Monday, September 30, 2013

Jari Love: Get Extremely Ripped! (Review)

I do a lot of Jari Love's workouts and I'm pretty sure they, combined with Michelle Dozois' cardio videos, have changed my body in ways I never thought possible.  I own five of Jari's videos and alternate them frequently.  One that is in my rotation is Get Extremely Ripped! (2009)(Yes, all of her video titles are very similar and yes, it's very confusing!)

This video contains two 30-minute workouts.  Jari and her crew use a step, light and heavy weights.  As always, I never do the step and still get a great workout.  There is no specified cardio in this video but since you're doing compound exercises with no breaks, your heart rate goes up and stays up.

Each 30-minute workout has a warm-up that includes the basic moves you'll be doing throughout the workout: squats, lunges, bicep curls, overhead presses, etc.  Then you move on to your compound exercises.  

Workout 1: lunge with row and stiff leg deadlift, pulse squats (ouch!) and bicep curl with knee lift, wide squats with round-the-world and overhead presses, curtsy squat with triceps and side squat with anterior raise, knee up to reverse lunge and side squat with shoulder raise.  

Workout 2: clean and press and back lunge with hammer curl, moving side squats and overhead shoulder press with knee lift/squat, back row with squats and knee raises, reverse flies with leg lifts and triceps.

There is also an ab section and a cool down.  

I have to admit, I do not look forward to this video - it's a brutal arm workout.  But I do it because it's a great workout.  No one does high reps like Jari Love.  

The cons...  Jari's form is not great and I have no idea why.  Also, she's way too chatty in this video.  She's usually motivational yet no-nonsense.  This time, she just makes too many annoying comments about her crew.  The lighting on the stage is weird at times, and sometimes too dark.  A few of Jari's videos have a 30-second countdown clock that pops up during an exercise and this is one of them.  It's a bit distracting, especially when you realize that Jari has done an uneven number of reps on your current leg/arm because she realizes the clock is running out.  But don't let these things deter you.  As I've said before, don't use these kinds of excusing to NOT do a workout.  Jari always walks you through a great workout.  For a clip, go here.  

Bottom Line: This is an advanced workout for those wanting real results.  With the high reps, you need to be committed to get through it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Lace Knitting

Knitting is a lot of fun.  It's also very frustrating.  

I started a new scarf out of a gorgeous purple alpaca I found at our local Fiber Fest.  It's been a while since I've done anything lacy.  It took me a while to remember how to read a lace chart - from bottom right up.    

Off I went, knitting away, but soon had to frog it.  I finally figured out what was going on, started over, and knitted about three inches of scarf.  And then I found dropped stitches.  Sigh.  I frogged it again and started over.  So far, with absolutely no mistakes.  As much as I hate frogging a project, it's better to have a flawless project than a mistake-ridden project. 

I really hope I don't find any more dropped stitches.  My psyche can't handle starting over again!

Dooku has been keeping me company while I knit.  Thankfully, he doesn't chase the yarn or the needles.  He's a good little guy.  


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Boar Stone

I finished the Dalriada triology last week.  The final installment, The Boar Stone, was perhaps my very favorite.  It took place 200 years after the last book.  

This is my Goodreads review....

This is the final book in Jules Watson's Alba trilogy - and this last one is my favorite, by far. Though I loved Rhiann, Minna is much more decisive and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her journey.

Watson relies upon Ammianus Marcellinus'- a Roman historian - Res Gestae for her historical details regarding the Romans in Britain. Cahir, king of Dalriada, takes up his ancestor, Eremon's, mission to expel the Romans from Britain. He is aided by Minna, a Roman slave.

I loved these characters. The story was fascinating, well written, and I hated for it to end! 

I hope Jules Watson writes more historical fiction!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Michelle Dozois: Peak 10 More Cardio Strength (Review)

After loving Michelle Dozois' first Cardio Strength video, I decided to buy her More Cardio Strength (2012) workout. This video, like all of hers, did not disappoint!

Once again, there is no warm-up.  You begin with your first peak segment - there are five for a 50-minute workout.  

Like all of the Peak 10 series, there are five 10-minute peaks.  Within that 10 minutes, you'll do a 5-minute segment twice, once on each side.  That five minutes begins with about two minutes of weights.  Then, about 3 minutes of heart-pounding cardio.  You finish with one peak move that will test your limits.  (The first peak does not have a peak move - Michelle's one concession to let your body get a bit warm before testing you.)

The weight segments of this video are more complex that what was in the first video.  Michelle's weight-lifting moves are fun and different (completely different from the first video!)....but they're also a bit more difficult to follow.  She makes some very quick transitions.  Now, after doing the video several times, you'll know what to expect - but just be aware that it may take a few run-throughs for you to get the hang of it all.

The cardio is high-impact but if you've done Michelle's More Cardio Interval Burn, this cardio is easy to follow.  In an effort to make this video unique, Michelle has thrown in some different moves, but none of them are very complex.  I like that it's different; this keeps me from getting bored!  

Finally, you'll have a peak move for about 30-seconds.  This is a squat/jump/touch the floor, squat/leap/touch the floor, jump/knees up....  These peak moves are not as difficult as some of those in her other videos, but they are still challenging.

Michelle then leads you through a nice stretch.  I think this is my least favorite stretching segment of all the Peak 10 videos, but it's still good and different.  

After doing four of Michelle's Peak 10 videos, I'm finding that each video has something I dread.  Ha!  Well, no pain, no gain, right?  In this video, this series of moves comes in the last peak - which means I dread it for the entire workout.  It's a donkey kick to a push-up - with mountain climbers right after it.  Oy.  Sweat just drips off of me.  And at that point, my arms are tired and push-ups are just traumatic.  Thankfully, the standing cardio right after this isn't too bad - or I would be dead!  

All in all, this video is a good follow-up to the original Cardio Strength.  Michelle has developed more complex moves to keep you on your toes.  I truly enjoy switching it out every other week with the original.  For a clip, go here.

Bottom Line: After you master the first Cardio Strength, this will be a new challenge for you - an advanced challenge, for sure!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cat Toys!

Recently, Mr. Higgins found some new Star Wars cat toys.  I didn't know such things existed - but now they do.  I laughed when he said he wanted to spend money on these - after all, cats rarely like the toys you spend the most money on.  

And so, the toys arrived: a mousy Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper, a feathery Death Star, and a Tie Fighter on a string.  Immediately the cats sniffed them and started rolling around and rubbing on them.  There was no catnip mentioned so this behavior seemed a bit odd.  Next they chased the Tie Fighter as we swung it around.  Sidious caught it and rubbed it against her face.  Dooku went for the string and tried to chew it.   

And so, Sidious and Dooku are greatly enjoying their toys.  They are at peace now that they have Sithly toys to pounce upon.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Prints and Frames

When I'm faced with a big project at home, I tend to procrastinate.  Usually, I hate to spend the money to get the project done...and sometimes I just don't know how to get the project done.  This does not sit well with Mr. Higgins, who ends up pushing me until I get something done.  I can't really blame him.  

One project that had yet to get done, despite us being in the house fro 2.5 years, was my study wall.  I had tons of prints, most of which were awkward, unstandard sizes, that needed to be framed.  There was no way I could afford custom framing!  I'd be poor!  

And so, for some very odd reason I have yet to name, I went to get frames a few weeks ago.  I found a few frames and then I got stumped: nothing would work for some of my prints.  I asked for help from a sales person who volunteered to cut some matte board for me - I could then mount my prints on the matte board, which would be cut to a standard-frame size.  

It took me two weekends but I got this done: 

Plus, there are two more newly framed prints on the adjacent wall.  Yay!  I know the picture at the top looks a little awkward - but I know I'll gradually add prints to the wall and that top print will be the centerpiece for the new stuff. 

Most of these prints are Rome-focused - either maps of the empire or landmarks.  There are also two prints of French chateaux.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Firm: The 500 Calorie Workout (Review)

I've tried many Firm workout videos over the years.  I find it ironic and extremely frustrating that so many videos led by so many different instructors can be so badly cued and annoying.  The exception is The 500 Calorie Workout (2008), led by Kelsie Daniels.

The format is simple.  A light cardio section with some stretching starts you off.  Then a light weight section to get you ready.  A real cardio section, followed by weights. Cardio, weights, cardio, weights, etc.  There's a good ab section at the end with both standing and floor work (with weights).  And then a nice stretch.  

The cardio is pretty easy, except for the last section that includes more lunges and jumps.  They are mostly 75% low-impact but with a few high-impact (jacks, jump-rope, squat-jumps) moves that really get your heart rate up.  Outside of some combinations that may require a few tries to get the hang of, this is mostly easy stuff.  

The weight sections are challenging.  Kelsie moves quickly and does a lot of reps.  Expect side lunges down to push-ups, curtsy lunges with challenging weights, and side squats to lunges with overheard presses.  Whew!  Even though I've been doing weights for quite a while now, these sections still get me.  

I like Kelsie's ab segment because she incorporates some moves I've never done before.  It's definitely challenging but, thankfully, not too prolonged. 

Kelsie's cueing is better than most Firm instructors, but it's not perfect.  Be prepared to get a little lost at first.  But the moves are simple and you will be able to follow along in no time!  For a clip, go here.

Bottom Line: I would say this cardio is beginner but borders on intermediate in its complexity. The weight sections are definitely intermediate.  Once you've done some weights and know the basic moves, this is a great video to incorporate into your workouts.

Friday, September 13, 2013


I never forgave Dan Brown for comparing the Eiffel tower to a phallus.  And then I was a little miffed by the whole Jesus bloodline thing.  Suffice it to say that I was fine with having read the DaVinci Code and that's it by Dan Brown. 

But my husband likes Dan Brown's novels.  He bought and read Inferno and really liked it.  The fact that it made him interested in Italy - someplace I'd really like to take him some day - made me silently, begrudgingly thank Mr. Brown. 

And so, after Mr. Higgins asked me very nicely, I agreed to read Dan Brown's latest.  Here's the review I posted on Goodreads:

I continue to be torn on my opinion of Dan Brown. He writes for the masses; this is no great work of literature. But he exposes those masses to history, religious concepts, and artwork that most people would never learn about otherwise.

Most people, for instance, have only a basic knowledge of Dante. Brown focuses so much time on the medieval writer that people may become interested in his work, thereby picking up The Divine Comedy one day. A lot of people never get to Florence to learn about her treasures; Brown exposes them to this fabulous city.

Yet the writing is mediocre and Langdon's "symbologist" title is a joke (let's call iconography what it is, please) but... I will say one thing: Brown comes up with great fast-paced story lines filled with action and interspersed with history and art. Ant that's appealing. 

I grudgingly recommend it if you like art and/or Italy - and need a fast read.  

P. S. Mr. Higgins does not agree with my review.   

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Page

Though I love fall, September in Texas is still extremely hot and summery.  And so I was a little un-inspired for my framed scrapbook page this month...especially when I looked at the Grapic 45 line and saw only back-to-school related pictures.  I have no kids and will never have kids.  School starting means only that traffic gets worse and there are a bunch of sweaty undergrads clogging up my hallways on campus. 

This page is what I came up with.  The picture reflects my seasonal conundrum - it's from our honeymoon on St. John, USVI.  I'm eagerly looking forward to making the October and November pages.  I may even do a separate Halloween page.  

I'm also contemplating an all-purpose "Happy Birthday" page.  But it would require coming up with a way to switch out the photos depending on whose birthday it is.  Perhaps I'll work on that later this month!  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Star Trainers: Cardio (Review)

I stumbled upon Star Trainers: Cardio (2007) because I had found several workouts by Kimberly Spreen that I enjoyed.  This turned out to be a great buy; I've used this video consistently for several years now. 

There are 5 "star" trainers and each leads you through a thirty minute cardio workout.  Some are good, some not, some great.  Here is a review of each workout, ranked from easiest to hardest.
Gay Gasper's cardio is mostly low-impact.  This is a great place to start and a good way to get your heart rate up if you are a beginner.  Some of the choreography is a bit confusing.  I really don't understand why they try to make their moves so bloody complicated.  But I'm sure anyone can get the hang of this after a few tries.  This workout reminds me of old-school aerobics. Beginner.

Rob Glick's workout is also primarily low-impact.  Like Gasper's cardio, this is a good place to start.  I would say, however, that Glick's choreography is more convoluted than Gasper's, especially for a beginner.  All I can say is that there are great instructors....but most of them are just mediocre.  Beginner.

Kendell Hogan provides a great workout that includes both low and high impact moves.  He builds a routine with you and by the end of the workout, you're expected to do the routine three times in a row.  This definitely gets your heart rate up!  In this workout you'll run, do jacks, and lunges.  This is the workout I suggest you do first on this video.  Beginner.

Kimberley Spreen works you through a series of "bursts" - you slowly ramp up to a high-impact move.  This is not nearly as difficult as Michelle Dozois' Peak 10 series but it's still a challenge for a beginner.  The last ten minutes are the toughest with almost non-stop cardio.  Your only break is a series of kicks.  Kimberly is so easy to follow; you'll like her!  Beginner-Intermediate.

Violet Zaki is a martial artist so her workout is definitely the toughest.  It gets progressively harder as you go along.  You'll start with punches and end with a series of moves that has you lunging, squatting, and touching the floor.  Ouch!  You'll really feel your bum the next day.  And Zaki loves squats, so be prepared to do many of them!  You'll also do a cheater burpee and push-ups.  Zaki is so cute and her Australian accent is fun to listen to - she's one of my faves.  This is the only workout on the video that is most definitely an intermediate workout.  All the squats and lunges - wow!

I used to do this video once or twice a week, alternating the workout (only Hogan's, Spreen's, and Zaki's).  Even though I've gotten more advanced in my workouts, I'll still do this now and then when I need some cardio.  This video was a great investment!  For a clip, go here.

Bottom Line: If you're a beginner and in need of short cardio workouts, this is for you.  You will build stamina and get better and better as you work through the harder workouts here.  I highly recommend this!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fourth Ballband Dishcloth

I'm a bit undecided about what big knitting project to start next.  Now that I've done a sweater (albeit, a baby sweater), I'd really like to try something more advanced.  While in limbo, I decided to make my mom a new Ballband Dishcloth.  She's requested new dishcloths and since they're super quick, I whipped one up.  It was my fourth Ballband - and I still love the pattern.

Pattern: Ballband Dishcloth from Mason-Dixon Knitting by Gardner and Shayne
Yarn:  Lily Sugar n' Cream Solid and Variegated
Needle: US 7
Made for: my mom
Time to completion: about 1.5 - 2 weeks

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Chicken Bacon Wrap

I'm always looking for new healthy lunch ideas.  A while ago, I had a wrap in a restaurant that I loved.  I finally got around to making my own, lighter version at home.  Here it is....

 Chicken Bacon Wrap

1 Mission Carb Balance Small Fajita Whole Wheat Tortilla (80 calories)
4 oz cooked chicken breast, sliced into strips (110 calories)
1 slice of cooked bacon or 1 Tbsp Bacon Bits (25 calories)
2-3 slices of roasted red peppers (yum!)
a drizzle of Thousand Island Dressing (I used Kraft; 1 Tbsp = 30 calories)

Option: add avocado (which I don't like)

Roll all this up in that tiny tortilla - ha!  Yes, it's difficult.  You can also buy a larger tortilla, cut it in half, and take half of it for lunch.  I wrapped mine in parchment paper (which helps with the moisture) and then plastic wrap

My main obstacle for any lunch is having to prepare food the night before.  I like things to be easy and this, along with my Chicken Salad, is pushing it because of the additional time it takes to cook the chicken.  But both of these are a nice change when I make them.  And I actually look forward to lunch on these days!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Jari Love: Get RIPPED! 1000 (Review)

A video that I own and love is Jari Love's Get Ripped! 1000 (2006)I loved her Slim and Lean video but wanted the addition of cardio.  This has it!  Just to prove how much I love this workout: I do it once a week and have been for over a year.

The format of this workout is simple.  You do a compound strength segment (3-4 minutes) and then a short cardio segment (about a minute); strength and then cardio etc, etc (for 9 of each).  This formats ensures that your heart rate only ever gets a slight recovery before it goes up again.  Nice!  Included in the workout is a warm-up and then an ab section at the end.  You will need weights for this workout.

One note.  Jari and most of her crew (one is usually excluded) use a step.  I don't own a step and have never used a step for this workout.  You don't need it.  You can modify all the moves.

The strength moves are similar to the Slim and Lean video with a few changes.  Instead of straight squats, you do a squat and lunge back with front raise (weights).  Instead of straight lunges you do squat pulses to lunge back pulses (OUCH!).  There are also dead lifts with flies, pliés (wide squats) with bicep curls, clean and presses, push-ups, leg abductions and triceps, chest presses and flies, etc.  You do a high number of reps in a format similar to Slim and Lean: 2-2 count, 3-1 count, 4-4 count, singles.  

The cardio moves are fairly simple and easily modified if they're too intense or if you don't own a step.  Sometimes, I'll do my own move instead of Jari's, just to change it up a bit.  

I love Jari's attitude: here it is, let's get it done.  She's not pushy or annoying like Jillian Michaels (most annoying trainer EVER!).  She's motivating but not in an overt, in-you-face way.  "Push through it," she says, or "good on you."  But mostly she just does what you need to do to get results.  I like this no-nonsense approach.  And I always like seeing Laurie in the back.  For a clip, go here.

One thing people complain about is the music.  Really?  Quite frankly, If music turns you off a workout, then you don't have your head in the right place.  In a workout, I'm generally focused on working out, instead of the music.  All I need is a good beat.  So, people, stop complaining and just work.  If all you can do is complain about distractions, then there's no hope for you.

My one complaint: how Jari stretches.  After a strength segment, she'll stretch out the primary muscle you just worked.  This I understand.  But I don't understand stretching after every single one-minute cardio segment.  Usually, I'll keep up the cardio through her stretch.

Bottom Line:  This is a great video to do after Jari's Slim and Lean.  It will build upon that video and challenge you in new ways.  This workout will test you while strengthening your muscles.  I highly recommend it.