Currently

…reading

…keeping fit with Running + Yoga + Bootcamp = Beast Mode 4-5 days a week.

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Photo courtesy of Amber

…running to
I’ve been on the treadmill in our basement (which has been working out beautifully!) and it faces the TV we have down there. Except the TV is not hooked up to cable; REB is using it as a gigantic monitor for his computer (Did I mention we have like 6 different laptops or computing devices in our house already? I married a compunerd!). While I run, I stream my Vevo playlist which has become my go-to running playlist! I’ve become accustomed to knowing when a certain song starts, I should be speeding up, slowing down, sprinting, etc. It’s been great!

  • Nelly Furtado – Promiscuous
  • Deadmau5 – Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff
  • Duke Durmont – Need U 100%
  • Big Sean feat. Nicky Minaj – Dance (Ass) Remix
  • Disclosure – Voices
  • Britney Spears – Work B***h
  • Disclosure – F For You
  • Britney Spears – Womanizer
  • Afrojack feat. Spree Wilson – The Spark
  • Britney Spears – Toxic

…feeling motivated!
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11 down, 9 more to go! I’ve been at the “10 pounds left” spot twice before and never accomplished it. I am determined more than ever to try to get there this time. Third time’s a charm, right?

…planning a mini vacay with REB out west this summer!
It took us a while to figure out where to go. We tackled with going back to Vermont, visiting Arches Nat’l Park (but doing that in October), San Fransisco (on my list, not so much his) or doing our big Seattle/Vancouver trip. But I think we just want a quick getaway and we’ve decided on Portland, OR! I’m pretty stoked.

…realizing I’ve had a total of four drinks since Jan 1. Whoa.

…in home improvement mode and happy because our master bedroom is almost finished!

…loving March Madness! Who’s with me? Go Green!

…obsessed with my new loose leaf tea travel mug

…still going strong with the 100 Happy Days project.

…loving my new haircut courtesy of my awesome stylist

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…proud of myself to finally be able to run continuously for 30 minutes and taking 30 seconds off my pace. 

…gearing up and putting ideas together for upcoming photo sessions with new and returning clients. I seriously can’t wait!

…more than halfway done with my reading goal for the year.

…looking forward to a weekend of fun and family.

What’s going on in your world?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Reviews Part 4

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I have to apologize a million times for my lack of blogging in the past few weeks. I had made a goal to try to blog at least once a month and I’m not exactly living up to that very well. I’ve made so many recipes and had so much to say and yet, simply did not have time to just share it with everyone. But, for those of you who follow me on social media, you’re in the know of what’s been up in my world!

The more important thing to task right now, though, is the next installment of book reviews! As of today I have read 16/30 books and it’s not even the summer yet! At this rate, I could wait until June to read the next book and still make my reading goal. I had thought about increasing my goal to 50, but I feel like I’d just be kicking myself in the ass if I do that, so we’ll leave it at 30 for now. On to the reviews!

  • Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Three words: OH. MY. GOD. I have been wanting to share my thoughts and review on this book for about a month now. This book was recommended to me by my bookworm friend Amber and I’m so glad she did. I could not put this book down. It’s in the thriller/mystery/suspense genre and you know me: I like trying to solve the case! This book follows journalist Scott McGrath as he tries to uncover the mystery behind the death of Ashley Cordova. She’s the daughter of the legendary, reclusive horror movie director Stanislas Cordova. No one knows what Cordova looks like, where he lives or anything about his overly private life. What we do know is that he has a huge fan base and people anxiously await the next film he makes. So when his daughter is found dead, we’re on the case! We encounter some very interesting characters the protagonist McGrath finds along the way who help him on his case, and we follow their journey as they try to find out what happened to her.

This story is absolutely fantastic and so creatively written and put together. It’s also very descriptive and haunting. There are actual newspaper clippings, interviews, photos, etc. to make it seem like you’re looking through case files like this incident actually happened and you’re right there with McGrath as he’s trying to figure out what happened to this girl. I have nothing bad to say about this book except that I wish we could have maybe read it from Ashley’s perspective too. Like, what was going through her head before her death. But maybe that would give away too much. Either way definitely pick this one up. You won’t regret it.

  • Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Soooo…yeah. Red Rising. Remember how I was, like, obsessed with reading this book because it was the first book in my and Amber’s book club? It was reviewed as being similar to Game of Thrones or The Hunger Games Series. Uh yeah, please scrap everything great you heard me say about it. Such a bummer. This book is the first in the Red Rising trilogy and follows the story of Darrow, a guy who works the mines (helldrivers, they’re called) on Mars. Except it’s Mars in the future! He’s a Red, which is a type of caste or class in the entire society they’ve built there. He and his wife Eo are so in love, but when they leave the boundaries of their village, they are caught and convicted of going against their class and being “curious”. So naturally they’re sentenced to death. Then the revolution begins.

This book had so much promise. It really did. It was deemed in our library’s (and other book websites) hot list for best books of February. It’s already a New York Times Bestseller (but I never pay attention to that because some truly awful books make that list). Within a week of his book releasing, the author, Pierce Brown, announced a movie was already in the works. This book isn’t similar to The Hunger Games ….IT IS THE HUNGER GAMES. I totally get that people will take inspiration from other SciFi/Fantasy books, but you have to wait more than the three years a really successful series has been out to do this. The writing is barely tolerable. Because. He writes really. Really. Short sentences. To be dramatic maybe. I don’t know. Annoying. It’s not all that descriptive because he repeats the same things over and over again and we’re introduced to characters out of the blue and with no background or context. Some parts make absolute no sense because he will talk about a certain event that seems interesting, and then it’s never mentioned again. It’s just sort of all over the place. He takes way too much “inspiration” from Game of Thrones plot lines and settings, that it’s surprising he’s not being sued for plagiarism. This book got two stars from me on Goodreads. I also don’t think I will be reading the rest of the trilogy. I just don’t see how it can get any more exciting because this first one fell short.

  • The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

This book was another “meh” book for me. I had added it to my “to read” list because it was another book based on an Indian family and I like to show my people major love. It follows the story of Hassan Haji as he recounts his life growing up in Mumbai when a tragedy forces he and his family to move to France. They start a small restaurant in the mountainside there and quickly it becomes successful as many French people there had never eaten Indian food before. However, across the street is a very fancy French restaurant and the woman who owns that restaurant is not happy when Indians inhabit the small village where she lives. She’s also not overly thrilled to have them as competition in the restaurant world because they are becoming so successful. But to her horror, she finds out that Hassan, a then-skinny-awkward teenager, can cook like a pro. It’s a cute story, a very easy read, but it didn’t keep me interested and excited. It was kind of linear. No real “oh my god” moments or gotcha’s or anything like that. It’s a sweet read about a guy looking back on his life and how he got to where he is. It makes me want to go back to France, but other than that, meh. It’s not a bad read, but only three stars from me.

  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This is another one of those typical YA books where two kids in high school who have nothing in common somehow become friends and something more. Eleanor is the heavier-set, uncontrollable-curly-haired more-impoverished girl who gets teased a lot in school for her lack of high-end clothing and minimal social circle. Park is the skinny, stereotypical smart half-Korean kid who likes to read comic books, has a lot of friends, listens to 80s British rock bands and comes from a pretty typical middle class family. He and Eleanor ride the same bus to school and one day, she has to sit down next to him and their friendship forms…in a strange, but cute way. The story takes a weird, unexpected turn in the middle-to-end, but it was a quick, easy read about two “star-crossed lovers” who are in the midst of young love, but experience challenges. It’s not the most revolutionary book I’ve read, but if you want a quick read to finish in 1 or 2 days, or if you like books like Spectacular Now, then pick this up!

  • The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

I love, love love Jhumpa Lahiri. One of my favorite books of all time is The Namesake, which was written by her. It was a book I could relate to about coming to America and not feeling like you’re part of your Indian heritage anymore, but you don’t quite fit into American life either. So given my response to that book and given I loved her book of short stories/essays, I was super excited to read her newest book The Lowland. However, I was a little disappointed, I have to say! I hate saying that, but in comparison to her other writings, this didn’t surpass them. This story is about two brothers who are 15 months apart, Udayan and Subhash. They are caught in the Naxalite, a communist guerilla event that took place in India in the 1950s/60s. Subhash ends up leaving India and heads to America, while Udayan stays to be part of the revolution. When Subhash hears some tragic news, he returns to India and that’s where the story truly unfolds. It’s a very haunting book with some dark turns and moments. It’s emotional, but again, it didn’t wow me. Compared to something like The Namesake, this sort of fell short for me. However, I love Jhumpa so much; she’s one of my favorite authors. She is a beautiful writer that’s for sure. Fans of hers should definitely read this book!

So there we have it! I have to be honest: there were two books I got from the library that I ended up returning and nixed off my list (for now). There were other books I received that I felt would be better to read now over the others. The ones that were nixed, will make it back to my list eventually this year, I’m sure! So what I’m currently reading now is This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathon Tropper. I believe this book is being made into a movie, which will star the ever wonderful Jason Bateman. Anyway, following that I will be reading Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining from Stephen King. Then after that, I hope to start Cujo, also by Stephen Knig, which will be the next book in my and Amber’s reading club.

Happy reading!

What books are you currently reading?

Book Reviews Part 3

Here’s the next installment of book reviews! According to Goodreads, I’m 9 books ahead of my 2014 goal, which is 37% done. I have a feeling I’ll exceed the 30-book challenge, which is A-OK with me. That just means I’ll need to up my game and increase my reading goal next year. So since the last book reviews post I have read 4 more books, and currently reading one as well. So let’s do this!

  • Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon

This book was recommended to me by Amber. She had said it was one of her favorite books of all time, and since I was in a lull waiting for books at the library to become available, I decided to read this in the interim. My friend Jackie’s husband was also reading it at the time! The book takes place in 1945 Barcelona and follows the story of Daniel, who, after the recent death of his mother, finds a book with the same title tucked away in a bookstore. He finds out that this book is a bit “controversial” because he finds out there is a man who goes around burning every copy of the book, which has Daniel wondering why. So he goes on an epic journey around Barcelona to find out about the author of the book, and what the mystery is behind the man wanting to burn each copy. It wasn’t a bad book, but it didn’t get more than 3/5 stars from me on Goodreads. It just didn’t have me reeled in until some where in the middle. It was a bit slow moving, but the descriptions of the city of Barcelona are absolutely fantastic. I felt like I was there, with Daniel, on this epic exploration of the city. The back of the book also had a map tracing where Daniel went in Barcelona, which I guess fans of the book do! Note to self: When I go to Barcelona, walk Daniel’s steps!

  • I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

I wanted to read this book ever since I saw her as a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and she made him speechless with her words. At only 16 years old, she is the youngest person ever nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, too. When she was 15 years old, she was shot by the Taliban because she did a lot of speeches in her home country of Pakistan encouraging people to support a girls’ right to an education, which of course did not sit well with some folks who believed a woman’s place was not in school. This book was captivating and honest. I know many countries still oppress their women (India is still a country that does this in some parts), but to read the way young girls were viewed at the height of the Taliban and post-9/11 made me so angry. I would seriously shout at the book while reading. The book has a co-author, Christina Lamb, who I think helped translate the book if Malala dictated parts to her. I felt some of that got lost in translation so at times, the book was kind of dull. With such a title like standing up for education and getting shot, I expected her inspiring talks about peace and a women’s right to education to be immediate in the story line, but there was a lot of back story — some of which I felt was unnecessary. However, I know why there is back story, of course. Regardless, give this book a read. For being twice her age, all I kept thinking was, “Why couldn’t I be this wise and smart at 16?”

  • Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

I have many friends, myself included, who are huge fans of the show, so I knew this was on my must-read book. I probably should have read this before watching the show though. The show almost makes a mockery of what happened and is completely campy in comparison to the novel. I guess they can’t have the show be like the book, because it wouldn’t be that interesting. My brother-in-law was skeptical that this woman actually got tried for her crime in money laundering or drug money trafficking, but it’s actually true. She did get indicted and then had to go to court 5 years later, and then was sentenced almost 10 years after the crime happened. It was interesting to read about her time in prison, and how the prison system works, but again, I shouldn’t have watched the show before reading. In comparison it was kind of boring to read. Like OK, she was in prison for 15 months and the prison she went to was actually pretty nice in comparison to other women’s facilities in the country and hardly anyone is mean to her, so…ta-da…? But I will say this: it’s still worth a read because it does give you an inside look at what goes on, which was the interesting part to read. And to read how she got into her situation. It’s a quick read (under 300 pages), but unfortunately, I didn’t give it 4 or 5 stars on Goodreads.

  • Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

This was another interim book while waiting for a book at the library. I had heard about this book from many folks. It’s the story of a girl living in Paris, Sarah, during WWII and one night in 1942 she and her parents are taken away by the French police in an event called Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup. Basically Jewish family’s were rounded up by French police, brought together, and then sent off to concentration camps. Before leaving, she makes her little brother hide in their apartment and promises to come back for him. Meanwhile in the present (well, 2002) Julia, an American journalist living in Paris is writing about this horrible event. She starts uncovering the mystery of the girl, the story behind what happened and how she is connected to this girl. It was a very easy book to read and I loved the different perspectives, reading about what Sarah was going through in 1942 and what Julia is going through in the present. It was very sad to read and made me once again question why this horrible, tragic event ever happened in the world. It’s heartbreaking really. Definitely pick it up.

And that brings us to what I’m currently reading which is Red Rising by Pierce Brown. It’s on the February hot-list of must-read books and is the first in the Red Rising Trilogy. I haven’t read anything by this author, but both Amber and I are reading this together, like a mini book club. Since we’re both into Sci-Fi and it’s been said to be like Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, it has me intrigued. Check back in a few weeks for that review and I’m sure more!

Marvelous Monday

Monday once again. Why is it, that Mondays come around so quickly but it takes forever to get to Friday? Something to think about. Report back to me once you all have figured it out. And while that’s happening, let’s talk all things marvelous!

Marvelous is having one of my coworkers, who is back to work after a six-week vacation in India, tell me it looks like I’ve lost weight!

Marvelous is having a workout routine scheduled for non-running days! This morning I did Pilates for the first time in years. I had forgotten how good it can feel and oh my goodness…what a perfect way to stretch, work out and wake up!

Marvelous is spending a weekend surrounded by loved ones and friends! We celebrated my friend’s 3-year-old son’s birthday at the Hands-On Children’s Museum here in Ann Arbor. I played photog for the day and took pictures of the kiddos and parents having a good time and learning! I gotta say, I think there were certain things that REB and I found more fun than the kids.

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Sneak peek pic from the back of my cam

Sneak peek pic from the back of my cam

On Sunday I attended the bridal shower of one REB’s cousins. Her wedding is just over a month away, and it was so good to see the family-in-law for some fun and celebrating love!

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Me and the beautiful bride-to-be!

Marvelous is having photo sessions lined up for the year and assisting my friend Rachel in weddings again for the 2014 wedding season! I seriously can’t wait to work with new and returning clients. Along the same lines as photography, marvelous is also looking forward to new photo equipment and props coming in the mail soon. I’m slowly, but surely getting that studio room in my house put together. I’m still in search for the perfect desk, and my uber pickiness isn’t helping to get it done any faster.

And finally, marvelous is looking forward to the weekend already! REB and I are going to hang out with our good friends and I will be doing a family portrait session in their house. It’s been so long since I’ve seen my friend Valerie (Um, I think my birthday party in October - not OK!) and REB and I still haven’t even met her newest daughter, who was born back in June! So it will definitely be good to get some adult conversation in and spend a day with three incredibly cute kiddos!

I hope you all have a wonderful week! What marvelous things are happening for you today and this week?

“Chicken” Noodle Soup

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Polar Vortex 2.0 is in full force! Again. It’s rather annoying and inconvenient if you ask me. People who start giving me the “Well, you live in Michigan, Aparna. What do you expect?” crap will get my death stare. I realize where I live, thank you, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it any more or less. However, I do realize that complaining about it doesn’t change the fact that we probably haven’t seen the worst of winter yet in Michigan. Please, don’t throw things at me for saying that.

So in and effort to ensure we are warmed to the soul and don’t end up looking like this…:

…we’ve been eating a lot of soup. Now, this can get challenging and tricky when you’re like me and want to make sure everything you’re currently cooking – soup included – fits into the whole “let’s be friggan’ healthy” lifestyle.

Let’s not forget that I live with someone who, like any normal person would, gets bored with certain recipes when they go on repeat each week, so I need to keep things interesting. While I don’t mind having a hot bowl of chili or minestrone or Pho every night, REB isn’t as inclined or excited by it. I don’t think. I’m sure he’s starting to get to his limit of “Seriously? No carbs or cheese again tonight?”, but he’s being a good sport and he’s also being highly supportive. Then again I do most, if not all, of the cooking so is he really in a position to complain? I keed, I keed! I appreciate his feedback and input probably the most out of everyone since he has to eat whatever I end up making. Or at least try to. I’m getting off point.

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He made a very good point to me earlier in the week though. He told me to quit trying to be all food-bloggy-fancy-schmancy and just make something simple but flavorful and filling. I said to myself, “Hey I can’t do that!” and that’s how this soup came to be. Yes, it was yet another soup recipe I made during the week, but it was simple, full of flavor and actually pretty OK for you in terms of fiber, protein, fat, etc.The biggest factor: it was filling and good enough that if you went back for seconds or thirds, you wouldn’t feel so guilty doing so. Plus it’s a classic! Whenever I think of chicken noodle soup I think of the Campbell’s soup commercial with the kid who turns into a snowman from playing outside but a warm bowl of chicken noodle soup from his mom warms him right up!

I listened to him and kept this soup and its ingredients pretty simple but it was perfect. And while we are no where near the end of winter here in Michigan, we at least have some options to help keep us warm and satiated. With that in mind, my complaints about the cold will get toned down a bit.

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But don’t worry. I’ll probably complain a whole bunch about the heat once we get into the dead of July. I’m sorry I’m not sorry.

“Chicken” Noodle Soup
 
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Beat the cold winter blues with a hot bowl of this classic soup fit for vegetarians and vegans alike!
Author:
Recipe type: soup, vegetarian, vegan
Serves: 5
Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • ½ small white onion, diced
  • 3 whole carrots, peeled and cut into discs
  • 2 celery stalks, wiped clean, halved length-wise and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon (about 4-5 sprigs) thyme, finely chopped
  • 4 cups (32-oz. carton) low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1½ cups unsalted vegetable stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 oz. whole wheat wide egg noodles
  • 1½ cups (about 24 strips) frozen meatless chicken strips (Simple Truth brand or similar), thawed and cut into bite size pieces
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
Instructions
  1. tart by heating olive oil in a stock pot or Dutch Oven over medium heat.
  2. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic and thyme and stir well
  3. Cook until softened but not browned
  4. Next add vegetable broth, stock and water and stir
  5. Bring soup to a boil, will take about 10-12 minutes to bring to boil
  6. While soup is coming to boil, take the frozen meatless griller strips, place in microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds-to-1 minute or until thawed. Cut strips into bite size pieces
  7. Once soup is boiling, add the meatless chicken and noodles and cook until noodles are al dente, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Ladle 1 or 1½ cups into bowls, garnish with chopped parsley and enjoy!

 

Bibimbap

There are only a handful of recipes that I can say without a doubt I’m proud of making and I’ve achieved a gold star in my kitchen for making.

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That is true for this bibimbap I made last week. I had originally planned on making quinoa “fried rice” for dinner complete with egg on top and loaded with vegetables and spicy ingredients, and then I thought to myself: what if I put it in a bowl and labeled it as a bibimbap instead? Ta-da!

The first thing I had to do was look through my fridge and pantry and make sure I had at least four main ingredients: sesame oil, soy sauce, sriracha or chili sauce and ginger. Everything else I could compromise on not having in the dish (though that would have been a disappointment).

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I definitely want to experiment with different ingredients next time, and maybe even different marinades and spices. You could also make this carnivorous with some pork, Korean-style grilled beef or chicken!

I always take it as a good sign when the husband requests a dish be made at least once a week or once every two weeks as one of our meals for the week. And I can’t argue with him there on that one.

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Bibimbap
 
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Simple bibimbap loaded with quinoa, shiitake mushroom, marinated tofu and vegetables.
Author:
Cuisine: Korean
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 7 oz. (1/2 block) extra firm tofu, pressed (to drain out liquid) and cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons lite soy sauce
  • ½ cup seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoon Mirin or rice vinegar of choice
  • ¼ teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • ½ cup carrot, cut into thin strips
  • Non-stick spray
  • ½ cup (about 3-4 oz.) shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean, de-stemmed and sliced
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 eggs, cooked either over easy or sunny side up (or made the way you like)
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons Sriracha or chili garlic sauce to top
Instructions
  1. Combine cut tofu, soy sauce, garlic and ginger in a large zip-close bag or container and toss lightly to coat well. Be careful not to break up the tofu.
  2. Let marinade and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Toast sesame seeds in a small dry pan over low heat, until fragrant
  4. In a small bowl, combine thinly sliced cucumber, sesame oil, Mirin (rice vinegar) and toasted sesame seeds.
  5. Toss well, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  6. Heat a large, dry deep skillet over medium or medium-high heat
  7. Add tofu and cook until browned on all sides, about 5-8 minutes.
  8. When tofu is browned, remove from skillet and set aside.
  9. Next add non-stick spray to pan and cook mushroom until browned, about 5-8 minutes
  10. Begin arranging your bowl:
  11. In two large bowls, split quinoa in each (1/2 cup each). Divide mushrooms, cucumbers, carrots and tofu in half and arrange around outer edge of each bowl.
  12. In the same pan you toasted the sesame seeds, cook one egg for each bowl. We chose to cook our over easy, but you could do sunny side up, poached, whatever your preference.
  13. Top each bowl with cooked egg and sauce of choice

 

 

New Treadmill and Playlist

On a completely different note from recipes and what I’m currently reading, I thought I’d share what I’m currently doing for #operationgetfit. REB and I decided that as the “big” gift to one another for Christmas, we would get a treadmill for our basement gym. It would add to what we already have (weight bench, heavy bags, yoga mats, TV/workout DVDs, free weights, trainer for bike), thus completing the gym.

First I should begin with: This was the hardest thing to purchase. And not because it was timely to research, but because we had to deal with what seemed like endless drama with Sears and Sears Outlet. We had three or four failed attempts at getting this thing delivered because they kept messing up, they don’t communicate to each other even though they’re all the same system and bah. It was just a nightmare.

But in the end, we found a great NordicTrack treadmill.There were several factors in getting a treadmill. Like most big purchases we’ve made, we had our list of wants and needs.

Needs:

  • At least 2.25 CHP motor. While we aren’t marathon runners, we know that power is important, so we wanted a decent motor.
  • At least 55″ long belt. My hubby is a tall guy and while I don’t need to take long strides to run, he does, so we needed a longer belt.
  • Weight capacity of at least 300 pounds
  • Incline up to 10 or 12% grade and same with speed

Wants:

  • Built-in fan
  • Built-in speakers/iPod-compatible
  • Track calories, distance, etc.

Budget was a big factor too. I wasn’t ready to or about to throw down $1500+ on a treadmill. We also didn’t pay attention to the big treadmill review web sites because they claimed that if you spent less than $3000 on a treadmill, you were buying a piece of garbage. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I’m happy to report that the one we received had both our wants and needs. We got the NordicTrack C900i which has a 3.0CHP motor, 60″ long belt, iFit compatible, built-in fan, speakers, iPod/iPhone-compatible, shock absorbers to mimic running on concrete or indoors at a gym, incline and speed up to 12% and 12 mph respectively and training programs! It’s been working out fantastically! I’ve gotten used to (it’s only been a week now) getting up before 5 a.m. in order to get a good run in before showering and getting ready for work. I signed up for a race this summer, so I need to get back into it!

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To help with that, here’s my current running playlist. While I tried to set it up from warm up, to running, to cool down, I mostly just put it on shuffle and let the good times roll. All these songs are available on Spotify.

  • Capital Cities – Safe and Sound
  • Afrojack – The Spark
  • Afrojack & Steve Aioki – No Beef
  • Azaelia Banks – 212
  • Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis – Can’t Hold Us
  • Britney Spears – Work Bitch
  • Calvin Harris – I Need Your Love
  • Gwen Stefani – What You Waiting For?
  • Scissor Sisters – Let’s Have A Kiki (remix)
  • Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness (remix)
  • Kaskade – Don’t Stop Dancing
  • Selena Gomez – Slow Down
  • Breach – Jack

I don’t get through the whole playlist, but there are some definite good ones in there to keep me going and keep the beat up! I’ll update again after I’ve used the treadmill a bit more so stay tuned!

Do you have a treadmill? What factors went into your purchase?
Are there other songs you think I need on my playlist? What keeps you running?

 

Book Reviews Part 2

Photo by Amber

Photo by Amber

So in my last post about what I was reading, I listed three books I had read and at the time, I was reading The Shining. I must be a reading machine right now, because since then, I’ve read quite a few more books. Seriously! I figured now is as good a time as any to recap what I’ve read since the last post, and hopefully give some of you fellow readers some ideas/recommendations of what you should read next!

  • The Shining by Stephen King

Oh. My. God. I loved this book. I couldn’t stop talking about it. You can ask REB, my coworkers and friends…they were probably sick of me talking about it so much. I managed to read this book in about 3 days because I couldn’t stop. My nightly ritual of reading before bed was extended by 30-45 minutes just so I could get in a few more pages before shut eye. My lunch break at work, I would force myself to take because that meant I was able to read. Many people have seen the movie already (myself included), but the book is so much better than the movie. For one thing, parts of the books that were downright scary to read, weren’t even included in the movie and I felt pretty strongly about it and thought they should have been. Reading about Jack, Wendy and Danny was incredible. Even though I knew how this story ended, it was great to read and see the parts that foreshadowed what was to come. It was very fluid, easy to read and kept me reeled in. All in all: I applaud you Mr. King. And to Mr. Kubrick? I say “shame on you.”

  • Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

This book was one of the ones I added to my list while I was searching through the “What’s Hot” list on my library’s web site. I later found out that it’s being made into a HBO movie, so I figured I should read it first before I watched it – if I do watch it, that is. This book reminded me of Gillian Flynn’s Gone GirlIt’s a “thriller” or “mystery” but it was kind of lacking in some areas. The overall plot is a mother, Kate, piecing together the mystery of her daughter, Amelia, by looking through social media, talking to friends and reading her phone. Doesn’t sound like much, but there’s more of course! I enjoyed that the book was written from both Amelia’s perspective – as the mystery is unveiled – and also from Kate’s perspective, as she’s piecing together the mystery. It wasn’t the best book I’d ever read, but I would recommend it if someone is looking for a quick, easy mystery.

  • The Ruins by Scott Smith

This book came recommended to me by my friend Amber. She actually owns the book and lent it to me to read. It’s another mystery/suspense/thriller and while it was slow in the beginning, it picked up pretty heavily. It’s about four college grads who are vacationing in Mexico, meet up with some new friends, go exploring the jungles nearby and then become trapped there. Now they have to learn how to survive in their new surroundings for who knows how long, but also endure the strange things that start happening while they’re there. This book is hella descriptive, graphic and at times, had me feeling queasy. REB would come upstairs and ask me what was wrong because apparently I would have a horrified look on my face or my eyes were really wide. I haven’t read other books by this author, but I really liked the way he wrote and again, I liked the way the book was told from all four kids’ perspective. Warning though: because it’s so descriptive there isn’t a lot of dialogue. This was also made into a movie so I’ll need to give that a watch soon!

  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

This book is best read in the summer. Perhaps that was my mistake for having read it during the cold Michigan winter. I probably would have enjoyed it way more. It’s a pretty story that spans over 50 years. It’s about a Hollywood star who comes to Italy and the innkeeper who sees her and falls in love with her. The story starts in the 1960s, but it’s also told “in the now” as you read about how he comes searching for her on the set of a movie (similar to Life After Life where you read the same story, but from different time periods or whatever). It’s a cute and an easy read, but I don’t know that I’d recommend it to anyone. It didn’t keep me interested that long and the author name drops a lot of famous actors throughout the novel too.

  • Wild: Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

I was surprised by the number of people who gave this book 2 or less stars on Goodreads. This story is another one of those woman-does-something-so-she-writes-a-memoir, but it was good. I had my doubts because I read that horrible, atrocious pile of garbage Elizabeth Gilbert wrote (Eat Pray Love) and hated…and I mean…HATED that book. So having read a book like that, I was really nervous to read this book. However, I was pleasantly surprised. This book is about a woman named Cheryl who, when she was 26 years old, decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail on her own, which runs from California up to Washington. The reason she does it? Her mother passed away a few years before and she never really found herself centered.She meets people along the way, is smart about what she packs, but learns a lot. I loved this book, plain and simple. I thought about my life at 26 and what I was doing and “hiking 2,600+ miles” sure as hell wasn’t on my list. Sure, she was stupid in some decisions she made both on trail and off, but she was 26. She’s a grown up but hasn’t gotten it all figured out yet. I read this book in one day. It’s also being made into a movie. Give this book a chance. Especially if you want something better than that other pile of crap.

  • The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

This is another book-turned-movie that I wanted to read. I think it’s actually already out and on DVD/Blu-Ray. It’s a young adult/teen book that follows the story of Sutter Keely, this senior in high school who has a live-in-the-moment view on life. Along the way he meets a girl from his class, Aimee, and feels the need to help her open up from her quiet, sheltered life. It doesn’t sound like much, but I found I could relate to the story in that we all knew that kid in high school. I knew of at least three or four boys in my class who acted like Sutter and I desperately wished I could have been their friend, but I was the awkward, quiet girl who had band friends, but we were definitely deemed as the class nerds. It made me feel like a teen again going through those experiences and imagining what my life would have been like if I had been invited to one of Paul Doerr’s hose parties (only peeps from my school who read this will know who he is). I don’t even know if Paul threw amazing parties, but I heard they were a good time. Anyway, this is a good read. It’s told from a guy’s perspective, which not too many teen/young adult books do and it’s highly entertaining!

I have really enjoyed finding all these different kinds of books to read so far. If you have more you can suggest to me, please do! And please give these books a read if you get a chance. Stay tuned for another installment of book reviews in a few weeks! Happy reading :)

 

Guest Post: Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

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I’d like you all to say a big hello to Richard! He is Amber’s husband, now a good dude friend to both REB and me, and he also happens to be a fantastic cook.

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Something Amber and I started last year was A&A Night where we would get together once a week because both our hubby’s were busy studying with schoolwork or had class. Sometimes I would cook and sometimes she would, but most of the time Richard would step up and cook for us. And I am grateful that he does! A recipe of his that I have enjoyed on more than one occasion is his vegetarian shepherd’s pie. It’s time the world know the secrets behind his delicious recipe. I asked Richard to share this recipe on my blog in a guest post and he happily agreed to write it. I hope Richard will come back and share more recipes on the blog, but for today here’s his herbivore-friendly shepherd’s pie!

Thanks Aparna! Before I started living with my future wife in 2007, microwaving a burrito or making boxed mac and cheese was the extent of my cooking expertise. This suited me just fine when I was single because I’m very lazy and cooking real food seemed to be more trouble than it was worth. When I moved in with Amber she was a student and since I had no job and wasn’t in school yet, cooking duties defaulted to me and my microwave classics were no longer sufficient. My creations in those early days weren’t always nice to look at or particularly edible, but I slowly learned a thing or two and figured out how to make pretty decent food.

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Fast forward to 2014 and I still do all the cooking. Amber and I have been married for almost six years and she’s been a vegetarian slightly longer than that. I’m not a vegetarian, but making a meat and non-meat version of dinner each night sounded like a bummer so our dinners are straight up vegetarian. This has forced me to be more creative and try new things because it’s easy for me to make an awesome meat dish, but an amazing vegetarian dish takes a bit more effort and finesse.

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I rarely follow a recipe when I cook. I tend to get inspiration from a recipe and then make my own version of it which often leads to multiple variations of a particular dish as I tweak things here and there to perfect it or change certain ingredients. My shepherd’s pie is a good example of this because it’s so easy to change what you use as the filling to keep yourself from getting bored with it. The version posted here uses frozen vegetables because it’s super easy and sometimes you just need a really easy dinner option.

Without further ado, Richard’s vegetarian shepherd’s pie:

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5.0 from 1 reviews

Guest Post: Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
 
Simple dinner that’s pretty damn tasty.
Author:
Recipe type: vegetarian, main dish
Cuisine: vegetarian
Serves: 5
Ingredients
  • 4 medium potatoes (any will do, I used russet)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup of milk
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon sriracha (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 small white onion diced
  • ½ tablespoon fresh garlic diced
  • 2 cups chopped mushroom (any variety)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1½ cup frozen peas
  • 1½ cup frozen carrots
  • 1 pound soy crumbles
Instructions
  1. Cut up potatoes into large chunks, place into a pot, and cover with water. Boil potatoes until soft, about 20 mins.
  2. Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a stock pot over medium-low heat.
  3. Dice white onion and garlic, add to stock pot.
  4. Preheat oven to 375.
  5. Once, onions begin to turn translucent (about 5 mins), add frozen corn, peas, and carrots.
  6. In a measuring cup or bowl combine vegetable stock, soy sauce, and sriracha. Whisk together and add to stock pot 5 minutes after frozen vegetables, bring to a simmer (don’t worry if it looks a little soupy, the soy crumbles will soak everything up).
  7. Chop mushrooms and add to stock pot along with soy crumbles.
  8. Allow mixture to heat through, add salt and pepper to taste, and then transfer to a 9″ x 13″ baking dish (or any suitable dish or dishes).
  9. Drain potatoes and place in large bowl, add butter and mash. Add milk and salt/garlic and mash some more.
  10. Distribute mashed potatoes evenly over filling and put the whole thing into the oven. After 30 minutes in the oven you’re ready to eat.

 

He’s being humble folks – he’s a great cook and this recipe is proof of that. Give it a try, you will love it! He is right though. You can totally alter the ingredients for the filling, or maybe even use mashed sweet potato for the topping if you want to get more fiber in there. But honestly, a bowl of this shepherd’s pie is totally perfect as is, especially during this Michigan Polar Vortext nonsense.

A big thank you to Richard! I hope you will return soon to share another tasty recipe!

 

Way Rad Bowl of Pasta

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I didn’t know what else to call it. It has so many preparation-detailed ingredients that the full name would be something too long and annoying. So way rad bowl of pasta it is, because that’s what it was.

Sooo yeah. Remember how I said I wasn’t eating carbs and I missed them oh so much, but I refused to eat them? I kicked myself in the ass and told myself “moderation and portion control, betch” and then made this way rad pasta dish. And I would make it again, too.

I made this the night before our treadmill finally made its appearance in our basement gym, when I knew I would be running like mad the minute the delivery guys left my house. So I decided it would be best to pretend like I was running a marathon thereby validating a big bowl of pasta.

Although the base of this recipe comes from Cooking Light, I had to make some changes so it could fit into my “let’s be friggan’ healthy” lifestyle.

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For instance, I used whole wheat pasta, used a lighter cheese, and since we needed some kind of protein in there other than cheese, I threw grilled portobello “steaks” on top. So my version was born and was received well by both me and the man of the house.  I can’t get over the smokiness and spicy flavor this dish had, but tossing it all together with seared tomatoes and fresh spinach in a chili garlic sauce? Fuhgettaboutit.

Make it. Moderate it. Portion it well. Eat it. Delicioso. Fin.

5.0 from 2 reviews

Fettuccine with Chili Garlic Sauce and Portobello Mushroom
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A robust bowl of whole wheat pasta, seared tomatoes and fresh spinach tossed in a chili garlic sauce, then topped with sliced portobello “steaks”.
Author:
Recipe type: pasta, vegetarian, main dish
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. whole wheat fettuccine, or long pasta of choice (linguine would be yummy)
  • ½ cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (use ¼ if you prefer less spice)
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 15-oz. can organic tomato sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 2 oz. part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 4 portobello mushroom caps, de-stemmed and gills scraped out
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add pasta and cook according to package directions, about 7-9 minutes, or until al dente
  2. While the pasta cooks, spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Arrange tomatoes cut side down and cook 1 to 1½ minutes or until tomatoes start to soften or burst. Remove from skillet, transfer to bowl and set aside.
  4. In the same skillet, add the 1½ tablespoons olive oil over low heat.
  5. Add the red pepper flakes and sliced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add the tomato sauce and salt, stir and cook 5-7 minutes or until warmed through.
  7. While the tomato sauce simmers, the pasta should be done so you can drain and set aside.
  8. Get your grill pan ready or a separate pan and grill up portobello caps until browned and grilled well.
  9. Slice mushrooms and set aside.
  10. Once the sauce has thickened slightly, add the spinach, cheese, and drained pasta and toss well to coat.
  11. To serve, add mixed pasta to bowls, spoon a few grape tomatoes around the outer edge of bowls and top each bowl with sliced mushroom.