question the reality of it, instead you just shook your head, either yes in agreement or no in disbelief.

I found myself reading the final page with immense satisfaction. As all good stories do I couldn’t help but feel an emotional tug towards everyone in the book and hoping that their lives after the final printed words truly did pan out for the best.

I really enjoyed the story that Elizabeth crafted and look forward to reading more of her work. If you like contemporary stories about characters that could be your friends and family you should check out her body of work. I can guarantee there’s something there for just about everyone.

Read more information on The Nanny With the Skull Tattoos and preorder the book at a special price by clicking here. (Preorder is available for Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and Google Play.)

The Nanny With the Skull Tattoos will be released February 24, 2015.

Are you excited for Elizabeth’s new book? What are some books you are reading right now?

**This copy was provided in exchange for review by the author. All opinions expressed are my own.

Slow Cooker Carnitas

(Sorry there are no photos because I realized something: I suck at photographing meat. It was also so delicious that it didn’t last long.)

When I was a little kid my idea of Mexican food consisted of bean and cheese burritos and chips with bean dip. I didn’t even venture into salsa until well into my teens. I know, I was the whitest little kid ever. I remember my mom would get batches of homemade tamales from her friends and I would never eat them. They looked weird. What was with the leaves they were wrapped in? No thank you.

Now that I am well into my adulthood and also dating someone who knows his way around some good Mexican food there are now several things I love, tamales among them. Every once in a while Vahid will make wonderful frijoles from scratch and they are the best thing ever. About once a month I will make a big batch of carnitas and we eat them throughout the week. Usually I would make them on the stove cooking them for a few hours. Recently I have adapted the recipe to make them in the slow cooker which is so much more convenient. I can set it to cook overnight and wake up to wonderful delicious food in the morning.

Slow Cooker Carnitas:

  • 3 lbs pork shoulder, cut into chunks
  • 2 stips of bacon to line the bottom of the slow cooker (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoon oregano
  • ground black pepper or ground nigella seeds to taste
  • apple cider vinegar
  • (optional: ½ teaspoon ground garlic or one chopped up garlic clove; dash of onion powder, dash of cayenne pepper)
  1. Chop of your pork into about 2 inch chunks
  2. Line the slow cooker with strips of bacon if using then cover the bottom with the pork
  3. add your seasonings as evenly as you can. (Note: if using the optional seasonings you can omit the oregano. I try to limit my garlic and onion consumption due to the cognitive effects they can have and sometimes cayenne upsets my digestion so I sub oregano to add a delightful flavor)
  4. cook on low for 8-10 hours
  5. Pork should be soft and easily pulled apart when done
  6. After cooking add some apple cider vinegar to the cooked pork. It adds a delightful tartness to the meat

Now I’m sure this isn’t an authentic recipe or anything but I call it carnitas and it’s delicious in a taco or burrito or anything else you want to put it in. It has a great taste and is savory with just the right amount of flavor and is great as a base for guacamole or salsa. Sometimes I’ve even added some to my eggs to make a quick scramble in the morning.

If you try out this recipe let me know how you like it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Drink Your Breakfast

I know I’ve told you about my breakfast drink that I have every morning. It’s delicious and filling and I honestly love having that ritual of sitting down to a warm drink before starting my day. However I have recently stopped drinking tea and started drinking coffee. I know, I’ll let you recover for a moment before I continue.

Let me back up and give you a bit of background information. I get headaches. A lot. I don’t mean every once in a while my head will kind of hurt. I mean I get them on an everyday basis and in fact right now? A sharp pain sitting behind my left eye just poking my brain like “does this hurt?” In January I started a  bunch of things for my health, I stopped having all the sugar, I also started meal planning and I am eating 95% healthy. My headaches have become less frequent. I know part of the problem is my glasses and my headaches become more pronounced when they are out of alignment with my eyes. All that eye strain. But part of the problem resides in what I am putting into my body.

Back to breakfast. I started really paying attention to the way my body reacted after certain meals. Is my heart beat noticeably sped up after consuming this meal? Do I feel fuzzy and a loss of cognitive control after eating these foods? And I noticed that an hour after breakfast I would get a sharp headache. I changed what was put into the shakes, having protein, not having protein and nothing helped. On a Thursday I told Vahid that I wanted to try a coffee version. He looked at me skeptically but agreed. (I’m surprised he did because that meant I was drinking his expensive, fancy coffee and if I liked it then it would be gone twice as fast.)

Friday morning rolls around and he whips himself up a coffee for me. I didn’t hate it. I don’t love it the way I loved the tea but it’s not the worst thing in the world. But more importantly I didn’t get the headache afterwards. In fact that day I cleaned the entire apartment and washed, folded, and put away the laundry. I was epically full of energy. It’s been coffee every morning since.

I still don’t like coffee. I won’t just brew a cup and drink it. But having one cup in the morning has done wonders for my energy and headaches. I still drink that tea from time to time but I know that when I do I am subjecting myself to the possibility of a headache. I’m still not sure what is causing the reaction but my hunch is the cinnamon oils that are used have something in them that reacts negatively to my person. But I am not breaking out my test tubes to find out. I just won’t have it most days.

So I’ve finally joined everyone else and am now drinking coffee in the morning. This new breakfast drink, coupled with all the changes I am doing for my health have really shown. I’ve lost weight and I am getting stronger but more importantly I am feeling better day-by-day.

What do you do that helps you be your best self? Would you like for me to do a recipe on my new breakfast coffee? Let me know!

Shot of Joy 12

-reconnecting with friends I had lost touch with, working on several projects at work and finishing them, keeping the winter blues mostly at bay, brunch dates

-my winter boots, wearing leggings to work with long sweaters, walking in the crisp morning to wake up (I walk five blocks to work), all the sunshine that has been happening lately, not having to walk in the rain all the time
Surf and kites
-apple cider vinegar, jasmine green tea, continuing my journey to be present with myself and be healthy, feeling like I am coming into my own, avoiding the cake that was brought into my office from my favorite bakery because I didn’t need it

-my homemade salad dressings, having some good go-to sides to bring to work, taking time out of my workday to eat lunch (even if that isn’t always honored), taking time to disconnect from my computer and take my time eating, finding enjoyment in each day (even though it’s some times hard to do)
What is making you happy this week?