Monday, December 31, 2012

Still Love My Books

Even though I don't write much on this blog anymore (I want to do better), I look forward to doing this post at the end of every year. In 2012 I read 72 books, which included 8 non-fiction - that's a lot for me. And I kept track of every single book, including my rating and review, on my Goodreads account. I love that website. Was waiting for it all my life. See all my books here. But just in case you don't want to go through all my books, the good and the bad, I'll list some of my favorites here.

Favorites 5 Stars
The Wednesday Wars
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt - my very favorite that I recommend to everyone!
I Am The Messenger by Marcus Zusak - loved The Book Thief, and this one too, even though it was very different.
He Shall Thunder in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters - #13 in Amelia Peabody series - my fave since book 1 and I recommend it to lovers of the series or of this genre.
A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George - 1st in the Inspector Lynley series. I was very impressed but only those who love British police mysteries will agree.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett - different than I usually read, and almost ruined at the end, but a fascinating look at a very different society and the things that drive us. Heart of Darkness-esque.
Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey - I was so skeptical and then totally surprised at how great this book was. Quick and easy to read, but very convincing to me. 2013 financial goal: get out of debt!

Notable 4 Stars

James Potter and the Hall of Elders' Crossing (James Potter, #1)James Potter and the Hall of Elder's Crossing by Norman Lippert - great fan fiction but not dependent on the originals- so close to the feel of the Harry Potter series and free to read on the Goodreads app. will be getting to #2 soon.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - a classic that was on my must-read list for 2012. so glad I finally read it, and loved it - but the first third of the book was soooo slow and kept it from 5 stars.
Divergent/Insurgent by Veronica Roth - best YA dystopian I've read since Hunger Games (although I really liked Incarceron and Chaos Walking series too)
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn - a fun, British, historical mystery - exactly my genre. can't wait to read the rest!

To Read in 2013

Ahab's Wife, or The Star-Gazer
I am putting these six book on my must-read list for the year, in addition to whatever I can get to on my Goodreads To-Read list, which I try to keep close to 200 but is currently at 211. These books have either been on my list for a long time, or are popular or award-winning, come highly recommended, or just sound really good to me.

Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

And in addition to these, and in the name of pursuing a well-rounded reading list, I want to read more classic fiction, more non-fiction (specifically church/parenting/self-improvement books) and specifically a book of poetry, and a play.

Have you made a list of to-reads for 2013? What are your top faves that I should add to my list? Any suggestions for poetry or plays? Wish me luck with my goals and I wish you a very happy year of reading too!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Sugar-Free Cookie Extrordinaire

With my new healthy lifestyle, I try to limit my sweets and desserts to one day a week. And then I try not to pig out all day long that day. But after being good for three or four weeks, I was craving some sweets so badly! So I turned to Pinterest and searched for a sugar-free recipe that looked palatable. Now I wasn't expecting miracles, but was hoping for something that didn't just use a sugar substitute. I bought some Stevia and tried to make my own hot chocolate. Yeah, it was nasty. Still need to try it in something else though - I don't want to judge it on that sole experience.

I found this cookie recipe that is not only sugar-free, but also flour, egg-free too. It is mostly bananas, so if you don't like those you should probably skip this recipe. I don't like to eat bananas on their own, but like them in bread, pancakes, etc. I love the oats in this recipe too! I did add a dash of salt and little Stevia to sweeten things up - just a single serving packet. The batter tasted great on it's own, and I wondered if it was even worth baking the cookies. Out of the oven they were okay, but the next day or the day after they were fabulous - just needed a day to meld I guess. I couldn't help but pass this recipe on. I give full credit to Once a Month Mom. You can find the recipe here

The cocoa and oats really satisfied me and kept me out of the real treats that do not help me!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ending 2012 with a Loss (a good one)

This is a hard topic for me to discuss, but I'm on a roll and am hoping for some long-term change so it's time for me to go public. I have steadily been gaining weight since college & our wedding (11 years ago), and I have hit several unhappy milestones that I swore I would never pass. Yet I did. And I just didn't know what could turn me around. Then I heard about a weight-loss challenge that some people in my ward were putting together and I decided to join. That was two months ago and things have gone extremely well.
best bathroom scale Bathroom Scale 

We used this system here, where you earn points for good behaviors like exercising, drinking water, skipping sweets, etc. We skipped the first two weeks of the challenge so we could finish by Christmas Eve. Everyone puts in $10 as a show of participation and the pot gets split between the top points winner and the top weight-loss percentage winner. And I was the points winner! I lost fifteen pounds! I liked that so many of my friends were all doing it together so we could encourage each other, as well as compete. I was actually quite motivated by the competition - more than I would have thought I could be. Once I was in first place after the first week - I didn't want to give it up. It was also a huge help that my husband, Aaron, did the challenge with me. He was so supportive in everything. I normally hate it when he encourages me to go to the gym or to eat less sweets. But since it was part of the competition and he was doing it all too... well, I couldn't have done it without him.

Worst part of the challenge: eating fruits and veggies. I know you are supposed to integrate these into your meals, but I had a hard time with this and I'm not a big salad eater, which is where some people get their veggies. I'm glad it's winter though - I love cauliflower or butternut squash soup! I found myself stuffing down veggies and/or fruit at 8:30 most nights - which is 30 minutes before the no-food limit. I need to do better at this.

Best parts of the challenge: working out at the gym. You get the maximum points for exercising 45 minutes five times a week. I have finally caught the joy of the gym and I still have a long ways to go. I've been doing the bike (so I can read at the same time), walking on the treadmill (but want to work up to running sometime), and the elliptical. That elliptical machine is hard! And I have to do 45 minutes. Man it's good exercise! I look forward to trying some Yoga and Zumba classes soon too. Another great part of the challenge: drinking 64 ounces of water a day. I have come to really enjoy this and it makes me feel a lot better. I love that the challenge is set-up to reward good behavior rather than penalizing you.

I am going to use my winnings to buy some new exercise gear and maybe some running shoes. I am loving the new looseness to my clothes and some subtle changes to my body. We're starting the challenge again in a couple weeks and I'm hoping for at least 15 more pounds of loss. Maybe then I can set some kind of target weight goal. I am amazed at how natural my new behaviors and habits are starting to feel - except the no sweets. But I'm learning about moderation. I'm really looking forward to a new year and a new, healthier lifestyle for me!