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A Man Called Ove

Title: A Man Called Ove

Author:  Fredrik Backman

Goodreads Summary: A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

 

FIP Review: 

I think I should start with a few scene setting disclaimers.  I bought this book on Audible; it was on sale for 2.99 or something. The premise seemed interesting. I first started listening to this book when I was on my way to the doctor to find out if I’d need surgery… and I got stuck in traffic… an hour and a half worth of NJ traffic. Needless to say I wasn’t in a happy mood.

I listened to about a quarter of the book that day and I abhorred it! Ove was not friendly and I couldn’t imagine myself living next to him.  I was very much convinced I knew why this wretched book was on sale.  At this point, the performance of the audiobook was the only saving grace.

I returned to listening a week later.  Finally the story was moving and we were getting to see glimpses of the Ove’s past. We were meeting people in his current life – this was also around the time the pipe bombs were planted in Seaside NJ — and I was distraught and needed to believe again in the goodness of humanity.  A Man Called Ove did just that.

I loved Ove by the time I finished this book.  I’d placed him in the stereotypical ‘cranky senior’ category and never bothered to get to know his story. And what a lovely story it is; one of everlasting love, strong friendships and unbreakable spirits.  Standing up for what is right and pure. It’s a story about the kind of people you want to have around you. Maybe I’m being lame but I’m starting to tear up writing this.

Needless to say the strength of this book was it’s characters. Switching gears, I also found it freshing that the story was set in Sweden; I don’t know much about Sweden and kept wondering why there was so much mention of snow. HA! This led me to some googling. I found out that this book was written in Deutsch and then translated to English in 2012. Well I’ll be a monkey’s aunty!! I usually hate hate hate hate translated books  – so much is lost in translation but golly me this was fantastic!

To my further amusement – the book has been turned into a movie in 2015. I smell a movie/date night!! The husband has a mandatory seat next to mine but I think he’ll like this one. The actors are foreign – but if I had to recast the American version:

 

Ove: Clint Eastwood

Parwana: Priyanka Chopra

And the rest I’m open to ideas!

Hope you guys enjoyed the review and enjoy the book.

 

PS: this author is younger than me; look at the wonderful things he’s doing. Three books and counting… and I’m peeling potatoes. *sigh*

 

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I Ate Vegan for 7 Days ….

A little out of the ordinary but I loved this article so much I had to share it. And because we talk about and love good food here at FIP Inc.

Enjoy and share!

http://theeverygirl.com/i-ate-vegan-for-7-days-and-this-is-what-happened

I Ate Vegan for 7 Days and This is What Happened

I Ate Vegan for 7 Days and This is What Happened #theeverygirl

Confession time, Everygirls: I am not a vegan. 

I like burgers. I like steak. I like eggs and bacon for breakfast. I am the un-vegan-iest. I am probably the meatiest meat-eater there ever was.

All that being said, I’ve felt for a long time that I needed to make some major changes in my diet. Having spent the last year of my life working 50+ hours a week and renovating a home, stress, and being “too busy” have wrecked my metabolism and caused me to lose track of healthy eating. I gained about 30 pounds and sunk into a pretty serious depression.

I knew it was time for some big changes. After switching out my high-stress TV news job for still-stressful-but-manageable freelance writing, my diet was the next big item to tackle on the list.

Though I didn’t (and still don’t) plan to commit to veganism long-term, I knew I needed to refocus on a more plant-based diet and stop turning to takeout as an easy fix.

So, even though my husband got wide-eyed and looked at me like I was crazy when I told him what I was doing, I set out to eat vegan for seven days to reset my mindset and my system.

This is my story.

My Shopping List

First things first, I needed to stock my fridge and pantry. I was going into this blindly, so I spent about 30 minutes researching recipes (which I’ll share below) and compiling my shopping list. The prices I’ve included here are from Trader Joe’s in Salt Lake City, but I expect you’ll find similar items and pricing at your local grocer.

  • 3 cans black beans ($2.67)
  • Chickpeas ($2.37)
  • White beans ($2.67)
  • 2 avocados ($3.96)
  • Cucumber ($1.29)
  • Spinach/leafy green mix ($1.99)
  • Bread ($2.49)
  • 2 onions ($1.38)
  • Pepper ($.99)
  • Rice ($1.69)
  • Canned or frozen corn ($2.00)
  • Tomatoes ($0.79)
  • Apples ($2.49 for 2-pound bag)
  • 1 box strawberries ($5.99)
  • 1 bunch bananas ($1.45)
  • Coconut milk, unsweetened ($1.99)
  • 2 cans coconut milk (1.98)
  • Chia seeds ($4.99)
  • Raspberries ($2.79)
  • Oats ($3.99)
  • Brown rice pasta ($2.99)
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes ($3.18)
  • 1 box cherry tomatoes ($1.99)
  • 1 jar tomato sauce ($2.29)
  • Potatoes ($3.99)
  • Carrots ($1.99)
  • Yellow squash ($2.99)
  • Zucchini squash ($2.99)
  • Yellow curry powder ($1.99)
  • 1 bag frozen peas ($1.29)
  • 1 bag baby carrots ($1.69)
  • 1 container hummus ($3.99)

Total cost: $87.31 

This list provided me with breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks for seven days. I ate most of the breakfast and lunch items on my own, but the dinner recipes always made enough for me, my husband, and a healthy portion of leftovers.

Breakfast and Lunch:

Vegan breakfast bowl recipe here.

Because I get to work so early every day, I needed to pack a breakfast and lunch to bring with me. I do best when things are simple and easy, so breakfast stayed pretty light and usually consisted of grabbing fruit on my way out the door. I would pre-wash berries the night before and have them in a container along with a Ziploc bag of almonds. I’d also grab a banana and be good to go until lunchtime.

For my lunches, I essentially followed this healthy guide, which focuses on getting protein from legumes and using healthy fats to feel satisfied. Overall the meals were SO simple to make (I stored most of the ingredients in my work fridge and assembled lunch there) and while definitely a lot less filling than a burger and fries, my body felt more and more satisfied each and every day.

Dinner:

I was fairly apprehensive about cooking vegan meals, if only because I hadn’t ever done it before. I had always seen vegan cooking as complicated and full of dizzying substitutions. Once I found out how simple it could be, I was 100 percent on board.

I made sure to make BIG batches so that there would be enough for 2+ meals (because the less I cook, the happier I am).

Here are some recipes I tried throughout the week: 

Vegan Curry

Source: allrecipes.com

This curry was incredibly flavorful. The potatoes and healthy fats from the coconut milk made it really filling and satisfying, which was perfect for the days my breakfasts and lunches were lighter. This recipe made enough for two nights of meals for both me and my husband, so even though it took almost an hour to make, I didn’t have to cook the following evening.

Ingredients:

  • 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 4 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can peas, drained
  • 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk

Directions:

  1. Place potatoes into a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and allow to steam-dry for a minute or two.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, curry powder, garam masala, and salt; cook for 2 minutes more.
  3. Add the tomatoes, garbanzo beans, peas, and potatoes. Pour in the coconut milk, and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5-10 minutes before serving.

Veggie Pasta 

Source: Give Recipe

I made a big batch of easy-peasy pasta, which lasted for two dinners. The recipe was improvised on the spot, but I’ll do my best to recreate the recipe for you here.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 box pasta of your choice (I picked Trader Joe’s brown rice spaghetti)
  • 1 jar tomato sauce (I picked Trader Joe’s tomato and basil sauce)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 box cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Several handfuls spinach, rinsed
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Directions: 

  1. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, sauté onion and garlic until onion is translucent.
  3. Add halved cherry tomatoes and frozen peas, continuing to stir on medium heat for two minutes.
  4. Add chickpeas, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce, stirring until lightly simmering.
  5. Combine sauce and cooked pasta. Add in spinach and stir until wilted.
  6. Serve immediately.

Vegan Dinner Bowls 

Source: I Love Vegan

On three nights throughout the week, I made ultra-filling and nutritious dinner bowls. I didn’t use recipes, but the formula was always the same:

  • A big portion of rice or quinoa with a drizzle of olive oil
  • Black beans or chickpeas (or both)
  • Plenty of veggies (roasted broccoli and carrots or sautéed squash work great!)

Thoughts Throughout

On day one, I was HUNGRY. Like, really hungry. Angry hungry. My body was accustomed to eating more food than it needed (hence my weight gain in the last year) and it protested this lighter, natural diet pretty strongly. Had I not been writing this article, I may have given up like the weak piece of garbage I am.

By day three, though, the same meals that left me hungry on day one were keeping me satisfied. If I got hungry in between meals, I’d have some fruit and nuts as a snack. It’s amazing how quickly your body can adjust.

The social aspect of eating vegan was also jarring, but not unmanageable. I could still go grab coffee with my coworkers; I just had to order my coffee black and skip the pastries. Lunch was harder, and I did feel a little left out as my colleagues hit the taco cart while I stayed behind in the break room. Vegan options can be found on most menus, but it requires pre-planning (Which, if you couldn’t tell, I’m not amazing at).

When thinking logically, I knew I was 1) saving money and 2) eating MUCH healthier by packing my food instead of eating out every day, but logic doesn’t often apply when you’re tired and hungry and all your friends are eating double cheeseburgers.

The Result

Seven days later, I felt amazing. I’ll repeat what I said: I FELT AMAZING. Not only did I have more energy, I felt like I had gained a new control over my body and health, which is an incredibly empowering feeling to have.

I lost weight, too: Three pounds in a week. I don’t attribute this to eating vegan so much as I do to keeping my diet natural and healthy, but sticking to a vegan diet made that a whole lot easier. It’s difficult to fill up on junk when most junk contains animal products.

The Takeaway

Now that the week is over, I plan on reintroducing meat and dairy products into my diet—but in a very different way. I feel too good to go back to inhaling processed food with no thought about how it will affect my body.

If I’m going to be committed to fueling my body with healthy food, I should think plants first, meat second. This week taught me that meat isn’t a requirement at every meal; it can supplement a dish if available, but isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a necessity.

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New Book Alert! Stephenie Meyer’s The Chemist

Oh be still my heart –  Stephenie Meyers is coming out with a new book!!! On election day! Could this be a sign of planets aligning for women to do great things? Perhaps Hillary will be President and I’ll have a new SM book to gush over?!

Excited much?!

Goodreads blurb:

The Chemist

In this gripping page-turner, an ex-agent on the run from her former employers must take one more case to clear her name and save her life.

She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn’t even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning.

Now, she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They’ve killed the only other person she trusted, but something she knows still poses a threat. They want her dead, and soon.

When her former handler offers her a way out, she realizes it’s her only chance to erase the giant target on her back. But it means taking one last job for her ex-employers. To her horror, the information she acquires only makes her situation more dangerous.

Resolving to meet the threat head on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life, but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival. As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of.
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In this tautly plotted novel, Meyer creates a fierce and fascinating new heroine with a very specialized skill set. And she shows once again why she’s one of the world’s bestselling authors.

 

 

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FIP Recipe: General Tso Cauliflower

When I sat down to think of what recipe I’d paid with When We Collided, I had two things in mind;  first the light airy feel to Vivi and Verona Cove and second the first friend she made at Verona Cove.

So I picked chose to make a vegan classic  — General Tso Cauliflower.

Recipe posted below and linked at end of this post. Would love hear how it went for you folks:
Serves: 6­ to 8
Ingredients
For the General Tso’s Sauce:
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 knob of ginger, grated
½ cup chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup soy sauce
⅓ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup sugar (more to taste)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the Batter:
1 cup flour
⅔ cup cornstarch
1½ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
4 eggs
water as needed (about ½ cup)
Other Ingredients:
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
a deep layer of oil for frying
scallions and sesame seeds for topping
Instructions
1. General Tso’s Sauce: Heat the sesame oil in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Add the ginger and
garlic and stir fry for a minute or two. Add remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Bring to a low boil;
simmer for another 20­30 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Add more sweetness, citrus, etc. to your
taste.
2. Cauliflower Batter: Whisk all the batter ingredients until a loose batter forms. The batter should be thick
enough to cling to the cauliflower and cover it but stay loose enough to easily drip off (adjust thickness with
water).
3. Cauliflower Frying: Pour oil into a heavy bottomed skillet to make it deep enough so it will cover the
cauliflower about halfway (probably ends up being a few cups). Heat the oil over medium heat. Drop a small
bit of batter in the oil to test it ­ when it rises to the top and bubbles, the oil is ready. Dip cauliflower florets
in the batter and let the excess drip off before gently setting in the oil. Fry for a few minutes on each side,then flip, repeating sides several times if necessary until you get a nice golden brown fried exterior. The
additional frying time helps make it a little crunchier, which I very much like.🙂 Remove and set on a cooling
rack with paper towels underneath (again, rather than putting it all on a plate or bowl with paper towels,
this keeps it crispy vs. soggy).
4. Serving: Toss the fried cauliflower with the sauce (enough just to cover) and sprinkle with scallions and
sesame seeds for serving. Serve with rice.

GTC

http://pinchofyum.com/general-tsos-cauliflower

 

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FIP Book Review: When We Collided

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Title: When We Collided
Author: Emery Lord
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Goodreads Synopsis:
We are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know…

Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along.

Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world.

Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures.

In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever.

FIP Review:
Simply put, I really enjoyed the book. I understood the trials and tribulations of the characters and also I’m a sucker for any story that shows the goodness of people. I can’t say I loved it – but that may just be my personal hang up of not being able to love a tragedy.

Lord is a wonderful writer who is able to fully immerse the reader into her character’s head, which is no easy task when the story has two narrators. The thought process and the voice of the characters swiftly and fluidly move to each different perspective. And the characters are unapologetic about themselves. I wish more YA books focused on this.

Overall, When We Collided was a well written, purposeful love story that totally satisfies (even if it was a little predictable). FIP recommends it as a whimsical rainy day read. Don’t go looking for the answer to all of life’s secrets here – but you may identify your own aura.

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Catching Up with Summer

Hola everyone.

Hope everyone’s summer has been treating them well. Thought I’d drop in and talk books a little bit. I’ve been on quite the reading binge – well for my slow reader standards anyway.

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

I’m 3/4 way done with the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.  Am I impressed? No. Am I going to finish the series? Yes. Will I be disappointed? Mostly likely.  With all the books from this author, I feel she fills them with angst that drones on and on — the action in her stories is all but the last 2 chapters and it feels rushed. Often times, I’ve put down the book and felt like “that’s it?”  *Spoiler*  For example, the whole big solution to Shiver – get a high fever and break it and you’re cured of being a wolf. I mean come on!!!! Where’s the magical element? Where the creativity?  More than the writing and the books; I enjoyed the fandom surrounding The Raven Cycle. The fan casting was great, the enthusiasm was contagious even.

Moving on, my son got a ton of books for his birthday. My son is 8 – his books are age appropriate. But meh – who am I to discriminate. I read them all. We even read a few good ones together – a chapter every night. I have to tell you – there was no better feeling then my kid asking for “ONE MORE CHAPTER please I need to know what happens next.” (bless my adorable lil  munchkin). Our most recent book was Return to The Isle of the Lost. What a cute book. Exactly what you expect from the Disney franchise; (no we’re not going to talk princesses vs women’s lib) there was a solid lesson, good conquered evil  and friends stuck with each other. I loved it and my kid enjoyed it. Win Win.

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However, the reading adventures haven’t been all Disney and paranormal teenagers. We’ve added some more mature flavor as well.  Although I finished The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wrecker back in June – I can’t get it out of my mind. This is one of those books that stays with you. Essentially it’s a story of two immigrants who unwillingly find themselves in the turn of the century NYC.  There is a villain, a love story, relationships and most of all fantastic prose. Good golly – the woman can write. I was initially taken to the story line but turned off by 500 pages.  However, once I finished I felt like there wasn’t enough. I needed more. Lucky for me there is a sequel coming out. I may or may not read it – sometimes you should leave good enough alone.

I will be recommending this book to my book club and hoping that they will write a guest discussion for FIP.

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What’s on the horizon?

I was fishing around Netflix one day and found MTV’s Chronicles of Shannara. Oh good lord I was hooked; I binged my way through the first and only season in one weekend. Craving more of this good stuff I posted on FB and my friends told me the show was actually based on books. I have my reservations because these are older books written in the 1980’s and I don’t know that they’ll have much to offer in ways of interesting plot lines (I fear most of it original ideas have been stolen already) but I’ve gotten the books … I plan on digging into those next. There are allot of Terry Brooks books but I think I shall start with the one the show is based on. I need me some more Austin Butler…even if only in my head.

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Also on the list for the near future is much talked about The Heart by French author Maylis de Kerangal.  The synopsis is so intriguing in that it foreshadows death – doesn’t promise a rosy ending. And I’ve heard so many great things about her writing.

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So what have you been reading? Has anyone read any of the mentioned books? How’d you like them?