Tag Archives: review

‘I Still Believe’ Is Worth Your Time

To be honest, I generally avoid Faith-based movies. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good inspirational film, but I’ve found many of the “church” movies to be cheesy and unrealistic. That being said, I was hesitant to watch “I Still Believe” when it came out in early March. I finally decided to give it a chance because I love the previous work of the two lead actors, KJ Apa (you might know him from the insane teen drama, “Riverdale”) and Britt Robertson (of “Tomorrowland” fame). Knowing that these actors would give stellar performances regardless of the story, I gave in and fired up the film the other day.

“I Still Believe” is the real-life love story of Christian singer Jeremy Camp (Apa) and his college sweetheart, Melissa (Robertson). When Camp sets out for college, he dreams of writing songs and playing guitar on stage. He meets a friend, Jean-Luc (Nathan Parsons), who is also a singer. At one of Jean-Luc’s shows, Jeremy spots Melissa in the crowd and is immediately taken with her. The pair begin to secretly date and a wonderful love story unfolds. However, the pair finds out that Melissa is severely ill. The latch on to their faith as they navigate the tough waters ahead.

“I Still Believe” managed to weave in faith, miracles, and Christianity without feeling phoned in or cheesy. Apa and Robertson are incredibly believable and share an easy yet intense chemistry. At the end of the film, the real-life Jeremy Camp enters, discussing Melissa’s story and her desire to change lives for the better, even if it is only one person that she impacts. After watching the film, it is safe to say that she succeeded.

You can stream “I Still Believe” on Hulu, or rent it on demand.

Happy Streaming!

~Katie

TWSM Tuna Recipe Round-Up Review

Tuna Recipe Round-Up

Early on in the pandemic inspired-shutdowns and stay at home orders my boss gave me two cases of canned tuna. That’s a lot of tuna. Dylan and I quickly grew tired of the simple tuna salad sandwiches I normally make on a hurried Saturday afternoon full of chores and errands. A mission to find alternative recipes and ideas for canned tuna ensued. I asked friends and people on foodie Facebook groups for their favorites, and I tried several to narrow it down to our three favorites.

 

Tuna Casserole for One from One Dish Kitchen

Dylan and I made tuna casserole one rainy evening when we both needed comfort food. It was easy to double to make it “for two” and utilizes standard pantry staples. I did discover as I was preparing the dish there was no lemon juice in the house. Cooking sherry proved to be a good substitute that provided a richness and elevated the dish. I also included some celery for nostalgia and crunch. Tuna casserole was a hit, and I’m pleased to find a recipe that can be easily prepared even on evenings I’m alone.

 

Spicy Sriracha Tuna Wraps from Gimme Delicious

 

Who else misses sushi? There isn’t a sushi place open around my area yet, and I’m having withdrawals for a good spicy tuna roll. Spicy Sriracha Tuna was a wonderful substitute to satisfy my cravings for now. Because I needed something easier to eat than a wrap while eating lunch at my desk to meet a deadline, I turned the tuna mixture into a salad of sorts on a bed of spinach. Perfect for a working lunch! It would also be fantastic picnic fare. In addition to a wrap, I feel it would also be good stuffed in an avocado half or cucumber boat.

Easy Tuna Dip from Pamela Salzman


When I described this tuna dip via text to my dear friend River, he said “So it’s a tuna hummus,” which I thought was a good way of describing it. Because I never use anchovy paste, after some research, I substituted it for Worcestershire sauce, which worked perfectly. The capers provided a wonderful saltiness and “umammi.” I used the suggested white beans, although optional avocado would give this a nice creaminess I think would be fantastic. Dylan wasn’t interested in trying this tuna dip, so I was able to enjoy it all to myself on the deck one lazy Sunday afternoon following online church worship services. It was excellent with gluten free nut crackers, bell pepper slices, carrot rounds, and celery sticks. I think a good crusty toasted bread would also be a tasty choice.

~Laura

 

TWSM Book Review ‘Self Massage’

Self Massage: The Complete 15-Minute-A-Day Massage Programme’ by Jaqueline Young

If you are looking for an easy way to improve your self-care, then Self-Massage: The complete
15-minute-a-day massage programme by Jacqueline Young is for you.

I love a good professional massage (and a back or foot rub from a significant other is always
nice), but I had never tried self-massage before reading this book. I was surprised by how
simple it is. And unlike other types of massage, self-massage is free and available to you
regardless of your schedule, your relationship status, or business closures due to Covid-19.

Jacqueline Young, the author, is a clinical psychologist and acupuncturist who lived for four and
a half years in Japan studying and practicing oriental medicine. She has also travelled widely in
India and the Far East studying traditional health techniques. She is the author of books and
articles on natural medicine.

Self-Massage is based on a combination of Japanese and Chinese massage therapies,
together with acupressure techniques. It includes information about the meridian system and
acupoint guide for those who are interested in learning more about these. However, if you just
want to make your neck or feet feel better at the end of a long day, you can totally use the book
for that.

Young gives step-by-step, easy-to-follow instructions with over 200 photos illustrating the
techniques. She breaks the self-massage into easy routines in the following areas:

1. Warm-up
2. Head and face
3. Neck, shoulders and arms
4. Chest and abdomen
5. Back
6. Legs and feet

I started with the head and face routine, and was delighted at how refreshing it was. All six
routines together take only 15 minutes (once you have a little practice).
Some of my favorite quotes from Self-Massage include:

“With this massage you will have a self-health system literally at your fingertips! It can be
used anytime, anywhere, and no special equipment or oils are needed.” (Introduction)

“Once you feel confident of the movements they can easily be adapted for use on
others. So, by learning self-massage, friends and family can benefit, too!” (Introduction)

“By being sensitive to exactly what your body needs, at any given time, you can get the
best out of this system and learn to give of your best, too.” (The Self-Massage System)

Young does not mention consulting your doctor before using the techniques in Self-Massage,however she clearly states that “all pressure must be gentle and comfortable” (Introduction).

If you have any concerns about the safety of self-massage for you as an individual, please consult a medical professional.

I hope that you give Self-Massage a try. It is a quick read, the techniques are easy to learn, and
we all deserve the benefits it has to offer.

Rating 4 ½ stars out of 5

Copyright Jacqueline Young 1992

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two
teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or
searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with
friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still
has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who
can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.

TWSM Southwest Quinoa Salad Recipe Review

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Dylan and I are continuing to observe stay at home recommendations and social distancing. Even though we treat ourselves to a curbside pickup meal from a local restaurant on occasion, we’ve made almost 200 meals at home in the last two plus months. Because our tastes are often vastly different, we’ve come to a point sometimes I eat one thing and Dylan eats another. It works for us for now. Southwest Quinoa Salad from Kristine’s Kitchen is one of those meals I naturally gravitate toward, but Dylan wouldn’t enjoy.

This past week the weather looked like it was going to warm up for several days. I was craving something cold as well as filling. A green salad wasn’t going to cut it. I also had a bag of quinoa in my cabinet. Did you know quinoa is naturally gluten free, low in fat, and high in protein, fiber, and iron? It makes an excellent addition to a vegetarian meal. Quinoa is also extremely versatile. It can be eaten cold or hot; in salads; as filler for patties; as substitution for rice; even toasted in granola!

This southwest quinoa salad is no different. The first night I ate this salad was cold as a side with a piece of cod sauteed with butter and seasoned with chili powder. The next day the weather turned cold and rainy, and I served myself a big bowl of the salad warmed with a slice of homemade bread for lunch. I’ve enjoyed it both ways. While I haven’t tried it yet, I also think it would be good mixed with an egg for binder, formed into a patty and shallow fried. Several comments I read on this recipe noted the addition of chicken to the mixture, which I think would be delicious!


No matter how you serve southwest quinoa salad, it’s a great recipe to have in your rotation for an easy summer supper, a side dish with chicken or fish, or in a medley of other salads.

~Laura

TWSM Book Review ‘Embracing Uncertainty’

Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers

If there is a book title that encapsulates how I have been feeling lately with all of the changes due to Covid-19, it has to be “Embracing Uncertainty”. Jeffers book was written shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, but it is as fresh now as it was then. She weaves hope, strength, and acceptance throughout her book with easy exercises that the reader can use to face the future with greater peace of mind and empowerment.

Jeffers was a psychologist who is probably best known for her book, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. During her career, she was the Executive Director of the Floating Hospital in New York, taught a course about fear at the New School for Social Research, and wrote several best selling books. She died of cancer in 2012.

Embracing Uncertainty is upbeat, yet looks reality straight in the eyes. The exercises that she suggests in her book can be done a few minutes at a time, and she encourages the reader to choose the ones that “speak” to him or her.

Jeffers expresses a belief in a higher power (Chapter 10 is entitled “Let God Worry about it!”) from an inclusive stance. She shares her own views, including some concerns about how organized religion can be twisted toward hate instead of toward love, while respecting her readers’ beliefs and opinions.

Some of my favorite quotes from her book include:

“Embracing Uncertainty is a book about sleeping better at night … about easing the pain in our brains that comes from trying to control the uncontrollable … about making life more an enriching adventure than a continuous worry.” (Introduction)

“If we can shift our uncertainty, our not knowing, into an adventure, how wonderful that would be. Even if things go wrong, we would always be the seeker rather than the victim.” (Chapter One)

“I believe that when you have a strong intention, you set energy in motion. Energy in motion touches other energy in motion and remarkable things can happen.” (Chapter Four)

The timelessness of Embracing Uncertainty is comforting. When you read it, you realize that people have been strong enough to come out the other side of tough things for generations. We can too, and we can even make an adventure out of it. I highly recommend this book.

Rating 5 stars out of 5

Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers, PhD. Copyright 2003

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.

Netflix’s ‘Outer Banks’-The Summer Show You Need In Your Life

Have you ever wondered what might happen if you mixed “The Goonies” with “90210”? The answer is Netflix’s newest hit show, “Outer Banks” (affectionately known as OBX to the die-hard fans). The series follows the escapades of John B. (Chase Stokes) and his rowdy friends, JJ (Rudy Pankow), Kiara (Madison Bailey), and Pope (Jonathan Daviss). John B.’s father has been missing, and presumed dead, for nine months when the gang hears of another mysterious disappearance after a storm on the Outer Banks, the coastal island where they live. The island is gorgeous, but under its pristine, gleaming sunsets, nothing is as it seems.

As John B. and his friends investigate the disappearance of a man in their town, they start to find clues that the missing man may have been partnering with John B.’s dad on his life’s work: finding treasure in an old shipwreck. The trouble only escalades when rich girl Sarah Cameron (scene stealer Madelyn Cline) gets roped in as well. Thus ensues fights, boat chases, and even more shenanigans on the quest to find gold.

With only ten episodes in its first season, “Outer Banks” is a fast, riveting watch. Many people find themselves finishing the whole season in a matter of a few days. We finished it in two! Each episode leaves you with a cliffhanger, wondering what will happen next.

Even though the cast is made up of mostly newcomers, the performances are actually quite good. Sure, there’s a couple cheesy and unrealistic moments here and there, but that’s almost unavoidable in a teen series.

If you’re going to give “Outer Banks” a shot, give it at least two episodes. I guarantee the cliffhanger at the end of episode two will keep you coming back for more. And if you get sucked in to streaming this show, stay up way too late, and finish it in the early hours of the morning? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Happy Streaming!

Katie

TWSM Falafel Recipe Review

 Falafel 

 

With predicted meat shortages on the horizon the grocery stores in my city have begun limiting meat purchases. As a result, I’ve been looking at ways to stretch my current supply of meat as well as vegetarian options for Dylan and me. One of those meat-less options that is packed with protein and flavor is an old standby recipe – Falafel from BudgetBytes. This recipe is also wallet-friendly, coming in at around 50 cents a serving depending on food prices in your area. As a new, stay at home mother many years ago, I would often make up a double batch of falafel and freeze for easy lunches between marathon breastfeeding sessions.

“What?” you say. “Falafel is complicated!” No, it really isn’t. There is some pre-chopping of the onions and garlic, but your food processor will do most of the work for you. If you don’t have a food processor, you could use a small food chopper and work in smaller batches. Like Beth at BudgetBytes, I have chosen to form these falafel and shallow fry instead of deep fry them as well, which helps cut down on the fuss. To form the patties, scoop out the chilled mixture with an ice cream scoop drop onto a baking sheet and flatten with your hand. However, if you feel a falafel isn’t a falafel if it’s not deep fried, use your ice cream scoop and roll the mixture in your hands instead.

If you’re avoiding wheat, like me, chickpea (or garbanzo bean) flour works almost better than wheat flour in this recipe. But don’t feel you need to try to find chickpea flour just for this recipe! Falafel freeze very well and defrost within a few hours on a plate in the refrigerator for lunch or supper. They are also versatile. Serve in a pita, over a salad, as a burger, or plain with some fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and tzatziki on the side.  (BudgetBytes’ easy tzatziki is a favorite.) In a search for ways to serve falafel, I came up with some interesting ideas and options. Falafel waffle, anyone? Not only are falafel a good way to be creative, this is a great time to give yourself permission to do so!

~Laura

TWSM Book Review ‘Beautiful Ruins’

Could you use a vacation? At least a virtual one? If so, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter is just the ticket. 

This novel is an escape to the (fictional) village of Porto Vergogna, a centuries-old seaside town, which is located in the (actual) Cinque Terre area of the Italian Riviera. Portions of the novel also take place in the movie industry in Hollywood, California. The book hops between the 1960s and the early 2000s, sharing an engaging “almost romance” that spans decades. An unknown American actress, a famous Hollywood actor, and the owner of a small hotel in Porto Vergogna are all key to the story. Beautiful Ruins is a page-turner with endearing characters that will touch your heart and make you smile. 

The descriptions of the region in Italy are enough to make you want to read the book. 

“Finally, they crested the cliff and stood on the ledge above the village, the drop-off right at their feet — wind ripe, sea pulsing, foam curling on the rocks below.” 

“Dee stood near the edge, so frail that Pasquale had the urge to grab her, to keep her from being blown away by the wind. ‘It’s gorgeous Pasquale,’ she said. The sky was hazy-clear beneath a smear of faint cloud, washed out blue against the darker sea.” (Chapter 6) 

Walter creates characters whose heartaches strike a universal chord. 

“Stories are people. I’m a story, you’re a story … your father is a story. Our stories go in every direction, but sometimes, if we’re lucky, our stories join into one, and for a while, we’re less alone.” (Chapter 3) 

He also pokes fun at the entertainment industry. 

“Great fiction tells unknown truths. Great film goes further. Great film improves Truth. After all, what Truth ever made $40 million in its first weekend of wide release? What Truth sold in forty foreign territories in six hours? Who’s lining up to see a sequel to Truth?” (Chapter 9) 

If you are cooped up at home due to a global pandemic (or even if you aren’t!), I highly recommend Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Grab a cool drink, put your feet up, and enjoy your well-deserved vacation. 

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Copyright 2012

4 1⁄2 out of 5 Stars 

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.

Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’ a Triumphant Adaptation

“Little Women” is a widely-known story about the March sisters, Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen). The sisters are all very different from each other, each one of them having their own talents and flaws. The story centers around the sisters and their growing up. Director Greta Gerwig was not afraid to put her own vision on the famous story, jumping through time in a non-linear fashion, something the previous adaptations did not do. 

One day, the sisters meet Laurie (Timothee Chalamet), and an incredible friendship is born. Laurie is close with the whole March family but has a special bond with Jo. Chalamet’s performance in the scene where Laurie finally professes his love for Jo is breathtaking. 

The true shining star of this film, though, is Florence Pugh. Amy March is well-known for being the least endearing of the March sisters. She is blunt, rash, and selfish. However, Pugh’s performance somehow brings a different shade to Amy than what audiences have seen before. One spectacular moment is her monologue to Laurie concerning how marriage is not about love, but rather, and economic endeavor, really lets Pugh shine.

The whole film feels like what growing up in the March home probably felt like: chaotic, dramatic, heart wrenching, yet warm and inviting at the same time. Gerwig’s adaptation manages to capture that feeling of sisterhood in a way that the previous adaptations had not. Gerwig also sprinkles in some modern touches, like more modern dance moves and a few slang terms here and there. 

Many people were probably expecting another stuffy movie about women pursuing marriage partners in the old days. What they get from Gerwig and company pushes beyond that into an enjoyable, heartbreaking, and fulfilling experience. Not to mention, Gerwig’s tweak on the story’s ending is a fabulous interpretation of the material that none of the previous adaptations proposed. 

You can find “Little Women” on streaming and rental services.

Happy Viewing!

-Katie

TWSM Beer Braised Pork Review

Beer Braised Pork Review

Shortly after my ex-husband and I went our separate ways a few years ago, I discovered craft beer and local breweries. And we have a lot of them in Virginia. Heading out to a brewery for an hour or two to grab a beer and listen to live music became a past time I could do while my son Dylan was at Boy Scouts, or since he’s old enough to be alone a few hours, with a friend after dinner on occasion. Hanging out at breweries a couple times a month, I began following their Facebook and Untapped pages so I could time my visits with bands or releases of brews I’ve grown to enjoy. One of those breweries posted a link to Beer Braised Pulled Pork Sliders with Chipotle Beer Cheese Sauce and suggested their imperial porter as a good choice for the braising liquid.

Upon trying this recipe once, I was hooked. It’s a staple now in my recipe binder and in my freezer. Often, I’ll make a double batch of this when pork loin or pork butt goes on sale. (The last time I had two dutch ovens going with meat!) I have indeed, tried the imperial porter suggested, which is my go-to, although I recently discovered a stout with a hint of orange I feel complements this dish well. And this pork works so well with so many things!

Because I don’t often eat bread, I’ve never made this dish with the suggested cheese sauce on a slider or sandwich. Dylan likes it spiced up a little more with extra of the spice rub mixed in the shredded pork while reheating as a large, stuffed quesadilla or taco (see pictured quesadilla with my homemade barbeque sauce and cheddar cheese). One of my favorite treatments is pork over grits with a mushroom gravy made with some of the braising liquid and beef broth. We also enjoy it as pulled pork sandwiches, in omelets, in homemade mac and cheese, on flatbread, and once I even made an eggy sort of casserole with the beer braised pork, cheese, egg, and heavy cream.

Yes, the braised pork freezes extremely well either once cooked and still in large pieces or shredded and stored in 2 cup servings. I’ve also transferred the pork loin or butt to a slow cooker after searing in the dutch oven. Dylan and I discovered quite by accident when we mixed up two jars in the pantry that the spice rub makes an excellent seasoning for chicken tacos as well. Beer Braised Pulled Pork Sliders with Chipotle Beer Cheese Sauce is so easy and so versatile, answering “What’s for dinner?” during this time of uncertainty is one less question you have to stress about.

~Laura