Tag Archives: books

The Return of Reading!

Okay, so reading itself isn’t returning (cause y’all know I’m addicted). Instead, this is the return of book reviews! I’ve been reading up a storm this month — you can keep tabs on what pages I’m turning on the right hand side of the page. I should also really clean up/update my “books” page. (I need to get my laptop working again so I can use my delightful publishing software…) Onto the books!

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

This was my wonderful friend Blair’s pick for our book club. I’d been secretly eyeing in on Amazon and I was thrilled when she picked it (thus forcing me to buy it). The author, Erik Larson, also wrote Devil in the White City which is about the Chicago World’s Fair and a serial killer operating in Chicago around that time. (I know, it sounds like a weird combo but it was great!)

Larson’s newest book tells the story of the Dodd family living in Berlin during Hitler’s rise to power. The father, William Dodd, served as the United State’s ambassador to Germany at the time. Most of the story is told through the point of view of William and his daughter Martha. Martha, quite the floozy, loves the intrigue of the Nazi party and its members. Her exploits through the book, including a serious relationship with a member of the KGB’s predecessor, were quite astonishing especially given the time period.

I never really got attached to any of the characters, but I did find their lives very interesting. I also kept having to remind myself that this was non-fiction. Larson tells his stories so well that you would swear you’re reading a fictional thriller. The ending is a bit of a downer but I suppose I shouldn’t have expected rainbows and sunshine at the end of a book about the rise of Hitler. I’d definitely recommend In the Garden of Beasts to anyone who is interested in the time period, enjoys political intrigue, or enjoys very well written non-fiction.

 

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan

After reading Omnivore’s Dilemma, I was curious to read more from Michael Pollan. In Defense of Food flew by for me and I felt like this book was much more relatable than Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan discusses the current obsession with “nutrients” and some interesting paradoxes in the Western world. For example, Western doctors often find obese patients with vitamin deficiencies that are normally only found in malnourished populations. Their hypothesis, and one of the largest components of Pollan’s book, is that we’ve stopped eating food.

That sounds weird, but it doesn’t seem to be too far from the truth. We’ve made eating so easy and refined food products so much, that a lot of what we put in our bodies doesn’t resemble real food — the kinds of things our grandparents ate growing up. Because of this, we put a lot of “food products” into our body but not as much nutrition. Scientists try to fill this gap by isolating nutrients (like Omega-3s or saturated fats) and painting them as good or bad. The “good” nutrients become fads and food scientists find ways to inject them into foods that they would never occur in naturally. Because it’s not a natural occurrence, we don’t reap as much of the benefits. It’s starting to become obvious that it’s not just one nutrient, but the interaction of a group of nutrients from various foods, that cause good health benefits.

With that in mind, Pollan encourages readers to Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. He breaks down this (seemingly logical) advice into real world applications in the final section. Unlike Omnivore’s Dilemma, most of the information and advice given was very relatable. I finished the book and wanted to go immediately to a Farmer’s Market. I’d highly recommend this book — it’s a fast read and very informative. I think we should all know more about what and how we eat!

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A week in numbers

0 – the number of staples in/on Buddy (yesss, staple free!)
1 – night spent on amazon.com “trading in” our old textbooks for amazon credit. (this is awesome, you should do it. ask me if you have questions!)
2 – cups of coffee consumed this morning (also see: number of pills Buddy is down to each day)
3 – runs so far this week
4 – miles run yesterday without stopping
5 – bags of dog treats for our spoiled dog (all different too, spoiled!)
6 – food trucks I anticipate eating at/sampling from this evening at TRUCKEROO!

It has been a pretty good week! Buddy “looks awesome” according to the vet and has almost completed three weeks of crate rest. He’s such a patient little dog.

I had a few good runs (including a four miler yesterday where I never once wanted to quit), enjoyed book club (book review coming soon), my old boss’ wife had  their baby on 7-11, and we got a package in the mail from my parents for Buddy (spoiled)! Tonight is Truckeroo and tomorrow is Dan and Kelly’s annual luau. So excited. Hubs and I are also aiming for a 5.5-6 mile long run tomorrow morning. Hopefully it goes as well as yesterday’s four miler!

On the not so good side, I apparently spent a lot of this week eating poorly and fooling myself into thinking I was eating well. Whoops! This morning, the scale was up and I definitely had a moment of WTF?! I mean, I’m working out more than I have in a long time. Scale, why do you betray me?! Then, I started thinking about what I had to eat this week: BGR for lunch Monday, a 7-11 day slurpee, chinese food, beer, wine, ice cream, pizza and more wine at book club, etc. Oh, my bad, those aren’t health foods?!


(Source.)

Oh, yeah, I guess not. That probably explains my situation this morning. So, I’ve scaled back my grand ambitions (mac and cheese, grilled cheese, poutine, empanadas, tacos, cupcakes) for the food trucks tonight and have tried to make more logical decisions. Hubs has generously offered to split poutine with me so I can still have it – I married him for reasons like this! I’m still looking forward to trying some new trucks and it’s not like I’ll never have another chance to try the grilled cheese truck or the mac and cheese truck. Delayed gratification, right?

Coming next week: more cooking, a book review, and hopefully a report of a successful long run!

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Stress (Less)?

Here’s a little Anna factoid for you: I am prone to anxiety. Fortunately my anxiety is not debilitating and panic attacks are rare things for me. But, I do seem to love a good worry. I really envy people who are able to look at a situation, consider the facts, and move forward. Also, the people who don’t “what if” a situation to death. However, along with many wonderful traits, my family also carries a predisposition to anxiety and mild depression. Yum.

My current worry? We took Buddy for his first follow up appointment this afternoon. Buddy is looking great – aside from his wound on his tummy. I’ll skip all the nasty details. Basically, the vet wants us to hold a warm compress to his wound for five minutes or so 3-4 times a day. This seems to feel good as Buddy settles down as soon as the warm compress hits his skin. Poor little guy. We have another follow up appointment on Thursday. From that point the vet will decide if he needs to have his wound cleaned and closed with staples or stitches. This is where I start to worry things around in my mind.

Worries: I don’t want him to get an infection. I don’t want him to be in pain. If he has to have the wound closed by the vets, what is that going to cost? If they use staples, how long do those have to stay in? Right now, Hubs and I have enough telework approval to stay home with him until the first set of staples (from all his cuts) come out. But, if he has to get another set of staples, I don’t know if one of us can stay home with him. He should be fine in his crate — but I worry he’ll get his e-collar hung up on something or find a way to lick/nibble at his wound and staples.

End crazy. Okay, so I need to leave this alone. I don’t know if he’s even going to need staples. We could wake up in the morning (after three hot compresses and another good night’s sleep) and his skin could look healthy and pink. It could look even better Thursday morning. And, if that’s the case then I’ve wound myself up for no good reason.

I think I’m a little tense tonight because Hubs is going into work for the rest of the week and I’ll be home alone with the little guy. I’m so fearful of hurting him somehow or exacerbating his injuries. I know he’s a tough little guy and I’ve handled things with Hubs around often enough to know what I’m doing with Buddy-care. But it’s still nerve wracking.

Blah, okay, fretting over with. Thanks for joining me on my crazy train this evening. In other, actual blog related, news — my house arrest with the hound is paying off in some ways! I’ve cooked — Banana bread and two new recipes (Mama Pea’s Mmmm sauce and a Creamy Taco Mac that Brie shared), worked out (a run, a strength training session, and a hill incline session), and devoured my book club book. (Too bad Buddy’s Thursday follow up appointment falls during book club. Oh well. Hound first, wine second.)

Hubs just leaned over and asked if I was “blogging about my feelings.” 🙂 He can always tell when I’m worrying something around in my mind. Time for me to put this worry aside, get my little dog to eat dinner, and read some more in my lovely book club book. (Review coming shortly!)

 

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Onto the next one

Better late than never! It’s time to welcome July with a quick look back at June.

1. Get my mileage up! (2/4) I did pretty well with this for most of the month. Even though my mileage wasn’t as high as it needed to be, I was pushing for long runs and running more often. The last week in June definitely suffered after Buddy’s accident. I’m looking forward to really kicking up a notch in July.
2. Weight train (at least once a week). (4/4) They may have not happened once a week as planned, but I did get (at least) four strength training sessions in. Sometimes it was just arms, sometimes it was the P90x “Ab Ripper X” dvd, sometimes it was both. I can’t wait to continue this and see my running and fitness continue to improve. 
3. Read three books that are non-fiction or classics. (4/3) I crushed this pretty much. Books: The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball, The Good Soldiers by David Finkel, Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
4. Get Laptop fixed. Seriously, Anna. I did get an external hard drive for our fading desktop computer and I got a wireless USB thinking that might fix our laptop connectivity problems. But, unfortunuately, it still doesn’t recognize our home wireless even though all our other electronics do. 
5. Make a savings plan for summer fun trips. Hubs and I knocked this out pretty quickly. We’ve been following it successfully as well. 
6. Make four new recipes. (3/4) Again, I think I could have nailed this if we hadn’t spent the past week in a daze/frenzy after Buddy’s run in with a car. Still, three new recipes isn’t shabby! Quinoa salad for lunches, pound cake, and Thai Chicken Soup — I would make all of these again!

Time to look at July!
1. Try out four new recipes. I already have at least one in mind for next week! If we’re staying in with the hound for “house arrest” we might as well eat some good things!
2. Run 45 miles in July. After my Saturday run, I “only” need 42.5 more miles!
3. Read six books, three non-fiction or classic. The Kindle has been spurring on my reading. And with “hound house arrest” I should be able to read even more.
4. Share at least two book reviews. I’ll aim for our current book club pick and something perhaps a little fluffier.
5. Complete six strength training sessions for the month. I like seeing my body get stronger and my running get better.
6. Post at least 10 times this month.

What are you up to this month? Any suggestions for books to read or recipes to try? I’m all ears!

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Win Some, Lose Some

Win: Ran another four miles (on the dreadmill) on Wednesday. Less nervous and more excited about this weekend’s four mile race.

Lose: It is hot, like face of the sun hot, here. I’m afraid the heat may take a toll on me/result in a poorer performance than I’d like to see this weekend.

Win: Book club was AWESOME last night! I love these ladies, I love cooking food for people, I love drinking wine and talking. I also love that whoever hosts has full reign over book selection. It has encouraged me to pick up books I wouldn’t have on my own.

Lose: I’ve been AWFUL about putting book reviews up here. I’ll see if I can crank one out about our most recent book club read (my pick): The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball.

Win: I ordered a wireless USB adapted to fix our laptop problem.

Lose: When the wireless adapter showed up, it either didn’t work or at least it didn’t solve the problem. I’m back to square one. If I had the money, I would just say eff it and buy a new laptop.

Win: I finally finished all but one of my library books (my bed time book) so I took my Kindle for its first commute yesterday. LOVE IT! I’m reading The Good Soldiers right now. People have hailed it as a modern day version of The Things They Carried (about the Vietnam War) which is one of my favorite books. I have high hopes for The Good Soldiers and so far have NOT been disappointed.

Lose: I still have not managed to get a job that pays me to read books in my PJs.

Win: Buddy was surprisingly well-behaved last night.

Lose: He still peed on the carpet once. So frustrated with house training him. Hubs and I are resolute that we’ll get this straightened out before he turns one in July.

In other news, my last remaining grandparent (Nana) fell in her kitchen earlier this week. She hit her head and her hip. Luckily she had no head injuries — not even a concussion. However, she did break her hip. After a day and a half on morphine, while waiting for an operating room to open up, Nana had a full hip replacement yesterday afternoon. My Aunt Pegs described her as a “happy drunk” after surgery; I am without words to describe how relieved I am that her surgery went well. She starts her long rehab process today. She is also 85. She has always been a “tough old lady” and I’m hoping she keeps her spirits up and sticks to rehab. It also makes me increbily thankful for my mobility and ease of movement. It makes me want to stay healthy throughout life in the hopes that I don’t end up at 85 stuck on the floor after a fall. Oh, and if you pray, could you send some thoughts Nana’s way? She and I would appreciate it!

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Progress & Success

It has been a busy (and wonderful) few days around here! Friday, I ran four miles (on the dreadmill) and actually really enjoyed it! I’ve decided that 26 will be the age when I embrace running and stop making excuses.

Saturday we joined the moving team known as “Team Awesome” and helped two of our friends empty their old apartment, drive from MD to VA, and unload their stuff into a new apartment — all in four hours. It may have been the most efficient move I’ve ever been a part of. And Sunday was the Louisiana State Society’s annual Crawfish boil. Every year that is a good time and this year was no different. (This year, I opted to be “healthier” and instead of all you can eat jambalaya, sausage, and beer, I brought vodka with soda water and subway. However, the copious amounts of lime tortilla chips and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies were not the best for me…)

In between all this, Hubs and I made our “savings plan” for our trips this summer. We got serious and looked at how much we’d need to enjoy ourselves. The money considerations also convinced us to DRIVE to Atlanta in August (as opposed to flying). We’ll spend $200 in gas, but save almost $200 in dog boarding and close to $600 in airfare. (How are flights SO EXPENSIVE?!) That’s definitely worth a ten hour drive and our parents can spoil their granddog a little more. I’m pleased we sat down to figure this out — it makes me feel like we can responsibly take all the trips we want to by just cutting a few corners. Hooray vacations!

Now the only thing hanging over my head is my book ADD. Now that my Kindle is covered, loaded with books, and ready to go I just wanna use ittttt! *insert whining here* The only problem? I’m still finishing Thursday’s book club book and two library books. Hopefully I can settle down to reading only a book or two at a time once I make the switch to the Kindle.

Ugh, I need to get back to work anyway. But Buddy just gassed me/made my work space inhabitable. (How does something like that come out of my SWEET little dog?!) I’m making my escape. Later y’all!

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Mid Year Resolution Gut Check

I’m a little astounded that we’re halfway through the year already. It feels like Christmas was a few weeks ago — how has the summer gotten here so fast?

I figured it was about time to give myself a little look in the mirror and see how I’m doing with my resolutions.

1) Re-introduce weights.
I could be doing so much better with this. I love lifting. I just need to remind myself of that. This month, I’m re-introducing it in manageable, baby bite sized chunks. Then, next month I’ll add a little more. I want to be toned and feel great come September for the half (more on that in a minute) and our beach trip.

2) Run a half marathon. 
I signed up for this race! Yes, I actually did it! And, to boot, I got my husband and two good friends on board as well. I’m registered, we have a hotel room, I’ve got a training plan, and dammit I am going to do this!

3) Vary my reading.
I’ve been doing pretty good with this little goal. I’m realizing that I’m definitely better at knocking out non-fiction as opposed to classics. That’s a pity because there are so many classics I want to read. I’m hoping that having a Kindle (and free access to a lot of these books) will improve my classics record.  Don’t forget to add me as a friend on Goodreads! I love stealing book ideas from people. 🙂

4) Write letters.
I did pretty well with this for the first few months. Then, I got a few letters back and saved them with the intention of responding. They are still sitting in my cubby of the living room table. Whoops! I’ll work on sending some post cards from my trips this summer!

5) Get student loans under $X.
This is going very well. We are chugging away. I did some calculations yesterday about how much we’ve paid off in the (just under) two years we’ve been paying on the loans. I am astounded by how well we’ve done. Definitely on track here to meet my goal and pay off the loans before this time next year!

6) Cook!
Doing very well here too! Hubs and I have definitely been entertaining a lot. I’ve been picking a lot of our recipes for our meals and am generally starting to feel very at home in the kitchen!

7) Stop wasting time.
I gave up Facebook for Lent and that helped with this for a while. Lately, I’ve found myself killing time again lately. Refreshing facebook, twitter, and news sites. Re-checking blogs that I just looked at. Mindlessly watching TV that Hubs has on. I’m trying to avoid these time sucks but by the time I realize what I’m doing sometimes, I’ve wasted half an hour! Must stop wasting time! 

I’m satisfied with that. Looks like 3 goals could use some improvements and 4 are coming along swimmingly! Thankfully no huge failures on the horizon here! How are you doing on your New Year’s Resolutions?

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