Friday, August 29, 2014

Empress of Rome

Lately, I've really been enjoying the Roman historical fiction novels of Kate Quinn.  She has a great talent for weaving itneresting history and witty dialogue.  My latest read of hers, Empress of Rome, was great.  It's the third book in her Rome series and, while the first one was probably my favorite, I really enjoyed the third installment.

This is what I wrote on Goodreads:

Kate Quinn's third Roman novel is just as good as the previous two. Quinn has a talent for weaving historical facts and fiction; her dialogue is witty and fluid while her descriptions are vivid and real. Her writing style relies more on dialogue than description but that keeps the novel flowing and entertaining.

I really enjoyed reading about Sabina Vibia and her sister, Faustina. Titus and Vix were polar opposites and intriguing. The emperor Trajan came to life here, as did his heir, Hadrian.

A very fun read!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Irish Soda Bread Muffins (2014:31)

I love Pinterest.  I also love recipe blogs.  When you put the two together, I'm in heaven.  If you've never tried Pinterest, it's a great way to keep track of all those recipes you find, all those crafty ideas your run across, and fashion trends you want to try.

A few months ago, I pinned a recipe for Irish Soda Bread Muffins from Skinnytaste, a blog I frequent.  I'd never tried Soda Bread and was curious.

Over the weekend, I finally got around to making the muffins.  The recipe was simple and there was little fuss.  I opted for unbleached flour instead of whole wheat, as my wheat flour was running low. 

When they came out of the oven, I could hardly wait for them to cool before trying them.  And they were quite yummy!  The texture is somewhere between bread and coarse cornbread - definitely different but yummy! 

I'm so glad to have found this low-calorie recipe!  It'll go into my recipe book, for sure!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Week Six: Jari Love Challenge

Since my eating hasn't been great, I've been avoiding the scale.  This week, though, I had to get on it due to my dreaded yearly physical.  I weighed before going to the doctor and I was completely happy with the number displayed.  All these high intensity workouts really do amazing things for weight, let me tell you!

Thankfully, my eating will be better this week. 

Monday: Jari Love's Get Extremely RIPPED! 1000 Hardcore and abs

Mondays are always hard.  The cardio in this workout is always difficult....just because it always lasts longer than expected.  But I got through workout 2 and went on to do 10 minutes of abs from Glo. 

Tuesday: Cardio Interval Burn on Glo by Michelle Dozois

My doctor's appointment was today so I had extra time in the morning before I was due to be examined (ugh!).  I worked out extra long in order to not be too distracted by my starving stomach.  This CIB lasted for about 55 minutes; I stretched for 10; then 10 minutes of Dozois' pilates (core focused) on Glo.  When I have the time, I love a good, long workout!

Wednesday: Michelle Dozois' Tip Top Shape on Glo

This one was more difficult than I expected, I think because of the floorwork.  I sweated up a storm but it was fun!  There are some different weighted strength moves in here, too - Michelle really is innovative with her moves!  I'll do this one again!

Thursday: Yoga Booty Ballet (original)

I did parts of the basic and advanced workouts.  I like the ballet and yoga of the basic but the dance of the advanced.  This DVD had gone untouched for a long time, so it was a pleasant change!

Friday: Jari Love's Slim and Lean

As usual, I did three segments of this (plus warm-up) and alternated those segments with my own cardio drills.  It's definitely a workout but it's varied enough to not be exhausting.  

Saturday: Peak 10 Cardio Strength Remix by Michelle Dozois

Wow, this one is tough but good!  I had worked outside, sweating away in the early morning humidity and heat and I could definitely tell this workout was harder because of being a bit dehydrated at the start.  I drank more water than usual and got through it.  Always a fun one!

Sunday: Cathe's Cardio Core Circuit + dance and abs from Glo

I was dreading this one for days beforehand, which is never a good thing.  Cathe sure does work you hard but I made it through.  I followed up that 45 minute workout with 20 minutes of dance on Glo and then 5 minutes of abs.  Fun!

Calorie Counts:

Monday - 1395
Tuesday - 1385

Wednesday - 1383
Thursday - 1321
Friday - BAD
Saturday - 1478
Sunday - 1388

I was really proud of those calorie counts this week.  I went out to lunch three days (one on Friday) but I ate healthy and stayed on track!  Even through the weekend!  Wow.  Of course, when the in-laws are in town in a few weeks, it's all over.  Sigh.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Happy Colada (2014:30)

We were set to have company over to watch "Game of Thrones" and I wanted to be a good hostess and offer a cocktail.  Looking for drinks online is a daunting prospect - so many choices, so many's overwhelming!

When I ran across a recipe with pineapple, my interest always peaks: I love pineapple!  And then I saw this recipe for Happy Coladas.  I like blue curacao; I like rum.  And so I gave these a whirl!

My batch of coladas turned out to be more green than blue, prompting Mr. Higgins to re-name it Romulan Ale.  His joking ended when he sipped the green drink and liked it.  I decreased the coconut rum and added some aged rum so the drink would have more of a punch.  And it did!

After two of these, I was pleasantly loopy - and happy!  These will be made quite frequently at our house!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Craft Updates

I'm overdue to talk about crafty things!  And, boy, do I have a lot of crafty things going one!  Here's a run-down...


The cowl that has been my knitting life for a while now is....still my knitting life.  I really do love it and the Madelinetosh yarn it's made of....but knitting takes more time than I ever think.  I even sat down and knitted through a two-hour long movie.....and didn't feel like I made a ton of progress.  My friend is waiting on me to start a sweater with her so I need to get this done!

Project Life

I'm still loving this, though I hate having to pick up pictures - now every two weeks.  I try to write out my journal cards at the end of every week but I'm now spacing out my trips to Walgreens for prints.  With my longer hours at work, those trips are now very inconvenient.  My main struggle with PL, though, is remembering to take pictures.  With my faulty memory, it's a lot harder than it would seem.


In the spring, I made a ton of cards after my co-workers kept insisting I provide the cards we send as a department.  So I'm still good on unisex birthday cards.  Recently, I made some college football cards since it's Mr. Higgins' favorite time of the year.


My mom and I have our second scrapbook retreat of the year in late September.  That should be super fun and productive as I hope to start and complete a book during that long weekend.  These retreats are priceless!

I think that's it!  So many crafts, so little time!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Week Five: Jari Love Challenge

Time is flying by - good grief!  I won't be sad to see summer and this heat end, for sure.  But it's amazing how quickly the weeks pass. 

This week will not be a great eating week.  Sometimes life intrudes upon our goals and this is one of those times.  I'll keep up the workouts, though, shirking any days off between now and week eight, which will be a complete break from working out.  Mr. Higgins' parents will be in town that week and working out is not an option. 

So, here we go, week five.....

Monday: Michelle Dozois' Rockin' Body Cardio

I consider this to be a lighter workout and I needed this after two days of Peak 10 workouts.  But I always forget how much this one works me - and how much I sweat.  It's good old-fashioned cardio and my heart rates gets up and stays up for the duration!

Tuesday: Jari Love's Get Extremely RIPPED! - Workout 2 and Michelle Dozois' Tight and Toned Core on Glo

I was ready to do some weights this morning and Jari gave me a great workout.  Even though this workout has no real cardio, the compound weighted exercises always get me sweating.  To finish off my 50 minutes of workout out, I did Michelle's Tight and Toned Core on Glo.  I surprised myself by being able to do a few of the harder moves but was disappointed when I struggled with others.  Sigh.

Wednesday: Body Fit 360 by Michelle Dozois

Since I didn't do a fusion/yoga/pilates workout last week, I was excited to do one today.  And it was fun.  As always, I love the intense stretching at the end of the workout!

Thursday: Two lighter workouts on Glo with Dozois' Supercharge Intervals in the middle

I began by doing a ten minute light cardio workout to warm-up.  Then, for the first time, I did Michelle's HIIT workout, Supercharge Intervals, which is 20 minutes long.  There are only five moves.  You start with 10 reps each and count all the down to only 1 rep each.  Wow.  This was difficult.  I finished by doing a 20 minute dance workout, to stay loose but moving after the HIIT craziness.  I'm not sure what I think about that style of HIIT.  For me, doing many moves rather than just a few is always preferable.  But I like to shake things up so it was worth it.

Friday: Get RIPPED! 1000 by Jari Love

I'm trying to use my heavier weights whenever possible.  However, I still can't use them for the endless bicep curl track.  My light weights are easier, though, and I'm able to do the entire track.  Yay!

Saturday:  Cathe's Intensity + light cardio from Glo

Today, my workout lasted 80 minutes, including a 5 minute stretch.  I did Cathe's Intensity (step + HIIT + HIIT Low) for 50 minutes, light cardio from Glo for 20 minutes, and then a 5 minute stretch.  I still don't like Cathe's style….and I know I say that every time I do her workouts.  But today, after it all, I felt great - and that's what matters.

Sunday: Peak 10 Cardio Interval Remix

This is one of my favorites and it felt good this morning.  It's not easy, though, and I was sweating up a storm.  I think this one has just the right about of floor work.

Calorie Counts:

Monday - 1381
Tuesday - 2473 (UGH!)
Wednesday - 1388
Thursday - 1392
Friday - BAD!
Saturday -  1440
Sunday - 1412

This was not a great eating week.  Next week will have to be better!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Chicken Fajitas (2014:29)

When a gluten-free friend was coming over for dinner recently, I had a momentary panic about what to make.  Fajitas came to mind, but my tg-to fajita marinade contains worcestershire sauce, which has gluten.  The packaged fajita seasoning has never been my favorite and I try to avoid those whenever possible.  So I turned to the internet to find a new marinade. 

I stumbled upon this recipe for Flavorful Chicken Fajitas and decided to give it a try.  I cut up the chicken and made the marinade the night before so the chicken would have plenty of time to soak up all those juices. 

The chicken smelled lovely as it cooked - always a good sign!  And thankfully, these fajitas turned out great for my guest.  If I have one compaint, it's that they were a bit too salty.  (I used normal salt instead of seasoned salt, which I did not have.) 

This may just become my go-to fajita recipe! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


I finally finished the novel S, by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst.  Mr. Higgins read it first and then suggested I read it.  It's unlike any other book I've ever seen or read and is, therefore, very hard to describe.

There are two stories going on in this novel, plus the backstory of the supposed author of the book.  Very confusing, I know.  The novel tells the story of S, a man who has no memory.  The second story takes place in the margins of the novel and tells the story of those who read the book.  

Here is my review as posted on Goodreads - though it's a bit vague:

When I first picked this up to read, I had no idea what to expect. I was quickly drawn into the mystery of S's story - a man with no past. Once we encounter the ship with its odd crew, I was even more intrigued.

The heart of the story is in the margins, with Jen and Eric. Sure, S and Sola have their own story but it's the young love and youthful angst that keeps one emotionally vested in the story.

This book was a very interesting experiment - indeed, there's nothing like it - and I would call it a success.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Week Four: Jari Love Challenge

After the overindulgence in Vegas the previous week, I really needed to get back on the healthy bandwagon this week - and fast!  The Sunday before was a good precursor - a Dozois cardio strength and calories totaling about 1450.  But I'll have to keep it up!

I'm ditching my yoga/fusion/stretch workout this week in order to get in some additional cardio to burn more calories.  Maybe I can do some extra stretching on the weekend; it just always feels so good! 

My feet are still hurting from Vegas and now my legs ache from Michelle Dozois' workout on Sunday.  But here we go...

Monday: Jari Love's Get Extremely Ripped 1000 - Workout 2

Waking up, it felt way too early; I'm obviously still on Vegas time, two hours behind.  I stumbled into some workout clothes and started moving as soon as possible.  I like this workout, though the lateral lifts always get the better of me.  I filled in the rest of my 50 minute workout time-slot with additional leg work and the push-ups/sit-ups at the end of Workout 2.

Tuesday: Amy Dixon's All Around Energy on FitnessGlo

Wanting some cardio, but not crazy intense cardio, I found this level 2 (out of 3) workout on Glo and thought I'd try it.  It alternates cardio and body strength segments.  This was the first full-length Amy Dixon workout I've tried and, while I mostly like her style, I don't like her non-stop gabbing through the entire thing.  I mean, she literally never stopped talking.  I'm used to cueing, not constant gabbing, and I found it distracting.  That being said, I may do this one again.  The intensity is good for those days you don't want to feel like you're dying when working out.

Wednesday: Michelle Dozois' Total Body Cardio & Strength on FitnessGlo

I actually tried to do a different Dozois workout on Glo this morning, but, for the first time, Glo messed up and wouldn't load the video.  Since I was barely conscious and not capable of complete brain functions at 5:30am, I chose to do this workout again, for the second time.  It's a very good one - classic Michelle style and efficiency. 

Thursday:  Jari Love's Get RIPPED! Slim & Lean

This morning came and I was a tiny bit more conscious than yesterday morning.  I got through three strength segments with Jari, alternating with my own cardio intervals.  My hamstrings have been super tight and painful since Tuesday, I think, so I tried to get a good stretch in afterword.  I have no idea what's going on; my hamstrings are usually quite cooperative.

Friday: The Firm's Bootcamp: Maximum Calorie Burn

The last time I did this workout, I realized it would be the perfect morning workout.  The cool down pops up at about 45 minutes into it, which is perfect!  I was a bit more alert this morning which was good - there's some high impact cardio in this!  And I always forget how hard it works me!

Saturday:  Michelle Dozois' Cardio Interval Burn on FitnessGlo

I was really looking forward to this workout and I liked it as much as I remembered, thank goodness!  I did the workout + bonus block + stretch.  Whew!  I also added on a 10 minute ab workout.  That's 1.25 hours of working out, peeps!

Sunday:  Michelle Dozois' Cardio Strength 2 on FitnessGlo

This was my first time doing this workout and, oh my goodness, it's a doozy.  There's more floor work than any other CS and it was super tough.  Sweat was pouring off of me 15 minutes into it.  This was also my first attempt at one-arm burpees.  I was mostly able to do them, though my left arm is definitely weaker.  

Calorie Counts:

Monday: 1345
Tuesday: 1345 (eating the same things; I like routine!)
Wednesday: 1393
Thursday: 1395
Friday: bad!
Saturday:  1405
Sunday:  1398

This week I really needed to stay on my diet and I'm proud that I did.  Next week will throw me some curve balls so I need to be prepared.  

I definitely got my money's worth out of FitnessGlo this week!  And I really do love it.  If you need to shake-up your workouts, Glo is a great way to do it.  For only $12 a month, you have TONS of workouts at your fingertips.  And you can cancel anytime!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Upon Thankfully Leaving Las Vegas

As you may have figured out by now, I was in Las Vegas last week for a conference.  Mr. Higgins joined me so we could have some fun in between my sessions of "work."  When it came time to leave Vegas, I was so ready to come home.  Here are some thoughts on that dreadful interesting 

The last time I was in Vegas was, I think, 2001.  I was not old enough to drink or gamble and just walking through the casinos made me feel like I was doing something very wrong. But even back then I was put off by the smoke-filled, dark, loud rooms.  Ew!  Who would willing spend time in such places?!  But I did really enjoy walking through the hotels and seeing all the architectural wonders they acheived.  

Our conference was at the Cosmopolitan and that's where we stayed.  This hotel wasn't built the last time I was there and it was odd seeing two huge 60+ floor towers in that space by the Bellagio.  But the hotel was amazing - clean, modern, and chic. 

Complete with balcony - and a view.

It really was incredible.  I could have just watched the Strip for hours from our terrace.  The only downside: you hear the Bellagio fountains all night long.  Think cannon fire every 15 minutes and you'll understand. 

We walked a lot, making it to almost every hotel on the Strip.  We even ventured out to Freemont Street - old Las Vegas - on Friday night.  We were supposed to do this Thursday but our plans changed.  Little did we know just how crazy it gets in Vegas on Friday nights.  You get carded and wrist-banded before entering the Freemont Street Experience. 

We wandered around the casinos and finally got dinner after dark, at about 8:30.  After a frigid 30-minute bus ride, we were deposited once again on the stifling Strip, hopping off at The Mirage.  Mr. Higgins wanted to see the Srip at night.  Oy.

It was packed.  I felt like I was in New York City.  And let me tell you: I have no desire to see NYC.  None at all.  So when I came upon a crosswalk and waited behind a hundred people to cross the street, I got a little nervous.  I'm not claustrophobic but I don't like crowds and feeling trapped. 

The Bellagio fountains provided a brief reprieve....

....until we saw a homeless guy being kicked by the police. Wow.  Can I go home now?
Mr. Higgins wanted to "people watch" some more - weird, since he's such an introvert - but I said I was going up to our safe perch on the 47th floor of the Cosmo.  It was 10:30 by then and I was content to relax on our balcony. 

I don't know if I'll ever want to return to Vegas.  I think that's an every-ten-years-or-so kind of destination.  There's only so many encounters with odd people that one can take.

Oh, and we shared an elevator with a gigalow who was just getting "off work" at 10am on Saturday.  He had been so "worked" so hard all night long that all he wanted was a shower.  Ewoh! 

Bye-bye, Vegas.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Slow-Cooker Shredded Chicken (2014:28)

Though I love my Whole Chicken in the Crock-Pot recipe, it's a bit tiring dealing with all those bones.  And so I went looking for a way to make good chicken breasts in the crock-pot.  This Slow-Cooker Shredded Chicken sounded great.

I bought a 6 lb bag of chicken breasts and dumped them, frozen, in the crock-pot with about a 1/4c of water.  Following the directions, I sprinkled the chicken with the dictated spices.  As it cooked, it smelled wonderful, thanks to the garlic powder.  I checked the chicken at 7 hours and left it in for an additional 30 minutes.  Next time, I'll probably cook it for 8 hours just to be safe and worry-free.

When I took the chicken out, it was clear I hadn't really needed the water.  Six pounds of chicken was shredded in about 5 mintues - amazing!  And it tasted great!  In the end, I had 6 bags of 2 servings each to freeze.  Wow! 

I've since used this chicken for wraps and salads.  It's better, I think, than the whole chicken in the crock-pot.  It's flavorful and nicely (and easily!) shredded.  This will become a standard for me to make every few weeks. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Week Three: Jari Love Challenge

This week is going to blow my diet out of the water.  On Wednesday morning, I leave for a conference in Las Vegas.  Mr. Higgins will join me shortly thereafter.  We're finding too many good places to eat, too many good foods, and too many good drinks.  Oy. 

I have a tiny bit of hope for working out in the room but there will also be tons of walking every day. Wish me luck!  It's going to be very, very hot there!

Monday: Jari Love's Get Ripped! 1000

This morning came way too fast and I was exhausted as I started stumbling through this workout.  But it got easier as I went along (to not stumble, that is) and pretty soon, the sweat was dripping off of me.  Fun! 

Tuesday:  Jari Love's Get Extremely Ripped! 1000 Hardcore - Workout 1

Another night of restless sleep meant this morning was another difficult one on which to work out.  I did the first workout on Jari's 1000 Hardcore video.  It includes four weight sections and three cardio segments.  The cardio is always what gets me in this video - the segments seem overly long.  But it felt good.  I followed that up with ten minutes of Ilyse Baker's Ultimate Dance Extravaganza on Glo, picking up where I left off on Saturday.  It really is fun!

Wednesday (Las Vegas): Walking

We walked so much this first day that I may have gotten shin splints.  I don't know; I've never had them.  But my upper feet and ankles were still hurting four days later!

Thursday (Las Vegas): Walking

Not as much as yesterday, but still, a lot of walking.

Friday (Las Vegas): Anytime Anywhere Workout On-the-Go by Michelle Dozois

This little pamphlet showing the Anytime Anywhere workout came with the PeakFit System.  And I'm glad I packed it on the trip.  It got me sweating very quickly for a great 30 minute workout on this early morning in Vegas.   Oh, and I walked some more - well, tons!  Ha!

Saturday (Las Vegas and then home): Walking

Our flight was delayed and delayed…  We walked around the Strip and then around the airport.  Fun.

Sunday: Peak 10 More Cardio Strength by Michelle Dozois

It felt good - in every place but my feet - to do this workout at home on Sunday.  It felt great to sweat (when not wearing good clothes in Vegas) and get in a good, challenging workout.  This is still my least favorite of the cardio strengths but it's a good change. 

Calorie Counts:

We're just not going to go there.  Next week I will hit a very big reset button!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (2014:27)

For some very odd reason, I was recently craving Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.  Finding a low calorie version proved to be a challenge until I turned to my old trustworthy friend, Cooking Light.

Upon reading the reviews of these cookies, I made a few additions to the recipe.  I added 1/2 teaspoon each of: baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Yum!  I also decreased the cooking time a bit, hoping the keep the cookies nice and soft.

They turned out to be delicious!  Mr. Higgins approved, as did our friend who was visiting.  My only complaint is that they dry out pretty quickly.  I froze half the batch and they freeze well - until they dry out after a few days on the counter.