Saturday, 7 March 2015

Goodreads Challenge 2014: Part 2

I signed up for another Goodreads Challenge this year. I realize that I totally fell off the wagon updating the blog last year, and didn't post anything beyond the first set of books. See My Goodreads Challenge Part One here.

I didn't officially meet the goal of 12 books in 12 months, I only managed to complete 11 by December 31. However, I was mid-book when the year changed, and finished my 12th book by the first week of January, so in my head, it counts.(I have the opposite rule in my head about calories consumed on a Friday night - they don't count. I should do a post sometime about the rules in my head...imagine what life would be like then...)

So without further ado, these were the rest of my books for the Goodreads Challenge for 2014:

Cameron Diaz - The Body Book

From the back cover:
Throughout her career, Cameron Diaz has been a role model for millions of women. By her own admission, though, this fit, athletic star wasn't always as health-conscious as she is today. Her consumption of bad foods had an effect on her skin and her body. "If you are what you eat," she says, "I was a bean burrito with extra cheese and extra sauce, no onions." Learning about the inseparable link between nutrition and health was just one of the life-changing lessons that sparked Cameron's passion to explore the best ways to care for her body. In The Body Book, she shares the knowledge she's gained both from personal experience and from consulting with health experts.


Cameron Diaz offers some insight on her eating and exercise habits. As a former model you sort of have to take it with a grain of salt. There are chapters in here that are clearly written by someone else, with a few of Cameron's interjections to make it seem more like her. But whatevs, I didn't hate it. I ended up liking her more. Except wtf is up with her face on this cover? It doesn't even look like her. She's gorgeous without the photoshopping. Just stop it.

Diane Chamberlain - The Courage Tree

From the back cover: 
Eight-year-old Sophie Donohue just wanted to be like every other little girl. Which is why her mother, Janine, reluctantly agreed to let her go on the weekend camping trip with her Brownie troop. But when Janine arrives to pick up Sophie after the trip, her daughter is not among the others. Somehow, along the forested route from West Virginia, Sophie has disappeared.

I haven't read a mystery in a while, so this was a change for me, to put down the book and think about what possibly could be going on. The subject matter was a little disturbing, the thought of losing one of my own children is gut-wrenching, let alone losing a sick child. It's the stuff of nightmares, but I worked through it and finished it with relief. 

Emily Giffin - Where We Belong

From the back cover:
Marian Caldwell is a thirty-six year old television producer, living her dream in New York City. With a fulfilling career and satisfying relationship, she has convinced everyone, including herself, that her life is just as she wants it to be. But one night, Marian answers a knock on the door . . . only to find Kirby Rose, an eighteen-year-old girl with a key to a past that Marian thought she had sealed off forever. From the moment Kirby appears on her doorstep, Marian’s perfectly constructed world—and her very identity—will be shaken to its core, resurrecting ghosts and memories of a passionate young love affair that threaten everything that has come to define her.

I loved this author, I've read pretty much everything she's written, so adding this to the list was a no-brainer. Her characters are realistically flawed and make the kind of selfish decisions that normal people make, which is nice. An easy and enjoyable read.

George R.R. Martin - A Clash of Kings

From the back cover:
Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon;who held sway over an age of enforced peace are dead...victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. 

I love the show, and I love the books. Enough said. Except I'll add that when I read Tyrion's lines in the book, I say them with Peter Dinklage's tone, accent and inflection. Just for some extra fun.

Diane Gabaldon - Outlander

From the back cover:
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord...1743.

This series is huge, not only in sheer size of the novels themselves, but the fact she has written at least a dozen books for the series...there is novellas, graphic novels and prequels that added to the mix and some were written out of order. The whole thing is very complex. And popular. I found this book really addictive and I started the next one as soon as I finished this one. 

Diana Gabaldon - Dragonfly in Amber

From the back cover:
For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones ... about a love that transcends the boundaries of time ... and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his....

Another one that I devoured...I'm not going to say quickly because this is no light read. It's more of the same, but when the formula works, it works. The heroine is spunky and the hero is a Scottish hunk. What else do you need?

Diana Gabaldon - Voyager

From the back cover:
Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her... and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.

Ugh. Ok. I'm getting to the point now where its getting to be a little lame. Her body still cries out for him in her dreams? I still read this, but come on. I like a romantic novel as much as the next girl, but let's be realistic here. Oh wait. This whole story is based on time travel through rocks...

Jillianne Hamilton - Molly Miranda, Thief for Hire

From the back cover:
Professional, experienced contract burglar. It’s not exactly something you can put on a business card. Molly Miranda has made a successful living from “acquiring” valuables and delivering them to clients who pay buckets of cash for her unique services. So what if she has to lie about her lavish lifestyle in Manhattan and her frequent trips out of the country? Molly has everything under control. Things go astray when she knocks boots with her charming roommate right before taking off to Scotland with an untrustworthy wildcard on a job assignment that doesn't go quite as planned. It doesn't help that this new partner-in-crime is super annoying. And attractive… Join Molly on her hilarious adventures as she dodges bullets, trespasses, wears disguises, and steals her way into trouble.

This was a breath of fresh air after the all the ripped bodices and heaving busoms from the past three books (see above). Oh, women can make decisions that are based on something other than a man? The main storyline isn't about love? Blasphemy.  I loved the character, she was a strong female, who took zero bullshit and put work before her dating life. Loved it.

And the "unofficial" twelfth book of 2014, although it was finished around January 3, 2015 or so....

Caitlin Moran - How to Build a Girl 

From the back cover:
What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn't enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes—and build yourself. It's 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there's no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde—fast-talking, hard-drinking gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer—like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontës—but without the dying-young bit.

If you've ever heard Caitlin Moran speak, she speaks really fast, and with the British accent, she's on to the next subject before you realize what she just said, and that it's hilarious. Thankfully I can read her words at my own speed. This Johanna/Dolly Wilde chick is wonderful. Her musings, her reasonings, her inner dialogue is just so heartbreaking and funny at the same time. You end up laughing at her pain, but I guess the moral is that if Johanna will be ok in the end, so will we. Great book.

I've already started the 2015 challenge, and have a good start on it already. Does anyone have any good books they would recommend?

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Ten Commandments of Boot Camp

I finished an eight week Total Body Transformation Boot Camp tonight, and I'm really happy with how it went. Working out with 8 other girls being trained by two trainers *cough*drill sergeants*cough*  wasn't something I was used to and totally out of my comfort zone - I'm used to working out in my basement and running back country roads alone. I'm pleased with the results of the camp too, it's taken my mentality from working out being a chore to being a normal part of the day, which is the shift I desperately needed.

Also, I shaved almost a second from my 30 yard sprint, doubled the amount of pushups and crunches in a set time (Don't ask me how long, I don't know. 30 seconds? 90 seconds? 45 minutes? I was just waiting for the word "TIME!" to tell me I could stop), added a tire flip, and added 6 seconds to my static squat. My measurements all went down, and I lost two pounds overall, but my general attitude towards the scale is one of distaste and despisery, so even if the scale went up (it rollercoastered the entire eight weeks), I would still have come out happy.

In the spirit of watching the movie Noah, which I did the other night and loved, I wanted to share the lessons I learned from Boot Camp (yes, I know, the two bible stories are unrelated but just go with it. And go watch Noah. Russell Crowe is still very awesome.)

The Ten Commandments of Boot Camp

1. Thou shalt not eat a half of a pizza before class. It will sit like a rock in your stomach. It's not in the Nutrition Guide.

2. Thou shalt not skimp on calories on boot camp days. You will need the energy. Running out of steam after 15 minutes makes for a very. long. class.

3. Thou shalt not underestimate the power of the pre-workout. You will want to die less.

4. Thou shalt juice on Sundays. It feels really great to juice on Sunday for breakfast and lunch. The Nutrition Guide suggested waiting until 8pm for a meal on Sundays, but I am an exceedingly devoted mother and my family requested that I eat supper with them. And I got hungry.

5. Thou shalt not skimp on protein powder. Seriously, put it in everything.

6. Thou shalt not take the scale too seriously. Screw it. It is just a number it does not own you.

7. Thou shalt not sass thy trainer. They can and will make you pay for it. "Are we running with sandbags?" "No." "Sweet!!" "I changed my mind. Grab a sandbag." Your proper response should have been "Thank you" and then move on. MOVE ON!

8. Thou shalt not forget the bug spray. There is nothing more annoying than swatting at bugs in the middle of a burpee set.

9. Thou shalt respect thy pushup and thy burpee. Be prepared to do hundreds, if not thousands, of pushups and burpees over the eight weeks.

10. Thou shalt prepare for pain. Stairs are overrated, anyway.

I loved it, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

How to Squeeze More Veggie Servings into Your Day

I enrolled in a Healthy Habits Boot Camp early this winter, and we spent an hour each week examining our eating habits and how to make our eating healthier. Our instructor used the Canada's Food Guide, and challenged us to follow the recommendations. We were to track our meals and count the servings for each of the food groups. I figured I knew how to eat healthy, but never in my life would I guess that I was falling so short of vegetable intake. Even with my veggie box. It was dismal. So I made it my mission to get the recommended 7-8 servings of vegetables in a day.

I had to sneak greens into pretty much everything, because I think I would have gotten really sick of eating salads for every single meal.

Here are a few of the tricks I used. (I should note I am showing the pictures and linking to the recipes only to give credit, they aren't the recipes I personally use).

Skip the spaghetti noodles and use a bed of greens

The concept of putting hot tomato sauce on a bed of lettuce or spinach that wilts when it heats seems wrong, I know. But once you forgive yourself for that and try it anyway, it is good. And the more you eat it, the better it gets. Your palate changes from "This spaghetti tastes ...different" to "This is the BEST salad." See the difference there? It's no longer pasta, just a hot, spicy, tomato-saucy salad. For a mom who's wheat-free and serving three other people who aren't, it's a quick modification to a weekday meal.

This is the closest picture I could find that looked like what mine look like...I don't bother with all the fixings, just dump the spag or chili on a bed of greens and go, but for the sake of a picture, here you are:

Use Spinach in your Pasta Sauces

Wilted spinach is barely recognizable in chili or spaghetti sauces, and you can blow through 2 or 3 cups easily. If you chop it up a  bit, the pieces get so small and your kids will never know they are eating all their spinach.

Use Greens in your Stir Fry

Very similar in concept to adding them to your sauces, the wilted greens give it some different color and flavor. It doesn't hide as well as it does in the sauces, but it really is tasty. And it wilts down so small, you can throw several handfuls in and it's not too much.This picture shows just spinach and chicken, but through all your usual stir fry veg in there too.

Use Spinach in your Smoothie

There are millions of smoothie recipes online with spinach in them, so go try one. It doesn't take like spinach, I promise. A little peanut butter and some chocolate protein, and you are drinking a cold Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. You will never know you are getting spinach into your system.

Use Greens in your Quinoa

I took this recipe (or my version of it anyway) to my mother's house for a dinner one night, and everyone loved it. I was requested to bring it again the next time we had supper. It is so good... I tell everyone that I could (and have) eaten the whole pot by myself. The cranberries, the feta, it all just makes it so fantastic. My favorite hidden greens recipe by far.

I'd love to hear from others how they work at getting lots of veggies in their diets, or any other ways to hide vegetables...let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Five Reasons You Know You are Addicted to Borgia

I've been watching Borgia on Netflix lately, and it's full of everything I love. Except the incest part, because ew. It takes place in fifteen century Rome, and follows the lives of the Vatican's most intriguing family, the Borgia. I've never heard of them before, but any gamers out there familiar with Assassin's Creed might have. I've been watching the Canal + version, but there is a tamer, watered down version on Showtime as well, and both are on Netflix. I'm totally loving it and finding myself a tad obsessed.

Here are a few of the warning signs that you are addicted (as I am) to this awesome, disgusting, beautiful and disturbing show.

5. You are disappointed Borgia doesn't have a wikia like Game of Thrones that has a biography on every character. 

Every show with a huge cast needs this. Especially when you have casting directors that favor certain "looks" and half the male cast look the same.

4. You have taken sides against the "other" show about the Borgia even though you haven't watched it.

For the record, I've only watched the European version. Things are less censored over there.

3. You expect to see Mark Ryder selfies in your Twitter feed every morning. 

It only happened once since I started following him, but it was great.

2. You debated in your head for a minute about reading the political work by Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, because it apparently loosely based on Cesare Borgia. Then you didn't. Because,'s early yet. You still might. 

You have full plans to read The Family by Mario Puzo though.

1. OMG you can't wait for season three to start. That is all.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

My Goodreads Challenge

In the spirit of my new years resolution, Turn Off the Damn TV (paraphrased, of course), I took up Goodreads' 2014 Reading Challenge. The challenge is an individual one, you can set the number of books you pledge to read during the year. I set my goal at 12 books, so a book a month. Easy peasy.

I'm going to try not to dwell on the fact that Goodreads average number of books in the challenge is 55. Oy. Not this year.

Book One: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief is a young adult book, but the Nazi Germany setting and the sections of the book narrated by Death are as dark as you would expect. I cared about the characters (Rudy especially- what a little gem he was), and I honestly liked the way the unconventional way the author approached some things. I enjoyed the book by the end, but I was crying like a baby.

Book Two: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

I picked this one because I loved the Netflix series so much. The book was good, though the series was MUCH more dramatized. The series created challenges and drama where there was none in the book. And there is much less lesbian sexytime in the book, if anyone is wondering.

Book Three: The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory

I love historical drama, and I loved Phillipa Gregory's Tudor series, but this one was a different beast. It was a lot more political and the story is repetitive (Oh, look. Edward is off to war again.). And every character was either named Elizabeth, Mary, Richard, Edward or George. It's super hard to keep track of twenty characters when they share the same five names. What also threw me was there was a certain mystery that was left completely unresolved, and it wasn't until I wikipedia'ed it after that it was indeed based on a true story, and the mystery was never solved. How depressing.

I'm realizing this list is are all movies or tv shows now, so while I was thinking my next few books will be Game of Thones, but maybe I should pick a few things that don't encourage me to turn on the tv to watch the story I just read. 

Anyone have any good books they read lately? Anyone else in the Goodreads Challenge?

Sunday, 30 March 2014

New Years Resolution Update

We are finishing up month three of 2014. That's 12 and a half weeks into my resolution. If you recall my resolution was to get myself out of a huge rut that involved a lot of tv and not much else:
  1. Not watch TV until 9 pm, and use the time after supper to do something. Anything: start a new hobby, read a book, play a board game, organize something, work out, etc. Watching Netflix does not count as a hobby. 
Right off the bat I'll admit the waiting until 9pm thing stopped happening early on. On nights that I didn't have plans, or a project, the tv was turned on by 8pm. I feel like I needed it though. The hustle and bustle of the day just demanded an end and the couch or bed called my name. I still managed to make my days something more than work, cook, clean, watch tv, repeat. 

I did still watch tv, and got caught up in Downton Abbey (not Downtown Abbey as I had originally thought) and like any good soap, it sucked me in for four seasons with the drama and the dresses. And Michelle Dockery's impressive eyebrow span. Oh, and everything that is Maggie Smith.
Check out those eyebrows. 
Oh wait, I'm talking about TV again. Let's get back on track here. 

I did manage to become slightly more productive again after the Autumn of Nothingness. My closets are organized. My basement was cleaned not once, but twice in the past three months. I recently switched around the furniture in my living room (it sounds minor, but little things like that give me a boost.)

I joined a Bootcamp group. We meet every Monday for eight weeks, and spend the first hour doing some sort of workout, like Tabata or the Accumulator. Then we spend the next hour talking about healthy eating habits, mostly about following Canada's Food Guide and the importance of preparing your own food. I had no idea how little vegetables I was eating. I thought I ate healthy (up until the Autumn of Nothingness of course, when I would skip lunch in favor of Peanut Butter M&M's) but now my veggie servings are up around 10-12 servings a day. 

I meet a friend for tutorial sessions on Photoshop and Illustrator once a week (we picked Wednesday's but there was some sort of glitch in the matrix and it stormed pretty consistently on Wednesdays this winter.) We usually worked on something for my job. It was nice sitting in a quiet coffee shop far removed from Mommyland. 

I  finished The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak. It took me a bit, since I put it down for a while, but it was a good read- the last twenty pages or so had me sobbing. My husband walked into the room during these last few pages and when he saw what a mess I was he went instantly from "Honey, have you seen my hat?" mode to "Danger: approach wife with extreme caution" mode. He almost backed up. Poor guy. I almost laughed. Almost. I was too busy crying.

So after three months, things are going back to normal. The mom-shaped blob isn't a permanent fixture on my couch anymore. Not major victories or huge changes here; all minor. All normal things that normal people accomplish...but at least it's something. Something is better than nothing.

(Note: I've been messing around with the design of the blog, but I'm still not happy with it. Most of the time when a page loads, the web font doesn't render, and Comic Sans appears in it's place. Not cool, Blogger, not cool. )

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Search for a New Hobby

Hey all. I changed the look of the blog this week. The other design wasn't working and all the text was displaying as Times New Roman. Thanks, but no thanks.

I recently changed my relationship with a certain item in my house, due to a mom-shaped blob being a permanent fixture on my living room couch. The change happened around Christmas, so I made a resolution to make it a little more formal. Here is my New Years Resolution for 2014:

  1. Not watch TV until 9 pm, and use the time after supper to do something. Anything: start a new hobby, read a book, play a board game, organize something, work out, etc. Watching Netflix does not count as a hobby. 

I felt like this fall just sucked the life right out of me. No motivation, no challenges, just an unhealthy addiction to TV shows and curling up in front of the fire. It was just nothing. I was busy at work, and it seemed like when I got home, I needed to put my brain on hold and just not do anything. It was starting to become noticeable around Christmas that I was becoming a blob on the couch, so I decided I needed to change something.

So my New Years Resolution that I started a week before New Years began. I am trying to not veg out in front of the tv until 9 pm at night. Until that time arrives, I have to do something. Don't get me wrong, I used to be able to do things. I had projects, I took on personal challenges, I read books. Just not lately. I think I got lazy. Or the internet made me do it. One or the other. But it's definitely either my fault or the Internets.

 I read this post shortly after I started and it speaks exactly to where I am: Self-Improvement: Why I Am Powering-Off My Electronics & Accomplishing MORE. I don't see a ukulele or painting self-portraits in my near future (though it would be awesome) but I completely feel the line "I don't have any other interests besides Tumblr or Facebook".  Time to change that.

So I have a few goals in mind for the next six months: become proficient in Photoshop, train for my third Tough Mudder in July, get through a few more (lets say four, shall we?) of my "To-Read" list on Goodreads, and keep up with the blog with my progress and little projects I'm up to. Along the way, I'll keep my eye out for a new hobby. Not to sound lackluster or lukewarm about this whole hobby thing. Just that it might be too much too soon. Let's get my sorry ass off the couch first.