Wednesday, April 27, 2016

One Summer: America, 1927

For our book this month, my book group chose Bill Bryson's One Summer: America, 1927.  I wasn't terribly excited until I realized who wrote it....and then I was curious about this one.  

I love history but American history and modern history are not my things....  So it is an achievement that Bryson pulled me in so quickly with this work.  

Bryson focuses on several personalities that made headlines that summer: Charles Lindbergh, Calvin Coolidge, Babe Ruth, Herbert Hoover, Ruth Snyder, Al Capone, Henry Ford....and many more.  I'll be the first to admit that I knew these people in only general terms.  But Bryson's writing style is such that I couldn't help but be curious about them all - and he gave wonderful portraits of them, while putting all the events into the context of the late 1920s.  

I learned a lot from this book and I can honestly say that I only skipped over a few parts of the baseball sections.  Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig had fascinating lives....but baseball statistics hold little interest for me.  

This was a well-written, informative read and I highly recommend it!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Week Three: Peak 10 Challenge #5

I really  need to try to enjoy these next two weeks, before I enter into the last month of the Challenge.  It gets harder as you go along....

But for now, I'm still super motivated and energized.  My weight may not be cooperating but I'm feeling strong.  So that's something!

Monday: Dozois' Tip Top Shape

My lunch appointments have messed up my day for weights at work, so I shifted this workout to Monday.  And that worked well since I kept it all low-impact after my crazy weekend workouts.  It felt good to work with the weights without killing myself, like in a CS video.  At lunch, I took a very short walk, which doesn't really count for anything.

Tuesday: Amy's Intervals + Cardio Intervals

After two weeks of Pure Cardio, it was time to switch things up this morning.  Out with Michelle's mountain climbs, in with Amy's intervals.  Both are challenging cardio so it's nice to mix them up!  Intervals consists entirely of 20 second intervals followed by 10 seconds of rest.  Do that 8 times and rest for 2 minutes; repeat 4 times.  Cardio Intervals takes you through one move for 30 seconds, 60 seconds, 90 seconds, with short rests between.  Very different!  And good!  At lunch, I had to go to an HR talk - which meant walking across campus.  

Wednesday:  McLean's HIIT - Bodyweight Circuits + weights

So my alternate for Anytime Anywhere is McLean's HIIT workout, which almost kills me every time.  Much like AA!  Not having done this workout in months, it was a bit traumatic this morning...but I eventually got into the swing of it.  And I survived.  Yay!  At lunch, I did my weights at the rec center.  I swear they keep that place way too hot so we'll just sweat off calories.  Ugh.

Thursday:  Amy's Kickboxing Skills and Drills + Ilyse's Sweaty, Sassy and Strong + walk

Ah, my light day!  So lovely!  I definitely tried to do as much high-impact as possible today but it was nice to not be jumping constantly.  Amy's kickboxing is good and I definitely worked up a sweat in no time.  Ilyse's dance is super light but fun, as always.  At lunch, I walked to a cafe with a co-worker - so about 20 minutes of walking in the lovely sunshine.

Friday: Dozois' Conditioning for Long Lean Muscles + walk

Thank goodness it's Friday!  Today it felt so good to take it down a notch.  I did about 35 minutes of Michelle's Barre/dance workout, skipping the jumping and harder moves.  Light was what my body needed today.  I didn't skip her core work, however, which is always challenging!  At lunch, I walked at the rec center and then had a nice stretch.

Saturday: Peak 10 Cardio Interval Burn + Ilyse's Long and Lean

Oh, boy.  I wasn't sure if I was ready for peaks today…..but I just went with it.  And of course, the first peak in this CIB is tuck jumps.  I can definitely tell that I'm heavier than usual (stupid 5 thyroid pounds!) because these are so much harder than they used to be.  I hate it.  Sigh.  After that 55 minutes, I tuned into Ilyse's workout - a new one for me.  It focused on strength - a lot of ballet movements.  A very nice 20 minutes of non-jumping.  Then, a stretch and sit-ups.

Sunday:  Dozois' Cardio Strength 1 on Glo + Ilsye's Easy to Follow Dance Moves

All I remembered about this CS was that it was tough - and it is.  Thankfully, the peaks aren't too bad.  But Michelle works you really hard with the non-stop weighted and cardio moves.  I was sweating like crazy!  Then, 20 minutes of Ilyse's fun dance workout.  I added on 5 minutes of weights, using the 12lbs dumbbells…..  Then a stretch and some planks.

Calorie Counts:

This week was pretty bad and I knew it would be.  I had two days under 1200 calories, I think.  But this is my last bad week…..  Look for some better eating next week!  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Key Lime Cake Mix Cookies

Mr. Higgins loves key lime pie.  And he likes lime flavored desserts much more than I do.  For me, dessert usually means chocolate....but I'm learning this doesn't have to be the case all the time.  Ha!

Have you seen this in stores?

I saw it last year but somehow never bought a box.  This year, I snatched up the first one I saw and finally, over the weekend, baked with it.

For my cake mix cookies I used....

Cake mix from the box
2 large eggs (or egg substitute)
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Drop by tablespoon-fulls onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350 for about 10-11 minutes (for soft cookies), or until you see the edges start to brown.  Cool on a rack.

Yum!  Mr. Higgins can easily eat 5 in one sitting.  I got about 38 cookies from my mix which means each cookie, with egg subsitute, came to 65 calories.  Not bad!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Week Two: Peak 10 Challenge #5

One week down, seven more to go!  

I really need to try to eat better this week - that's the goal.  I can splurge on the weekend but until then, I'm buckling down!

Monday: Amy's Skills and Drills + McLean's Unleash Your Inner Strength + yoga

After sleeping super well last night (a rarity), I was almost energized this morning.  Ha!  I started with 25 minutes of Amy's kickboxing workout.  Good but not really challenging.  I needed a lighter day today.  The same with McLean's workout - I skipped the lunge jumps and burpees in favor of more subdued high-intensity work.  It felt good!  At lunch, I did yoga.  It was alright - lots of sun salutations.

Tuesday:  PeakFit Pure Cardio + weights

It's always nice to not dread a workout and this one has no dread-factor....except for lunge jumps.  Ha!  This morning, PC was fun as usual!  At lunch, I did weights at the rec center.  I was still sore from yoga, or something else, so it was good to move and have a good stretch mid-day.

Wednesday:  PeakFit Anytime Anywhere

Even in a Peak 10 Challenge, I dread Wednesdays - always reserved for my hardest weekday workout.  At least I survived AA last how hard could it be this week?  It was still difficult but I'm almost learning to appreciate it, if not like it.  Ha!  At lunch, I went for a short 10-minute walk just to get out.  But it was almost chilly out, so I didn't walk for long.

Thursday:  Dozois' Total Body Cardio and Strength

Yay, weights this morning!  And a lighter workout in general!  I haven't done this workout since the last Peak 10 Challenge and I always enjoy it!  I kept the cardio mainly low-impact, though some high-impact moves were unavoidable.  The single arm planks are always challenging in this workout - but they're so much easier now than a few years ago!  At lunch, another quick walk.

Friday:  PeakFIt Dynamic Flexibility + Amy's Core and More + walk

Ah, Friday!  What a lovely day!  And what a lovely workout!  Dynamic Flexibility is one of my favorites.  It's perfect for a Friday - you warm-up, move a bit, and stretch a lot.  Great!  After that 30-minute DVD, I did Amy's core workout.  Ouch!  Effective but….ow.  At lunch, I walked outside for about 20 minutes.  It was so nice out!

Saturday:  Peak 10 Cardio Strength - Fat Blaster + Amy's Metabolic Meltdown

This CS hasn't made enough of an impression for me to know if I should dread it or not - ha!  It turns out that the hardest circuit is the last.  I did really well until then when my energy was no longer existent.  But it felt good to move and this CS is very well choreographed.  After that, I did 20 minutes of Amy's cardio - so 70 minutes of heart pounding work.  I then did 5 minutes with the 12lbs weights and stretched for 10 minutes.  

Sunday: Peak 10 More Cardio Interval Burn + Amy's All Around Energy

I hadn't done this CIB in so long that I was looking forward to it!  This was my very first CIB and perhaps my favorite.  Michelle is at her best here - the choreography isn't too complicated and it's fun!  After it finished, I did 15 minutes of Amy's body weight workout - lots of squats and lunges!  Then, a nice stretch with some sit-ups.  

Calorie Counts:

I ate so well (under 1200 calories) Monday through Thursday and then I weighed on Friday - no change.  I swear!  This thyroid thing is the biggest obstacle I've faced.  I'm not going to weigh for two more weeks…..That's how long I have until I get super strict before the next trip.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Painterly Cowl

I finished up a project using my favorite yarn find from last year's Fiber Fest - Miss Babs' Sojourn.  It's a lovely mix of cashmere and silk.  And I loved watching these colors knit up together!  

I'm not big into wearing orange so I decided to give this to my bestie, ALJ.  

Pattern: Painterly by Casapinka
Yarn: Miss Babs' Sojourn
Needle: US 2
Made for: ALJ
Time to completion: 2.5 months

Monday, April 11, 2016

Week One: Peak 10 Challenge #5

Holy cow!  I'm up to my fifth Peak 10 Challenge!??!  Dang!  It's now my third year with this program and I spend four months of every year going through it.  Wow.  

That should tell you something: it's effective!  

I'm excited to get into this fifth round - especially since I saw great numbers on my Peak Fit Test on Sunday.  I know Michelle Dozois' program will whip me into even better shape.....because I need to get into a bikini in early June!

Monday: PeakFit Pure Cardio + walk

I always love getting back into Pure Cardio.  It's just so much fun!  After weeks of doing interval workouts with Amy Dixon and Jeffrey Scott on Glo, it's interesting to get back into Michelle's intervals.  Dixon and Scott do moves for 30 second bursts and then you rest for 30 seconds; repeat, repeat....  Michelle guides you through a 5-minute hill - low impact gives way to high impact and, in the CIBs and CSs, all the way up to a peak.  It's different - and challenging!  Of course, Pure Cardio has no peaks, thank goodness.  At lunch, I walked outside for 25 minutes - such a lovely day!

Tuesday:  Amy's Kickboxing Skills and Drills + Ilyse's Sweaty, Sassy, and Strong + weights

After three straight days of high impact, I decided to take it down a notch today.  For the first four weeks of a Peak 10 Challenge, I get a light day.  After that, it's gone, so I have to enjoy these four weeks!  Amy's kickboxing was a level 2, so not too intense.  I always sweat, though.  Ilyse's dance workout is fun - and definitely lighter.  At lunch, I did weights at the rec center, even though I still ached from home weights on Sunday. Dang.  

Wednesday: PeakFit Anytime Anywhere No Excuse Workout + walk

Originally, I was going to give myself another week before doing this workout (hereby called Anytime Anywhere or AA), the toughest (in my opinion) of the PeakFit workouts.  But then I remembered the pizza last weekend.  And so, off I went this morning with my inaugural AA workout.  And it actually wasn't so bad.  Amazing!  I guess my fitness level really is increasing!  And I'm sure the Combat HIIT workouts help, too.  My only modification was to skip the burpees in the last peak - I subbed a different move.  At lunch, I walked to a cafe to meet my old boss - so a 20-minute round-trip walk!

Thursday:  Petra's Lengthen and Energize

I needed very light today - my stomach was not happy.  And so I did one of Petra's workouts on Glo.  I haven't done many of hers, because she's pretty easy compared to the others I like.  But today, she sounded infinitely appealing.  And this was a good flowy workout - a bit of yoga and some good flow.  I added on five minutes of my own stretch at the end.

Friday:  Ilyse's Your Best Sweaty Self + Full-On Cardio Blast

My stomach was still acting up but by the end of the day, I was feeling better.  And so I attempted some heavier cardio.  Ilyse's Sweaty workout is indeed sweaty.  The tuck jumps at the end almost kill me every time.  Her Cardio Blast is a challenge - just because you jump and hop and run for very long periods.  I got through it….and felt better afterward.

Saturday:  Peak 10 Cardio Interval Burn + Dozois' Tip Top Shape

Since my workouts are screwed up, I'm doing a no-no: weights two days in a  row.  I started this CIB, confident that I could get through it…and then the first peak was tuck jumps.  Ugh.  H.A.T.E.  Thankfully, it was all downhill after that!  When it was done, I did Michelle's weighted workout on Glo - skipping the warm-up and cool down. Then, five minutes with the 12lbs weights followed by fifteen minutes of stretching and abs.  Whew.  

Sunday: Peak 10 Cardio Strength + Ilyse's Groovy Dance Party

I thought this CS would kill me….and it didn't.  Wow!  I never like the floor-work - it's tough! - but I got through it with relatively little pain.  The tuck jumps, of course, got me, but I made it through that peak.  After that 50 minutes, I did 20 minutes of Ilyse's dance workout - for steps and a longer workout.  Then, five minutes with the 12lbs weight; and finally, a 15-minute stretch and ab work.  

Calorie Counts:

I had three good days this week, below 1200 calories.  The other days were not that good, except for Sunday when I stuck to my diet.

Saturday, April 9, 2016


I asked Dooku to do something cute.  He didn't move.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Fiber Fest 2016

This past weekend was the Fiber Fest.  I've been looking forward to it for about 11 months - ha!  Last year's event was just so amazing - the yarns were breathtaking!

When planning for this year's fest, I perused the list of vendors with growing alarm - two of my favorites from last year were not on the list!  I was very sad.  But alas, I managed to find so much more than I thought and didn't miss the ones who were not there (I'll be ordering more of theirs online!).

Some of my new finds and favorites from this year:

-Wolle's Yarn Creations, sold by a very nice German lady. The subdued gardient colors took my breath away.  I bought some!

-Must Stash had the best supply of self-striping yarn this year.....and it was hard to choose just one!  But I managed to find a brown and pink combo that will knit up so nicely!  My favorite named yarn in her stall: Tarts and Vicars.  Ha!

-Woolfolk was nestled into a corner in Hill Country Weavers' stall and, oh my gosh!  I've never felt such yummy wool in all my life.  I couldn't even figure out what to buy so I'll have to some homework and order some online.  Just decadent! 

-Gynx Yarn is still one of my favorites and I love perusing (and touching!) their stuff.  I have two skeins stashed away so I didn't buy any.....but it was hard not to.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Four Week Post-Cruise Workouts: Week 4

My last week before another Peak 10 Challenge!  

I'm enjoying the varied workouts that this four weeks has allowed me.  I don't feel too tired which is good, considering the Challenge ahead.

Monday: McLean's Kickbox Your Way to Fit + Amy's Kickbox Power

Both of these workouts were a nice change this morning....except for the lunge jumps in McLean's workout.  I thought I remembered them and I was right.  Ugh.  I took out the burpees after that, doing squat jumps instead.  Amy's kickboxing workout is much tougher than her others, which are level 2s, I think. This level 3 was tough!  But I enjoyed it!

Tuesday:  Shape's Bikini Body Camp Transforming + Dozois' Calorie Burning Cardio Blast + weights

I was ready for some serious cardio this morning.  And so I did Michelle's cardio from Shape's DVD - always good.  Also good: I can feel this one getting easier.  And I was able to up the intensity a bit.  My fitness level is increasing - thank goodness! - which is good considering the Peak 10 Challenge coming up.  After that, I did Michelle's cardio on Glo.  At lunch, weights at the rec center.  Awesome!

Wednesday: Amy's Cardio Intervals + Intervals 

To gear up for Peak 10, I did these two workouts by Amy.  They're my alternate cardio in Peak 10 to have a break from Pure Cardio.  I did them today and they felt good!  Usually, I start with Intervals but this time, I finished with that one.  Cardio Intervals has longer but slightly less intense it's good to change it up mid-workout.

Thursday: Scott's Boot Camp Burn + walk

Time for weights this morning! I happened upon Scott's workout recently and it looked good!  I downplayed the cardio a bit, wanting a little less impact.  Still, after his first weighted section, I was huffing and puffing.  Squats with endless curls and presses will do that!  All in all, it was a good workout!  I liked the cardio intervals and the weighted sections really challenged me at times.  After work, I went for a short 15-minute walk because it was so beautiful outside.

Friday: Body Fit 360 Vol. 2 - Dance Conditioning + walk

It felt so good to take it a bit slower this morning - not that this Dance Conditioning is slow.  Ha!  But I didn't jump and tried to relax….while sweating.  The stretch at the end was lovely.  At lunch, I took a 20 minute walk outside.

Saturday: Cathe's Cardio Core Circuit + Amy's Total Package

As always, I dread Cathe's Cardio Core workout.  It's just not fun for me.  Thankfully, at least, it's gotten easier.  I got through its 45 minutes this morning and then tuned into Amy's low-impact Total Package, which focuses on body weight exercises.  It's different and good.  I was sweating like crazy.  It felt nice to move in different ways!  I did 25 minutes of that workout, so 70 minutes of cardio.  Not bad.

Sunday:  Peak Fit Test + Amy's Cardio Interval Drills 

Next week starts my 5th Peak 10 Challenge so today meant it was time for the Peak Fit Test.  I really hate it; I'm always nervous about my fitness level.  Given my eating habits of late, I was doubly nervous.  But I did well.  For most moves (7 out of 10), my count was between the first and last numbers of my last Test.  Awesome!  That means my fitness level continues to improve, even when I've gained a few pounds.   Afterward, for something different, I tried Amy's level 3 workout.  It was alright.  I added some more weights into it since she focuses mainly on cardio.  So, 70 minutes of cardio/weights today and then a nice stretch.

Calorie Counts:

I stayed below 1200 calories for two days this week.  Ugh.  I had two not-so-great lunches due to work events.  And then Friday and Sunday were awful.  I have three more weeks to eat what I want and then, for six weeks before our next trip, I'm buckling down and being super good again.  Dang it!