Last night, my husband and I attended the screening of Dave Chapelle’s documentary “Untitled” at Target Center in Minneapolis, MN. I’m a fan of Dave Chapelle’s late work and practically caught up on all his specials on Netflix thinking this event would be similar to what I’ve seen. Spoiler alert, the event was not at all what I expected and you should probably stop reading this as I’m about unveil some details of the event.
2020 was a rough year for many of us due to the obvious current events that took place. But nothing shaped us more as people and as the Twin Cities more than the unfortunate incident that succumbed to George Floyd. This was the first time in a long time my emotions about George Floyd resurfaced since the long weeks of protests of our hurting city. I surprised myself crying thinking these emotions were numb after so many weeks of protests, night curfews, fires, and gunshots in the neighborhood.
This literally hit home and it was personal. I had no idea of what to expect from this show and thoroughly felt this was a tribute to George Floyd, the fallen ones, their families, and to the people of the Twin Cities. The families of George Floyd and the fallen ones were flown in and were present in the audience.
There were surprise performances from Justin Bieber and Usher. It was a night of surprises, tears, joy, and laughter. A whole series of emotions that quite frankly made me feel human. Dave Chapelle really honed in on wanting us to know how the world views Minneapolis from the outside. In paraphrasing his words, “Minneapolis changed the world.” And as a fellow Minnesotan, born and raised in the Twin Cities, I’m humbled.
What an experience this show was. The element of surprise, laughter, and love was surely there and I was so moved. Thank you Dave Chapelle for being who you are and using your platform to make this world a better place.
Fall is here and so are soups and grilled cheese sandwiches. But have you ever had vegan tomato soup with vegan grilled cheese sandwich? I’m taking my usual soul food and switching it vegan style and here’s my take on it. Of course, if you’re up for the non-vegan version, feel free to check out my previous Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwich recipe.
I’m a fan of homemade tomato soups and grilled cheese sandwiches, and never have I ever had it better than at home. As part of my journey to a more plant-based diet I’ve decided to take a twist to this classic dish.
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- Glass baking dish, or similar oven-safe baking dish
- Blendtech blender, or something similar
- Iron skillet, or a cooking pan
- Glass mixing bowl
On the vine
With top ends chopped
Vegan Tomato Soup Directions:
Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich Directions:
I’m sure I’m not the only one whose gained the infamous 15 pandemic pounds. Eating everything in sight. Eating what the kids are eating. Or simply eating junk food just because you don’t want it to go to waste. Those were my excuses. But I came across these documentaries as if it was a sign from a higher power telling me, “Girl, get yourself together.” It wasn’t so much about gaining weight, of course that was a factor too, but it was more about how to get rid of always feeling tired.
I had watched an episode on Netflix called The Health-Span Plan from The Goop Lab with Gwyneth Paltrow that peaked my interest about how our diet and lifestyle, more specifically a vegan or pescatarian diet, could potentially improve our health to which our biological age (not true age) could be younger. This led me watch another documentary, like The Game Changers, that explained how eating a plant-based or vegan diet resulted in higher energy and faster recovery of illnesses. And that was more of what I was interested in – that crave of energy.
As a mother of raising two kids and a household of never-ending chores, I craved the energy that I didn’t have. So I decided to embark on this transition to a plant-base or vegan diet just to test how my body would react to it. Little did I know of how much of a challenge it was going to be to re-train my mind about food and being creative with new recipes. This experience definitely opened my eyes to new lens of what I could substitute for certain foods.
The goal was to be on this plant-base vegan diet strictly for as long as I could do it, which lasted for about a week and half and on and off afterwards. After 21 days I had noticed that my energy levels increased and I easily dropped 5.8 pounds easily with little exercise.
I didn’t realize that there were a lot more vegan products sold in stores and least expected it to be at Target of all places. Dropped so much money at Whole Foods that I didn’t realize vegan food was so accessible at other places. Youtube and Tiktok definitely helped me spark the creativeness in cooking vegan dishes, especially asian vegan dishes, because I wasn’t going to wake up eating oatmeal for breakfast and bowls of salads – no shade to the people who do actually do that. I need the spice, herbs, the umami, and all of the savory flavors.
Of course, cooking plant-base or vegan dishes at home was half the battle, it was eating out at restaurants that was more challenging. It was either these restaurants had one or two vegan dishes and if they did – the dishes weren’t off the charts delicious. If these restaurants didn’t have vegan dishes, of course, vegetarian was the only option. All in all, I do believe that restaurants are noticing this trend of veganism and are effectively coming up with vegan dishes. I’m starting to love is our very own St. Paul’s Tongue in Cheek restaurant this local restaurant offers a variety of vegan dishes with different cuisines, so if you’re ever in the area, please check them out – not sponsored.
It’s been about two months so far on transitioning to a more plant-base vegan lifestyle. And by transitioning, I mean not strictly on the diet. It’s been challenging retraining my mind to think of other alternatives and learning so much more about the food that I’m consuming. Fun fact, did you know that vermicelli bean thread noodles are actually from mung beans? I was today years old when I found that out and I’m in my thirties. I just thought it was made from rice flour or something. I’m so late to this. Also, did you know that bean sprouts are sprouts from a mung beans? I eat these foods on a regular basis and I never wondered where it came from… but now I do.
All in all, a plant-base vegan lifestyle is a great option to view food. Is it realistic? Yes. Is it challenging? Yes. Am I going to stick to this lifestyle? I’m considering it and I’m taking the initiative in transitioning. One day at a time. If you haven’t follow me yet on social media, like and follow my instagram and Facebook for more upcoming vegan dishes and recipes.
It’s been over a year since my best friend’s little brother had passed away suddenly. He was only 29 years old. Full of life, charismatic, always wearing a smile. He once said to me “You’re like my other older sister” which the most flattering thing he’d ever said to me. Which goes to show what a genuine person he was.
His passing was extremely shocking. Nothing could have prepared me for dissipating the inevitable milestones of what I imagined for him to achieve… marrying the love of his life and becoming a great father. Truly robbed of his experience to grow old.
My mind can’t seem to wrap around speaking about him in the past tense. His social media antics show up as memories and constantly remind me of his undying presence. A digital ghost, if you will, to remind that life without him will forever feel like a void. A forever missing puzzle piece.
I visited his grave yesterday on Memorial Day. The presence of the disturbed soil and where he laid to rest not yet been marked reminds me that his passing is still all too new. I’ve always been an overthinker thinking about possible scenarios or events that could happen and prepare of how to handle certain circumstances. But never ever would I have prepared for the loss of you.
What a much needed get away this past weekend to visit my in laws in Wisconsin. First family vacation for 2021. Last Monday, I sent a group text to my in laws that we were planning on visiting for the weekend. We haven’t seen my husband’s side of the family since last summer due to covid, with the exception of my mother and father in law, who visited us a couple of months ago. We were mainly waiting for the updates that my husband’s grandparents were fully vaccinated for us to safely visit them. It was also the ideal weekend as it was my brother in law, Brandon, and their grandfather’s birthdays.
My in laws own a condo at The Great Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells so my father in law mentioned that he was going to check for any availability for that Friday night. Of course, getting back into the grove of packing and getting ready for the trip took a learning curve and we didn’t arrive to the Great Wolf until 8pm, which was the time that the waterpark was closed but that was fine, we still had the next day. Friday night was all about settling in, celebrating my Brandon’s birthday, and mainly watching my boys play with their cousins late into the night.
Saturday morning came, my husband took off with his brothers to go grab breakfast from McDonalds and coffee from Starbucks for the family. Realized the night before that we had forgotten my toddler’s (Zane) swim trunks and the waterpark didn’t open until 10am, so my mother and I went to the gift shop in the main lobby that opened at 9am in search of swim trunks, unfortunately, that gift shop didn’t have any but I was able to grab some cute souvenir clothing for my boys. By that time, my husband and his brothers were back at the hotel room and my mother and I made our way back for our coffee and quick breakfast.
Breakfast was gobbled down, had my coffee to sip away. My mother and I took off shopping at the outlet mall that was in walking distance from the Great Wolf. Most of the stores at the outlet mall didn’t open until 10am, so we walked around and waited to get into Old Navy. And if you’ve been following me, you know that my Zaney is obsessed with dinosaurs, so I was able to grab him a cute dinosaur swimming shirt with dinosaur swim trunks to go along with it. Along with Zane’s swimming outfit, I was also able to get flip flops for the four of us and a pack of masks (just in case the boys lost their masks, always gotta have a back up).
While checking out, I was chit chatting with the cash register and mentioned how cute the swimwear was, and she mentioned that I was pretty lucky because they had just had just received a shipment of the swimwear collection to the store. Which worked out for me because they were such at a great price.
Shopping was over and done with, made our walk back to the hotel room to pack and checkout by 11am and then take the boys swimming. Of course, while my teenager, Micah, was putting on his swim trunks, he noticed that they were too small for him. Wished he would’ve told me he needed new swim trunks earlier when I was at the store, but I guess that’s just how kids are. Funny thing he said to me was, “Do you expect me to know if my swim trunks fit me or not?” and I looked at him and started laughing and said “Yes, I do!” Mind you, he’s 14 years old.
Finally loaded up the car with our luggage just in time for check out. Made our way to the waterpark, my husband took Zane to go swimming first while I took Micah to go purchase a swim trunk at the gift within the waterpark. I sat at a table with our belongings and watched my husband and my boys enjoy their time at the waterpark and soaked in the moments.
After we were done with swimming, we made our way to the arcade where my boys were able to get their game fix on.
After the arcade, we went to the gas station near by to get some drinks and snacks and wanted to show Zane the huge dinosaur that was the entrance to the gas station.
At this point we were in for a major appetite for a late lunch. When at the dells, we always make sure to make a stop for my favorite Mac and cheese restaurant at Mac and Cheese Shop.
My usual is the Jalapeño Popper and this time I wanted to try the Buffalo Mac and Cheese and I gotta say it’s now my second favorite off their menu.
After lunch, we made our drive to a relative’s house to celebrate my husband’s grandfather’s 90th birthday with the rest of his family and got to see how much the kids have grown.
Spent the night at my in laws house and had my leftover Buffalo Mac and Cheese for breakfast with a glass of homemade coffee while my boys ate scrambled eggs and Malt O-Meal that my mother in law made for them. Made our way to go visit my husband’s grandparents at their apartment and spend some more time with them before we made our way back home.
Food for Thought
I’m beyond grateful to witness life’s blessings in watching our loved ones grow old and the memories that we make. This weekend, I constantly reminded myself to take everything in and to savor these moments. Intently watch my kids play at the waterpark and just thinking about other moments that led up to this moment: their numerous swimming lessons, love of games and dinosaurs, and watching them learn about the world. I’m beyond awed at celebrating grandpa’s 90th birthday and reminiscing about how we just celebrated his 80th birthday. What a difference 10 years make not only to our elderly loved ones but also our kids growth.
Time is moving too fast and if I can just hug them a little longer, plan more trips and vacations, then maybe time can move a little slower. It’s important to be present is what I’ve learned. In the meantime, I’m capturing these moments in hopes that I can refer back to them when I’m hopefully 90 one day.
It’s been a while since I’ve last posted a blog post, I’ve been clearing my mind and making space to make room for his new chapter in my life. I’ve been blessed for experiencing milestones and continue to strive for continuous growth and happiness. The year 2020 had brought a lot of things into perspective, for me to reflect my priorities in life, and what my next step in life would be. I call it The Brook Project.
On March 1st, my husband and I finally closed on a 23 acre land in Brook Park, MN. We’ve always discussed about owning land but never did I think that we’d actually do it as we’re both such daydreamers, but I guess dreaming is where it all starts. There were several reasons as we made this move and the following is a series of reasons that made sense to make this dream a reality.
I grew up as a city girl on the weekdays and a farm girl on the weekends in my early childhood. My dad would bring me and my siblings to various farms where he raised chickens. My dad and I have many conversations about owning land ever since I was a teenager, mainly because I wanted him to have something to call his own instead of using other people’s farmland. The conversations went from me wanting to get land for him some day, to me still working towards it, to him recently saying that he’s giving up on the idea of it… which really made my heart sink and I felt that. I guess for him it was easier to give up on the idea of it than to hope of something that may not happen, fortunately, that’s not the case. This was a major flex of me reciprocating the love that he has provided to me as the greatest father I could ever ask for. When I updated my dad each process of checking out the land, putting an offer, the seller accepting, and finally to closing… I was hoping for a jumping joy reaction, but he had such a mellow reaction! Like c’mon dad, this is something we’ve always talked about! But my mother tells me that he’s low key excited, he’ll probably be more excited when there’s a house on the land.
“Like Mother, Like Daughter”
My mom on the other hand was way more excited than my dad when I told her about it. She was the one who called to follow up when we were going to close on the land. Now, it’s me and my mom talking about ideas, such as farming, having a greenhouse, to her even mentioning about possibly retiring on the land – which just validates were on the same wavelength. Subjects that I would imagine having these discussions with my dad. It’s funny how things turn out in ways that you don’t expect it. “Like Mother, Like Daughter” is what my dad would always say, but usually only when my mom and I quarrel. But now, we’re good. My mother and I have a better mother-daughter relationship now than we ever before. I guess we needed time, space, and me being a mother for our mother-daughter relationship to come into full circle. I can now see where I get my crazy ideas from, so course “like mother, like daughter.”
The Heart that I Spill on the Pages
Motherhood makes you think of moments that you can create more of for your children. Moments like having a huge family reunion in Washington state and watching my stepson, Micah, spend most of his time outside in the forest just playing with nature and exhausting his restlessness. As a child with special needs I noticed that this environment brought him peace and I wanted more of that for him.
My toddler, Zane, is happy with pure nature of sticks, stones, dirt, and running. In my womb, he was very active – always kicking. Zane started walking at 10 months and I’ve been chasing him ever since. I want more space for him to roam and explore his curiosity to his heart’s content.
In retrospect, memories that I don’t want are those without my fur baby, Bruno. We had a scare about 6 months ago when we thought our 9 year old Pitbull was gone forever when he went loose in our backyard and went missing for 3 of the longest weeks of our life. Weeks of crying, worrying, and afraid of not having more memories of him running on open land and growing old with us. Thank goodness that wasn’t the case as we were able to have Bruno back to our family safe and sound.
My Past, Present, and Future
The first people I texted after officially closing on the land was a group text to my brothers. They were just as excited as I was. Because what I have is for them to enjoy too. Already buzzing about plans for the summer for camping, my brother asking to shoot his guns, and the amount of fun that our kids are going to have.
The Pencil to My Paper
Last and not least the pencil to my paper of writing my ultimate love story. Our 10 years of being together and married for 5 years, raising two healthy boys, a loving dog, and this land for us to create even more abundant memories. Can’t wait to write the next chapter of our love story.
If you’re like me, making your picky toddler actually eat is a challenging task in itself. Some days you just want to create a quick side meal for your toddler or if your toddler is being picky from the main meal that you’ve already cooked, luckily this basic dish will be easy and fast to put together with zero prep.
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes | Serving Size: 4-5 people
Purchase and download digital PDF recipe, click here.
- Marinara Sauce, 0.5 container
- Penne Pasta, Garofolo, 0.5 a pack (2 ounce)
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese Shredded, 1 handful
- Parmesan Cheese (Grated), 1 g
- Meatballs (frozen), 15-20 meatballs
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, 1/2 tsp (optional)
- Pure Sea Salt, Kirkland, 2 tablespoons
- Saucepan (3 -4 quart)
- Full Baking Sheet
- Wooden Spoon
- Measuring spoons
- Stainless Steel Strainer
- Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup
- Preheat the oven according to the meatball package.
- Place the frozen meatballs on a baking sheet and place it in the oven.
- Bake the meatballs per the directions on the package.
- Once completed baking, set the baked meatballs aside.
- Fill the saucepan 3/4 with water and add 2 tablespoons of sea salt to the water on medium-high heat.
- Once boiling, add the penne pasta and cook for 20 minutes or until softened and occasionally stir with a wooden spoon.
- Separate the penne pasta and the water (make sure to save some of the pasta water in a Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup) using a stainless steel strainer in the sink.
- Place the penne pasta back into the saucepan and add the baked meatballs, marinara sauce, and shredded sharp cheddar cheese and stir over medium heat.
- Plate the contents on a plate, sprinkle grated parmesan cheese. And if you’re serving yourself a plate, feel free to add crushed red pepper flakes (optional).