Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Breakfast Smoothie Recipe


Are you sick of pumpkin everything yet? I'm not a huge fan of nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon (aka "pumpkin spice", because pumpkin has little to no flavor on its own). And I downright dislike pumpkin pie. But this breakfast smoothie is delicious and filling AND contains a vegetable. So there.

Plus, you can make a batch of 4 up ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, so you only have to exert minimum effort in the morning.


Ingredients (for 4 smoothies)
  • 2 cups milk (cow, goat, almond, soy, etc- I used vanilla-flavored coconut milk)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 Tblsp flax seeds
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1 Tblsp agave sweetener or molasses or yacon syrup or maple syrup
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 4 frozen bananas (peel before freezing)

  1. Whisk together milk, rolled oats, and flax seeds and let sit in the fridge for 3+ hours.

  2. Into that, mix pumpkin, liquid sweetener, and spices.

  3. In the morning, pour 1/3 of this mixture into a blender.
     
  4. Add a peeled frozen banana.
     
  5. Blend until smooth. If desired, add more sweetener.

It tastes like pumpkin pie. But it also makes a great base to add other things, like protein powder, peanut butter, etc. Enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review: His Majesty's Dragon

Synopsis according to GoodReads:
"Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. 

Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire."


His Majesty's Dragon combines two things I never considered as pairing: dragons, and the Napoleonic Wars. I was skeptical at first, but Novik managed to give me more than just a Horatio Hornblower story. And now I can't believe nobody put dragons into the 1800s before!


It's the first in a series (of 8, so far), and damned it all, I'm going to have to continue this series. Not only was the audiobook narrator fantastic, the characters intriguing, and the battle understandable *and* thrilling....I want to live in this world. It's the first time in a long time that I want to keep reading a series not because of the main character, or a cliffhanger plot, but because the world is so intriguing.


Believe me when I say, you don't need to enjoy battle fiction, or know anything about the Napoleonic Wars (although if you do, Novik's creative liberties are more clever). You don't even have to like the Regency era. Hell, you don't even have to like dragons! At its heart, it's a story of a dutiful man and his intelligent steed/pet/friend. It's got humor, action, and a lot of fresh dose into the ol' sword-and-sorcery genre of fantasy.


I recommend it for fans of fantasy, dragons, the Regency era, human/animal bonds, aerial anything, and historical fiction.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review: Lord of Snow and Shadows

Synopsis according to GoodReads:
"Raised by his protective mother in the sunny clime of the south, Gavril Andar knows nothing of his father—or the ominous legacy that awaits him. But his innocence is about to be shattered. The man who ruled the wintry kingdom of Azhkendir, a man infused with the burning blood of the dragon-warrior known as Drakhaoul, has been murdered by his enemies. It is his fiery, chameleonlike blood that pulses through Gavril’s veins. The news is Gavril’s first taste of death—but it will not be his last. For blood is the liquid that seals his fate.

Expected by clan warriors from the north to avenge his father’s murder—and still his unquiet ghost—Gavril is kidnapped. He soon learns that becoming Drakhaon means not only ascending to the throne of Azhkendir but changing, in subtle ways at first, into a being of extraordinary power and might. A being that must be replenished with the blood of innocentsin order to survive. Ensconced in Kastel Drakhaon with no means of escape from the icebound kingdom, and carefully watched by neighboring rulers waiting to move against him, the untested Gavril must fight to retain his human heart and soul in the face of impending war—and the dark instincts that threaten to overpower him."


Lord of Snow and Shadows is an epic story. And I mean that in the traditional sense: there's a cast of characters that's fairly large, it spans several countries, and it involves a lot of political intrigue and boundary disputes as well as a basic coming-of-age/coming-into-power story for TWO primary characters. I was not prepared for all of that, so it took me some time to get through.


If you like epics, I recommend it. I had the ARC version, so hopefully it's been cleaned up a bit in publication. My primary frustration with it was that I didn't feel very invested in any of the characters. We were juggling so many, it was difficult to get attached or intimate with just one. 


Aside from that, it was complex, had a few nice twists, had characters I wanted to bash into a wall (Astasia, for one), and took influence from some elements of European history. The imagery was where it shines the most, making you feel the cold, desolate northern country in your bones.


And while it doesn't end on a cliffhanger, per se, there are plenty of unanswered questions to drive you to book two (and probably book three, as well).


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Nail Files: Frosted Braeburn

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I decided to do something a little different today, and use a Printcess eye shadow as a nail polish (yep, you can do that! Tutorial coming soon). And since we've been having frost every morning, up until yesterday, I wanted it to have an authentically Fall feel.


That's Printcess Poison Apple topped with Julep Adele.


Interestingly, under artificial light, Poison Apple looks more brown, but under natural light she's more ruddy. Either way, Adele enchants.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Review: Incarnate

Synopsis according to GoodReads:
"New soul. Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

No soul. 
Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

Heart. 
Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?"


Incarnate is not what I expected, and honestly, it surprised me by getting better as it went along. Jodi Meadows clearly considered the premise from all directions before diving in, and I found myself wanting to read more, even as this (first book in the series) ended.


Ana is sometimes annoying- let's just get that out there, first off. BUT, it's easy to see why she's hyper-defensive. And easy to see why Sam is super patient with it. Every time I started rolling my eyes, I was reminded that in this world, only a million people exist and they've been reincarnated each a hundred times or more. So compared to their memories and experience, Ana is the ultimate outsider, and basically on toddler level.


I also have a HUGE appreciation for Jodi Meadows giving Ana some physical awkwardness. Oftentimes teenage female protagonists while insist that they are bumbling, but rarely do they even trip. Ana falls down and miscalculates distances and it hurts when she bangs her knees on the ground. Ana is the most honestly-written teenager I've read in a very long time: all desperation, physical awkwardness, insecurity, momentary flashes of pure empowerment, impatience, misunderstanding, self-centered and dramatic but always trying to do the right thing...I really liked her.


Sam....less so. Their romance felt a little bit forced on his end. I understand where she's coming from, 100%. But for a guy who is subject to teenage hormones but with the wisdom and experiences of a thousand years....it feels like the only thing drawing him to Ana is the fact that she's new while everyone else is stagnant. And that makes me sad, because if that's true, it means his fascination will eventually fade, and Ana doesn't need to be toyed with.


Naturally, I wanted to get inside Stef's head, as the character I would try to be, if I were in that world. MORE STEF!

*ahem*
Okay, in addition to that, I was impressed with the handling that gender and age mean very little in the universe of Incarnate. Souls seem attached to a personality, more or less, including likes/interests, fears, etc. I also feel like we've been teased with potential truths and half-truths that we're sussing out a wee bit faster than Ana is. So I'm looking forward to reading Book 2!


I recommend this for fans of fantasy YA, realistic teenage female protagonists, the transporting power of music, the concept of reincarnation, clean romance, and well-written YA stories in general.