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Nature Style: Cultivating Wellbeing at Home with Plants

Alana Langan and Jacqui Vidal. Thames & Hudson, $25 (160p) ISBN 978-1-76076-235-3

Langan and Vidal, founders of botanical design studio Ivy Muse, share advice for using plants to decorate and enhance a space in their delectable debut. The authors call their philosophy “biophilic styling,” and organize their tips around three elements: direct connection to nature, indirect connection to nature, and experience of space and place. First, they break down several “biophilic styling principles,” such as color (“layer the depth and variety of foliage” for many shades of green), shape (opt for “organic and shapely forms” in plant stands and vessels), and ambiance (light is key for both houseplants and vibes). Then they suggest “styling suggestions for every room”: in the kitchen, peace lilies do well and absorb sound; in the bathroom, Zanzibar gems soak up humidity; and in the bedroom, wicker or rattan planters add a nice visual touch. Tips, such as placing a plant in front of a mirror to reflect light and help it grow evenly, add value, as does a handy chart with common plants’ light and humidity needs. The gorgeous full-color, full-page photographs are another plus. Readers looking to bring greenery indoors will devour this handy guide. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/17/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Real Food Dietitians: The Real Food Table: 100 Easy & Delicious Mostly Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, and Dairy-Free Recipes for Every Day

Jessica Beacom and Stacie Hassing. Simon Element, $30 (288p) ISBN 978-1-982178-35-2

Dietitians Beacom and Hassing (Simply Nourished) put a healthy twist on comfort food in this excellent collection. Aiming to offer dishes that are both nourishing and simple to make, the authors emphasize that “when it comes to diet and nutrition, our approach is anything but dogmatic.” To that end, the recipes on offer utilize fresh and frozen produce—and other bits and bobs generally found in one’s fridge—and are tagged with icons that indicate the dietary needs each dish meets (gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free, Whole30). Many of the meals, which draw on cuisines from around the world, take less than 35 minutes to prepare, and all feature nutritional analyses and substitutions such as gluten-free all-purpose flour (“our go-to for baking”). Sweet and sour pork calls on coconut aminos instead of soy sauce (to reduce sodium) and less sugar, while a more nutrient-dense, reduced-fat rendition of Buffalo chicken—dairy-free ranch dressing included—is used to fill halves of twice-baked spaghetti squash. Elsewhere, a section of cocktails deploys fresh juices and natural sweeteners to flavorful effect in such mouthwatering options as strawberry white sangria and mango daiquiris. The daunting task of dieting gets an appetizing makeover in these innovative offerings. Agent: Lisa Grubka, Fletcher & Co. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 12/17/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Feng Shui Modern

Cliff Tan. Bloomsbury, $20 (192p) ISBN 978-1-5266-3999-8

TikTok influencer Tan masterfully demonstrates the practical application of feng shui in his easy-to-follow debut. He kicks things off with an explanation of the basic principles of feng shui—there’s yin and yang (essentially, balance); ba gua (a system of solid and broken lines that make use of yin and yang); the five elements (fire, earth, metal, water, and wood); the five animals (tortoise, bird, dragon, tiger, and snake, which corresponds to rear, front, left, right, and center); and chi (which deals with feelings, flow, and energy). Then he walks readers through ways to combine the various elements (avoid having a bedroom near the kitchen, for example, since the fire element is present there), dealing with clutter (a storage plan helps), how to select a home (take into consideration the amount of light it gets), choosing colors for doors (if the door faces south, red would highlight its “strong energy”), and how to lay out every room in the house. Tan keeps things simple, and beautiful illustrations and diagrams demonstrate feng shui in action. Readers looking to spruce up their homes will find this worth returning to. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/17/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Genius Kitchen: Over 100 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Make Your Brain Sharp, Body Strong, and Taste Buds Happy

Max Lugavere. Harper Wave, $32.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-302294-2

“When it comes to eating for good health, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ diet,’ ” writes health and science journalist Lugavere in this collection of fortifying recipes. When his mother’s health began to decline due to dementia, the author discovered that unhealthy foods—such as sugars and oils with trans fats—can increase the severity of chronic diseases. In the book’s first half, he shares how to combat leaning on “empty calories” by eating like a “genius” (consuming nutrient-rich foods that “satiate innate hunger mechanisms”); delves into what makes health foods healthy; and provides helpful tips for improving digestion (nose breathing increases nitric oxide, a gas that can reduce blood pressure). Following this are recipes both sweet and savory that harness the power of proteins and superfoods, among them grain-free blueberry orange pancakes with coconut cream, and spice-rubbed salmon with almond basil pesto. Broccoli lovers will relish Lugavere’s creative uses of the vegetable in a number of dishes, like broccoli “falafel” and sheet pan balsamic chicken and broccoli with figs. Meanwhile, desserts, such as almond olive oil cake, use natural sweeteners like monk fruit, which, Lugavere notes, has been utilized “for centuries in Chinese medicine.” This informs and satisfies in equal measure. Agent: Giles Anderson, Anderson Literary. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 12/17/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Modern Proper: Simple Dinners for Every Day

Holly Erickson and Natalie Mortimer. Simon Element, $32 (320p) ISBN 978-1-982177-66-9

Great minds think alike when it comes to pleasing the household in this satisfying guide to weeknight family dinners. Bringing their Modern Proper blog to print, self-taught cooks Erickson and Mortimer’s quest to rediscover the “lost art of hospitality for the modern homemaker” begins with eggs for all hours in dishes such as jammy eggs on lentils with wilted greens, and shakshuka-inspired curry poached eggs. Meatless entrées take on an international flair with such choices as tofu enchiladas with red sauce, and a Moroccan lentil and chickpea tagine. Meanwhile, chicken, seafood, and soups each get their own chapters, all related in the chatty prose of two friends who, to the point of distraction, are in lockstep agreement on everything from their favorite recipe in the collection (crispy pork lettuce wraps) to their favorite foods in general (“We love eating paella”). Meatballs hold a special place in their collective heart, with an entire chapter dedicated to the likes of miso ginger meatballs with cabbage, lemongrass pork meatballs with glass noodles, and spiced lamb meatballs. And in lieu of dessert, they offer spreads and dips, including make-your-own versions of taco seasoning and ranch dressing. Those looking to add a little variety to their repertoire without reinventing the wheel will find much to enjoy. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 12/17/2021 | Details & Permalink

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State Change: End Anxiety, Beat Burnout, and Ignite a New Baseline of Energy and Flow

Robin Berzin. Simon Element, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-19-821-7680-8

“A more impassioned, empowered, energetic, and healthier life is possible, no matter who you are,” writes Berzin, a doctor and founder of holistic health start-up Parsley Health, in her spirited debut. Berzin aims to foster a greater mind-body connection—convenience, technology, and overconsumption (namely, of sugar), she suggests, have all created barriers to a healthy life. Berzin’s route of getting brains and bodies back in sync is focused on instances she calls “state changes,” which are moments of “setting a new normal” and finding a baseline of happiness. Berzin supplies tools to achieve these moments, offering ways to eat healthier (eat a lot of plants and cut back on processed food), asking questions to foster a better understanding of one’s body (“When did you last feel well?”), providing tips to combat technology addiction (set a one-hour time limit for social media), recommending meditation, and even dispensing info on psychedelic therapy. Things culminate in her 30-day “Plan to Reset Your Mind and Mood,” which involves vitamins, exercise, and plenty of sleep. Berzin’s tips are practical, and she doesn’t skimp on details. Readers feeling burned out will find this a balm. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 12/17/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Vibrant Interiors: Living Large at Home

Andrea Monath Schumacher. Gibbs Smith, $45 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4236-6016-3

Designer Schumacher showcases bold homes in her eye-catching debut. Her style involves “mixing antiques... showstopping art and light fixtures and clean upholstered furniture to balance it all out,” and is displayed in the seven homes featured here. There’s an airy, luxurious New York City apartment with a funky wallpapered ceiling; a dark, rustic Wyoming ranch revamp with plenty of vintage pieces (plus a wall of cowboy hats); a Hamptons abode with a Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired entrance hall; and a look inside the author’s stunning “MidMod” house in Colorado, which makes use of feng shui principles—plus a fun anecdote about how she came to acquire it (she saw it from the road, knocked, and asked the owner if she could buy it). Along the way, the author dishes out tidbits of design musts: don’t forget “the fifth wall”—the ceiling; “conversation starters” are key; one should choose colors by “proceed[ing] directly to your closet or armoire”; all homes need a “bar center stage”; and “display what speaks to you.” The photos are stunning, and the variety of homes will have readers looking to shake things up. Those ready for a break from neutral interiors need look no further. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 12/17/2021 | Details & Permalink

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How to Raise an Intuitive Eater: Raising the Next Generation with Food and Body Confidence

Sumner Brooks and Amee Severson. St. Martins Essentials, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-78660-9

Dieticians Brooks and Severson take on “diet culture’s unrealistic ideals” in this cogent argument for allowing a child to determine his or her eating habits. Teaching children to “respect their unique body in a world that wants us to self-loathe” is crucial, the authors write, and they caution parents against using food as a reward or punishment, because it can lead to children having a conflict-filled relationship with food. Brooks and Severson’s plan consists of countering diet culture (by encouraging self-compassion), letting go of the myth of perfect parenting (mess-ups are learning opportunities), and embracing a holistic view of health (which involves managing stress). They recommend a flexible eating routine that takes into consideration kids’ preferences, and suggest helpful exercises, such as creating “lunch box cards” for kids to give to adults with an explanation of the family’s approach to food, or drafting a statement to remind parents why they’ve chosen to raise intuitive eaters. The authors tend to drive home the same points many times over, but they aren’t short on encouragement. Parents looking to get their kids’ eating habits off to a positive start will find this a useful resource. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 12/17/2021 | Details & Permalink

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It’s Not Just Cookies: Stories and Recipes from the Tiff’s Treats Kitchen

Tiffany and Leon Chen. Harper Horizon, $26.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-7852-4266-6

The husband and wife duo behind Texas’s Tiff’s Treats cookie franchise share their recipes for success and some sweets in this exhaustive outing. The Chens (self-proclaimed creators of the warm-cookie delivery industry) begin by charting their company’s origins as a “two-person operation” based in their college apartment in Austin, Tex., and trace how they survived “a gauntlet of misadventures” (floods, financial losses, evictions) to parlay their business into a tech-savvy, mission-based empire with more than 70 stores across the South. Randomly sprinkled throughout are recipes from the company’s vaults—tweaked for home kitchens—including such highlights as their gooey s’mores cookies; cookie spins on classic cakes (such as carrot, molten lava, and red velvet); and their “Trio dessert bar set,” featuring, most notably, their toffee-topped salted caramel blondies. Home bakers will appreciate the no-nonsense tips (use parchment paper, avoid overmixing, know one’s oven), but may find the Chens’ forays into such topics as parenting and glib pointers on how to navigate working with one’s spouse (“first step is to see if your personalities and talents are complementary”) out of place. Nevertheless, those willing to overlook the clumpy narrative will enjoy these simple riffs on classic cookies. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/10/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Succulents for Beginners: A Year-Round Growing Guide for Healthy and Beautiful Plants

Misa Matsuyama. Tuttle, $15.99 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-8048-5460-3

Matsuyama (The Gardener’s Guide to Succulents) reviews the basics of caring for succulents in this charming primer. Native to arid areas, the sun-loving and often humidity-averse succulent has a reputation for being easy, yet, Matsuyama writes, “the trick is in how to care for them.” To explain how to do so, she divides the plants into three season-based growth types (those that thrive in summer, spring, and winter), organizes them further by genus, and zooms in on their identifying characteristics, such as the color-changing rosettes of Echeveria, the fleshy leaves of Sedum, and the spiny shapes of cacti. Matsuyama shares her recommendations for soil mix, containers, pruning, repotting, watering, fertilizing, and observing the plants’ dormancy. Most newbies make a common mistake—insufficient light—and Matsuyama takes a pragmatic, realistic approach, urging readers to let the plants hang out on their desk while they work, then move them to a sunny spot on the days they’re not working. Matsuyama has a calming, whimsical touch, and the accompanying photos are spare and airy, full of natural light, weathered wood surfaces, and rough-textured pottery. Matsuyama’s minimalist take is sure to please. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 12/10/2021 | Details & Permalink

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