Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My February Adventures

Happy Leap Day!

There's just something really special and fun about February 29, don't you think? For most of us it's like a freebie day, but for some... it's the birthday that only comes around once every four years! Can you imagine? I remember a few leap years ago, an elderly woman with whom I was acquainted was so excited to be throwing a Sweet 16 party for one of her girlfriends [64th] birthday? How cute is that? Sixty four years old and your true birthday only came around 16 times! That's special all right! :)
German Chocolate Ganache Cake 
Speaking of birthdays ... my husband celebrated another one earlier this month and for the third year in a row, I made him his favorite cake ever... the amazing German Chocolate Ganache Cake pictured above. Fortunately for me, his birthday was on the first day after I was liberated from the cleanse diet I was following. Very serendipitous, don't you think?

Health & fitness adventures :
I finished the Whole Living Action Plan detox cleanse diet thing earlier this month. Yay!!! I learned so much doing that cleanse and felt so good in the last week or two, but it was hard work. A couple of weeks later, I have to confess that I haven't been as good at sticking to the healthy eating since then as I had hoped. I did develop some new habits that I've been very good at keeping up, such as no caffeine [can you believe it?], hot water with lemon first thing every morning, drinking more water, eating more vegetables and nuts, but I also resorted to some of the old not so good habits. In the form of cookies. :-/ It's not that I'm eating whole sleeves of girl scout cookies or anything. Honest! They haven't come in yet. But a cookie here and a cookie there every day.. it adds up. :/

This week my 16 year old and I started a "healthy eating diet" to help us get on track with healthy eating. We're going [mostly*] vegan and gluten free for two weeks, eating lots of fruit, vegetables, beans, soy, nuts and seeds, with moderate servings of oats and rice. We're starting every morning with a mug of warm water with fresh squeezed lemon to stimulate our liver followed by a fruit and soy smoothie for breakfast. I haven't made us a green smoothie yet.. wonder how that will go over. No processed foods and no refined sugars. My daughter's looking to simply eat healthier, more vegetables and fewer chips and snacks, and also hoping eating better will boost her moods. Yes, please. Minefields. Seriously. I'm looking to improve how I feel digestively again--I really did feel SO much better when I wasn't eating as many gluten foods on the cleanse. I wouldn't be disappointed I got back on track losing some extra pounds, too!

[*My daughter is being strict about the vegan part, but I'm allowing some Greek yogurt, fish and lean chicken or beef because I feel I need it to fuel or refuel my workouts.]

I'm finally working out every day-ish again after a bad head cold took me out of the gym and landed me on the sofa for a almost a week! Needless to say, my fitness hours reflect some of that downtime, but at least I still got my body moving when I could! Here's a look at what I did in February:

Bike . . . . . . . . . 2.5 hours [34.3 miles]
Run . . . . . . . . .  2.5 hours [14.34 miles]
TRX. . . . . . . . . 4.0 hours
Kickbox . . . .  . 3.75 hours
Spin . . . . . . . . .  2.5 hours
Powercuts . . . . . 2.0 hours

Total fitness challenge 'miles' . . . 72.34 miles

[My monthly goal is 100 miles where 1 fitness challenge mile = 15 min of cardio or strength training = 1 mile run.]

That's 17.25 hours biking running kicking spinning lifting TRX-ing.

All of a sudden it doesn't seem like a whole heck of a lot of activity...

What did you do in February to keep moving?

Adventures in reading :
After a very slow start in January, February proved to be quite productive with 14 books read! Possibly a new record for me, but in truth, some books were pretty short--three graphic novels and two novellas, so it's not that crazy. I did read a long one, though--Eon Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman, which is one of the books I chose for The Big Book Challenge [500+ pages]. I loved it and am going to start the sequel Eona tonight! Here's a list of the books I read in February:

1. Born in Death by J.D. Robb C+
2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, graphic novel B
3. Innocent in Death by J.D. Robb A
4. Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt B+
5. Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison [re-read] A
6. The Bro-Magnet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted Thanks, Brie! :) B
7. King Lear by Gareth Hinds, Shakespeare graphic novel, original text B+
8. Eon Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman A
9. Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke A
10. "Thicker Than Blood" by Meljean Brook, novella A
11. Archangel's Consort by Nalini Singh B+
12. Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh A
13. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brogsol, graphic novel B
14. Forever Mine by Delilah Marvelle, novella C-

Unfortunately, I was horrible at writing reviews or even mini reviews on goodreads for most of these books. I really need to get into the habit of writing at least a few lines, but once I move on to the next book, I lose reviewing momentum rather rapidly.

Are there any books listed above that you'd like to hear about?
Maybe I'll try to write up a few.

What great books did you read in February?

Other projects and adventures :
Guess what? I've been keeping up with the Project 366 [leap year ;)] photogrpahy project to take a photo every day of the year. I think I'm finally going to pull this project off after three prior failed attempts! Wahoo!! *knock on wood!*

I'm still thinking of a way to make a monthly collage to post here, but in the meantime, to see my photos click on My Project 366. All photos are taken with my iPhone 4S. Lots of pictures of cats and food.

Traveling adventures :
I met up with blogging friends Hilcia, Mariana and Natalie on Saturday afternoon. We met at a cool fondue restaurant in Hoboken called The Melting Pot where we ate fondue of course! Cheese fondue [with bread, apples and vegetables], Seasoned broth fondue [with meat, fish and vegetables] and of course.... chocolate fondue! We had a milk chocolate and white chocolate yin yang fondue with fresh strawberries, marshmallows, red velvet cake, brownies, cheesecake and rice krispie treats. Wow. Pictures of fondue on my Project 366 link above! And while the food was delicious and fun. .. the best part was hanging out with these lovely ladies chatting about books, jobs, family and life. Hilcia came with a generous bag of books to share with us [Thank you, Hils! xo] and we had the loveliest of afternoons. I can't wait to do it again soon.

Do you ever meet blogging friends you've met online in person?

That's about it for my February adventures. Thanks for reading all about it and I wish you a marvelous March! xo

In Death Series Reading Challenge: February 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!

Did you read any In Death series books this month?

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.

I have reviews for both of these books posted on goodreads that are a little more elaborate than what I wrote here. As I progress in the series, I'm trying to be more cautious about inadvertently spoiling plot lines to other participants in the reading challenge. So I'm going to try to be brief and vague.

Born In Death
Book #23
In this book, Eve and her team start out investigating the murder of a young accountant and her boyfriend, both of whom work for the same high profile accounting firm. Coinciding with this murder investigation, Eve also starts investigating the suspicious disappearance of Mavis' pregnant friend Tandy.

Born In Death was just an okay read for me. There were a few nice scenes from Eve's personal life, particularly between her and Mavis, but aside from that, the story was a bit flat for me. There are a lot of secondary characters in this book--significantly more than usual, I think, and at times I was losing track of who was who. Not fun when you're trying to solve the murder alongside your favorite homicide detective!

My other complaint with this book has to do with Roarke's involvement as civilian consultant. Yes, again. But what makes it even more annoying in this installment is that an unethical situation arises under the circumstances and instead of both he, Eve and the NYPSD all determining he needs to sit this one out, he gets his lawyers involved and then poof! All is well and he's on the case. I found this ridiculously unrealistic.

Innocent In Death
Book #24
Where Born In Death fell short for me .. Innocent In Death totally stole the show and won my heart. This installment is definitely one of the most compelling books in the series. The crime fiction was interesting and suspenseful and the drama in Eve and Roarke's personal life was equally engaging--at times heartbreaking and at other times utterly heartwarming.

In Innocent In Death, Eve and her team are investigating the murder of a young, admired history teacher in a private high school. While his wife seems the most obvious suspect since it was the lunch she packed for her husband that was the cause of his death, it turns out quite a few staff members in the high school are keeping secrets. In the meantime, Eve and Roarke's marriage is being tested when Magdelena Percell--a gorgeous, seductive and powerful old flame of Roarke's shows up in New York on a mission to recapture the attention of the man she let go all those years ago--Roarke. This woman's presence sends Eve for a loop and she's struggling to keep her act together both on the job and at home.

While the turmoil between Eve and Roarke was very sad to read about, it was also one of the best, most accurate representations of the real life challenges of marriage in this series so far. Very distressing and also very sentimental. I loved it.

Another one of the things I loved about Innocent In Death was Summerset's obvious disdain for Magdelena Percell and his obvious approval of Eve. As usual, he isn't afraid to speak his mind to either Roarke or Eve, and in this case, I was so glad he didn't mind his business. It may have been the first instance in which Summerset clearly verbalizes to Eve that he in fact believes Eve is the right woman for Roarke. He scored major points with me in several scenes in this book.

Which of Summerset's character traits are your favorite? 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

RECIPE: Vegan Potato Leek Soup

Nowhere near as delicious as my oma's potato soup, but delicious nonetheless. I wanted to make a flavorful creamy potato soup without any dairy products or commercial broths and came up with this quick and easy recipe. I added a turnip only because I had one on my vegetable bin from my co-op box and didn't know what else to do with it. I'm not keen on turnips, so hiding one in this soup sounded like a good idea! You can obviously leave it out and just use another potato. You can also substitute vegetable or chicken broth for the water, if you like.

Vegan Potato Leek Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 leeks, cleaned* and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 turnip, optional, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley
salt & pepper

* To clean leeks:
Leeks tend to have a lot of sand or dirt between the layers as they grow, so you'll want to clean them well. Trim roots and tops off leeks. Slice vertically and then horizontally into 1/2" pieces. Rinse in a bowl of cold water to remove sand and dirt from the leeks then drain.

1. Heat olive oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat.
2. Add leeks, onion and garlic and cook until onion starts to become translucent, about 3 minutes.
3. Add potatoes, turnip, parsley to stock pot. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add enough water to cover the vegetables.
4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until potatoes and turnips are fork tender, about 20 minutes.
5. Working in batches, puree the vegetable mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. Or use an immersion blender. <<--I need one of these! Return soup to stock pot and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper, if necessary. You may also add additional water until the soup is the consistency you prefer.
6. Continue to keep soup warm until serving.

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! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I've been tagged!

Lisa tagged me with this fun meme last week and now I'm tagging you. That's right, if you're reading this post, consider yourself tagged! Follow the rules below and tag more people on your own blog, or to make it easier and encourage you to play along--you can simply answer my questions in the comments below. Since most of the people who regularly comment on my blog are book bloggers, I am gearing all of my questions towards books and reading.

1. You must post the rules.
2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you've tagged.
3. Tag eleven people and link them to your post.
4. Let them know you've tagged them!

First, the questions Lisa posed for me:

1. Could you eat the same thing for lunch every day? What would it be?
I practically DO eat the same thing for lunch every day. This salad:

Romaine or green leaf lettuce, sometimes also baby spinach, chopped apples, celery, radish, dried cranberries, chopped pecans, sliced strawberries topped with pomegranate dressing. I'm trying to develop a homemade pomegranate vinaigrette, but it's a work in progress. In between batches of my own dressing, I've been using Simply Dressed All Natural Pomegranate Vinaigrette by Marzetti. You can find it in the refrigerator case alongside the packaged salads at your grocer.

I often have a small sandwich with the salad, usually turkey on whole grain bread.

2. How many library books do you have checked out right now?
Six [See yesterday's Library Loot post to see what I got..]

3. Do you feel strongly about specific music? Or more of a music in general type person?
I like a variety of music, but my go to is usually sexy R&B and or pop music with a pumping beat because it lifts my mood and motivates me to workout hard.

4. What is your favorite brick and mortar retail store?
Does a grocery store count? If yes, then my local Trader Joe's. I'm in there once or twice a week and am on a first name basis with several employees there. That's what happens at a small store when you go there regularly for 13+ years.

5. What is your favorite online store?
Athleta or Terry Bicycles. Although most of my shopping in those stores is of the window shopping sort.

6. What is your favorite moment of heartstopping romantic tension?
(Book, movie, music, tv, real life, art, anywhere..)
Definitely the first kiss.

7. What is the first book you remember reading?
I See Sam series of learning to read books in kindergarten. I can't believe those books are still out there being used! At home, probably One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss

8. Are you creative in any way? How so?
I can be... if the directions are written really well. ;)

9. Not counting your family, pets and vital personal documents/pictures, what one thing would you save in a fire?
My TBR pile.

10. What is your favorite type of vacation?
(museums, beach, cabin, mountains, theme parks..)
National Parks and foreign cities/countries.

11. What is the most surprising or unexpected thing you've done in the last 12 months?
I trained and competed in my first sprint triathlon in September 2011 and did really well in the cycling portion. I wowed myself with that one. :)

Now my questions for YOU to answer:

1. What is your favorite genre to read?

2. What is the first romance novel you ever read and how old were you when you read it?

3. How many books--paper or ebooks--are in your existing TBR pile?
 [TBR = your To-Be-Read and typically refers to books you already own but haven't yet read]

4. Do you read nonfiction? If so, from which sub-genre?

5. Do you own an e-reading device? If so, which one(s)?

6. Which one book have you re-read most often?

7. How many library books do you have out right now?

8. How do you mark your place in a book?

9. About how many books do you typically read in a month?

10. What was the last book that made you cry?

11. What was the last book that made you laugh?

I hope you play along! :)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Library Loot XLVII

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

The blog has been quiet in the last week or so because I've been slammed by a bad cold that just won't give up. It started out with a mild tickle in my throat and some congestion, which normally doesn't slow me down too much, but then all of a sudden wham! I was SO congested I thought my head was going to explode. It's been almost a week since my first symptoms and I still have some sinus congestion and chest congestion, too. Needless to say, I've been resting. Which yes, means no working out either which if you know me, is just driving me insane. I did go to TRX class twice, but even that was a push. I can't stand this. I don't know how people who don't exercise everyday do it! I want to run, jump and move!

Anyway, I managed to get out to the library last night for thirty minutes before they closed to get some books. On a side note, I've been very annoyed with my library these days. I can barely manage to get there while they're open since budget cuts reduced operating hours over a year ago and when I do, the librarians are always so snippy. They need a serious attitude adjustment. Or a retirement package! Ha!

Something good came from my visit, though-- I came home with an armload of fantastic books. I'm super excited to read each of these books, I can barely decide which to read first. Okay, that's not true. I'm going to devour Eona by Alison Goodman first, as soon as I'm finished with the book I'm in the middle of right now. Then I'll have to start flipping a coin to decide which will be next.

young adult fiction:

Eona by Alison Goodman

The sequel to the fantastically captivating Eon Dragoneye Reborn fantasy novel by Alison Goodman. There is good reason Eon was bestowed with so many literary awards. If you haven't yet picked it up, you should. You don't have to be a fan of young adult to read it. Trust me. Needless to say, I cannot wait to continue the story with Eona. I hope it's as good as Eon.

If I Die by Rachel Vincent
Soul Screamers series, Book #5

I thoroughly enjoy this series, although I can't exactly give it five star accolades. The urban fantasy elements are great, the modern teenage drama is very, very well done and I think quite accurate, although I haven't been a teen in a long time, my daughters keep me pretty well informed of modern teen life. Sometimes the heroine of the story is so bent on saving everyone in trouble, driving her to make decisions that put her and others in even more danger and she always seems to get away with it. It's still fun, though, so I keep reading this series.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

The sequel to If I Stay, which I read in January last year. It was a very emotional story and I really look forward to reading about what happened after that one ended.

graphic novels:

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

I had been perusing graphic novel lists on goodreads for some quality recommendations and these are two of the handful of graphic novels I added to my to-be-read list. Both have received awards.

Last but not least, I found this book on the non fiction new release shelf and was instantly pulled into it's vibrant charm and of course, wonderful subject matter.

Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr

Have you heard about this health crusader before? I'm afraid to say I knew nothing about Kris Carr until I came home with the book and looked her up online. The author was diagnosed with a rare, incurable stage 4 cancer on Valentine's Day in 2003. She instantly chose to start living life to its fullest. On her journey to healing and living fully, Kris transformed her life with the knowledge of how to best care for her body, mind and spirit. She shares her knowledge with incredible enthusiasm and inspiration on her website and in her books.

Can you see the title blurb along the bottom of the book cover? It says, "Including a 21-Day Adventure Cleanse." You know what that means.... :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

REVIEW: Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt

Maiden Lane Series, Book One
Published August 1, 2010

TBR Challenge February 2012

I am on a roll! Not only did I read my TBR Challenge book on time for today's round up post, but I even kept within this month's suggested book theme. February's theme is to choose a book that has made it's way onto your TBR pile upon the recommendation of a friend but has been languishing there far too long. I came up with three books and then polled some friends here on my blog to determine which one to read and Wicked Intentions won by a very slight margin. Now I know why it comes so highly recommended--it was a joy to read. Here are my thoughts:

Lord Caire is searching for a killer in the London slums of St. Giles, with no success. He has no contacts in this area of London, doesn't know his way around and could really use a guide. Temperance Dews has been widowed for several years and dutifully works in the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children that her family established, often going out in the dark of night to retrieve an abandoned baby. One night, Lord Caire follows her home and proposes a deal. Temperance would serve as Caire's guide in his nightly searches in exchange for money she so desperately needs to keep the home from shutting down. Temperance accepts Lord Caire's deal, adding the stipulation that he must also help her find a wealthy patron to permanently support the Foundling home. He agrees and soon these two are out in the dangerous alleys of St. Giles searching for a murderer and fighting their attraction for each other. As you can guess, they eventually do capture the killer as well as each other's hearts. The road to their happy ending, however, is a fascinating one and well worth the trip.

Wicked Intentions has several elements that kept me engaged in the story from the very first pages. One is the unique setting of the dark and depressing slums of St. Giles. After reading so many historical romance plots that focus on financial or social ruin within the ton, Wicked Intentions addresses very real social problems of the time--that is, how to survive in a world that's dangerous, unfair and full of obstacles that keep people in a community from thriving and or improving their lives. This aspect of the story felt very realistic and dramatic.

As for the plot, Lord Caire's search for a killer turned out to be quite a suspenseful mystery that kept me flipping the pages for more clues to the murder investigation. Not just who is this murderer but also, why is Lord Caire so obsessed with his search?

Of course, the growing attraction, genuine concern and love that grew between Lord Caire and Temperance was engaging as well. Caire and Temperance are such interesting characters--strong, confident and determined on the outside, but both harboring interesting secrets and vulnerable in their own ways. Learning a bit more about these two in every chapter was like unraveling a mystery in itself and to see them fall in love along the way was a joy to read.

Another thing that I really liked about this book was the familial ties within Temperance's family. Temperance is one of six children and with no parents still alive, these siblings are struggling to stay connected despite the various situations in their lives that keep them from truly being close. They do their best to keep the family going and look out for each other, but there's still some tension between them here and there that seemed realistic. This also sets the stage for future books with these characters as protagonists.

As for what didn't work for me in this book--it is very little, yet just enough to keep Wicked Intentions from a five star read. We learn almost straightaway that Lord Caire has a reputation for unusual sexual tendencies and later we find out that these unusual practices are a direct result of his aversion to touch. It is suggested that he has had this aversion to touch since he was a boy, but it's unclear if his issues are psychological or physiological. There are suggestions that it could be either or both and in fact, Temperance attempts to delve for some answers herself, but even then her speculations as to why his sexual practices are what they are still don't clarify the root of his issues. I suppose it can be argued that it doesn't really matter why he is the way he is as long as he and Temperance are able to touch each other freely, but I still wanted to understand it all and most of all, wanted Caire to understand himself so he could maybe work to alleviate his pain.

Temperance has an issue with her sexuality as well. She's a passionate and emotional woman who is purposely stifling her sexual desires as a result of tremendous guilt over something she did years ago. Several times Temperance thinks of her sexual desires as terribly base or perverse, when in fact, she's just a normal woman who enjoys sex. I suppose that's just how women in the 1700s were taught to perceive sexual desire, but I still felt her shame for her sexual desires was slightly overdone.

Wicked Intentions still kept me on the edge of my seat as Lord Caire and Temperance risked their lives every night to uncover the mystery of the gruesome murders in St. Giles and as their affection for each other grew into romantic love during this traumatic time. I'm intrigued by all of the secondary characters and will definitely be reading more stories in the Maiden Lane series.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day

... hope you all had a lovely day. :) xo

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Final Reflections: 2012 Whole Living Action Plan

Last Sunday was my last day of Week 4 of the Whole Living Action Plan I had been following in order to cleanse my body of impurities and establish healthier and cleaner eating habits. So Yay! I am officially finished with the cleanse. Phew! Looking back.. it wasn't so bad. Okay, that's not true. The first 3-5 days were SUPER hard. I was plagued by caffeine withdrawal headaches, detox headaches, a little nausea from the detoxification. Actually, the entire first week [or two.. ] was REALLY hard. I was often hungry, tired and cranky.

How was Week 4?
I'll start right out and confess that I cheated a few times in this last week. I had ice cream. Twice. I also had a cookie one day, too. [sugar and dairy were still on the forbidden list]. I don't think it is horrible to eat these foods, but once you do, it's that much harder to say no to it the next time.

The addition of animal protein back in my diet made meal preparations so much easier and I definitely felt better fueled for my day. However, I think adding gluten products back into my diet brought back the feeling of fullness that wasn't there during the weeks I was gluten free. I've been thinking a lot about gluten vs. gluten free lately and while I don't necessarily believe gluten is inherently bad for everyone--in fact, whole grain wheat, barley, rye and other grains with gluten are not only good sources of fiber, but also valuable nutrients, I do think that most of the food products that contain gluten in the American diet are the processed foods that contain refined ingredients such as wheat and white flours and sugars, that are actually unhealthful. Truly whole grain bread products are actually difficult to find in the average supermarket! What does this mean for my diet? I think I really need to be cognizant of the gluten foods I eat every day and keep them at a minimum number of servings per day in order to feel my best. I think I'll need to rethink some of my typical meals and make some permanent changes. I also read that proteins and carbohydrates should be eaten separately throughout the day. If that's true, there goes my turkey sandwich on multi grain bread! I'm still thinking about this aspect.. it's kind of a work in progress.

How do I feel about the cleanse?
The cleanse was difficult, but it felt good mentally and physically to do something so positive for my body. I would do it again sometime. Next January if not sooner.

I learned how comfortable it felt to eat until I'm no longer hungry as opposed to eating until I'm full. If you eat just until you are no longer hungry, you're content. If you eat until you're full... chances are you ate too much! The key is to stay aware of this difference at every meal!

I am no longer addicted to caffeine. I had my first cup of coffee today, actually, after having been caffeine free for 32 days. You know what? It was just okay. I thought I'd slip into heaven with that mug of java... but it turned out to be very anticlimactic. I'll still indulge in a cup now and then, but for the most part I'll stick with hot water with lemon, herbal, green and black teas.

I ate SO many fruits, vegetables and nuts during the cleanse and discovered so many delicious and healthful recipes and eating strategies that I will continue to follow in the months and years to come.

Now that the cleanse is over, what happens?
Do my best to adhere to the healthful, clean eating habits and steer clear of processed foods, keeping caffeine, alcohol, sugars and dairy to a minimum. Still debating on level of gluten products to allow myself. They're SO hard to avoid.

Try to get my family to eat cleaner, too. I think that we already eat very healthfully, but let's face it... must of us have room for improvement in our eating habits.

I had fun documenting my adventure with the Whole Living Action Plan over the last month and I made a few new friends, too, just by using the #WLActionPlan hashtag on twitter and instagram. It's really amazing how the social media brings people together from around the world with just one common interest. Then voila! Friendships are forged.

I also discovered a two wonderful new-to-me websites that I just LOVE. Both of these websites instantly became favorites. Sarah B is the holistic nutritionist who designed the first week of the cleanse--methodology and recipes-- and she has so many fresh, delicious and nutritious recipes and other inspirations for healthy eating and living on her website. is hosted by Noƫlle, where she shares information and recipes on daily detoxing and healthful eating. More great stuff!

Finally, the cleanse got me to visit and explore the website which is just loaded with ideas, advice and inspiration on healthy, green living for both mind and body. SO many amazing recipes, exercises and mediations!

Thanks so much for taking the time to read through my weekly reflections throughout the month and leaving such supportive comments, as always. I hope you enjoyed my posts and maybe found a little inspiration to make some healthy changes in your life, too.

Here's to healthy, whole living! xo 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tell me what to read!

I'm looking for some help narrowing down my book choice for February's TBR Challenge hosted by Wendy the SuperLibrarian. I'll be lucky if I simply manage to keep up with this challenge, let alone follow Wendy's suggested monthly themes, but what the heck! I like pushing my luck and am going to try my best to follow the themes. February's theme is to chose a book from your TBR pile that was recommended to you by a friend and has since sat on your TBR shelf for a long time. I browsed my TBR pile and have come up with the following three books which I know made it to my TBR shelf due to strong recommendations from fellow romance reading friends. Now I want you to help me decide which one to read.

1. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
Highland Pleasures series, Book 1
Published April 28, 2009
Historical romance

Read the book blurb on goodreads. 

Recommended by Kristie J and then countless other romance reading friends including Amy and Tracy.

2. Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins
Stand alone novel
Published August 1, 2008
Contemporary romance

Read the book blurb on goodreads.

Recommended by Kati and then many other readers. I have read almost all of Kristan Higgins' books by now.. except for this one and Fools Rush In, both of which have been on my TBR for years.

3. Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt
Maiden Lane series, Book 1
Published August 1, 2010

Read the book blurb on goodreads. 

Recommended to me [this book and the series] by primarily Hilcia and Leslie and I think nath, too. Other endorsements are from Tracy and Lori. Anyone else?

Please tell me which one you think I should read in the comments below. The book with the most votes by the end of the day on Wednesday is the one I'll read for February's TBR Challenge on February 15.

Thanks for your help! :)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Winners of Lisa Kleypas Book Giveaway!

Thanks to everyone who entered to win a copy of Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas and for telling me your favorite LK novel. I have read all of her contemporaries so far and only one of her historical romances--Secrets of a Summer Night-- so I have a lot to look forward to!

I used the free random list generator at to select the winners for this giveaway. The three lucky winners are ......


Congratulations! I'm so excited for each of you! I hope you enjoy Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor as much as I did and it gets you excited for Rainshadow Road coming out later this month!

List Randomizer

There were 9 items in your list. Here they are in random order:
  1. Angiegirl
  2. Rowena
  3. azteclady
  4. Isabel
  5. Lisa
  6. bn100
  7. Lusty Reader
  8. Alex
  9. Paula
Timestamp: 2012-02-04 14:45:08 UTC

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My January Adventures

Instead of doing a 'Monthly Reads' post for each month, I thought I'd try making a monthly post recapping anything noteworthy that went on in my world such as the books I read, athletic adventures, travel or anything else interesting. Interesting to me, anyway, but hopefully to you, too.

January 2012 was surprisingly jam packed with adventure for me. This post ended up much longer than I expected. Feel free to scroll to the parts that most interest you. ;)

Reading adventures:
I had my all time record low reading month since December 2007 when I didn't read a single book! Last month, I read only THREE books!

1. The Longest Night by Kathleen O'Reilly
You can read my review for this book HERE, which I read for January's TBR Challenge.

2. Tides of Passion by Tracy Sumner
This book had the makings of a great story--interesting characters, a fun premise and a wonderfully unique setting. Unfortunately, I felt the main characters said or did things out of character one too many times and it weakened the credibility of their story.

3. Wife by Wendesday by Catherine Bybee
This book has been on the top of the Amazon Kindle charts for a really long time now. I don't know if the author has any secrets for keeping it up there, but I can tell you this story was really fun and I thoroughly enjoyed reading every page! It's a contemporary marriage of convenience turned true love story. Utterly adorable and believable, too! The ebook is only 99 cents!
Amazon Kindle
Barnes & Noble

I sure hope February is a better reading month for me or I'm never going to get to 101 books by the end of 2012! Good thing February has an extra day this year. ;)

Did you read anything good in January?

Health and fitness adventures:
So what was I doing with all that time that I clearly wasn't spending reading? Detoxing, working out and a bit of traveling, that's what!

As many of you already know, I started following the 28 Day Whole Living Action Plan featured in Whole Living magazine and on their website earlier in January. It's a food based detox-type-mind and body cleanse. It's kept me busy preparing new food dishes, healthy snacks and smoothies and because my caloric intake was naturally so low because of the plan and I wasn't drinking any coffee or tea with caffeine, I admit I napped a lot the first week or two. I have a few more days to go before I'm finished.. but already my diet feels close to normal again, but heavier on the fruits and vegetables. That's always a good thing!

Since the detox-cleanse is meant to be restful and healing, I eased up on my regular workout schedule a bit, which I thought would drive me crazy, but actually felt welcomed in the early weeks of the plan. Giving up coffee for the diet combined with fewer calories overall made me very tired and sleepy this month! I still managed to keep my miles and hours spent exercising at a decent level, though, so I'm happy about that. Here's a look at what I was doing in January to keep my body moving and my heart rate up:

Run ...................... 14.0 miles
Bike ..................... 56.7 miles
Snowshoe .............  3.5 miles

Spin class ................. 2.5 hrs
Kickbox ................... 3.5 hrs
Strength training .....  5.0 hrs
Cardio interval ......... 2.0 hrs

Total fitness challenge 'miles' ..... 77.5 miles
[My typical monthly goal is 100 miles where 1 fitness challenge mile = 15 min cardio or strength = 1 mile run or snowshoed.]

Other highlights:
I ran a 5K Race on New Year's Day hoping to break my 30:02 PR, but ran 30:31 which is still under a 10 minute mile, so that's cool. Maybe next time. :)

I started new small group TRX training classes in January after my gym had TRX Suspension Trainers installed. TRX suspension training is a fully body strength training workout in which you suspend your body weight by straps and do various strength exercises all the while your core is fully engaged.
Want to see a video? Visit or go straight to the video HERE.

I went snowshoeing for the first time when I participated in the Tubbs Snowshoes Romp to Stomp out Breast Cancer Snowshoe event. and loved it! I want my own snowshoes! Thank you again to everyone who supported me and donated to the cause on my behalf! xo

How did your workouts go in January?

A photography adventure:
One last adventure to share with you. After three failed attempts at doing a 365 Project, I started fresh again for the fourth time on January 1 and so far I haven't missed a day! I'm doing this project exclusively using my iPhone 4S and Instagram. I know this is probably a ridiculous way of doing a 365 Project when I have a fantastic digital SLR, but the iPhone is SO convenient and I always have it with me, so I'm hoping the convenience of it will enable me to stick with the project and take a photo every day. Oh wait... I just realized this is a leap year. I guess this is a 366 Project? ; )

Have you ever done a 365 Project? 

Traveling adventures:
My husband, daughters and I took a long weekend getaway to Florida over Martin Luther King Weekend and had a really great time even though it was really cold that weekend! I wanted sunny warm 70s--not chilly, cloudy 50s. I heard it got warm the day after we left. Figures.

We have very close friends who moved to the Orlando area several years ago and who were always inviting us to come down to visit them, trying to lure us with all of the theme parks in the area. [We are more of a National Park kind of family--not the amusement park kind, but it was still really fun.] We really enjoyed visiting our friends the whole weekend in their lovely home. It was so relaxing staying with them!

 Harry Potter World in Universal Studios
Orlando, FL
The first day we went to Universal Studios and pretty much beelined for Harry Potter World which was SO COOL!!! It really felt like you were walking through Hogsmeade and into Hogwarts castle. The ride in Hogwarts is a simulated broomstick ride and omg it felt so real! I admit I screamed when the dragon ... well, I don't want to give anything away. We went into Honeydukes, Ollivanders wand shop and of course, Zonko's! And we ate lunch at Three Broomsticks. We even had Butterbeer!
How cool is that? :)

From 'My Neighborhood Totoro'
The second day we went to Epcot. We had fun walking around, doing some of the attractions, visiting the international pavilions, but I don't know... it didn't seem so amazing. Even the fireworks were just okay. We ate lunch in 'Japan' and got giddy over the souvenirs from our favorite Hayao Miyazaki films.

The third day we went to an Indian Kite Festival with our friends. I had no idea kite flying was so competitive! We arrived with numerous kites in our arsenal. You'd think it's challenging enough to just get your kite up and flying, but no! All the other kite fliers will start maneuvering their kite to cross yours and with the right tension and direction, their kite string--which is actually finely coated with glass--cuts your string and your kite falls to the ground! So you have no choice but to be both an offensive and defensive kite flier to keep your kite in the air. On a side note, I ate some amazing Palak Pakoras [spinach-chickpea fritters] there. I had forgotten how much I LOVE Indian food. Mmmm I want some right now!  photo to come... maybe.

The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)
Kennedy Space Center
[photo taken from tour bus]
The fourth and last day, we went to Kennedy Space center. We spent time walking around the visitors center and then took the up-close tour of the space center and Vehicle Assembly Building. We actually got to walk inside the VAB and see the orbiter Endeavor up-close! Then bus took us around to the launch pad. Afterwards we spent an hour or two in the Apollo Saturn V Exhibit.

I loved the up-close tour! I think it was especially meaningful for me because after college [I had just earned my B.S. in Electrical Engineering] I worked for an aerospace company that was a subcontractor of a subcontractor of NASA, updating and writing new test software for two electrical devices we built for the space shuttle program. So I was familiar with the very basic picture of preparing the space shuttle for launch and then the retrieval of the solid rocket boosters after each launch. Anyway, visiting the Kennedy Space Center was definitely a highlight of this trip for me!

Did you go anywhere special in January? 

Thanks for taking the time to read about my January adventures. I assure you January was unusually adventurous for me and future monthly posts will be much shorter!

Wishing you all a fantastic February! xo