Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Readers' Workouts - New Year's Resolutions

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to increase the number of days I went to the gym. I had been only going one day a week with a friend and I wanted to increase to three times a week.

This past week I FINALLY fulfilled that requirement!

Tuesday:  My friend wasn't in the mood to go and normally we have the bad habit of talking each other out of going to the gym but not this week.  I told her we should go to the gym and work out our frustrations.  So she upped her hill program and admitted to feeling better.

Thursday: Thursdays are my weird shift at work. I work 1-9 so I have the mornings free and normally I tend to make them lazy mornings if I don't have a doctor's appointment or something else pressing I need to do. But I know they make a good time to go to the gym so off I went.

Weekend: The third step to my plan was to get to the gym either Saturday or Sunday. I had a bad day Saturday and barely had the gumption to get up off the couch. I also misjudged my glass of red wine (use a bigger glass than normal) and woke up with a red wine headache on Sunday. I knew working it off would help so off to the gym I went.

I'm really proud of myself and have every intention of doing it again this week.

I also was able to catch up on a lot of my podcast listening so that's another motivator.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Read Harder Challenge - A self-improvement book

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works - A True Story10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works - A True Story by Dan Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not a typical self-improvement book, but it had a positive affect on my own thoughts on meditation and how to calm my monkey mind. I've tried meditation. I never knew if it was worth it or not to keep at it or just give it up.  I've read a lot about how it can help with anxiety and sensory processing disorder, my two major issues.

Dan Harris shares his personal journey with meditation and how it's helped change is life.  Part of his journey was reading the works of other meditation self-help gurus. Hearing about his disbelief resonated with me. I liked hearing how even though he had some disbelief he continued to pursue this path because what little he had at that point seemed better with meditation.

He says that as a result of his journey he's 10% happier than he was at the start of his journey.  If I can get at least 10% happier or calmer I'd say meditation is worth it.  I'm willing to try.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Read Harder Challenge - A book that was originally published in another language

I Love I Hate I Miss My SisterI Love I Hate I Miss My Sister by Amélie Sarn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was originally written in French and I think some of the translations caused for some awkward phrases. Besides the translation issues, this book was a quick read and an interesting read.  

Sohane and Djelila are sisters. They are both close and distant with each other. While physically they live in France, they inhabit two different worlds.  Sohane is an observant Muslim while Djelila has embraced a secular lifestyle.  Both girls are facing negative feedback from the community based on their decisions.

Sohane has decided to wear a head scarf. Since head scarfs and veils have been outlawed in France, her school has given her an ultimatum. She can either remove her head scarf while in the building or she must leave school. Sohane decides that correspondence classes will be a better choice for her than attending school.  She doesn't have any friends so it's not a hard choice for her to make.

Djelila is being harassed by a group of boys from their housing development.  They don't like that she doesn't follow the religious law and requirements. Djelila is pushing her limits in trying to be a French teenager living in a very religious community.

Things don't end happily for these sisters.  It's a moving story.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Daily Themes on Figment

I joined this website a number of years ago but didn't stay active. In order to get back in to the swing of writing I thought it would be fun to sing up for their Daily Theme emails.  I'll be writing some short fun pieces over there.

Read Harder Challenge - A YA novel

If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)If I Stay by Gayle Forman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


My friend read this book before me and knowing my reading taste she told me it was one I should skip.  She knew I wouldn't like the abrupt ending.  Then she found out there was a second book and I quickly put the book on hold (still waiting for book 2!).

I really liked how the title played multiple roles in the story. Mia is faced with the question of staying with her family or going off to explore her music. She's questions if she should stay with her chosen musical path. But the ultimate question is should she stay alive. I think this really powerful, this idea that in a situation like hers, we can make that choice. It really made me think.

I liked that she is able to walk away from her body and see how her loved ones are coping and reacting to the events.  It's almost a It's A Wonderful Life kind of story.  She gets to see what role she plays in everyone's lives. It helps her figure out if she should stay.

I can't wait to read book 2!  I also have plans to read more Gayle Forman books!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Writing Prompt 20

Write a letter to a child explaining how to do one thing (for example, ride a horse or throw a punch)

(This is from my thesis story. I'm working on changing a lot of it and one of my ideas is making the recipe sections into letters. This prompt gave me the idea and this is the first one I changed into a letter from a mother passing on a family recipe to her daughter.) 

Baby Girl,
In the tradition of the women in the family I’m writing you this letter now while you are only days old. You won’t be opening this letter until you are much older. I received the letter my mother wrote to me on the night I graduated from graduate school.  She received her the night before her wedding to grandpop.  I don’t know when you’ll be getting this letter but when you read it, you will finally learn the secret to the family gravy.
The recipe currently in my possession is sadly not the exact recipe my grandmother made.  Your grandmother had made some adjustments over the years. It still takes me most of the day to make a big pot. I haven’t made a pot since you’ve been born, but I made sure to stock up on gravy. They are in jars in the freezer next to pumped bottles of breast milk.
This first part is why you don’t learn this recipe until you are older. Every pot of gravy starts with  some chopped vegetables: 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1/2 pepper, 1 garlic clove. In a large stock pot sauté the veggies before adding a large can of tomato puree. Let that all simmer for about a half hour. At this point you want to carefully puree the sauce in either by transferring it in batches to a blender or with an immersion blender.  (Just want to say I’m happy that I don’t have to puree this like my grandmother with a food mill or a ricer. This is why grandma’s changes aren’t a bad thing at all.)
Once your sauce is pureed, add another can of tomato puree and a small can of tomato paste.  Fill that small can with water and add it to the pot, do this twice. Now you let it simmer for a few hours. Keep checking and tasting. Make sure to keep seasoning the sauce each time you taste. I suggest tasting the sauce with some nice Italian bread, just dip the bread right into the pot.  (I’m hoping by the time you read this letter, this will be something you enjoy doing as much as I enjoyed it as a child and now as an adult.)
To turn your sauce into a gravy, add meat and simmer. The women of our family have been known to add a variety of things (sausage, pork chops, ribs, chicken, crab legs/meat) but mostly meat balls.   Whatever you add make sure you let it simmer awhile, this way the flavor of the meat has time to develop.  If you are cooking the meat the same day you make the sauce, remember it will be simmering so all you have to do is brown and sear it off before adding it to the pot.  The meat will finish cooking in the gravy.
Once the gravy is finished, and you’ll know because the house will smell amazing and that alone will make your mouth water.  Now it’s either time to serve or let it cool before freezing in glass jars. I don’t think the glass matters but it’s how it’s always been done.
You’re awake now so I’ll just end this letter with an I love you.