Nest of Wangdoodles.

Well. I did it. I rode a friggen bicycle. I’m still alive…so far. Whoever coined the adage “it’s just like riding a bicycle,” was clearly an idiot. You can absolutely forget how to ride one. There are clearly better comparisons available. Like, for instance, I’d never forget pi. Why can’t the aphorism say: “It’s like the first sentence of Pride and Prejudice; You never forget it.”

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”

How could you forget that? You can’t. I can easily forget stupid things like gears and how not to die.

Brief overview of how this went. I went with the Viking, the Highlander, and the Professor to the path along the water. (NONE of my ladies went. Surrrre, they all went to Crossfit, but WHERE’S THE GODSDAMNED LOYALTY??? Excuses like “I don’t want to” and “but what if I fall” were out in ABUNDANCE.) The friend formerly known as “Graverobber,” henceforth to be known as “Ellie Mae” actually said “My face is too pretty for road rash.” She’s not wrong. Luckily, I am apparently a hag, and thus totally prepared for microdermabrasion via asphalt.

However, the relative propinquity of this race demands my immediate attention and dedication. So I suited up, strapped on a helmet, and had only a few, petite panic attacks. What I was unaware of before getting on the bicycle, was that I would be riding a bicycle fit for triathlons. The bike weighed less than my purse, and requires me to lean farther over than I thought I should. It should also be noted that I have seen maxi pads larger than the seat of this bicycle. It is also equipped with what I lovingly referred to as an “ass and vag vent” on the seat. I understand why it’s there, but it’s still funny. Though, not nearly as funny as the dude’s saddle which looks like either a confused bunny rabbit or strange sex toy.  It totally fits their wangdoodles like a hot dog bun. I laughed aloud. Hard.

Ladies saddle:

Of COURSE it’s white and pink. OF COURSE.

Dude’s saddle:

See what I mean? Wangdoodle nest. Incidentally, just typing “wangdoodle nest” made me think of a Seussian image of a “Nest of Wangdoodles with their throw-hoodles” or something, and the image was unpleasant. Now, I just placed it in your brain. You’re welcome.

In order to keep my mind from wandering toward my own death, the Highlander and the Professor, both of whom are from the UK, decided to have me help them with their French. The Highlander speaks English and Gaelic (Scottish Gaelic, not Irish), and the Professor speaks English, Latin, Mandarin, Welsh, and Manx. Yes, Manx. As in the mostly-dead language from the Isle of Man. They both have overwhelmingly UK-y accents. The Professor’s is all upper-crust Queen’s English, and the Highlander is, well, Highlandy. I almost went off course several times because I was shaking my head so hard. The unique dips and flat or round tones of French are completely lost on the two of them. At one point, at a break, I shot off an email to the Professor’s husband, begging him to teach him Spanish instead of my teaching him French.

But I digress, I rode NINE MILES without falling. NINE. As in the number after eight. 47, 520 feet.  Fourteen-point-five kilometers. I rode them on a tiny maxi-pad, vag-saving saddle, hunched over like I was doing something fun, like READING A BOOK. I got sweaty and sticky. I contemplated my last will and testament. I regretted not wearing some sort of foam armor. (which you can find instructions for on Pinterest.) I also realize that padded bicycle shorts exist for a reason, and it’s not just to give me junk in my empty trunk. I was wearing tight, capri-style pants. I also learned it matters not how handsome a dude is, when they put on a pointy helmet, they look ridiculous. I looked like an awesome space alien come to meet your leader.

The Highlander insisted that riding a bike in a triathlon was an ethereal experience akin to a wakeful dream. He is obviously insane, and I should re-evaluate our friendship at once. Sure, I thinking oneirically, but the dreams rushing upon my psyche were far more Captain Ahab and far less Stevenson’s dreams of toasted cheese.

For example:

 “A chasm seemed opening in him, from which forked flames and lightnings shot up, and accursed fiends beckoned him to leap down among them.”

Riding a bicycle is my white whale, it would seem. But I did it. No unholy communion required. Just a great amount of ribbing from friends and desire to not be a coward before my children. If I expect them to ride a bicycle, I can do no less. So I rode with the fear of cursed man, and somehow survived. Let’s just see if that holds. I am riding in Catalina for the Tri. We mustn’t forget the cliffs of insanity.

Jesu, near 900 words. Holy smokes. Ok, tomorrow is a book review, and I’m trying to secure a deal code for you scamps, so hold onto your asses until then. For now?

Peach Tea Muffins.

You know I LOVE tea. All sorts. All temperatures. I take my hot tea with milk and sugar, and my iced as black as my soul. But it is an underutilized ingredient in cooking! We use coffee all the freaking time! Why not tea?? Have you HAD a good Irish Breakfast lately? It’s freaking delightful. Ok, to be fair, I used Scottish breakfast tea, but that’s because it’s the strongest of the bunch. I mean, this tea wears a kilt in winter sans underoos; it’s that strong.

That’d be a way to describe the tea on the box. “Exposed stones in winter, strong!”

TO THE FOOD, MACDUFF!

peach tea muffins 14794471068_48b5ba13ed_z

 

Peach Tea Muffins

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Keywords: bread breakfast dessert vegetarian

Ingredients (20 muffins)

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 5 bags of black tea
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 peaches, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour (pulse oats in a food pro until it’s powder)

Instructions

preheat oven to 375F

stir together oil, sugars, and vanilla

microwave milk on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds

add in tea bags

let steep five minutes

while steeping, sift together dry ingredients and toss with peaches

whisk eggs into oil-sugar mixture

SLOWLY stir in tea milk into the egg-oil-sugar mixture

stir in peach/flour mixture

scoop into muffin cups to the top

bake for 18-22 minutes or until lightly browned on top, darker at the edges.

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Red Pill/Red Cocktail, Whatever.

Ok, let me first update you on my triathlon training. So far, I’ve started slowwwwly running again, got my ID all ready to get back in the pool, and I went bike shopping. Just the idea of shopping for a bicycle put me in a fit of near-hysterics. “what if I fail?” “What if I fall off and die?” “This is in Catalina, California. THERE ARE PROBABLY CLIFFS OF INSANITY.” My family has a bad history of falling off high shit and NOT RECOVERING. But!! But…tri suits are so fun. They’re not particularly sexy or anything, but they make me feel a little bit Trinity-badass.

“Hey, look at me in my tight, high-neckline, neoprene tank top. Don’t I look like I could totally take you down right now? One-handed? While drunk? Or eating scads of popcorn?!” Ok, maybe not those last two. When I’m drunk eating, I mostly just want to cry alone.

I’m so alone. I like Cheetos.

The shorts, on the other hand, make me feel very much like a pre-conservative Lisa Turtle.

I can totally do “the sprain.” Fuck you, Arya Stark.

I have not actually attempted to ride a bicycle, yet. Baby steps. Maybe immersion therapy. I could hang my bike above my bed at night. I could wear a helmet while I cook dinner. I could google images of hot triathlon men.

OMG!! IT’S JAMES MARSDEN! PRINCE CHARMING DOES TRIATHLONS!

I know that focus is insanely important, as are sets of goals. Small, short-term goals (buy the fucking bicycle, Bowen!!) Mid-range, slightly larger goals: perhaps not riding the PCH, but maybe the Brooklyn Bridge. Long-term, big-fucking goals: do the mother-fucking triathlon. Celebrate with ale and wine.

I have promised myself if I complete this tri, I can get another tattoo. Of what? Who the f knows. Nothing sporty. I may love to work out, and I may have done said tri, but I don’t want a fish riding a bicycle or some such nonsense. Although, a fish riding a bicycle would be sort of boss.

Apparently, it’s been done.

I now have a training plan in place, partners with which to train, Trinity badassuit, and gumption. Now? Now I just need to cojones to follow-through. I will also need a truckload of Motrin and gin, because I know I’m going to faceplant at least 17 times.

ON TO THE BOOZE.

Are you in the world’s best bookclub, We Ran, We Read, We Rummed? It’s headed up by myself and Amy, and it’s a lively group of book lovers who also want to stay fit, and less-sober. This month we’re reading Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger. It’s a YA steampunk novel with a lot of heart, and a fun plot. BECAUSE it’s both steampunk AND young adult, I decided to do a take on a Victorian-era cocktail, and give it a youthful twist. It’s named for a theme of the book, which is, vampirism.

The Sangre Sling

The Sangre Sling

The Sangre Sling

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: overnight

Keywords: beverage

Ingredients (2 cocktails)

  • 3 oz Hendrick’s gin
  • 12-15 pitted cherries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 oz vodka
  • 2 oz seltzer
  • cherry pop rocks
  • lemon slice

Instructions

in a microwave safe bowl/mug

add in sugar and cherries

microwave 45 seconds

let cool

add vodka

let sit overnight in fridge

in a shaker, shake cherry mixture and gin

rub lemon wedge around edge of glass, roll in pop rocks

pour into two martini glasses

top with seltzer

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Tri-ing To Read, Here.

Ok. This is another book review post, but I felt as though I’ve been neglecting telling you about my workouts as of late, so I’m going to do a quick re-cap with where I’ve been in this arena recently. Right now I’m taking it a bit easy, mostly playing with my kids, and chasing them around the park. I’m working back into a walking program to rest areas requiring healing. I do, however, have a long-term goal.

It’s a sprint-distance tri. 15k bicycle, 3.1 mi run (5K) and a 1/2 mile open-water swim. I am good-to-go with the swimming and the running. I could hit those distances half-asleep while doing a keg stand. (Though that is highly ill-advised.) It’s that third bit. That bit on the two wheels.  Jesus, Mary, and all of the Saints, I’m terrified.  (Is it Saints or saints? Any hagiographers read my blog?) I don’t have a fear of riding, so much as a total-and-utter fear of crashing and dying. I’m a New Yorker. Do you have any idea how many white-painted bicycles dot street corners to memorialize the death of a bicyclist? MORE THAN A FEW.  The crazy thing is that I am friends with MANY triathletes. I am friends with honest-to-gods IRONMEN/WOMEN. My sibling equivalent does a century ride every year to raise $$ for MS. The man? Bicycles were his PRIMARY-FORM of transport all through his teens, and most of his twenties. Here is my history with bicyles. In bullet-points.

  • I learn to ride between ages 7-9
  • It was a yellow bicycle with a banana seat
  • my sister spray-painted my bicycle red
  • the banana seat remained
  • I wore no helmet, ever.
  • I fell off said bicycle coming down the hill near my house. It hurt.
  • I fell into a ditch near my house. This too, was painful
  • I got a new 10-speed huffy when I was tenish.
  • It was pink
  • I fell off of the Huffy in the woods behind my brother’s friend’s house. It hurt.
  • There was no poison ivy, but there was a raspberry bush.
  • It was like falling into the vagina dentata of thorny bushes–bloody and full of teeth
  • My desire to ride upon two wheels was castrated.
  • I no longer had biking balls.

My siblings routinely made fun of my bicycling abilities, though their own injuries made mine look tame in comparison. Namely, my older sister put her teeth through her lip. That had to hurt. But I could not ride without hands, or apparently, without injury. I was strictly a “hands on the bars, ride the brake” rider. Apparently that latter bit is muy malo. I lay the blame for the majority of my injuries on fear and ADHD. A potent combination. I was constantly gripping the brakes, and constantly distracted. You can see how that could go terribly wrong.

So now I’ve been set up by a viking and a highlander to do this tri. I may use training wheels. There’s a possibility of using a Flintstone’s style motorcycle, all wide-stone wheels and foot propulsion. A pink Big Wheels is also under consideration. One thing I can tell you is that I WILL NOT BE CLIPPING IN. I “clip-in” at spin. At spin, if I fall off, I fall onto a mat. I am covered in shame, and perhaps the sweat of the rider next to me, but not blood and viscera.

So it is written, so it shall be.

575 words. Gif break? Gif break.

I like this option.

Onto the sexy. And by sexy, I mean words on pages.

But I was just getting to the good part.

I’ve read several books in the past week that I’ve really liked. None so much as this one:

To be 100% Honest, The first 20-40 pages, I wasn’t truly into it, so I put it down, read The Book of Life (which we know I adored) And then I had a bit of reader’s hangover/ennui. After a few days, I picked up Landline again, and really set-in for a readathon.

Ohallofthefucks was my initial hesitation stupid.  I found myself absorbed in a sea of beautiful prose. I was overcome with a hesitation to continue, lest it end too soon. Yet, I couldn’t stop myself from burning through page after page like a vengeful Savanarola. The story pulled upon every heartstring in my soul’s violin, and wrenched from it a brutal concerto of elation and melancholy.  I once again found myself tweeting passages to a friend who also read the book. I was overwhelmed with the desire to simply “share” in the experience of it.

*tweeted to @JustLeahFelts

So, what’s it about?

From the blurb:

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

There’s really nothing to add to that without revealing plot points that would decrease one’s pleasure in reading the story.

In Landline, Rainbow Rowell manages to effortlessly blend magical realism into an all-too-real plot with devastatingly real characters. Her world-building and character growth will rightly shut the mouths of any critic wary of reading a book penned by a woman who was previously most-known for her Young Adult novels. (Which are also quite amazing.) One will spend a good portion of the book with their heart in their throat, and tissues against their eyes and nose.

Five.Huge.Stars.

Now? The recipe I promised you on Monday.

Chocolate Almond Spread. AKA non-sketch ingredient vegan Nutella.

Vegan Chocolate Almond Spread

Vegan Chocolate Almond Spread Vegan Chocolate Almond Spread

 

 

 

 

Vegan Chocolate Almond Spread

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Keywords: blender appetizer condiment side snack dessert dairy-free gluten-free kosher paleo soy-free vegan vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 1 cup roasted, salted, almonds
  • 2 oz of your favorite vegan dark chocolate bar (newman’s or endangered species are my favorite.)
  • 1 oz coconut oil, liquid state
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp coconut milk (full-fat from the can)

Instructions

melt the chocolate bar

combine with remaining ingredients

blend in food pro

if needed, add a bit more melted choc or oil to smooth out.

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Whippet. Whippet Good.

In honor of John Venn’s 180th birthday, I’ve made a Venn diagram to kick off today’s topic.

Blank Venn Diagram - Plain

By now, I know you’ve heard all about the Hachette Publishing/Amazon dispute of the day. Long story short, Amazon wants to charge one price for ebooks, Hachette wants them to charge a different price. I can see both sides of the story. One: Hachette needs to make a profit and pay its authors the salary they deserve. With an increasing ebook market, and dwindling hardcover sales, it’s looking to stay afloat in a very challenging market.

On the other hand, Amazon contends that ebooks cost virtually nothing to publish. (Which is true from a strictly printing vs “send” viewpoint.)  And ebooks should therefore be priced much lower than other mediums.

I get that. But what Amazon doesn’t say is how much of that price goes to Amazon, (a pretty percentage) and how much goes to the publisher, (a prettier percentage) and how much goes to the author (pennies.) It costs as much for Amazon to offer it as it does for a publisher to hit “send.” Which is, very little. The real money is spent in marketing, editing, promotion, book tours, etc.

There is also this other sort of murky-ugly gray area with ebooks and publishing.  With the rapidly-growing ebook market comes the advent of indie publishing. This is such a thorn in the side of the publishing houses. It’s gaining traction in the market, and giving indie authors a platform that was not even a thought just ten years ago. In some cases, like Hugh Howey and EL James or Lianne Moriarty, the proof of sales leads to a traditional publishing route, and paperbacks or hardcover. It also gives them a distinct advantage at the bargaining table with a publishing house, because the house is taking on less of a risk, and gaining a following upon signing.

Great, right? Mostly. It’s also led to a rather predatory practice on behalf of some agencies and publishers. Here’s the thing: sometimes you’re a traditionally-published author under contract, or you *were* under contract to a publisher or agency. Let’s say you write a new book, it’s great, you love it, your mom has all 356 pages taped to the fridge, you excitedly send the second draft to your agent and/or publisher. They say “you know what, Cat? This book is good, but it doesn’t fit for us to publish it.” You think “ok, I’ll self-publish this bitch on Amazon and Kobo and iTunes, etc.”  Problem solved, right? You did all the work, all of the edits, all of the marketing. You took it to comic con in your backpack, and handed out galleys in the Javits Center Starbucks at BEA.  But your old publisher says “au contraire mon frere!, we get a cut.” I imagine I’d look something like this:

You see, because somewhere in paragraph 34957839486 line 9w8456793486 of your publishing contract, you signed an interminable agency clause or self pub clause, therefore screwing yourself out of the money you so richly deserve. It basically states they they own a piece of any backlisted book for the duration of the copyright. Or, if it’s new, it doesn’t matter if you self-pub, they own a piece of it as long as you’re under contract with them.

Note to ALL authors, indie or traditional or hybrid:make sure your agent is an ATTORNEY. So many lit agents aren’t. Also, hire a second lawyer to read the agent’s contract to determine where you’re getting effed, and how to fix it.

GAH! I’m already at 600 words. To break up this monotony, I’ll give you the character inspo for my latest  WIP.

You could meditate to that picture, couldn’t you?

Back to the topic at hand. Out of this miasma of contractual bullshit came a herd of authors completely eschewing the traditional route, and going straight to the indie pub market. This is both great–and rocky territory. It’s great because there is now a wealth of new authors on the market for us to enjoy, whom we probably wouldn’t have ever been able to read. It’s bad, because there are a TON of indie authors out there that are the equivalent of the college freshman penning a fictional short story in their Comp 101 class. Complete with multitudinous spelling errors, plots that make your head spin–like a four-day bender–and much of it reading like bad fanfic.

Honestly, for a long time, the latter group was where I assumed all indie authors belonged. I was a total pub snob. I love hardcovers and Houghton Mifflin. I watched authors I respect and whose work I love, malign the world of self-publishing. Having published academic works myself, I couldn’t wrap my brain around a system without at least fourteen different steps in the editing process. That is, until, a good friend of mine said: “You’ve GOT TO READ this series I’m hooked on.”

This particular friend is a tenured professor of Literature at an ivy. He does not recommend series lightly. He’s a huge snob. He penned an entire dissertation on ONE poem of Keats. He has a tattoo of a red pen on his arm to show how much he loves his job–and because he’s a dick. He’s lucky I love him. That series? The Elemental Mystery Series by Elizabeth Hunter.  An indie author. I was gobsmacked that he’d recommend a book that wasn’t put through the rigors of the publishing machine.

I immediately went on to Amazon and bought the lot of them. I went ass-over-teakettle for them. I ended up reading her entire catalog of books in a week. I called him after reading the first book, and made him come over just so I could hear him read passages of the book in his nifty British accent. (Also, so we could drink wine and gossip about people who’ve been dead 200 years.) As more books in the series came out, we’d sit side-by-side inhaling them like they were whippets for our book-whore souls. I made the bestie read them. I recommended them to my bookclub, I told groups of strangers at parties about how much I loved them. “Oh, you’re an Art History professor? Have you read The Genius and the Muse by Elizabeth Hunter? You will *never* look at metal sculpture the same way again.

After reading that particular novel, both my friend and I (we are both happily paired off) trolled artist’s instagram boards to see who’s the hottest sculptor. It’s a thing.

OMG 1000 words. You need a gif break.

You’re welcome.

After my eyes were opened, I fell upon the indie author kool-aid like that one time in middle school I fell on a treadmill. Firmly, and out for blood. It turns out, some of my FAVORITE contemporary authors are self-pubbies! One of my very favorite authors of the past several years, Penny Reid, whose books I’ve reviewed both here, and on GR, is self-pubbed.  I really patiently wait for her books to be released. I don’t at all have her highlighted on my book release spreadsheet, with a google alert ping attached. I certainly don’t use her memes as macbook wallpaper…

Because that would be weird. right?

So yes, there are good and bad, but honestly, you know you’ve read some shit books that were traditionally published. That’s why you have me! I read too much! I have high standards! *even my romcoms and pnrs have to be good. So I madeth you a collage!

Indie Authors to readIt’s like an indie author orgy of goodness.

Clockwise from the top: My Indie Authors to read Right NOW

An Acute Attraction by AJ Walters a fun and unexpected story with a hot academic.

Six of Hearts by LH Cosway This is no creepy Copperfield love affair. It’s hot, and it’s Irish, and you need more?

Semblance by Logan Patricks Hard to give a quick blurb for this one. It’s insane and wonderful.

The Genius and the Muse by Elizabeth Hunter A grad student. A tortured sculptor. A love lost in time. This.

Knitting in the City Series by Penny Reid So well written. Such an engaging storyline. So much heart.

I really hope you will pick one or all of these up. They’re really great.  Truly fantastic.

Sneak Peek for tomorrow’s blog post….

photo

 

Shark Surfing

Like most red-blooded Americans, I spent last night watching Sharknado 2. Who wouldn’t want to watch Ian Ziering and Tara Reid run about Manhattan while being nearly eaten by giant sea creatures? My initial wariness over the near-impossible plot-lines were quickly overshadowed by the utter glee that watching such a spectacle wrought within me. I can only compare my elation to that of a child getting their first taste of cotton candy at a fair. “What is this? It looks…strange. Ok, I’ll try it. WHY HAVE I EVER CONSUMED ANYTHING ELSE EVER????”

I may have cheered when the shark flew into the plane and ate Tara Reid’s hand. I cheered even louder when Ian Ziering found said hand at the end of the film, and rescued the ring from it. Ahh, romance. So sweet.

Watching this wonderful piece of American cinema has made me curious what other movies could be viewed with similar hope for mankind? If Finn could use his girlfriend’s rigored hand holding the gun she also lost, to shoot that evil fish, what can’t humanity do? Solve world hunger? Bring peace to Congress? ELIMINATE CAMEL TOE? The possibilities are endless.

I decided to scroll through my options on Netflix and see what I could find. I struck gold. Here are my top 5 pics, and I’ve even included one you can watch with your kids. Because, summer. (we can only watercolor and play soccer so much.)

I have a confession. My favorite movie snack is really unhealthy. Spicy almonds, dark chocolate M&Ms, red hots, and buttered popcorn all thrown together in a bowl. The calorie count huddles around 4986945867304. I can only blame myself. I started this in high school (when spicy peanuts was all that was available) and I’ve never switched anything more than the nuts.

It was time.

I made a recipe for kettle corn that hit most of the notes of the original mix, but with about 1/6 the calories.

Coconut Chipotle Kettle Corn — It’s a win.

Coconut-Chipotle Kettle Corn Coconut-Chipotle Kettle Corn

 

Coconut-Chipotle Kettle Corn

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Keywords: side snack vegan gluten-free kosher soy-free

Ingredients (12 cups)

  • 1 cup popcorn kernels
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

in a LARGE stockpot combine oil, sugar, spices, and salt on medium.

stir until dissolved

add in kernels

cover

as soon as you hear the first pop, start shaking every 10-15 seconds

when the popping slows to 1-2 seconds between pops, it’s done.

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Though Netflix sponsored these posts, all opinions and recipes are my own.

Though Netflix sponsored these posts, all opinions and recipes are my own.