Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Redbird Christmas

My book group chose another Fannie Flagg novel to end out the year, which is typically, for them, a Christmas book.  This is the first time I've chosen to read the Christmas selection and I did so only because of Flagg.  I've learned that I really enjoy her Southern novels.  

My review, posted to Goodreads, of A Redbird Christmas:

My book group chose this Fannie Flagg book for a nice Christmas read. This was my third novel by Flagg and I was once again charmed by the southern warmth of her characters and their stories. My only gripe with this novel is how quickly it ended. There was a Christmas miracle, of sorts, and then everything is tidily wrapped up in two pages. If only life came together so easily. Ha! If you're looking for a heartwarming Christmas novel, this is a lovely story.

Monday, November 28, 2016

FitnessGlo Challenge #2: Week Four

Wow!  I'm almost a month into this Challenge!  That's crazy!  And it's even crazier to think that Christmas is even that much closer.  Eek!

I'm excited that it's Thanksgiving week.  My eating will be horrible but that's fine. You gotta live life sometime.

Monday:  Scott's Multi-Level Cardio Drills + Multi-Level Sports Drills + weights

This morning, after a tough weekend of workouts, I wanted something not quite as intense.  These two workouts are level 2 - so not as jumpy or crazy insane.  I still got a great workout but just didn't kill myself.  Ha!  I must remember that I really don't enjoy the Sports Drills - it's too, too easy.  At lunch, I did weights at the rec center - which was crazy busy.  Dang!

Tuesday:  Ilyse's Full-On Cardio Blast + Denise's Interval Sweat

I wanted to work hard today...and Ilyse almost killed me.  Holy cow!  I always forget how intense this Blast is....but dang!  I got through it - forcing myself to breathe when I didn't think it was possible.  I finished off the morning with Denise's cardio - also intense but with good low-intensity breaks (aka squats and lunges).  Talk about a great morning of Glo!

Wednesday:  Michelle's Calorie Burning Cardio Blast + HIIT - Breathless and Energized + Scott's HIIT - Sports Inspired Intervals + Ilyse's Heart-Pumping Groove

So to kick my own butt this morning, I decided to put all these short HIIT workouts together to make one long HIIT workout.  Okay, ouch!  I was exhausted after the first one and huffing and puffing after the second one.... Thankfully, I saved Scott's for last because his is the most doable.  But, dang!  When I want to work hard, this will do it!  After a short work day, I did 30 minutes of cardio, in the form of Ilyse's low-impact Groove.  I love that one!  This will have to tide me over for two days with no real workout.

Thursday: REST

Friday: REST

Saturday: Scott's Sports-Inspired Drills + Bring It On

It was a miracle that I got a workout in today.  Ugh.  I did both of Scott's workouts.  The first was pure cardio drills - and very typical of Scott's style.  The next had cardio and weight drills, which alternated.  I added on a few extra minutes at the end to get in a full hour of work.  Then, a nice stretch.  I was almost immediately sore.  Ouch.

Sunday:  Cathe's Cardio Core Circuit + McLean's Cardio Hip Hop

And I was still sore this morning.  Wow.  I had to force myself to do Cathe's workout...telling myself that I really needed to burn mega calories.  I got through this one, with no short-cuts. Awesome!  Then, McLean's fun dance routine, which I always try to make as high impact as possible.  So, a total of 70 minutes of cardio.  Ab work and a stretch to finish my morning.

Calorie Counts:


Friday, November 25, 2016

A Homemade Life

When I visited my friend, SKP, a few months ago, she pointed out a cookbook/memoir that she thought I'd enjoy.  After showing it to me, I went home and bought it online.  

This is my review of A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, posted on Goodreads:

I decided to read this book after a friend showed me the recipe for the author's wedding cake. Molly Wizenberg apparently loves chocolate as much as I do, therefore this was a book I needed to read. 

Wizenberg's memoir recounts stories throughout her life, which almost always involve, in one or another, her love of food. Her bond with her father was solidified through food; she met her husband because of a food blog. And so every chapter of her book closes with a recipe. 

Most of her recipes are fancy, rather than homestyle, if that makes sense. I'm more of a homestyle girl myself, but almost every recipe sounded delicious. Indeed, one of Wizenberg's strengths is her ability to describe taste and texture. And so I'm tempted to try every recipe in this book....starting with the chocolate cake.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Pumpkin Bread

I love Pumpkin Bread.  It was never a staple in our house, because my dad doesn't love it, so it was always a treat when my mom decided to make it.  Her recipe, I'm pretty sure, is Betty Crocker's and contains shortening.  It's delicious.  I love it.  But shortening grosses me out.   

So for years, I've wanted to find a recipe that used butter or oil instead of shortening.  Last week, I compared about three recipes to my mom's Pumpkin Bread and decided to make the one that appeared the most similar, outside of the shortening.  

This Ultimate Pumpkin Bread won the comparison contest so I got to work baking.  I love whipping up butter and sugar.  I mean, really.  After a few minutes, seeing how fluffy it gets....  It's magic!  Ha!  The only thing I changed in this recipe was to use half Splenda for the sugar.

And it turned out great.  Practically as good as my mom's.  I say 'practically' because hers will always be the best.  But this one is very comparable and everyone loved it, me included.  A keeper, for sure!

Monday, November 21, 2016

FitnessGlo Challenge #2: Week Three

After another bad weekend of eating - and with Thanksgiving around the corner - I've not lost a bit of motivation to keep working hard.  Ha!

Overall, I'm enjoying this Challenge so far.  It's nice to change things up with different workouts.  

Monday: Ilyse's Work Hard, Have a Great Time + Dance Intervals 101 + Sweaty, Sassy, and Strong

I had extra time this morning so I went into this workout hoping to do enough to make up for not walking at lunch.  So, I did 50 minutes of hardcore cardio with Work Hard and Dance Intervals.  Whew!  Those two are definitely tough and contain a bunch of jumping.  Then, I slowed down a bit with Sweaty, Sassy - keeping these 15 minutes low-impact.  It was a nice workout, all in all.  Then, a stretch and sit-ups.

Tuesday: Denise's Super Cardio + Total Body Strengthening

Time for weights today!  I didn't really remember Denise's workouts so it was all a surprise this morning!  Super Cardio is half cardio, half strength. I kept all the cardio low-impact which was lovely this morning.  My body thanked me!  Ha!  Then, Total Body was all strength work - with weights and without.  I was definitely working hard - Denise is no slacker with the weights!

Wednesday:  Amy's Intervals + Scott's Multi-Level Cardio Drills + walk

Okay, I needed to work hard today because my eating was not going to be good.  So, HIIT with Amy - ouch!  And then HIIT with Scott.....  Sigh.  These really got me this morning, especially Amy's workout.  There's just hardly any rest between her circuits.  At lunch, I took a 20 minute walk outside because the weather was beautiful - well, too warm for November but still nice.  

Thursday: Ilyse's Ultimate Dance Extravaganza + Dozois' HIIT - Breathless and Energized + weights

I wanted something different today so I tuned into Ilyse's dance workout, which I haven't done in years.  It was fun and different than her other dance workouts - more dance-y, if that makes any sense.  Then, I ended my morning with Michelle's HIIT - always tough and effective.  At lunch, I did weights at the rec center.   Always glad to get that done!

Friday: Crunch Super Slim Down: Pilates Yoga Blend

Today I wanted relaxing and this old Crunch video was perfect.  Ellen Barrett leads you through some yoga sequences to start and then you do some pilates and core work.  I made sure to do all the core - ow!  It was a very nice way to start a Friday!

Saturday: Peak 10 Cardio Interval Burn Remix + Denise's Continuous Strength

Time to really work today.  I did one of my favorites, CIB Remix, and had a lot of fun - outside of the peaks.  Ha!  This one always makes me work hard but it also makes me happy.  After that 55 minutes, I did 10 minutes of Denise's strength workout before my arms were screaming and I stopped.  Ouch!  I did a nice stretch and ab work.

Sunday: Cathe's Intensity + Ilyse's Groovy Dance Party

Much cardio was needed today.  Cathe's workout was really good.  I did it all - the step, the HIIT and the Low HIIT.  What a workout!  After that finished (50 minutes later), I did 20 minutes of Ilyse's dance workout.  This one is a lot of fun and easy to make more intense when you want to work harder.  And today I did!  So, 70 minutes of cardio and then, finally, a stretch and planks.

Calorie Counts:

I did pretty good this week - and the weekend.  Wednesday was really bad but the rest was pretty good, under 1200 calories.  Yay!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Scalloped Potatoes

Last year, at Thanksgiving, when we sat down to eat our big meal, my dad asked where the potatoes were. My mom and I - the cooks - were perplexed.  We had never served potatoes at Thanksgiving.  Mashed potatoes and roast are a Sunday staple in the house where I grew up - therefore potatoes were not special enough for Thanksgiving.  

Fast forward to our latest cruise when I ate way too many potato dishes - potato salad, mashed potatoes, potatoes au gratin, potato wedges, french fries, hash browns, diced breakfast potatoes.....  And out of all of those, I loved the potatoes au gratin.  Don't get me wrong, they were all delicious, but the potatoes au gratin were so creamy yet firm.....oh, my.  So, so good!  

And so for this Thanksgiving meal, I decided to find something similar for our big feast.  We would not serve mashed potatoes but something different.  After searching my favorite food blogs, and discounting most au gratin recipes as just too fattening, I settled upon Skinnytaste's Skinny Scalloped Potato Gratin.  (Just a side note...  During the holidays, I don't count calories.  So I should have found an au gratin recipe but.....  Well, I settled upon this one and I liked it.)

I didn't measure my potatoes and meant to halve the recipe....but I had a bit more than half of the amount of potatoes.  So I may not have had quite as much liquid as I should have had.  But I followed the recipe, otherwise, and these turned out great.  They're not as creamy as on the cruise ship but they're potatoes.  With butter and cheese.  And you can't really go wrong with that.  

Mr. Higgins approved so I'll make these at Thanksgiving....  And hope my dad is satisfied.  

Sunday, November 13, 2016

FitnessGlo Challenge #2: Week Two

After eating horribly last weekend, I'm motivated to work hard.  

Monday: Denise's Interval Sweat + Dozois' Work It

Thanks to the time change, I felt almost rested this morning, despite sleeping horribly all weekend.  I wasn't looking forward to Denise's workout because I remembered not liking it during the last Challenge.  But it was straightforward enough to be a blessing this morning- and I enjoyed it.  After that, I tuned into Dozois' light workout, which I tried to make harder by increasing what I could to high-impact moves.

Tuesday: Petra's High Intensity Drills + Amy's Metabolic Meltdown + weights

I can't really say I was looking forward to Petra's workout, but at least I knew what I was getting into, since I did this one last week.  Ugh.  After that fun, I tuned into Amy's workout which has both high and low impact circuits.  I made them high when I could, wanting the added benefit.  At lunch, I did weights at the rec center.....and had to walk in the rain to do so.  So, yay!

Wednesday:  Dozois' Conditioning for Long Lean Muscles

This workout is a lot of fun - basically another BodyFit 360.  Since I wasn't feeling great today, I did my Friday workout on Wednesday!  And I only did about 35 minutes of it.  But I love this one!

Thursday: Scott's Boot Camp Burn + walk

Weights today!  I couldn't really remember Scott's Boot Camp but it was good.  I kept the cardio drills low impact to have a lighter day....but I still got a great workout.  Scott isn't my favorite but I like his no fuss attitude.  At lunch, I walked the block around campus, which takes about 20-25 minutes.  And it was so nice outside! 

Friday: Shape's Bikini Body Camp Transforming + Dozois' Calorie Burning Cardio Blast + Ilyse's Sweaty and Sassy Dance Fit + Amy's Core Power

Today was a good workout day!   I started it off with Michelle's cardio on the Bikini video - so good!!  Then, I did her HIIT on Glo, which is really, really good and effective when time is an issue.  In the evening, I tuned into Ilyse's fun dance workout for some low-impact work since I couldn't walk at the rec today.  I don't like this dance as much as some of the others but it was different.  And to end the day - Amy's core workout.  Ouch!

Saturday: Cardio Interval Burn on Glo + Amy's All Around Energy

I was ready to work this morning and this CIB was good!  And tough!  I always think that                     it's not too tough...and then it sneaks up on me.  Whew!  It felt good to work hard, though.  After that 55 minutes, I tuned into Amy's toning/cardio workout, which I really, really like.  After 20 minutes of that, I was done.  Then, after sit-ups, I stretched.  Lovely!

Sunday:  Peak 10 More Cardio Strength + McLean's Cardio Hip Hop 

This CS is never one I look forward to.  I have no idea why, but it's just so tough.  Maybe it's because you go to the floor in every circuit except one.  Sigh.  Thankfully, I didn't mind the hard work today but it was not easy.  After that, I did 15 minutes of McLean's fun dance workout.  Then, five minutes with the 12-pound weights followed by a stretch and ab work.  A good day!

Calorie Counts:

I had three good days this week but then I had an all-day conference...and the weekend....  Sigh.  It's frustrating.  However, I was able to get into a pair of my skinny jeans this week...and a blazer that was too tight a year ago.  That makes me extremely happy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Drawing in the Dust

The second book I read while on vacation was really good: Zoe Klein's Drawing in the Dust. If you have any interest in the Bible and archaeology, you would likely find this entertaining (though not academic).

My Goodreads review:

I had to give Klein 5 stars, just for creativity. To write another book of the Bible…. Wow. 

I thought this novel, as a whole, was a lovely story of both archeological discovery and self-discovery. Page matures a lot, professionally and emotionally, as this novel progresses and it's nice to see a protagonist that is not perfect (though she apparently is physically - ha!). 

The archeology of this book was fascinating and made me yearn for a map of the Holy Land to have on hand. The history, the religion, the anthropology… Very interesting!

Monday, November 7, 2016

FitnessGlo Challenge #2: Week One

So I've decided to do another FitnessGlo Challenge.  I debated between that, Les Mills, or Cathe (who now has streaming videos)...  But for now, I'm going to do Glo again.  In the new year, I'll do the other two.  

This time around, I need to make this Challenge more difficult.  It needs to progress - start a bit easier but get harder and harder.  Last time, while following their Advanced Program, I wasn't always challenged.  That needs to change.

So here we go!

Monday: Dozois' Burn Calories, Release Stress + Ilyse's Heart-Pumping Groove + walk

After four days of very high-impact workouts, I needed to back off just a bit today.  Thankfully, I had these two workouts scheduled for this week so I pushed them to Monday.  Michelle's workout is definitely low-impact and Ilyse's is just fun.  With hers, I had to be careful not to jump.  At lunch, I walked at the rec center with a co-worker.  It's much easier when you have accountability!

Tuesday: Amy's Cardio Combo + Conditioning Drills for Results

It was time for weights today so I tuned into Amy's workout....which I didn't remember from the last Challenge.  It was good - but low-impact so I made it high-impact.  Ha!  I didn't get too far into the second video before my stomach started getting very unhappy.  So, I had to cut this morning's workout short by about 5 minutes.  Ugh.

Wednesday: Petra's High Intensity Drills + Ilyse's Just Dance

My stomach was a bit better this morning - or so I thought.  I tuned into Petra's interval workout......and I can't say that I enjoy this one, but it is effective.  I was huffing and puffing very quickly.  After that workout, I finished off my morning fun with Ilyse, whose dance always makes me smile.  And stomach got very unhappy.  Sigh.  No lunch workout but I walked around campus a lot!

Thursday: Shape's Bikini Body Camp Transforming + Scott's HIIT - Sports Inspired Intervals + weights

Time to work hard today....and thankfully my stomach had no objections.  Yay!  I started off with Michelle's cardio on the Bikini DVD.  Such a good mini-Peak workout!  Then, with my remaining 15 minutes, I did Scott's HIIT - a challenge but not too, too hard.  At lunch, it was a struggle to go do weights on this rainy day, but I did!  I was able to keep my same weights...I just couldn't do as many reps after missing a week.  But I'm so glad I went!

Friday:  Bob Harper's Yoga for the Warrior + walk

I wanted super light today - after seven straight days of cardio - so I chose yoga for my Friday workout!  Bob does a good workout - and he forces in some push-ups which really got me, for some reason.  But it was a nice, light morning.  At lunch, I walked outside for 20 minutes.  

Saturday: Peak 10 Cardio Interval Burn Remix + cardio

Knowing my eating would be horrible today, I decided to do Peak 10.  I love this workout - it's so much fun!  The peaks are difficult but at least the rest is mostly enjoyable.  After the video ended, I did 15 minutes of my own cardio to work a bit longer.  Then, a nice stretch followed by some ab work.

Sunday: Cathe's Cardio Core Circuit + Amy's Sports Sculpt + weights

I was not looking forward to Cathe's workout...but I did it anyway, knowing I needed a hard workout.  It's tough, all the jumping, but I got through it with a lot of sweat.  After that 45 minutes, I tuned into Amy's workout which lasted an additional 20 minutes.  Then, I did some weights for about 5 minutes, using the 12-pound weights.  Whew!  My stretch afterward was very nice (the sit-ups, not so much).

Calorie Counts:

Ugh.  So the weekend was horrible for eating.  Horrible!  Any weight I'd lost since vacation got put right back on, I think.   The week wasn't too bad; I had some good days.  But.....ugh.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Butternut Squash Soup

Lately, I haven't met many soups I didn't like.  And my soup horizons have broadened a lot, thanks to a co-worker's love of it.  Last year, I made my first Carrot Soup - a big step for Mr. Higgins and we both loved it.

For my next soup adventure, I thought Butternut Squash seemed a good choice.  I actually don't love squash, except for a bit of zucchini now and then, but when I saw this recipe, I thought I could like it.

I followed the directions exactly - a rarity for me.  Ha!  My only substitution was dried sage instead of fresh.

And....I didn't love it.  Maybe it needed more spices for me, I don't know.  Mr. Higgins (a squash lover) really enjoyed it.  I froze the leftovers so maybe I'll take one up, spice it up, and try it again.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Paris Letters

Vacation was so nice and relaxing.  I read two books in that week - just lovely!  One of the two, I'd recently bought on a whim: Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod.

My Goodreads review:

Who doesn't dream of leaving their mediocre life for one of fun and adventures? Janice tells a story of how she did just that. It was not an easy process, which is refreshing to see. It's also nice to see just how she accomplished such a task….and kept on accomplishing it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I wish I'd known about her letters: I would have subscribed!

Once home from vacation, I ordered one of Janice's Paris letters - an archived one - to frame for my office.  It's nice to dream of leaving behind the real world.....