Monthly Archives: June 2015

Books I’ve read this year – Q2

This post is a follow up to my earlier Books I’ve Read This Year – Q1 (which was inspired by Maggie’s post documenting all the books she read during 2014). Sadly, I haven’t had much time to ready any new books over the past month; most of this list is the result of a week-long beach vacation in March, during which I read a book a day. These days, I’m spending all my time working or house-hunting, which is even more stressful than work and takes up almost as much of my time. (Thank goodness pot is legal in Denver, otherwise I’m not sure I’d sleep at night – just kidding! Mostly. But that’s another story for another day.)

Aimee Leduc Investigation books 3 – 7 (Murder…in the Sentier, in the Bastille, in Clichy, in Montmartre, on the Ile Saint-Louis) by Cara Black. Rating: just the right amount of predictable. The first two books of this series were included in my earlier post. While there’s nothing groundbreaking about the series (the lead character, Aimee, swears she’ll stay away from police investigations and focus on the cyber security business she has with her partner Renee, but inevitably gets pulled into murder investigations anyway), the plot lines are absorbing, the characters are likable, and the descriptions of Paris make me want to travel back. They’re great beach/pool reads; perfect for when you want to be entertained, not necessarily educated or surprised.

The Golden Key by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott. Rating: highly recommended, if you have the time. At a whopping 912 pages (which I didn’t realize when I downloaded to my Kindle), this book took me awhile to get through. In the fictional world of Tira Virte, contracts are painted, not written, placing the artistic Grijalva family in a uniquely essential position in society. When a talented young painter discovers lost magic, he becomes powerful beyond his wildest dreams. The story spans centuries and weaves in various story-lines skillfully, introducing new characters and tackling issues like arranged marriage, discrimination, coming of age, familial loyalty, religion, and class oppression. My favorite part of the book was the character development – people were neither wholly good nor wholly bad, they were simply people making choices.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. Rating: not what I expected at all; pass. This book showed up on my “Amazon Recommendations” list, and based on Amazon’s description, I gave it a shot. “Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.” I guess I should have read a bit further, because it turns out this was romance novel, not a sci-fi book. Maybe the Jane Austen reference should have clued me in? Or the sappy title? There were a lot of clues here, not sure why I thought this was a good purchase.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Rating: pure childhood bliss. This was one of my absolute favorite movies growing up, and I can’t believe I hadn’t read the book until now. It’s the famous story of spoiled, unloved children learning to love a garden and each other. The characters are realistic, quirky, kind, and a little bit magical. I love this book. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I will stop gushing now. But seriously, go read it now.

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So, I joined Weight Watchers….

My husband has a legendary sweet tooth. Though I don’t keep desserts in the house, he gets his daily fix at work. Donuts, cupcakes, or candy bars from the vending machine if he’s really desperate. He and a few of his male coworkers regularly take afternoon field trips to the local bakery and stock up on all kinds of confections, none of which are the low fat, good for you variety. At home, his favorite snack is half a jar of Nutella on a slice of white bread. Or a tortilla slathered with honey and dusted with cinnamon. A gigantic spoonful of peanut butter straight from the jar if he’s in a rush.

Now let me describe his basic physique. 5’11, 190 pounds – all muscle, with the exception of a little pooch around his midsection because I’m married to an actual human being, not a Michelangelo statue.

I say all this to ask – can you really blame me for having gained 7 pounds since we’ve been married?

Maybe you can understand my struggle, but my skinny jeans sure don’t. They, along with a significant portion of my clothes, were being quite unforgiving.

Enter – the battle to lose weight.

I have a few girlfriends who have had success with the latest Beachbody (same people behind P90x, Insanity, etc.) craze, the 21 Day Fix. I was lucky enough to borrow her one of my friend’s set of containers for a week, and I’m glad I tried before I spent the money. The idea is that you don’t have to measure anything – except, you do, because that’s essentially what the very expensive colored containers are – and that you get to eat some of everything in moderation. You eat 1 orange, 2 blue, and 3 purple (I’m totally making these up because I can’t remember what the colors mean) containers every day, with each different color representing fruits, vegetables, protein, carbs, and fats. Sounds easy enough, but I found it exceptionally difficult to know whether I was eating too much or not enough of certain food groups, especially when cooking for myself and my husband. Plus, as a (mostly) vegetarian, a significant source of my protein (beans and lentils) was classified as a carb, which left me with only eggs, tofu, ricotta, or Greek yogurt as options. Additionally, the resources are incredibly limited. You’re given a short list of which foods count for which color, a few recipes, and that’s it – no advice on how to handle eating out or traveling. My girlfriend lost 20 pounds in 2 “cycles” of the program and loved it, but it was not the weight-loss option for me.

Then I decided to try Weight Watchers. My husband was a little dismayed that I, a fairly knowledgeable and health-aware foodie, would need to pay money in order to drop weight. But in my mind, although there are free programs that imitate Weight Watchers services, paying for it makes me commit. If I’m shelling out $20 a month to track my food, then dammit – I’m going to track my food!

Keeping some sort of food diary tops the list of pretty much every “how to lose weight” article I’ve ever read, and for good reason. Once you start realizing you’re using a tablespoon of olive oil every time you cook, or that those four “tiny” slices of cheese you snack on add up to a full ounce, or that you’re eating pasta for 2 meals a day, suddenly you see how the calories add up. The first step towards change is awareness, as the quote goes.

With Weight Watchers, food is assigned a certain number of “points”. For example, a 3 oz portion of salmon is 3 points, 2 oz of dry pasta is 5 points, a serving of egg drop soup is 2 points, etc. Fruits and vegetables (with the exception of potatoes and corn) are “freebies” and have a points value of 0 (this is my favorite part about WW). Then you’re given a certain number of points to consume daily, plus a weekly “reserve” amount, based on your height, body weight, daily activity level, and how much weight you want to lose. You can earn extra points through exercise and redeem them for more food or alcohol. As a 5’4 woman weighing 145 pounds who wanted to lose 10, I’m given 26 points a day, plus 49 extra discretionary points a week. In general, it’s plenty as long as I stay away from gorging on cheese, alcohol, and everything delicious pasta.

It’s been 5 weeks and I’m thrilled to report that I’m down 5.2 pounds! The best part, is that although I’m eating healthier overall, I don’t feel deprived (until I start looking at mac and cheese recipes) and I’m allowed to prioritize my calories however I want. So on nights when I’m feeling exceptionally lazy and want to have popcorn for dinner, I do. When I’m really craving a bowl of pasta, I fix it. I’ve gone every week without using up all of my reserve points (although I came close a few weeks ago when we went to a local beer festival), and sometimes (but not often) I even have leftover points at the end of the day.

The biggest dietary changes I’ve made have been replacing pasta and other starchy bases with vegetables, cutting way back on cheese, and breaking myself of the glass of wine (or two or three orrrrrr….) a night habit. Cauliflower “rice” is my new jam and I live for spiralized zoodles. Rather than throwing cheese on everything, I have it only when it will make a big impact. And wine. Oh, how I love wine, but sadly, it goes straight to my thighs. So now I use it as motivation to exercise. If I earn the extra points exercising, I pour myself 5 ounces (measured on my food scale). It makes killing myself at Crossfit slightly more bearable!

I’m half-way to my goal weight of 135 pounds, although I may decide to keep going until I hit 130, which would be just 5 pounds off my high school weight. We’ll see how much longer I can put up with rationed wine consumption!