Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Ghost Bride

I just finished a unique novel entitled The Ghost Bride, by Yangsze Choo.  This was one of the most original works of fiction that I've read in a while.   

Li Lan receives a proposal of marriage - from a ghost.  Yes, the deceased family arranges a betrothal, which was not unheard of in 19th-century Malaya.  What follows is a story steeped in Chinese folklore, mystery, and romance.  

In order to solve the mystery of her betrothed's death, Li Lan must visit the realm of the dead.  There are demons, dragons, ghosts, and more mysteries complicating her journey.  Along the way, by seeing the fate of so many souls, she discovers what she wants most out of her life.

Choo manages to make this novel part murder mystery, part coming of age, part romance, and part fantasy.  Sometimes it's a bit clunky but overall, this is a beautiful story and I hope there's a sequel!

Monday, June 27, 2016

FitnessGlo Challenge: Week 1

FitnessGlo has programs designed by fitness level and goal (i.e. bridal workouts).  These are 8 week programs they've put together - 6 altogether to choose from.

I've decided to try the Advanced program.  In all honesty, it seems a bit too easy but we'll see.  I can always jump more if I need to - ha!  But I think this will be a nice change from Combat and Peak 10.  It'll also force me to try some of the workouts put together by the instructors I don't normally gravitate towards.  This should, hopefully, expand my workout horizons!

Wish me luck!

Monday: Dozois' Burn Calories, Release Stress + Ilyse's Easy to Follow Dance Moves + walk

After a hard weekend of not one, but TWO, Cathe workouts, I decided to take it down a notch this morning. I was still achy from Cathe so Michelle's level 2 workout was nice and low-impact.  After that, I did some of Ilyse's dance workout - still one of my favorites.  At lunch, I walked at the rec.  Must burn calories!

Tuesday:  Amy's Cardio Combo + Definition + weights

This advanced program puts a lot of emphasis on weights, so that means doing weights at home and at work in one day.  Not ideal, but oh well.  Amy's first workout was a combo of cardio and weights - the cardio was lower impact but still effective.  Her Definition was all weights.  It was a very productive morning.  Whew!  I did weights at lunch and it seemed tougher since my  muscles were already well used for the day.

Wednesday: Petra's High Intensity Drills + Dozois' HIIT - Breathless and Energized

I don't do many of Petra's workouts because most are less advanced.  This one is a level 3 and consists of 45 second drills.  Whew!  If you choose the hardest option of moves, this is difficult!  I was working hard!  And then I did Dozois' HIIT - which is always a challenge.  Talk about a good workout!

Thursday: Amy's Kickin' Cardio and Conditioning

Time for weights.  Again.  Amy's level 3 dumbbell workout was in my rotation regularly with Combat but it's been a while since I've done it.  And it's fun!  Amy is so different from Michelle Dozois - she challenges me in new ways.  And this one has some challenging parts, especially where push-ups are concerned!

Friday: Cathe's Intensity

I'm doing a hard workout today since I won't be able to work out tomorrow.  Cathe was calling - well, not really but she was on my schedule.  I did all the step of this workout and then the low intensity HIIT.  This is such a challenging workout for me but at least it was doable in the morning without the high intensity HIIT.  Whew!

Saturday: REST

Sunday:  Scott's Sports Inspired Drills + Bring It On + Amy's Wonderful Cardio Blast + Denise's Completely Core

After moving my in-laws yesterday, my body was still exhausted today.  But I wanted - needed - to work out.  It's cathartic for me, sometimes - my own time to do what I think I need. And so I pushed my body - ha!.  Scott's two workouts used a medicine ball and weights.  I used one of my 6-lbs weights instead of a ball.  And I got a good workout!!  The cardio was good and the strength was sufficient.  Amy's medicine ball workout wasn't as good but I worked hard.  Then, finally, Denise's core was different and good.  I couldn't do my full set of regular sit-ups afterward - my core hurt too much!  A great morning - with 80 minutes of cardio/weighs!

Calorie Counts:

I had a few good, strict days and they helped me feel skinny again.  I didn't weigh but I took my measurements and they weren't bad!  Yay!

Friday, June 24, 2016


For some very odd reason, I've been craving Gazpacho.  Considering I've had about 1.25 servings in my entire life, I thought this to be a bit odd.  

But I went about trying to find a recipe and settled on this one, because it made a larger quantity.  You know me, I'm all about freezing soup.  

To make this, I put it all in the food processor, in batches.  I put a bit of tomato juice in every batch and the consistency was perfect - like a well-blended salsa.  The only changes I made was using canned tomatoes instead of real (too messy) and adding some ground pepper to the finished product.  

Mr. Higgins was not enthused by the idea of this soup.  He thought it was strange and had no idea why I would want to make it.  Then I had him taste it, before it was chilled.  "It's like un-hot salsa!" he exclaimed.  Yes, that's what I've been saying.  Hmph.  

And he loved it.  He said he could eat it every night.  I'll have to add some spice to it - jalapenos or green chilies....  But this is a great base recipe!


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Jost Van Dyke

We love getting to new islands - hence our cruises.  On our recent vacation on St. John, USVI, we decided to finally get to one of the neighboring islands, Jost Van Dyke, BVI.  We had seen it from across the narrow sea for so was time to set foot on it!

Since you're going from the US Virgin Islands to the British Virgin Islands, you have to deal with customs.  And pay a hefty fee for the ferry.  Honestly, so much paperwork was involved, I don't know if we'll go back in the next 20 years.  But boy, it was worth all that paperwork, just once.....

We got off the ferry on Jost and hopped in a taxi to get to our destination, White Bay.  Look at that water!

The most popular stop on Jost is a beach bar named The Soggy Dollar.  Most visitors to the bar swim to shore from boats and bring with them soggy dollars....  Ha!  This bar is credited with the invention of one of my favorite drinks, the Painkiller.  Yum!

White Bay was absolutely gorgeous.  You can see St. John, way off in the distance.

There were several well-known beach bars all along the beach so we bar-hopped all afternoon.  

We even climbed over some rocks to get to the other end of the beach.  The views were stunning.  

The next day, back on St. John, we sat at Cinnamon Bay, our favorite place there, and gazed across the calm sea to White Bay.  It was nice to know, finally, that we had been there and experienced that water and those bars.  

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Week After Vacation - Workouts

Our trip to St. John, USVI, was incredible.  We had a lovely time.  Really, with some of the best beaches I've ever seen, it's hard not to have fun and truly relax.  

We also ate and drank way too much.  I'm ready to get back into my routine - and my workout routine.  We got back home on Monday and on Tuesday morning, at 5:30am, I was working out, as usual....

Tuesday: Dozois' Rockin' Body Cardio

My traditional first-workout-after-vacation is Michelle's old, but good, dance workout.  It's fun and challenging at times, without being a killer.  Because I was going into work late, I was able to do the whole 45 minutes of cardio.  I then had a nice stretch and did some ab work.  A great first day back!

Wednesday: Amy's Metabolic Meltdown + Ilyse's Just Dance + weights

For my second workout this week, I chose to put together two of my favorites.  First up was Amy's level 2 drill workout.  The impact isn't quite as high as a level 3 so I even upped it at times to elevate my heart rate.  After that, I did about 15 minutes of Ilyse's dance workout - always fun.  At lunch, I forced myself to do weights.  I'm always glad to get that done for the week!

Thursday: McLean's Unleash Your Inner Strength + Amy's Skills and Drills + walk

More cardio today.   I need all that I can get to work off this vacation weight!  I started with McLean's level 2 workout and quickly worked up a sweat.  Next up: Amy's kickboxing - a favorite.  This is nothing like Combat but it's fun in it's own way.  At lunch, I walked - as fast as I could - around the track at the rec.  My Fitbit was appreciative.

Friday: Amy's Head to Toe Body Sculpt

No rest/light day this week since I was traveling on Monday.  Thankfully, this weight workout meant I wasn't jumping too much.  I hadn't done this Sculpt in quite some time and it's good!  The tricep/push-up track really got to me.  Triceps with weights and then 16 push-ups…..three times.  Ouch!  

Saturday: Cathe's Intensity

Since I just finished a Peak 10 Challenge, I'm taking a short break from Peak workouts.  That means that Cathe gets to be my weekend fun……or not.  Intensity is at least different - you do step and then higher intensity step, high intensity HIIT, and then low intensity HIIT.  After doing that for an hour, I was wiped out.  But I didn't take any short-cuts…I did it all.  Afterward, a nice stretch and sit-ups.  And then I ached - ached - for days.

Sunday: Cathe's Cardio Core Circuit + Amy's Body Weight Training + Amy's Total Body Sculpting

I was hurting so bad this morning from yesterday's workout…..  And I had more Cathe on my agenda.  Sigh.  I had to take some segments down a notch in Cardio Core.  It was just too painful.  But I got through that 45 minutes, still standing.  I then wanted something with a lighter intensity so I did 15 minutes of Amy's Body Weight Training - and it was alright.   A bit too much repetition for me.  Next up - weights with Amy in Sculpting.  I used the 12-pound weights where I could.  My stretch after all that was sooooo nice.

Calorie Counts:

Monday - travel
Tuesday - 1341
Wedneday - 1165
Thursday - 1165
Friday - 1430
Saturday - 1182
Sunday - 1184

All things considered, I did pretty well this week.  I resisted multiple office treats, even where a birthday was concerned.  Wow!  

Friday, June 17, 2016

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Since I so enjoyed my first Fannie Flagg novel, I decided to read another.  My in-laws have all of her books and when looking through them, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe caught my eye.

Here's my Goodreads review:

Fannie Flagg knows how to capture the American south - past and present. I loved how she brought the two together in this novel, about a small town called Whistle Stop outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Flagg's characters are uniquely southern and priceless. My favorite one from this novel was Idgie - a headstrong tomboy who did just what she wanted, despite what society thought. I wish I could visit Whistle Stop for some good, down home, southern cooking!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Thoughts and Conclusions: Peak 10 Challenge #5

I can't believe I just completed my FIFTH Peak 10 Challenge.  Wow!


When the endocrinologist told me that my weight was just going to be higher now that my thyroid is all out of whack, I was seriously depressed.  In February, I got back down into my five pound "normal weight" range and that made me super happy.  But I also stuck to an insanely strict diet.

My main motivation is always to stay skinny because Mr. Higgins is super skinny.  I don't want to be the fat wife. But I also love how much better I feel overall now that I'm exercising and challenging myself regularly.  Life, in general, is better.  I'm going to try not to be freaked out by the number on the scale but it's hard.


At the end of this Challenge, I'd lost 2.2 pounds.  Not great but considering my eating was never consistently as good as I would have liked, I'm not complaining.  In reality, I'm really bummed that I couldn't be more strict with my diet - but life kinda blew up in my face halfway through this 8-week period.  And that's unavoidable.  My thyroid is also partly to blame..... I just can't lose weight like I used to.

But my Fit Test numbers did change!

                                              Before       After

Squats                                       75            77
Front Lunges                              49            53
180 Jumps*                                56            66
Tuck Jumps                               54            66
Push-Ups                                  38            43
Ankle Grabbers                          22            25 
Sit Outs                                    42             47
Plank to Frog                             36            40
Fence Hoppers                          78            87
Side Lunge to Jump Shot           37            37 

*I subbed 180 jumps for the burpees the program called for.

My numbers improved, once again, from the previous challenge.  Yay!  I was a bit annoyed that the numbers didn't improve more from the beginning to end of this Challenge....but my fitness level has gotten so much higher than when I first did this Challenge....  I'm happy!

Going Forward

The only thing I hate about this Challenge system is the Fit Test.  Ha!  But at the end of each Challenge, I'm always excited to do another in a few months.  

In the meantime, I'm going to do something different, once back from vacation.  FitnessGlo has an 8-week challenge program that I'm going to try.  After looking through the advanced program, some of the workouts are still a bit too easy so I'm going to sub in some harder stuff.  And I'll keep doing some Peak 10 workouts on the weekends.  They're too much fun not to do!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Baby Hat and Socks

My BFF is having a baby!  A baby boy!  I love babies - other people's - and knitting for them!  So I was super happy to knit some goodies for this little guy.

Pattern: Shibui Baby Hat and Socks by Helen Bingham in Sock Yarn One Skein Wonders
Yarn: Chameleon Colorworks Bamboo
Needle: US 1 double points (socks); US 3 circs (hat)
Made for: Baby P
Time to completion: 1.5 months

I didn't follow the pattern for the hat so I hope it fits.  I like the rolled edge for babies so I changed that....and I didn't want the top knot either.  But I followed the pattern for the number of stitches and decreases.  

And I love the socks!  Baby socks are the best but when you combine them with variegated sock yarn - wow!   I'll have to do more!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Dead Wake

For May, my book group chose to read Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson.  Come to think of it, I suggested the piece of non-fiction to the group.  

I'd heard great things about Larson's work and several of his books have sounded interesting to me - but I'd never read him.  When the Lusitania book came out, I knew I had to read it. Considering how much we cruise, it just seemed like a must read.  

Parts of this book were very interesting to me.  Learning about the captain of the Lusitania and the commander of the u-boat that sank it, U-20, was fascinating.  For some reason, the stories of the passengers did not hold my attention all that well.  Larson's writing was good and informative, reading like fiction at times.  But this was not the best non-fiction I've read.

If you have any interest in World War I or ships, I recommend this book.  It is very informative.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Week Before Vacation - Workouts

Yes, that's a lame title, but at least it's specific!  

I have less than a full week before vacation, after the completion of my fifth Peak 10 Challenge.  My body is getting tired but I'm forcing it to go on......

Monday: Peak 10 Cardio Interval Burn - Fat Blaster

Memorial Day meant I had time for a longer workout.   However, in the midst of this workout, all hell broke loose in the house.  I finished the workout but I had some unscheduled breaks throughout.  Ugh.  I finished off with a stretch and ab work.

Tuesday: Ilyse's Dance Intervals 101 + Heart-Pumping Groove + weights

I've missed these workouts.  Dance Intervals is so much fun - but difficult!  Ilyse works you hard in this one with non-stop running and hopping in the beginning.  Groove is fun and more low-key - a good break for the joints.  At lunch, I did weights at the rec center.  The last time I'll do weights before vacation!

Wednesday: Ilyse's Your Best, Sweaty Self + Dozois' Calorie Burning Cardio Blast

This workout is work.  When Ilyse mentions sweat, she means it.  This workout contains tuck jumps, my favorite move - not.  I modified them a bit.  After this one, I did Michelle's HIIT - always fun and effective.  These made for a good morning workout!

Thursday: Treadmill

With my in-laws in town, workouts at home are not possible.  So, I did 30 full minutes on the treadmill at lunch.  I really focused on adding in serious inclines.  This made my calorie count soar, which I liked to see.  And it made me sweat!  So, a good workout and then some abs and a stretch squeezed into 5 minutes.

Friday:  Treadmill

Amazingly, I was not dreading my treadmill time today.  Yesterday, I watched - with no sound - HGTV while I climbed hills so today I did the same.  Ha!  The 30 minutes of torture went by pretty quickly!  Once again, I raced through a stretch and some ab work afterward.

Saturday: VACATION!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Texas Dishcloth

I have a finished object!  Albeit, a small one….

For Mr. Higgins' parents, who are in the process of moving to the Lone Star State, I made a Texas dishcloth.  I love knitting small projects like these…..they make me feel so productive!!  Ha!

Pattern: Knitted Texas Cloth by Rhonda White
Yarn: Lily Sugar and Cream Solid
Needle: US 7
Made for: in-laws
Time to completion: 1 week

I think this is the actually the second Texas dishcloth I've donebut the other was years ago.