Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Nest Summer Book Challenge

You may have noticed the bookshelf that I've added to the blog. I've been spending some time looking for a book group to join. I read quite a bit and I'm always on the lookout for new books to try. This bookshelf lists most of the books I've read as an adult and will be updated as I finish books. I might start making some posts about recent books I've read too.

The Nest is a sister-site to The Knot. I used The Knot while planning our wedding and made the transition over to The Nest shortly after. They have lots of great boards (message boards, that is) for all sorts of info. I spend the majority of my time on the Travel, Book Club, What's Cooking, and Health & Fitness boards.

The Book Club board does quarterly challenges (Winter, Spring, Summer, & Fall). I finally decided to take part in one of the challenges just to see if I liked it.

The summer book challenge begins on July 1 and ends September 30. I thought it might be fun to post the entire challenge and maybe some of you will want to try it out too.

The challenge works with a point system. Basically, there are 5, 10, 15, and 25 point tasks. You pick a book to read that meets a task criteria. Once you have finished that book you are awarded the corresponding point value. The person with the most points at the end of the challenge wins. I don't know if the Book Club awards prizes or not but if any of you are interested in doing this with me, we can come up with our own prize for the winner.

Here are the challenge tasks for summer 2010 along with my book choice for the category and a few recommendations. I should note that I have not read all of the books in the "recommendations" lists. I just did a search for books that fit the criteria that I would be interested in reading or have already read. If anyone has any other suggestions that they want me to add, please let me know and I'll update the list.

Send me a message if you want to participate with me. We can then figure out how we want to do updates and reviews.

5 Point Tasks

Read a book that takes place in a place you never want to visit.
My Pick: Princess, A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean P. Sasson
Other Recommendations:
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Borderland by Anna Reid
The Singapore Grip by J.G. Farrell
Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky by Alephonsion Deng
Blood Diamonds by Greg Campbell
Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman
Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

August 1st is Girlfriends day: Read a book about a group of women friends.
My Pick: Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
Other Recommendations:
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
How to Make and American Quilt by Whitney Otto
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
How Close We Come by Susan Kelly
The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook

Read a one word titled book.
My Pick: Outlander by Diane Gabaldon
Other Recommendations:
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
It by Stephen King
Contact by Carl Sagan
Misery by Stephen King
Plainsong by Kent Haruf

June is skyscraper month: Read a book set in a major city.
My Pick: Along Came a Spider by James Patterson
Other Recommendations:
Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
Mary, Mary by James Patterson
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

Read a book by a favorite author that you have not read yet.
My Pick: Watch Them Die by Kevin O'Brien
Other Recommendations:
Confessions of an Ugly Step-Sister by Gregory Maguire
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philipa Gregory
Vicious by Kevin O'Brien

August 13th is the only Friday the 13th of the year: Read a mystery or thriller.
My Pick: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Other Recommendations:
Shatter by Michael Robotham
Vicious by Kevin O'Brien
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stiegg Larsson
The Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

June 8 is World Ocean day: Read a book that is set at the ocean.
My Pick: Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady by Ellen Emerson White
Other Recommendations:
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
Crimson Tide by Richard P. Henrick

In honor of July 4th fireworks: Read a romance novel.
My Pick: Mount Vernon Love Story by Mary Higgins Clark
Other Recommendations:
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Any books by Nora Roberts
Spring Torrents by Ivan Turgenev

Read a dystopian or utopian novel.
My Pick: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Other Recommendations:
Blindness by Jose Saramago
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
1984 by George Orwell
The Stand by Stephen King

July is national picnic month: Read a book on a picnic blanket or with a picnic word in the title.
My Pick: Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray
Other Recommendations:
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
How to Make an American Quilt by Whitney Otto
Sandwiched by Jennifer Archer
Cucumbers Have Thorns and Snakes Love Strawberries by Janice Sullivan
Strawberry Shortcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

10 Point Tasks

Read an historical Non-Fiction.
My Pick: The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
Other Recommendations:
The Devil in the White City Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
Night by Elie Weisel
1776 by David McCullough
Desperate Passage Ethan Rarick
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

July 11th is a total solar eclipse: Read a book with a black cover.
My Pick: The Last Victim by Kevin O'Brien
Other Recommendations:
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collings
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

Summer outdoor activities: Read a book where the characters do an outdoors activity.
My Pick: Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Other Recommendations:
A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
Sail by James Patterson
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Read a book where the title or author’s name starts with a J, A, or S. A as the first word of the title does not count.
My Pick: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Other Recommendations:
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

Read a book with a Native American main character or written by a Native American author.
My Pick: Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake
Other Recommendations:
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
WindTalkers by Max Allan Collins
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen

Read a memoir, autobiography, or biography.
My Pick: Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
Other Recommendations:
Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
Tuesday with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

Read a book for adults by an author that also writes children’s books.
My Pick: What the Dickens by Gregory Maguire
Other Recommendations:
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Stardust by Neil Gaiman

In honor of Dear Diary day: Read a book written in diary form.
My Pick: The Diary of Jack the Ripper by Shirley Harrison
Other Recommendations:
Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Dear America Series

National aviation day: Read a book about flying or traveling.
My Pick: Drangonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Other Recommendations:
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

September 2nd is national beheading day: Read a book about someone being executed or who was executed.
My Pick: Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George
Other Recommendations:
The Green Mile by Stephen King
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson
The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory

15 Point Tasks

National psychic week is August 4-8: Read a book with a ghost or someone who has physic abilities.
My Pick: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
Other Recommendations:
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder
The Lovey Bones by Alice Sebold

Summer blockbusters are out: Read a book, then watch the movie or television show.
My Pick: The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
Other Recommendations:
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abignale
A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Frannie Flagg
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Read a book by an author whose name you can’t pronounce.
My Pick: Angel's Fire, Demon's Blood by Tamela Quijas
Other Recommendations:
Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
Light My World by Aasiyah Qamar

National payroll week is September 3-7: Read a book about finances or where the main character has the career you would love to have.
My Pick: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Other Recommendations:
Freakonomics by Steven Levitt
The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach

Read either July, August, or September’s book club book and participate in the discussion.
My Pick: July's book selection
July:Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides
August:Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

Read a book about the paranormal.
My Pick: The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
Other Recommendations:
In a Dark Place by Ray Garton
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
Any Anne Rice books
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
Most Stephen King books
Communion by Whitley Streiber
Fire in the Sky by Travis Walton

August is national smile month: Read a book that has a cover that makes you laugh or a humor book.
My Pick: The Princess Bride by S. Morganstern
Other Recommendations:
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea. by Chelsea Handler

Support the book bloggers: Read a book a blogger you follow recommends during the challenge. Then post your review with link to your favorite blogger's original review post.
My Pick:
Other Recommendations:

Read a book that you keep looking at and then put down. Discuss the book and why it kept drawing you in and why you kept putting it down.
My Pick: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Other Recommendations:
The Shack by William P. Young
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
The Stand by Stephen King

Read an author who, at the time of the challenge, has only released one book. Discuss the book and if you would read more by that author.
My Pick: Nightshade by Shea Godfrey
Other Recommendations:
A list of debut authors can be found on this website:

25 Point Tasks

Read a book and then contact the author via email or snail mail. Try to get a reply by asking questions/telling the author how you felt about the book. You can also go to a book signing and talk to the author there. Report back with your results!

Read 2 books, both written by immigrants into the US from different countries, where immigration is a subject of the book (i.e. one of the characters is an immigrant). Comment on the difference of experiences that immigrants from different countries have in the US.
A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian by Marina Lewycka
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Night of Many Dreams by Gail Tsukiyama
Honolulu by Alan Brennert
Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

Monday, June 21, 2010

Weigh In

It's Monday once again. That time of the week when I show my progress, or lack there of. This week begins a very busy schedule for me.

Today is the first day of classes. My last class for my Associate degree. I would have had my degree in June but wouldn't you know there was just one more class that I "had" to take. I think the school does it on purpose. They don't really want to see you leave...with all of your money. Oh well. So here I am with a Calculus book on the table. I should have my degree by December and then transfer to a 4 year school to complete my BA in Graphic Design.

After much deliberation, hemming and hawing, working up the courage, and just plain old bribing myself, I've decided to try out the Couch to 5k program. I've been saying for quite some time now that I need to vary my workouts. I try to do cardio at least 4 days a week but I get tired of the elliptical for every workout. I vary it with hiking outdoors, when the weather isn't too bad. I keep saying I'm going to go to some classes at the gym, and I've found one that I really want to try, but I'm a chicken shit and won't go alone. Vince's sister belongs to the same gym, so I ask her on occasion to go with me. So far we have not been able to mesh our schedules to go together. The class is given every Monday morning at 10:30. I really just need to do it, alone or not. Someone please give me a push next Monday.

Anyway, the Couch to 5k program is a beginners running program. It is a 9 week schedule of 3 runs a week. You alternate walking and running for session, increasing the run time and decreasing the walk time with each week. The goal is to be able to run 5k (3 miles) by the end of the 9 weeks. Here's the website with the schedule info.

The park right across the street has a walking/jogging trail on it. The entire trail is only 1/2 mile long so I'll have to make a few rounds but at least I know it is measured out and close by. The park near Vince's mom, has a 4 mile long trail around the lake. That might be nice if I make it to the end of the program.

This is the schedule that I plan to keep.

Week 1
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:
Alternate 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking for a total of 30 minutes.

Week 2
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:
Alternate 90 seconds of jogging with 2 minutes of walking for a total of 30 minutes.

Week 3
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:
2 repetitions of Jog 200 yds, Walk 200 yds, Jog 400 yds, Walk 400 yds

Week 4
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:
Jog 1/4 mile, Walk 1/8 mile, Jog 1/2 mile, Walk, 1/4 mile, Jog 1/4 mile, Walk 1/8 mile, Jog 1/2 mile

Week 5
Jog 1/2 mile, Walk 1/4 mile, Jog 1/2 mile, Walk 1/4 mile, Jog 1/2 mile
Jog 3/4 mile, Walk 1/2 mile, Jog 3/4 mile
Jog 2 miles with no walking

Week 6
Jog 1/2 mile, Walk 1/4 mile, Jog 3/4 mile, Walk 1/4 mile, Jog 1/2 mile
Jog 1 mile, Walk 1/4 mile, Jog 1 mile
Jog 2.25 miles with no walking

Week 7
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:
Jog 2.5 miles with no walking

Week 8
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:
Jog 2.75 miles with no walking

Week 9
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:
Jog 3 miles with no walking

I really hope I can stick with this program. So many people have told me that if I start running the weight will "just fall off". While I don't believe it will be that easy, I am hoping that by switching up my workouts my body will respond kindly. Who knows, I might actually like running.

Vince has decided to do a "Paleo" type diet. Basically he doesn't want to eat any processed foods. The thought is that the longer it took to process it, the longer it will take your body to get rid of it. This diet is a little too strict for my liking and I don't actually think it's all that healthy. He plans to not only cut out processed foods but also carbs and most fats. He will be eating a very high protein diet. I'll have to make sure he gets plenty of veggies and fiber in there too. I will continue to watch my calorie intake and am going to start trying to get rid of some sugar/carbs from my diet. But I won't be going full Paleo along with Vince. I'll keep you posted on his progress.

Speaking of progress, I had none this week. I'm really struggling to get back into the swing of things. Those 2 weeks of "vacation" in Phoenix really screwed with my internal schedule, and let's face it, with my will power as well. The good is that I didn't gain, the bad is that I didn't lose. So here are the stats for this week.

Weight: 238.0 (no change)
Hips: 50 (+1 inch)
Waist: 39 (-1 inches)
Bust: 37 (no change)
Arms: 14 (no change)
Thighs: 26 (+1 inch)
Calves: 16.5 (no change)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Creamy Non-Dairy Rice Pudding

I love rice pudding, tapioca pudding, chocolate pudding, pistachio pudding...well, just about any kind of pudding really. I love the texture in rice and tapioca puddings. The creaminess of the custard pudding combined with the soft rice. Yum.

My problem has always been the amount of time it takes to make. I also didn't want to have to use a half gallon of milk to make it. Once I get the craving for rice pudding I want it now, not in 2 hours. This recipe takes a total of 40 minutes, and that includes the time to cook the rice. I usually just use leftover rice so that cuts the time down to 20 minutes.

Typical rice pudding calls for regular white rice. I have used Basmati and Jasmine to make this recipe. I think using these fragrant rices really adds to the sweetness and flavor of the pudding. The medium and long grain rices will also give a creamier pudding because of the starch content. I've also seen recipes that use Spanish yellow rice along with Spanish seasonings to make Cuban Arroz con Leche. I plan to try it with brown rice as well but I think I'll need to make a few adjustments for sweetness and texture. I'll update if I ever get around to trying it out.

Creamy Non-Dairy Rice Pudding


3/4 Cups Uncooked Rice (or 1 1/2 Cups Cooked Rice)
1 1/2 Cups Water
2 Cups Unsweetened, Unflavored, Soy Milk (you could also use vanilla soy/almond milk for more flavor and sweetness)
2/3 Cups Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 Tablespoon Margarine
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
Optional: 2/3 Cup Raisins (some people like to soak the raisins in rum prior to adding)


If you are using leftover rice, skip steps 1 & 2.
  1. Boil the water in a sauce pan.
  2. Add the rice to the boiling water and cook for 20 minutes, until all the water is absorbed.
  3. Add the sugar, salt, and 1 1/2 cups milk to the rice.
  4. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, about 15 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, beat the egg with 1/2 cup milk.
  6. Add the egg/milk to the rice pudding.
  7. Add the raisins.
  8. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  9. Remove from heat and add the margarine, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Serve the pudding warm. If you choose to serve the pudding cold, you will have to add about 1/2 cup more milk since the pudding thickens as it cools.

Yields: 6 servings

Quick, easy, and yummy. This recipe even won over Vince, who was convinced that rice pudding was a bland and flavorless glob.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Weigh In

So today was a big day. It was my first appointment at Shady Grove Fertility Center. My first appointment with a specialist to try to get pregnant. It went really well. My appointment lasted over 2 hours. We went over everything from my diet to genetic counseling. We now have a plan for the coming months and are very hopeful that the summer will end with a baby.

What does all of this have to do with my weight in, you might ask? Well, as I posted several months ago, I was diagnosed with PCOS with insulin resistance (IR). I was prescribed Metformin to correct the IR. However, I was prescribed a very low dose, only 500mg per day. I immediately started to see a difference and began to slowly lose weight for the first time in years. At my appointment today, Dr. Saffan decided to increase my dosage to 1500mg per day. He is confident that I will lose weight much more quickly. In fact, he thinks I'll be down 10-15 pounds by July. I can't tell you how awesome it is to think that I'll be able to lose weight like a normal person. That I won't have to struggle with hours of workouts every week only to see a 1 pound weight loss. Of course, I'll continue my workouts and eating healthy, watching my calories, and watching my portion sizes. I'm just hopeful that I will see bigger results now.

So on to this week's weigh in. I'm still in damage control mode from my trip to Phoenix. I gained around 4 pounds. That really sucked because it takes me so long to lose it again. The house if full of healthy food again and I'm feverishly cooking to keep our freezer stocked with easy meals and snacks. I also have a couple of new recipes that I'm trying out. So keep an eye out for those coming soon.

Weight: 238.0 (-1 pound)
Hips: 49 (no change)
Waist: 40 (+.5 inches)
Bust: 37 (no change)
Arms: 14 (-.5 inch)
Thighs: 25 (-1 inch)
Calves: 16.5 (-.5 inch)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Non-Dairy Coconut Ice Cream

I recently tried Soy Delicious Coconut Almond Bars. For those of you that are not aware, Soy Delicious makes vegan (aka dairy-free) ice cream products. The bars were awesome. They were a creamy coconut ice cream covered in chocolate and almonds. The good: They are delicious and only 170 calories. The bad: They cost almost $6 for a box of 4 bars. There's no way I could justify that, no matter how good they are.

So my quest for the perfect creamy dairy-free ice cream began. It took a few trys to get it right. Some were not very coconutty, others didn't freeze well, and others were more like iced milk than ice cream.

Then I stumbled on a recipe at Allrecipes. My search has ended. This ice cream turned out smooth, creamy, sweet, very coconutty, and completely vegan. What more could you ask for? Chocolate. You can never go wrong with chocolate. Just a little goes a long way. It's like a frozen Mounds bar.

Just try it. You'll love it. I promise. Just do it already!

Coconut Ice Cream


1 (15 oz) Can Cream of Coconut
1 Cup Unsweetened Unflavored Soy Milk
1 1/2 Cups Unflavored Soy Creamer
Optional: 1 Cup Shredded Coconut

  1. In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly.
  2. Make sure your ice cream maker is set up and ready to go.
  3. Pour the liquid mixture into your ice cream maker.
  4. Freeze according to the directions of your particular machine.
Note: Cream of Coconut is not the same as Coconut Milk or Coconut Cream. Cream of Coconut is thick and sweetened (look for sugar in the ingredients). It is typically found with drink mixes for Pina Coladas.

Yeilds approx. 2 quarts of ice cream.

You can use regular dairy products for this recipe as well. I'm sure it would turn out even creamier using real cream.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Almond Roca Protein Shake

I know it sounds weird but it really is good. This started when I found a recipe for an Almond Joy Shake. I didn't have all of the ingredients necessary for that one, although I do now and I'll be making it soon. I started substituting for the missing ingredients and this was the resulting recipe.

It is coconuty (is that a word?), slightly chocolatey, and oh so almondy. You can make it thick like I did and eat it with a spoon, or thin it out and drink it. Either way it makes a great after work-out shake or even a dessert!

Almond Roca Protein Shake


1/2 Cup Lite Coconut Milk
1/4 Cup Water
1 Scoop Vanilla Protein Powder
2 Tablespoons Coconut Flour
1 Tablespoon Almond Extract
1 Tablespoon Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (this is baking powder not hot chocolate mix)
4-5 Ice Cubes
Sweeten to taste (I used 4 packets of Splenda)


Put it all in the blender and let it go!
If you want a thinner shake, just add more water.

This may taste like dessert but it is actually pretty low calorie, really high in fiber due to the coconut flour, and high in protein.