Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In Death Series Reading Challenge: January 2012

Interested in joining the Challenge? Anyone is welcome to join in at any time of the year at wherever in the series you currently are. See the sign up post HERE
and join the fun!

We have four new participants in the challenge this year. Please welcome Darlene, Lauren, Cassandra and Aisha!:)

Would you believe this post marks the two year anniversary of this challenge? Two years! .. and most of us are still not caught up yet! I'm trying to stay on track with one book per month, but it doesn't always happen. This month was overall a very slow reading month for me. I'm currently reading Born in Death, but haven't finished it in time for this month.

How did you do?

Link up any In Death posts you made this month here. If you made a post on your blog, whether it be a review or commentary, please grab the link to your post and enter in the Mr. Linky below along with your name so we can find each other's latest In Death posts easily. You can also just use the link to your goodreads or other virtual bookshelf as well.

... none ...


Eve wasn't sure what it said about her that she was more comfortable in the morgue than in a baby boutique. And she didn't actually care. The cold white walls, the scent of death under the piney odors of cleansers were the familiar.
--Born in Death, p. 46

Oh Eve. We can't even fell sorry for her, thinking she is missing out on anything because the cause for which she chooses to devote herself is so heroic. No one will work harder to solve a murder and see that justice is served on behalf of the victims as Eve does. Of course, we all feel tremendous sadness and sorrow for the horrific childhood that Eve lived. I also sometimes think of Eve's adult life before she met Roarke and think those years must have been pretty sad as well--really only living and breathing her job, rarely if ever relaxing, having fun, sharing herself with someone, loving and being loved. The quality of Eve's life has improved tenfold since those days thanks to Roarke, her friend Mavis and numerous colleagues who are now also considered friends. She's come a long way, hasn't she? So if she's not comfortable with spa treatments, shopping sprees and baby boutiques, I can accept that.

What are your thoughts regarding the quote above?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reflections on Week 3: Whole Living Action Plan

For the last three weeks I've been following the body cleanse plan outlined by Whole Living magazine in their January-February 2012 issue and on their website at wholeliving.com. The 28 Day Whole Living Action Plan is designed to cleanse your body of impurities that have built up in your body {primarily in your liver which gets taxed by the impurities in the food and beverages we consume} and establish healthier and cleaner ways of eating and living. Today is the last day of Week 3 for me... so only one more week to go!

To learn more about the cleanse, visit the link in the paragraph above for the wholeliving.com website.

How was Week 3?
This week was very similar to Week 2 a lot of ways, but I did feel as though I had more breakfast choices--and especially welcomed eggs and oats to fuel my morning workouts. I had a few small servings of brown rice during the week as well--1/4 cup one night with dinner and about the same in a homemade veggie burger two other days.

I thought I would have pounced on the opportunity to have grains back on my plate, but I actually preferred filling up on flavorful vegetables and salmon instead of the rice. That's a good sign to some newer habits setting in.. I hope! Here's a look at what I ate in Week 3:

  • hot water with fresh squeezed lemon at start of day.
  • green juice {I went to a friend's house and used her juicer!}
  • Toasted Coconut Muesli
  • egg and spinach omelet
  • fresh fruit & vegetables
  • steamed or roasted vegetables with olive oil
  • Baked Sweet Potato with Citrus
  • nuts & dried fruit mix {homemade}
  • popcorn! {air-popped or popped on the stove top with olive oil}
  • cinnamon poached pears
  • mixed green salads with cilantro, radish, apple, and pecans, dressed with homemade pomegranate vinaigrette
  • Chickpea-Brown Rice Veggie Burger
  • Spiced Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
  • oven roasted salmon
  • Curry Vegetables {my own recipe}
  • sushi {a treat! the only cheat was that the sushi was made with short grain white rice, not brown rice--but still gluten-free so it's technically okay}

What did I learn this week?
It's still really hard to deprive yourself of your favorite foods for so many weeks in a row. For example, my family had Thai take out one night this week and it was pretty torturous to eat sit at the table and sip my bowl of plain vegetable soup with all of that delicious smelling hot food laid out in front of me. I actually had to leave the room. But I chose to do this and it's only for several more days, so I'll stick it out.

How do I feel?
I'm feeling pretty good about the foods I've been eating over the last three weeks. Lots of different flavors, colors, textures and all so healthy! It's a good feeling knowing I'm doing something good for my body. I feel more tired at the end of the day than I did before doing this cleanse so I'm falling asleep earlier and sleeping more soundly, too. I don't know if this is part of the cleanse or the lack of my usual caffeine or if it's because I'm not eating enough calories to sustain my energy for my usual 18 waking hours. I used to get by on 6+ hours of sleep... now I feel I need at least 7 hours, if not more.

I've lost a total of 7 lbs. on the detox in the last three weeks so far.

What do I miss?
I still miss coffee, although interestingly, not necessarily first thing in the morning. I tend to look for a cup either mid morning or mid afternoon. And a cookie. Just one cookie. That's what I'm going to try to do when this plan is over.

As I forge ahead into Week 4:
This week is the bonus week of the cleanse. I can add lean chicken and beef and grains with gluten in moderation. Looking forward to having meat back in my diet, but I'm going to do my best to keep the number of servings of carbohydrates low this week--especially grains with gluten. I definitely feel sluggish and bloated when I eat the smallest amount above one serving of these foods.

Here's to healthier, whole living!

For more information about the Whole Living Action Plan 2012, visit Whole Living at wholeliving.com.

RECIPE: Curry Vegetables

I invented this recipe the other night when I was in the mood for something curry flavored to go with the oven roasted salmon I was preparing for dinner. It's very easy to make and you could easily substitute your favorite vegetables for any of the vegetables below. Broccoli, okra, red peppers and mushrooms would taste great in this dish.

Curry Vegetables
To serve as a main dish, add a 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained, with the vegetables in step four.

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 " piece of fresh ginger, minced
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
1 small cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
2 carrots, sliced
1 potato, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 cup peas
1 tomato, finely chopped
2 tablespoons raisins, optional
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, optional

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan {with a lid} over medium high heat. Add mustard seeds and stir until the seeds start to pop.
  2. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant and the onion begins to look translucent, stirring continuously--about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the curry powder and stir for 1 minute.
  4. Add the cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, peas and tomatoes, stirring until the vegetables are coated with the onion mixture and curry powder.
  5. Add 1/4 of water and the raisins, if using, to the pan and immediately cover with a lid. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes. Check vegetable mixture and add more water if necessary, to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the garam masala over the vegetables and put the lid back on. Cook for 2 more minutes or until the cauliflower, carrots and potato are fork tender.
  6. Test for seasoning and add additional salt & pepper, if necessary.
  7. Sprinkle dish with chopped fresh cilantro before serving.


Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Get Excited for Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas & Book Giveaway

Oh how I wish I was giving away copies of Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas, but no. I'm afraid I'm going to have to sit tight and wait for this book's release just like the rest of you.

You ARE anxiously awaiting Rainshadow Road, too, right? Did you read the first chapter excerpt on Lisa's website yet? No?! What are you waiting for? Go read it HERE. Go ahead and read it right now. I'll wait for you....

So what did you think? I love this opening scene. Already I'm in love with the Pacific Northwest setting. I was lucky to visit the region two summers ago with my family, so I can attest to the grandness of it's natural and rugged beauty and I can see why Lisa Kleypas chose this particular setting for her Friday Harbor series. It truly is a majestic place and invokes a sense of both peace and wonder.

As for Lucy Marinn and Sam Nolan, in just one opening scene, we can see there's a subtle chemistry between them, don't you think? I can already tell their relationship is going to be a sweet discovery, although it's not going to be so straightforward. There's some obstacles in this love story of which we already know and I'm sure even more to come as the story progresses. One thing we definitely know about Lucy is her strong sense of caution when it comes to relationships with men, and who can blame her after the awful break up she's going through. Oh, but you haven't heard the details of that one yet, have you? Well, as a member of Lisa's Divas I was able to read the second chapter excerpt recently, and let me tell you the break-up is a tough one. I hope Sam is good at convincing Lucy of love and happily ever after. Although, to tell you the truth--he's going to need some convincing of the possibility of that, too! I can't wait to see how Lisa Kleypas brings these two characters together.

To help get you psyched for the February 28, 2012 release of Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas, I'm giving away three beautifully bound hardcover copies of the first book by Lisa that introduces us to Friday Harbor and the Nolan brothers.... Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor is the story of Mark Nolan and Maggie Collins, the owner of a very special toy store in Friday Harbor. This heartwarming story is so charming and will leave you believing in the magic of love.

You can read my review of Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor HERE. I can't believe I read it way back in October 2010! That was many, many books ago for me, but the characters, their story and the setting!--are still fresh in my mind.

Want to be entered for a chance to win Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor? Just follow these steps and rules:
  • Leave a comment below telling me your favorite book by Lisa Kleypas and you're entered in the giveaway.
  • Haven't read a book yet by Lisa Kleypas? Then leave a comment below telling me why you'd like to read this one. 
  • Be sure to leave your email address in your comment if it is not easily found on your profile.
  • Open to US and Canada only. It's out of my budget to mail outside these two zones--I'm sorry.
  • Giveaway ends on Friday, February 3, 2012, 5 pm EST at which time I'll use random.org to select three winners.
  • Winners will be notified by email and have three days to get back to me with their mailing information or their prize will be forfeited and another winner will be selected.
Good luck!  

To discover more about Lisa Kleypas and her books, visit her website at http://LisaKleypas.com.

There's also a great interview with Lisa that includes a lot of talk about Rainshadow Road at SmartBitches website HERE. The book giveaway is over, but do go read the interview with Lisa--it's very good!

NOTE: I'm one of "Lisa's Divas" - a group of select fans who share info & content related to Lisa's novels and get sneak peeks & swag in return. Including the copies of Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor provided for this giveaway! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Library Loot XLVI

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! This week's Library Loot is at Marg's

My first library loot post of 2012! Last year, 47 out of the 100 books I read were borrowed from the library! Can you tell I love the library? :)


Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Recipes from The Moosewood Collective.. lots of contributors!
Eat Well Live Well with Gluten Intolerance by Susanna Holt

Looking for some recipes that I can eat during the detox plan I've been following for the last seventeen days. 17 down 11 to go... To read more about the detox I'm doing, check out these posts.

Craft book:
Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts.
Woops. I borrowed the wrong book. I was looking for the Encyclopedia of Crafts. Oh well, I'll thumb through this one anyway. It's not like I have time to craft or sew anyway these days..

In fiction:

The Next Always by Nora Roberts
I've been on hold for this book for weeks and weeks. Finally it's my turn and the copy my library has is the large print one. I kind of don't want to read it now...


King Lear by Shakespeare, graphic interpretation by Gareth Hinds
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, graphic interpretation by Charles Dixon with Sean Deming, illustrated by David Wenzel.
Graphic novels of some classics that I've never read. I'm taking a short cut to gain some basic knowledge of these two stories I've never read.

In music:
Various cds including Eyes Open by Snow Patrol. There's a fun remix version of "Chasing Cars" on this album. I love it! ha! My favorite Snow Patrol song is probably "Run," but unfortunately that's on another album. Have you heard the Leona Lewis version of "Run"? SOoo good. It gives me goosebumps.

Bought from the used book shelf:
I couldn't resist at 50 cents each.

The Christmas Brides by Linda Lael Miller
High Noon by Nora Roberts
WhatHappens In London by Julia Quinn
The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn
Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn

What's your latest loot from the library? 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Favorites of 2011 {Books}

Plus some random book and reading stats thrown in.

I'm finally getting this post up. I started it in the week between Christmas and New Year's and every couple of days I'd make a few tweaks, add some finishing touch, then get distracted, pulled in another direction, etc. You know how it goes. Anyway, here it is-- an overview of the books I read in 2011 by number, genre and favorites.

My 2011 Random Reading Stats: 
I guess I can't really say I read a balanced blend of male and female authors. I read books by female authors over male authors by nearly 8 to 1. Not that it bothers me in the least and I doubt these figures will be much different in 2012.

Male authors read ........ 9
Female authors read .... 69

I read an even 100 books in 2011 which was exactly my goal.  I worked hard at this in the last weeks of December! Some facts on the 100 books I read:

Books read from my shelves ............ 53
Books borrowed from the library ..... 47

Books published in 2011 .......... 28
Books published in 2010 .......... 27
Books published before 2010 ... 45

Books read by genre: 
Romance............................. 37
           Historical Romance............ 16
           Paranormal Romance ......... 13
           Contemporary Romance....... 8

Young Adult ...................... 15
           Urban fantasy/fantasy/PNR ............. 9
           Contemporary .................................. 6

Graphic novel ................... 14
          "Classics" ........................ 5
           Fantasy ........................... 5
           Non-fiction...................... 2
           Contemporary ................ 2

Mystery/Crime fiction..... 14
General Fiction.................. 9
Urban Fantasy .................. 5
Children's Literature.......... 2
Fantasy............................. 2
Steampunk........................ 1
Memoir ............................ 1

I'm happy with the mix of genres I read last year. I'd like to read more... just MORE of everything in 2012, but will make a conscious effort to read more fantasy and steampunk novels this year.

For anyone who's interested, curious or has nothing better to, you can browse my list of the 100 books I read in 2011 HERE.

Otherwise, keep reading for my list of favorites from 2011.

My favorite reads of 2011:
The titles with an asterisk * were published in 2011.

Favorite 'Aren't You Too Old to be Reading That', a.k.a Young Adult:
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Worth Every Single Tear:
The Story of Beautiful Girlby Rachel Simon
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

The Best Book Recommendation from a Friend:
The Guernsey and Literary Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I would have completely missed this wonderful read had it not been for Amy sharing her copy of this book with so many blogging friends around the world.

Most Compelling Series:
Guild Hunters by Nalini Singh
Psy-Changeling Series by Nalini Singh
     Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh--definitely one of my very favorite reads of 2011.

Smart & Sexy Historical Romances:
Silk is for Seductionby Loretta Chase
The Bastard * by Brenda Novak
    Honorable Mention:
    A Lady's Lesson in Scandalby Meredith Duran

Best Blast from the Past:
The Bride by Julie Garwood

So Good I HAD to Read it AGAIN:
Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh
Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne

Most Heart-Pounding-Edge-of-Your-Seat-Thrilling Read:
Shadowfever *  by Karen Marie Moning

Most Guilty-Pleasure
a.k.a. What IS it about this series that keeps me coming back?
Lover Unleashed * by J.R. Ward

Surprise Favorite Reads:
Elfland by Freda Warrington
The Greyfriar * by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
I LOVED all three of these books to pieces. I cannot wait to read more by these authors.

Most Read Author of the Year:
Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb with 8 books
followed by Nalini Singh with 5 books

Favorite Cover Art: 
Elfland by Freda Warrington
A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran


Were any of these books among your favorite reads in 2011?

Here's to a wonderful year full of great books in 2012!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Reflections on Week 2 : Whole Living {detox} Action Plan

I've just finished Week 2 of the Whole Living Action Plan that I've been following to cleanse my body of impurities, get control over sugar and carb cravings and establish better habits of eating clean {i.e. eating foods as close to their natural state as possible; no packaged or processed foods}.

Carrot Mango Herb Smoothie

How was Week 2? 
Although still challenging to avoid all grains, this week was significantly easier than Week 1. After having eaten ONLY fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and olive oil for a week, I welcomed the addition of seafood, legumes and organic soy in Week 2! These protein and fiber rich foods were more filling and I felt much more satiated after each meal. Here's a list of what I ate in Week 2:

  • hot water with fresh squeezed lemon at start of every day.
  • detox smoothies for breakfast {Carrot Mango Herb Smoothie is my favorite so far} 
  • fresh fruit & vegetables
  • steamed or roasted vegetables with olive oil
  • nuts & dried fruit trail mix {also Dried Fruit and Nut Bites}
  • mixed green salads with black beans and avocado, dressed with lemon or lime juice and olive oil
  • red lentil soup
  • tofu with red curry coconut sauce
  • oven roasted salmon

What have I learned so far?
Be prepared! If you have a few plan-approved snacks prepared in advance, you'll reach for the right foods instead of being tempted by the foods you should be avoiding during the detox. The same goes for the meals. Have a big bowl of greens ready for salads so you can just assemble your salad and eat! Make a big pot of soup in advance and store individual portions in glass jars or microwavable safe containers--ready to heat up when you are.

How do I feel?
I felt really good this week. I have more energy again so I've increased the intensity of my workouts this week almost back to my normal levels. I also feel 'lighter' than I did before starting the detox--which is a good feeling. Not that I thought I felt 'full' or 'bloated' before, but I guess I'm just aware of it now that I feel so much better.

I've lost a total of 6 lbs. on the detox plan so far. This is keeping me motivated to stay on track, although I know this will probably taper off to a rate of 1-2 lbs. a week once I add grains back into my diet.

What do I miss?
Coffee, oh how I miss thee. One afternoon last week I really, really wanted a cookie and a cup of coffee. I survived.

As I forge ahead into Week 3:
In Week 3, eggs and gluten-free grains are re-introduced. I am already planning an omelet with spinach and tomatoes for breakfast tomorrow. I can't wait! I'll also be able to have oats again--I've missed them. FYI, oats are an essentially gluten-free grain, but many popular brands are not able to tout the gluten-free label because they are grown, stored and shipped in ways that may contaminate them with traces of wheat, barely or rye. Since I'm not gluten intolerant, I'm not going to worry about those trace amounts and I'll be digging into my store brand oats this week!

I think the return of eggs and oats in my diet this week will allow me to have a breakfast that will better fuel me for my regular full speed ahead workouts. We shall see..

I already have a few dinners planned this week with brown rice, rice noodles and the superpower grain quinoa. I've only had quinoa a few times in the past, so I'm looking forward to getting to know this grain again.

Here's to healthier, whole living!

For more information about the Whole Living Action Plan 2012, visit Whole Living at http://wholeliving.com.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My First Snowshoe Event

Today was the Romp to Stomp out Breast Cancer Snowshoe 5K and it was a blast! First and foremost, however, with the help of many generous friends, I am pleased to report that I raised $335 for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. Most of this funding is used to provide essential breast care education, screening and support to women without access proper medical coverage.

Thank you very, very much to those of you who made a donation on my behalf--your support is very much appreciated. Every bit will help stomp out breast cancer.

The evening before the snowshoe event, I drove up to the ski resort with one of my friends where we joined a group of women she knew who organized the rental of some condos at the resort. We woke up this morning to several inches of snow on the ground, which to me, made this event so much more exciting. It snowed all day while we were up there and I loved it!

The start line of the Snowshoe 5K. Go pink!
The snowshoe walk took place right on the slopes on trails marked off for walkers right alongside the ski trails. We shared part of the trail with skiers and other parts were just for the snowshoers. I had expected the snowshoe trail to be flat, but we actually had some decent inclines to walk up and down, making for a pretty decent workout! If you are a skier, the steep parts were walking up a blue trail. Of course, being the kickass athletes that we are {haha!}, three of us when up and down the steepest part of the trail three times before continuing on with the rest of the walk! ;)

A pic of me at the finish line. 
I had so much fun snowshoeing that I think I might invest in a pair of my own snowshoes!

Thank you again to those of you who supported my cause today. As always, I appreciate you wonderful support! xo

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

REVIEW: The Longest Night by Kathleen O'Reilly

Published June 1, 2004 by Harlequin
TBR Challenge 2012 : January : category romance

I just finished reading this book this morning and surprisingly, it's the first book I've read in 2012. I'm off to a very slow start with my reading this year. Hopefully it'll pick up from here.

The optional theme for this month's TBR Challenge was a category romance, so I pulled this one out of the pile. Having thoroughly enjoyed the O'Sullivan trilogy by Kathleen O'Reilly a couple of years ago, I thought The Longest Night would be a good choice. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations.

Cassandra Ward is gorgeous, sexy and single. When Cassandra walks into a room, men notice. Those who pursue her learn quickly that Cassandra is willing to play the game of seduction as long as her rules are followed. No emotions, no strings attached--Cassandra is not interested in a long term relationship and marriage is out of the question. Unfortunately, she operates this way because trying to be seen or treated any other way by men has always been futile. If you can't fight 'em, join 'em.

At one time, Noah Barclay turned down Cassandra's attempt at seducing him, not wanting to be one of her boy toys. However, it's been months and he can't get her out of his head. Determined to win Cassandra's attention and affection in a genuine relationship, he proposes to court her the good old fashioned way with dates and kissing only--something no other man has every offered her. Despite this being risky business of breaking her own rules of emotional attachment, Cassandra cautiously agrees. The question is can she truly open up to someone, be herself and fall in love?

The premise of this story is refreshing--a welcomed reversal of a gender stereotype. Unfortunately, it didn't hold up for me. Neither the characters nor the conflict were fully developed, leaving me wanting more on all those fronts. A lot more. For example, we learn that Cassandra was hurt badly by her first love who couldn't trust her, but we never really learn the details of what actually happened between them. This old love even comes back on the scene to try to win Cassandra back, but their dialogue only implies a major fall out over him trusting her, never fully revealing the story to the reader. Knowing Cassandra's past would have helped me relate to her in the present, and perhaps I would have felt more connected to her story. I kept feeling like there was more to know about her, but that information was just out of reach.

As for Noah, his character fell a little flat and well, one dimensional. Yes, he wanted more from Cassandra than just her body, but why? What was it about her other than his physical attraction did he fall for? Her strength, confidence and intelligence? Those are some of Cassandra's best traits that I saw--but if that's what Noah saw, too, it wasn't spelled out in the story. It would have been nice to know why Noah fell for Cassandra.

Overall, The Longest Night didn't impress me, but it was a quick read that entertained me on a flight home earlier this week.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reflections on Week 1: Whole Living {detox} Action Plan

Wow. It's been a week since I last posted. I have so much to share. One of the reasons it was so quiet here is because we went on getaway over the holiday weekend and even though I brought my laptop with me, I barely had any time to blog. But I'll tell more about our trip later. Tonight I want to take the opportunity to share some of my reflections on the detox plan I've been following. I think self-reflection is very important in our every day lives, but even more so when we're being challenged--whether that challenge be chosen or forced upon us. For me, putting my self-reflection to words helps even more. In the case of the detox plan, sharing my experience reinforces its purpose and my goals, which will then help me stay inspired and focused in the next week. Sharing it with you just makes it that much more fun!

If you missed my post last week about the detox plan, you can read about it in my previous post, Whole Living {detox} Action Plan. Basically, this detox plan is a food based plan that is designed to sort of reboot your digestive system by eating only pure, whole plant based foods, allowing your body to cleanse itself of impurities. At first this sounded far fetched. Detox your body? By eating vegetables, fruit and nuts? ... But the more I read about the plan, what to do, how it worked and why it's good for you, the more it made sense and the more I wanted to do it. And now here I am already nine days into the plan!

What do I want to get out of the detox plan?
First and foremost, I want to get rid of the cravings for simple carbs such as sugar and wheat based carbs. Foods like bread, pasta, rice, crackers, chips, cookies and other baked treats. If all goes according to plan, if I'm not reaching for those foods anymore, I'll be able to lose weight more readily. Another goal, which I've come to appreciate more as I've learned more about the chemistry of a body cleanse, is to clear toxins from my system and give me a clean start to healthier living.

How did Week 1 go?
It was tough! I had a miserable headache the first day from just after lunch until I went to bed. I'm sure this was due to caffeine withdrawal. I had lingering, mild headaches on and off for the next couple of days, but by the fourth and fifth days, I started to feel better--and different! Even though I was definitely tired in the late afternoon, I wasn't feeling sluggish or bloated anymore. Just wholesomely tired.

What have I learned so far?
I don't eat until I'm full ... I eat until I'm not hungry. Yes, there is a difference.

I start my morning with a mug of hot water with a squeeze of fresh lemon. Sounds terribly boring, but it is actually quite soothing. The lemon juice triggers your liver to release cleansing digestive enzymes

The detox plan is a restful, healing process. I thought I could do my regular workouts during the detox, but after not feeling so great a couple of hours after a tough workout on Day 3, I finally dug up some information on the plan that said Week 1 is a restful, healing week and vigorous exercise should be avoided. Stretching, walking and strength training is okay, but not heavy duty cardio. Oops.

You actually can stick to this detox plan while you travel. It was exceptionally difficult to do, but I did it with only a few minor infringements. I ordered edamame at a Japanese restaurant on Day 5 and only remembered that I wasn't supposed to have soy until Day 7 after I'd eaten most of the beans. Then on Day 6 I was famished and the only food available to eat were these absolutely delicious Indian snacks made with spinach and chickpea flour, which I ate. Again, I wasn't supposed to have chickpeas or other legumes until Day 7. I also had some sips of regular, unsweetened iced tea, which does have some caffeine. Again, it was what was available and I was thirsty! All in all, not such bad cheats while away from home for the long weekend. I forgive myself.

What do I miss?
Coffee!!! Is it the remnants of caffeine addiction or is it just something I really enjoy? The ritual, the smell, the taste?

Any surprises?
I can't believe that I ate ONLY vegetables, fruit, nuts and olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper for a week. No added sugar, no grains, no dairy, no meat, no alcohol and no caffeine for the last nine days. Except for a few sips of unsweetened iced tea.

I lost about 3 pounds in Week 1.

What happens in Week 2?
I can't believe today is the end of Week 2 Day 2 already, but it's true! Having come this far, I feel like I've sealed the deal and I'm sticking through to the end. In Week 2, seafood, legumes and organic soy are re-introduced. I'm hoping the addition of these protein sources will give me what I need to pick up the level of my workouts again. I miss running around, jumping, kicking and pedaling!

Here's to healthier, whole living!

For more information about the Whole Living Action Plan 2012, visit Whole Living at http://wholeliving.com/challenge-action .

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Whole Living {detox} Action Plan 2012

Beet Carrot Smoothie 

All my talk last week about getting back on board with calorie counting on the Lose It app?

That's going on hold.

I decided to do something different to jump start my way to healthier eating this month. On Monday, I started the 21 day detox plan that's featured in the January-February 2012 issue of Whole Living magazine. and can also be found online at http://wholeliving.com/challenge-action. It's called the Whole Living Action Plan 2012 and is basically a detox plan that's designed to give your liver and entire digestive system, really, a break from the stresses of the foods so typical in our diets. I'm looking at as a way to give my mind and body a clean slate for the New Year and hopefully eliminate cravings for sugar and simple carbs that seem to be the pitfall of healthy eating and living.

Foods that are completely off limits for the entire 21 days [28 days if you do the bonus week] are processed foods and beverages, added sugar, dairy, gluten, caffeine and alcohol. No coffee... :(

Week 1: Eat ONLY fruits, vegetables and plant-based fats such as nuts, seeds and oils.

Week 2: Reintroduce seafood, legumes, beans and organic soy.

Week 3: Reintroduce eggs and gluten-free grains.

Week 4 [the Bonus week]: Reintroduce lean proteins such as chicken and beef, dairy and grains with gluten [wheat, barley, rye..] in moderation. Maybe a sip or two of coffee? 

I started this plan on Monday, so I've survived the first two days! Although I am about to go to bed a little hungry, at least today I didn't have that awful caffeine withdrawal headache I had yesterday.

Have you ever followed a detox or cleansing plan before? Survived coffee withdrawal? 

Interested in joining me? 

If you're interested in learning more about the plan, visit Whole Living at http://wholeliving.com/challenge-action.You can also follow Whole Living magazine on twitter at @WholeLiving and or follow participants like me [@ChristineA] on the plan with the hashtag #WLActionPlan.

Wish me luck! :)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012

Host: Wendy the Super Librarian

Challenge: Read one book per month from your TBR pile in 2012 and post commentary on it somewhere by the third Wednesday of the month. There are optional monthly themes as well.

Time frame: January to December 2012

The TBR Challenge was one of the first reading challenges I ever signed up for back in 2008 when Keishon was the host. I was never able to keep up with the scheduled dates and didn't do well with the pressure of having to write reviews as part of the requirement. I kind of missed the challenge, though. There's something extra satisfactory about pulling a book off your own shelf that has been there for so long and finally reading it. So I'm going to give this challenge a go again.

For more information about this challenge, including the monthly review days and theme suggestions and to sign up for this challenge, visit Wendy HERE.

Wish me luck on this one! January's read is due in 10 days!

I'll keep a list of the books I read for this challenge and links to their reviews and or commentary here in this post:

January:      a category romance 
February:    a recommended read
March:        series catch-up
April:          new-to-you author
May:           old school [published prior to 2000]
June:           western
July:            how did this get here?
August:       steamy reads
September:  genre other than romance
October:      paranormal or romantic suspense
November:  all about the hype 
December:   holiday themes  

January:       The Longest Night by Kathleen O'Reilly
February:     Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt
March:         Ecstasy Unveiled by Larissa Ione
                    Sin Undone by Larissa Ione
April:           A Dangerous Beauty by Sophia Nash
May:           Saving Grace by Julie Garwood
June:           Caine's Reckoning by Sarah McCarty
July:            Danger's Kiss by Sarah McKerrigan
August:       Deeper by Megan Hart
September:  Riftwalker by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
October:      Demon From the Dark by Kresley Cole
November:  The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
December:  Holiday Kisses by Shannon Stacey et al.

The Big Book Challenge 2012

Host: orannia from Walkabout

Challenge: Read one big book before the end of 2012 that is over 400 pages, preferably one you have been putting off reading because of its length.

Time frame: January 1 to December 31, 2012

My goal: Read TWO big books in 2012.
[Since I failed to read ONE last year... ]

I will read Eon and Eona by Allison Goodman.

For more information and to sign up for this challenge yourself, go HERE.

1. Eon by Alison Goodman
2. Eona by Alison Goodman

******* CHALLENGE MET MARCH 7, 2012 *********

 Other 'big books' read in 2012:

1. Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward

Year of the Fantasy Classic

Host: KMont from Lurv a la Mode

Challenge: Determine a number of fantasy books to read and then read them in 2012.

My goal: Read 6 fantasy novels in 2012.

Time Frame: January 1 to December 31, 2012

I am signing up for this reading challenge for three distinct reasons.

I lurv the challenge graphic.
I lurv KMont.
I lurv fantasy fiction.

It seems I love the fantasy books I read, but oddly enough... I don't actively seek those books out as often as I should. This challenge will hopefully encourage and inspire me to be more consistent with that in 2012.

All excellent reasons to do this challenge, right? Why not join us?

You can read more about this challenge and sign yourself up HERE.

I have several titles already in mind for this challenge that I've listed below, many of which I already have on my shelves, others I know I can get at the library.

Midsummer Night by Freda Warrington
Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia McKillip
The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
The Kingdom of the Gods by N.K. Jemisin
Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Fire by Kristin Cashore
Eon by Allison Goodman
Eona by Allison Goodman
The Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

I'll keep a list of the books I read for this challenge in this post.

1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien [graphic novel]
2. Eon by Alison Goodman
3. Eona by Alison Goodman
4. The Amulet Series, Books 1-4 by Kazu Kibuishi
5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
6. Cold Magic by Kate Elliot
7. The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
8. The Riftwalker by Clay & Susan Griffith
9. Cold Fire by Kate Elliot
10. Fever Moon by Karen Marie Moning [graphic novel]

What's In a Name 5 Reading Challenge

Host: Beth F from Beth Fish Reads

Challenge: Read one book whose title meets each category requirement.

Time frame: January 1 to December 31, 2012

This is probably my favorite challenge of all the ones I've ever done. It's so much fun finding a book from my shelves, my wish list or at the library that fits one of the categories. Most of the time, I realize after I've read a book that it fits this challenge and am rewarded with a very satisfying 'ah-ha!' moment. If I can inspire you to join one [more] reading challenge this year... this is the one.

You can learn more about this challenge and sign up for it yourself HERE.

This year's categories:

1. A book with a topographical feature in the title.
2. A book with something you'd see in the sky in the title.
3. A book with a creepy crawly in the title.
4. A book with a type of house in the title.
5. A book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse or backpack in the title.
6. A book with something you'd find on a calendar in the title.

I'll keep a running list of the books I read for this challenge here:

1. The Riftwalker by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
2. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
3. Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep
4. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
5. Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh
6. The Arrival by Shaun Tan


E-Book Challenge 2012

Host: Sarah from Workday Reads

Challenge: Read the minimum number of ebooks for your chosen level.

My Level: DVD Read 25 ebooks

Time frame: January 1 to December 31, 2012

I did this challenge last year and met my challenge of 12 ebooks in early December, but proceeded to read three more by the end of the year, bringing my total number of ebooks read last year to 15. That's pretty shabby! The thing is, I love my ipad, but I'm still reading from my pre-existing TBR of paper books, plus it's my personal policy to buy new books only if I can't find them at the library first. I also bought a lot of author signed books at the RWA literacy signing in June, so that made up for a lot of my new books bought in 2011. I anticipate reading more and more new releases on my ipad this year, so hopefully I can double the number of ebooks I read.

I'll keep a running list of the ebooks I read throughout the year in this post.

1.  Tides of Passion by Tracy Sumner
2. Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee
3. The Bro-Magnet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
4. Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke
5. Forever Mine by Delilah Marvelle
6. Capturing the Silken Thief by Jeannie Lin
7. The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan
8. Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh
9. Hearts of Fire by Kira Brady
10. Beautiful Mess by Lucy V. Morgan
11. Before the Moon Rises by Catherine Bybee
12. Embracing the Wolf by Catherine Bybee
13. Ride With Me by Ruthie Knox
14. The Rift Walker by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
15. Cold Fire by Kate Elliot
16. Through the Lens by K.M. Jackson
17. The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
18. Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City by Meljean Brook
19. Venom by Jennifer Estep
20. Holiday Kisses by Shannon Stacey et. al.
21. Lumberjack in Love by Penny Watson
22. We'll Be Home For Christmas by HelenKay Dimon
23. Deck The Halls With Love by Lorraine Heath
24. Tangled Threads by Jennifer Estep
25. The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright by Tessa Dare


OutDo Yourself Reading Challenge 2012

2012 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

Host: The Book Vixen

Goal: Read more books in 2012 than you did in 2011.

Time frame: January 1 to December 31, 2012

I read 100 books in 2011, so my goal for this challenge is to read 101 books in 2012. This is the  "Get My Heart Rate Up" level. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to meet this challenge this year--especially since 2012 is a leap year which means we get a whole extra day of reading in 2012!

I'll be keeping a running list of the books I read in 2012 in my 100+ Books In a Year Reading Challenge post, but if my timing is right, I should Out Do myself sometime in late October, early November.

You can sign up for this challenge HERE.

100+ Books In A Year Reading Challenge 2012

Host: Book Chick City

Goal: Read 100+ books in 2012

Time frame: January 1 to December 31, 2012

This is my third year participating in this reading challenge. Last year was the first year I made it to 100 books and I'm hoping to do it again this year!

1. The Longest Night by Kathleen O'Reilly
2. Tides of Passion by Tracy Sumner
3. Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee

4. Born in Death by J.D. Robb
5. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien [graphic novel adaptation]
6. Innocent in Death by J.D. Robb
7. Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt
8. Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison [RE READ]
9. The Bro-Magnet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
10. King Lear by Shakespeare, adapted by Gareth Hinds
11. Eon Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
12. Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke
13. "Thicker Than Blood" by Meljean Brook [novella]
14. Archangel's Consort by Nalini Singh
15. Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh
16. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
17. Forever Mine by Delilah Marvelle

18. Capturing the Silken Thief by Jeannie Lin [novella]
19. Eona by Alison Goodman 
20. Ecstasy Unveiled by Larissa Ione [novella]
21. Eternity Embraced by Larissa Ione
22. Sin Undone by Larissa Ione
23. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
24. A Lot Like Love by Julie James
25. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
26. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones 
27. The Good Neighbors Book One: Kin
              by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh [RE READ]
28. The Good Neighbors Book Two: Kith
              by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh
29. The Good Neighbors Book Three: Kind
              by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh
30 Eternity in Death by J.D. Robb [novella]

31. Crazy, Sexy Diet by Kris Carr
32. The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole [novella]
33. Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas
34. A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole [RE READ]
35. Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward
36. A Dangerous Beauty by Sophia Nash
37. The Sweetest Thing by Jill Shalvis
38. Amulet: Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi [RE READ]
39. Amulet: Stonekeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibuisi [RE READ]
40. Amulet: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi [RE READ]
41. Amulet: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi
42. Paris in Love by Eloisa James

43. Creation in Death by J.D. Robb
44. The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan [novella]
45. Saving Grace by Julie Garwood
46. If I Die by Rachel Vincent
47. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
48. Food Rules by Michael Pollan
49. Cold Magic by Kate Elliot
50. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

51. The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley 
52. Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley
53. Odd And The Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
54. Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh
55. Caine's Reckoning by Sarah McCarty

56. The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
57. The Witness by Nora Roberts
58. Danger's Kiss by Sarah McKerrigan
59. Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins
60. Hearts of Fire by Kira Brady [novella]
61. Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady

62. Strangers in Death by J.D. Robb
63. Deeper by Megan Hart
64. Gold by Chris Cleave
65. Beautiful Mess by Lucy V. Morgan
66. Before the Moon Rises by Catherine Bybee
67. Embracing the Moon by Catherine Bybee
68. No Rest For the Wicked by Kresley Cole [RE-READ]
69. Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night by Kresley Cole [RE-READ]
70. Dark Needs At Night's Edge by Kresley Cole [RE-READ]

71. Dark Desires After Dark by Kresley Cole [RE-READ]
72. Kiss of a Demon King by Kresley Cole
73. Ride With Me by Ruthie Knox
74. Deep Kiss of Winter by Kresley Cole & Gena Showalter
75. The Rift Walker by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
76. Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole 
77. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
78. Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep

79. Cold Fire by Kate Elliot
80. Demon From the Dark by Kresley Cole 
81. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
82. Salvation in Death by J.D. Robb
83. "Ritual in Death" by J.D. Robb
84. Prince of the Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
85. Tales of Death and Dementia by Edgar Allen Poe illustrated by Gris Grimly

86. "Poison" by Jennifer Estep
87. "Web of Deceit" by Jennifer Estep
88. "Spider's Bargain" by Jennifer Estep
89. "Web of Death" by Jennifer Estep
90. Dream Lake by Lisa Kleypas
91. Through the Lens by K.M. Jackson
92. Web of Lies by Jennifer Estep
93. "Wasted" by Jennifer Estep
94. Here There Be Monsters by Meljean Brook [RE-READ]
95. The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
96. Fever Moon by Karen Marie Moning
97. Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City by Meljean Brook
98. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

99. Venom by Jennifer Estep
100. "Tangled Dreams" by Jennifer Estep
101. "Tangled Schemes" by Jennifer Estep
102. "Spider's Nemesis" by Jennifer Estep
103. The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
104. Holiday Kisses by Shannon Stacey, Jaci Burton, HelenKay Dimon & Alison Kent
105. Lumberjack in Love by Penny Watson
106. We'll Be Home For Christmas by HelenKay Dimon
107. Deck The Halls With Love by Lorraine Heath
108. Tangled Threads by Jennifer Estep
109. The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright by Tessa Dare

Books highlighted in PINK are favorite reads! 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Stone Soup

a.k.a. Simple Vegetable Soup

Unlike authentic Stone Soup that's made in the old folk story in which a hungry traveller persuades villagers to share vegetables with him as he stews a stone in a kettle of water, my recipe does not call for an actual stone. Just water, plenty of vegetables, some herbs, and salt & pepper. Feel free, however, to add a well scrubbed stone from your yard to the simmering brew in order to make the soup more authentic. You might just get your kids to eat this soup if it was cooked with a real stone! :)

Stone Soup
Vegan and Gluten Free
Low fat, low calorie and very nutritious
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 carrots, sliced into rounds
1 rutabaga, chopped*
1 potato, chopped*
1 tomato, chopped
1 small bunch collard greens
dried basil, oregano and thyme
salt & pepper

*I like to chop the rutabaga and potato into a similar shape and size of the sliced carrot. The vegetables cook more evenly that way and it makes for a nicer presentation.
  1. In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium high until hot.
  2. Add onion, celery and carrots and saute until the onion begins to get translucent.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and then add 6-8 cups of water.
  4. Add about 1/2 teaspoon each of dried basil, oregano and thyme.
  5. Add the rutabaga, potato and tomato.
  6. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  7. Cook the soup for 30-45 minutes or until the vegetables are almost fork tender. I usually test a piece of the rutabaga since it tends to need the longest cooking time.
  8. Add coarsely chopped collard greens and cook for another 15 minutes or until collard greens are cooked and tender and vegetables are fully fork tender.  **see below for optional method of cooking greens**
  9. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt & pepper, if desired.
  10. Serve hot.
**For an authentic one pot Stone Soup, add coarsely chopped collard greens or other greens to the soup as instructed above. I actually prefer to cook my greens separately and then add them to individual servings that I've ladled into bowls. I think sauteed greens simply taste better than boiled greens, so it's really up to you which method you choose to follow.

To saute the greens separately:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion [red if you have one]
1 small bunch of collard greens
salt & pepper
  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat until hot. 
  2. Add 1/2 onion, sliced vertically. I like to use red onion here if I have one. 
  3. Saute onion for a minute or two, then add the collard greens, coarsely chopped. Saute for several minutes until greens are bright green and slightly wilted. Season with salt & pepper. 
  4. Set aside until soup is finished, then divide the sauteed greens evenly among individual servings of soup.
I sometimes add a freshly grated Parmesan cheese to the soup upon serving for additional flavor. Note that the soup is no longer vegan with the added cheese, although it is still vegetarian and gluten free.

Enjoy! :)

Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun!

Friday, January 6, 2012

How I did with my 2011 Reading Challenges

I signed up for 12 different reading challenges last year, two of which were short term challenges. The Once Upon a Time V, which spanned one season and the Holiday Reading Challenge that more or less spanned the month of December. I'm not counting the In Death Series Reading Challenge because it is a perpetual challenge that will span three or more years. Also, I had signed up for the Women of Fantasy Book Club and only read 3 of the 12 book selections--two of which ended up being among my favorite reads of the entire year.

In Death Series Reading Challenge  ONGOING
2011 Book Club "Women of Fantasy" I only read 3 out of 12 books.

As for the rest, here's a list of what I wanted to do ... and my results.

1. Steampunk Challenge 2011 June 8, 2011
I only needed to read and review one book, which I did. The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith, which was excellent. I need to read the next book in the series!

2. Out-Do Yourself Reading Challenge October 28, 2011
I needed to read one more book than I read in 2010. I met this challenge in October when I finished my 84th book of the year. I think that was the day I realized that reaching my goal of 100 books in 2011 might just be achievable.

3. What's In A Name 4 Reading Challenge November 27, 2011
This was the second year I did this challenge and again, I have to tell you this is a fun one. I don't know what it is about finding books on your shelf that fit the categories or reading a newly released book and discovering that it fits one of the requirements... but whatever it is, I find this challenge really fun to do. Check out the 2011 categories and what books I read for each:

1. A book with a number in the title:
A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title
The Amulet Graphic Novels by Kazu Kibuishi 
3. A book with a size in the title
Dream A Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips 
4. A book with travel or movement in the title
Into the Flame by Christina Dodd
5. A book with evil in the title
Kiss Me Deadly anthology edited by Trisha Telep
6. A book with a life stage in the title
Imitation in Death by J.D. Robb

I can't wait to do this one again! 

4. E-Book Challenge 2011 December 7, 2011
I thought having got an ipad for my birthday in fall of 2010 this challenge would have been a piece of cake, but I only finished reading my 12th ebook in the beginning of December! I guess I still I have a lot of paper books on my shelf to read and there's always loot from the library. I'm doing this one again in 2012 and I estimate that in another year or so, I won't need to "challenge" myself as my ebook reading surpasses my paper book reading. We'll see..

5. Holiday Reading Challenge December 26, 2011
I met the Mistletoe level of this challenge and read four holiday themed books in December. I have so many more that I want to read so I'll definitely do this one again in 2012. I think it would be fun to dedicate the entire month of December to holiday themed books! Something to think about.

6. Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2011 December 31, 2011
I think I spent more time debating which Murakami book to read than I actually spent reading. Talk about indecisiveness! In the end, I chose a book I wasn't even considering at all! I was literally at the library one day in December to pick up Sputnik Sweetheart and saw a smaller, shorter Murakami book next to it, and decided right there it was a wiser choice for me considering I was in last-minute mode for this challenge. I picked up after the quake which is a collection of short stories surrounding the disastrous 1995 earthquake near Kobe, Japan. I enjoyed it very much and am doing this challenge again in 2012.

7. 100 Books In A Year Reading Challenge 2011 December 31, 2011
Finally, my biggest challenge and honestly, the one I wanted to meet most. The Haruki Murakami book was my 100th book of 2011 and in fact, I finished reading it around 4 pm on December 31, 2011. I don't know about you... but I call that cutting it close!

My goal for 2012? Read 101 books. I know a challenge when I see one. ;)

Edited to add: January 8, 2011 I FORGOT ONE!
8. Summer Romance Reading Challenge 2011 July 8, 2011
I joined Book City Chick's Summer Romance Reading Challenge and signed up to read 8 books between between the first day of summer and September 30, 2011 and met that challenge in early July. I proceeded to read a total of 19 books during that time frame. I guess that wasn't so much of a challenge after all... 

Now for the challenges I failed. By the way, I'm not the least bit upset that I didn't meet these challenges below. Sure, it would have been really cool if I did, but why call it a challenge if it all comes too easy, right?

1. Once Upon a Time V Challenge [spring only] FAILED Completed 3/5
This challenge is hosted by Carl at Steel Droppings during the spring only, starting on the first day of spring. I met this challenge in 2010 and enjoyed it... but sort of forgot about it this year until mid May. I met 3 of the 5 requirements for the level I chose to do, but ran out of time with the last two. I'll try again this spring.

2. A-Z Mystery Challenge FAILED Completed 4/26
Well, this one I knew right out of the gate that I wouldn't complete, because I just don't read that many mysteries. However, I think it's a great way to try new authors in a new-to-me genre and it is hosted by my darling friend Michelle, so I am making it a perpetual challenge for myself and will simply work on reading books by authors for all 26 letters until I've finished the whole alphabet. Four down, twenty-two to go!

3. Big Book Reading Challenge FAILED Completed 0/1
There's a reason orannia--who hosts this challenge, asks that we chose ONE big book to read. It's because she knows we all procrastinate reading those big books because well... they're BIG! I was so good at procrastinating that I never read one. I'm signing up for this one again in 2012 and will punish myself make amends to myself by reading TWO big books this time!

4. Take a Chance Challenge 3 FAILED Completed 0/10
This challenge sounded so unique and fun and inspiring when I signed up for it last year but my interest fell short here. The categories for the requirements were really great... I even played with some book lists several times throughout the year, but I never followed through. Ah, well, live and learn.

5. Reading Challenge Addict Challenge 2011 NOT EXACTLY FAILED Completed 7/12
Finally, the end all and be all of challenges for reading challenge addicts like me. This one was a challenge to actually MEET all of your 2011 reading challenges. I didn't make it.  I own it.

Edited to add: January 7, 2012. 
Turns out I signed up to complete SEVEN challenges in the Reading Challenge Addict Challenge so it looks like I actually met that one!!! That makes 9 wins and 4 losses. :) 

Did you sign up for any Reading Challenges in 2011? How did you do?

Coming up soon on the happily ever after...  a whole bunch of 2012 Reading Challenge posts! Yay! So apologies in advance if I clutter up your feeds over the weekend!

Have a great weekend! :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Snowshoe 5K: Romp to Stomp Out Breast Cancer

As many of you already know from my post Love your Breasts... do Self Breast Exams back in October 2011, I found a lump in my breast in year ago this very week while doing a self breast exam, only three months after having a routine, clear mammogram. After several nerve wracking weeks involving consultations with my physician, a breast care specialist and finally a lumpectomy, I was diagnosed with a rare, benign breast disease known as Pseudoanginomous Stromal Hyperplasia of the breast or PASH. You can imagine my relief hearing a diagnosis of a benign breast disease and not a cancerous one! Unfortunately, that's not the case for many women. Did you know that ONE in EIGHT women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime? That's startling!

To help combat this overwhelming statistic, I've decided to strap on a pair of snowshoes and participate in the annual Tubbs Romp to Stomp out Breast Cancer Snowshoe Series®. I'll be participating in a 5K Snowshoe Walk on January 21, 2012 to raise funds for the local Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure® which supports local community-based breast health programs focusing on underserved and uninsured women. 75% of the net funds support local communities (NJ-NY Metro area) and 25% net funds goes to support national research to help find a cure.

If you feel so inclined to make a donation to support this cause, you can donate online at my Stomp to Romp page. I understand the financial challenges facing many individuals and families these days, so please do not feel pressured to do so. However, anything you can contribute would be greatly appreciated! Thank you. :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Party's Over

No more holiday debauchery! It's time to get focused again on healthy eating and regular exercise.

I used the Lose It app on my iphone in 2010, which I swear was the key to my weight loss success [I lost 30 lbs. from April-November 2010]. But then I got stuck on a weight loss plateau for a couple of months that I just couldn't overcome, so I took a break from tracking my daily calories for a while. The good news is that I managed to keep the weight off for all of 2011. Well, except for two pounds... pish! The bad news is that I never got to my target weight and I still really want it. 

Soooo.... today I got on the scale and started a new program on the Lose It app. I went over my calorie budget today, but I'm okay with that for now. I'll ease back into the program this week as I get re-accustomed to proper portion sizes and better snack choices and so on. If everything goes according to plan, I should reach my goal weight between May and July--depending on whether I lose 1 or 1.5 lbs. a week.  

Have you made a New Year's Resolution to lose weight this year? 
Eat healthier?  Exercise regularly? 

I almost followed with, 'Let me know--misery loves company!' ... but truthfully, this is not going to be miserable. It's going to be fantastic! It's not going to be easy and I might get a little cranky... but it'll be worth it because I know it'll feel great! 

Who's with me?

Learn more about the Lose It app in the app store in iTunes or at www.loseit.com.  Lose It is also available for the Android.

For some great advice on achieving success with your resolutions, see this article on Four Keys to New Year's Resolution success written by Sean on The Adventures of a Bookonaut.