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Wolfy’s Favorites – Episode 1

February 29, 2016 4 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

I had a few things from the month of February that I wanted to tell you all about, but all of them were kind of short for their own posts. I got to thinking how a lot of bloggers have a favorites post they do once a month, and I thought that’s such a great idea! It’ll be a monthly feature that will showcase a range of things I’ve enjoyed in the last month.

We’ll start off with the two biggest things.

February Favorites

Screenshot of a quick video I took about a new book I received on PaperBackSwap. That little wolf is my periodic “Wolfy” representative for myself in videos or pics (although you *do* get to see the real  life non-Wolfy me sometimes too!)

Snapchat (username: opinionsofawolf)

I finally got on the Snapchat train! After hearing so much about it, I just had to download the app and see what all the fuss is about. I have to admit, I love it. For those who don’t know, Snapchat lets you post photos or videos (and annotate on top of them) that last a maximum of 24 hours before they disappear. It’s very stream-of-consciousness, and I love having a new format to talk about books, writing, and life in. (And there are definitely some videos of my cat). If you have (or get) Snapchat, friend me! My username is opinionsofawolf.

February Favorites

Instagram collage of my reading location one weekend when I attended my friend’s wedding. The lower left is the wallpaper in the hotel room, the upper left is the view, and on the right is my kindle with the two mugs that were our wedding favors.

Instagram lets you easily manage multiple accounts. Finally!

I’ve had a personal Instagram account for years (sorry, you can’t have that username!), but I found trying to manage a personal and a professional/hobby one to be frustrating, because the app forced you to log out entirely of one account before logging into the next one. There was no simple tapping back and forth between accounts. Well, this month Instagram finally fixed that! So I get to join my fellow book bloggers in the virtual world of #bookstagram. Please do check it out for shots of reading locations, real time mini-reviews and pictures of books as I finish them, and quotes from books as I read them, among other things! Username: opinionsofawolf.

Next up, two smaller, but still exciting to me, things this month.

IMG_6808

Nuun

I actually have another book blogger to thank for this discovery. The awesome Running ‘N’ Reading posted a few times about the recovery drink Nuun. Replenishing electrolytes and rehydrating are very important after working out. It helps with muscle recovery and just general hydration. I’ve struggled because I’m not really a fan of Powerade and Gatorade, especially for the calorie content. (The ones with zero calories don’t taste good to me). I love coconut water, but it’s full of calories and expensive to buy. Nuun comes in tubes that each contain 12 tablets. You drop the tablet into water, and in two minutes it dissolves into a drink. Each tablet contains 8 calories. The tablets make it easy to order online and stockpile into your home, as well as convenient to take with you on longer fitness excursions. My husband and I are both pretty addicted to them now! And we’ve both noticed less DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) after hard workout days. Our favorite flavors are lemon-lime and tri-berry.

February Favorites

Bunnies at HomeGoods!

I love bunnies, and this month HomeGoods stocked up their spring holdings. I was hard-pressed to select only a few items (I’ll find almost anything with a bunny on it adorable), but I did my best to stick to what we need. My husband and I each have our own bowl for mealtimes (they do not match) but mine was a bit small for meals like soup or stew. So I picked up one that is about the same size as his. We also had large plates and small plates but no medium-sized ones, so I picked up two of those. Finally, I can always use more kitchen towels, so I got a set of two with this cute bunny on them.

Finally, a book!

cover_blackout

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola

I want to wrap up these monthly favorites posts with a quick comment about my favorite read of the month. I devoured Blackout in a mere two days in audiobook format. I basically was searching for any task I could do as an excuse to listen to it. It’s that good. First five star read of the year! Review to come.

So that’s it for February. Be sure to tune in next month for episode 2 of Wolfy’s Favorites!

What were some of your favorite things in the month of February? Have you tried out any of the things I’ve mentioned? Tell us about your experience in the comments! (Especially feel free to let me know your Snapchat or Instagram usernames).

Book Review: Master Your Metabolism: The 3 Diet Secrets to Naturally Balancing Your Hormones for a Hot and Healthy Body! by Jillian Michaels and Mariska Van Aalst

January 17, 2015 Leave a comment

cover_masterSummary:
Jillian Michaels became famous for being a personal trainer on The Biggest Loser, a show she has since left.  In addition to being a personal trainer, she is also a woman with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), an illness that messes with hormones and often makes the sufferer gain weight due to these hormonal problems.  Jillian, with the help of her doctor, takes her years of experience both dealing with her own hormonal issues and training others with them and offers up advice on how to adjust your diet and lifestyle to optimize your hormonal balance for easier health and weight loss.

Review:
Despite its title, this book primarily focuses on achieving health through making permanent changes to your lifestyle, advocating a gradual overhaul with the focus on improving health, with weight loss as a side bonus.

The book opens with an introduction from Dr. Christine Darwin.  It then moves to Jillian giving a brief introduction to her own health journey.  It was fascinating to learn about how she became a trainer in her late teens, got her job on The Biggest Loser, and was diagnosed with PCOS.  This lends a personal touch to the entire book.  Jillian isn’t “naturally fit.” She works hard at it and has an illness that actually makes it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.  This book is honest about the fact that achieving fitness is varying levels of difficult for people, but also takes a no-nonsense, if you want health you’ll fight for it, attitude.  That attitude may rub some readers the wrong way, but I appreciate it.

The book next tackles explaining how your biochemistry impacts your health and weight and why it’s therefore important to keep them balanced.  Readers who enjoy knowing the why’s behind certain bits of health advice (such as keeping your stress levels low, getting enough sleep, not eating after 9pm) will particularly enjoy this section, as it explains the biochemistry behind this advice.  Readers who prefer to just get the advice without knowing the why’s can easily skip this bit and just partake of the advice if they so choose.  My favorite part of this section is how kind Jillian is about how people may have beat up their bodies so far in life.  She’s very encouraging that what’s in the past is in the past, and every body can be improved.

No matter how you’ve abused your body up until now–and I’m willing to bet you have, even if you didn’t mean to–you can make it better. (loc 583)

The next section talks about how various chemicals and hormones in our environments contribute to messed up hormones.  Jillian is quite passionate about how things like BPA in cans and hormones in non-organic dairy can pile up to mess up human hormones.  Jillian makes a point of saying that even changing one of these things (for instance, buying organic dairy) can help your body, because every little bit helps.  However, she is also so passionate about these hormonal and chemical pollutants that it can sometimes seem as if she is telling the reader to change everything all at once, and that can be a bit overwhelming.

Next the recommended diet is tackled, and it’s actually fairly straight-forward.  Limit processed foods (and all the HFCS and artificial sweeteners and preservatives that come with it).  Focus on eating only things that grew in the ground or had a mother. Limit starchy root vegetables (less than 2 servings a day), alcohol (1 drink per day), caffeine (stick to green tea), soy (2 servings per week), full fat dairy and fatty meats, and canned food (to avoid BPA).  She encourages including power nutrients, such as: legumes, alliums, berries, meat and eggs, colorful and cruciferous fruits and vegetables, dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, organic dairy, and whole grains.  Perhaps the most difficult part of the diet, besides cutting out processed food, is the timing of eating she recommends.  Eat within an hour of waking up. Eat three more times in the day, once every four hours.  Eat until you’re full but not stuffed. Don’t eat after 9pm.  The explanation for the timing issue is to help balance your hormones.  She also states that you must have fat, protein, and carbs at every meal, but to aim for higher protein, particularly in the evening meal and as you age.  The reasoning behind this is you feel more satisfied with all three macros and also are more likely to not lack in any particular nutrient.  Two other reasons are that protein increases your metabolism and as people age they need more protein to retain muscles.  This is not a particularly challenging diet, nor is it far off from what is generally recommended by doctors and nutritionists as a healthy diet.  Again, the most challenging part is the timing issue.  Not everyone’s life lets them perfectly space out their meals.

For those readers who are new to eating a whole foods, unprocessed diet, the book includes a sample menu (I believe it covers two weeks, but can’t double-check as it was a library copy).  The recipes are perfect for beginner cooks with nothing too complex and not too much time required.  Jillian teamed up with a professional for the recipes, and is straight-forward about that.

The book next tackles the six most common hormonal disorders, including PMS, hypothyroid, metabolic syndrome, and PCOS.  These hormonal issues require special recommendations and guidelines, and Jillian explains them quickly and clearly.

Finally the book ends with some tips on how to live out the recommended lifestyle, including how to afford and/or find organic food, how to clean your house without chemicals, etc…  Just as earlier, Jillian is so passionate about this that it’s possible for the reader to feel overwhelmed at the thought of doing everything, even though Jillian does make a point to state that changing even one thing, or one thing at a time, will help.  Perhaps it would help if the book ended with a checklist of the most important changes or how to adapt gradually or something like that to make it feel less overwhelming for the reader.

Besides the fact that sometimes the book can make the lifestyle feel a bit overwhelming, my only other issue with the book was when Jillian recommends that women stop taking hormonal birth control pills and use condoms instead.  Condoms are nowhere near as good a form of birth control as hormonal methods, and randomly recommending everyone stop using hormonal birth control is more than just a bit irresponsible.  It would have been far more responsible to do something such as suggest that if the reader is concerned about the level of hormones in her birth control to speak to her doctor about lower level hormone options, such as the mini-pill or the IUD, and see if those may work for her.  Just flat-out saying everyone use condoms is not helpful.  Plus, there is a risk/reward calculation that every individual must make for themselves.

Overall, this book mostly recommends diet and lifestyle changes that would also be recommended by most doctors and nutritionists.  The timing of eating is something that is up for debate, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt the reader to try it.  Jillian sometimes gets so passionate about all of the lifestyle and diet changes that it can feel overwhelming to the reader.  Recommended to those interested in the science behind generally recommended lifestyle changes.  Just remember that you don’t have to do everything at once and take the advice with a piece of salt. Do your own research and talk to your doctor before dropping medication/birth control.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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Book Review: The Alkaline Cure: Lose Weight, Gain Energy, Feel Young and Stay Healthy for the Rest of Your Life by Stephan Domenig

November 12, 2014 Leave a comment

Book Review: The Alkaline Cure by Stephan DomenigSummary:
This book offers an introduction to the Alkaline Diet, as well as a 14 day meal plan and lifestyle guide to jump-start the reader into the Alkaline way.

Review:
The introduction to the Alkaline Diet in the first half of the book is wonderfully written and easy to understand.  The 14 day meal plan and lifestyle guide falters, however, with dull, complex to make meals and a shortage of exercise tips.

For those who don’t know, the Alkaline Diet basically is the idea that our bodies function best with a pH balance between 7.3 and 7.5, but modern lifestyles wreak havoc with this balance, making us too acidic.  What impacts our pH balance is our food and lifestyle.  Each food can be either acidic or alkaline.  Stress is acidic. Meditation is alkaline. Etc… Whether or not this idea that the body should be at a certain pH balance is valid is rather irrelevant, honestly.  The tips offered for creating this balance are all good, healthy ones.  The book never veers into extremism, indeed cautioning that acidic foods, such as meat and processed items, do not need to be cut out of the diet entirely in order for the reader to be healthy.  It encourages a 2:1 ratio.  Two parts alkaline food and activities for every one part acidic food and activities.  Essentially, the idea that health is not all or nothing.  It is a balancing act.  Indeed, balance is a theme of the book.

Your body doesn’t want extremes–it wants balance. (loc 480)

The two parts alkaline it encourages are basically fresh produce, time for self-care, and low-stress exercise.  So basically, eat whole foods, stress less, and move more.  Fairly common fitness and health advice.  The acidic parts include processed food, meat, dairy, stress, and high-stress exercise.  Again, the reader is not told to stop enjoying any of these things, but simply to find a balance.  The only thing I really disagree with is I think the book underemphasizes the importance of exercise for health.  In fact, the book seems a bit concerned with not doing too much “high-stress” cardio or weight lifting.  It seems to be more inclined toward the lower-impact, more moderate exercises.  I don’t think this is an idea that could claim to have much science behind it.  Indeed, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is written about in over 200 articles on PubMed (a free biomedical database), and most of these articles are talking about the positive effects of HIIT on abilities and cardiovascular health.  (List of articles)  So essentially the food and lifestyle advice is mostly good but take the exercise advice with a grain of salt.  Advising moderate walking and stretching every other day or so is really only appropriate for the most beginner levels of fitness.

After introducing these ideas, the book next offers a 14 day meal plan and lifestyle plan for the person new to Alkaline.  The first week is basically a cleanse, and the second week is supposed to be a model of what the non-cleanse Alkaline lifestyle is like.  This is the part where I became disappointed.  The recipes, including the ones for the non-cleanse week, come across as bland, dull, and labor-intensive, and this is coming from a person who does an awful lot of cooking to minimize the amount of processed foods in her diet.  I usually spend at least two hours prepping food for the workweek and cook a minimum of 4 meals at home a week.  This plan seemed like an overwhelming amount of work to me.  I can only imagine how it might seem to a reader who normally cooks processed meals or picks up fast food most days of the week.  Many of the recipes were also not particularly simple.  For both of these reasons, I feel the meal plan isn’t particularly appropriate for a beginner, which is odd given that the rest of the book is toned as for a beginner.  I would expect an easier, more approachable meal plan from this book.

Each day also has beauty, exercise, and lifestyle suggestions.  I particularly enjoyed the beauty suggestions, as they were mostly things that are easy to do at home and seemed enjoyable, such as an alkalizing foot bath or a hair mask.  The lifestyle suggestions were good for beginners who maybe are new to the ideas of meditation and stress relief.  The exercise sections suffered from the same issue I went into in-depth earlier.

What the book lacks is a clear idea of who its audience is.  Is it a person completely new to fitness and healthy eating who is currently a beginner in every way?  Is it meant for every person wherever they are on their journey to health?  Is it meant for intermediates, looking to amp up their fitness and health regime?  Because it lacks a focus, the content veers around between these three options, suggesting extremely beginner level exercises but rather advanced cooking and preparation ideas.  For this reason, it would probably frustrate a beginner who finds the first half of the book do-able and understandable but then finds an overwhelming amount to do for an introductory 14 day plan.  It would also frustrate someone who is not new to fitness and health who wants more details on how to amp up their regime and who may be a bit insulted at the idea that they will be fine if they just go for walks every few days.  Recommended to those interested in a quick introduction to the ideas behind the Alkaline Diet to tweak their diet on their own but who is not so invested in using a 14 day introductory plan.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Netgalley

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Friday Fun! (March: Ostara and Concert)

March 29, 2014 1 comment
A swan swimming on the edge of a river.

A swan on the Charles. It let me get this close to it!

Hello my lovely readers!

It’s my pleasure to be able to wish you all a happy spring!  I am so excited for the lighter days and warmer weather, although we definitely are still having a few cold ones here and there.  My partner and I celebrated Ostara (spring equinox) with an after-work walk on the Charles River, a special dinner, and presents of course.  We were surprised to spot three swans on the Charles during our walk.  It’s not common to see swans on the Charles, so it was a nice surprise.  Plus, they let us get very close to them!  For Ostara dinner, we made deviled eggs, salad with pickled turnips and homemade honey mustard dressing, and homemade handcut fries.  I had a pina colada with it, and my partner had hard cider.  Delicious!

Even though we’ve been together for over a year and a half, my partner and I had never been to a concert together.  We finally changed that this month when we went to see The Dum Dum Girls live.  They’re a band my bf is a fan of, so I hadn’t listened to them prior to the night.  They put on a great show, though.  Kind of surfer/rocker chick style music.  Plus their outfits were really fun.  I left the concert wanting one of their albums, which I think marks it a success on their part.  We had a blast going to a concert together, and I’m pumped to go to more!

In shop news, this month I released a new line (Miffy / Nijntje an adorable little bunny from children’s lit), and I made my first sale (my Sriracha pattern)!

I posted six book reviews this month and read five books.  I unfortunately got a bit bogged down in a stroke of bad luck of three mediocre reads in a row, so I didn’t end up with time to read a Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge book or an accepted review copy 2014 book this month.  I plan to make up for it next month so I can stay on track!

I’ve been dialing back in my fitness along with the gradually lengthening days.  I’m doing more yoga and calisthenics, and aiming to lift heavy once a week.  Hopefully next month I can ramp it all up a bit more.

I hope you all are enjoying your springs! Happy reading!

Friday Fun! (May: Cooking, Fitness, Writing, Spring Cleaning, and Reading Of Course!)

Spring means I get to read outside in the sun for my lunch break!

Spring means I get to read outside in the sun for my lunch break!

Hello my lovely readers!

As previously promised, Friday Fun has now become a monthly check-in on the last Friday on the month to touch base with you guys and help you get to know (or stay in the know on) the blogger behind the reviews (and the novels/novellas/short stories of course).

May was a busy month for me.  I attended a conference for medical librarians, which invaded this blog a bit, as I summarized what I learned for both myself and for other librarians.  Thanks to that conference, I worked 12 days in a row, so I took off a few days the week after to give myself a nice long weekend.  On that long weekend, I did some spring cleaning and got started on sorting through and getting rid of stuff.  I usually do this in the spring, but I’m doing it with more vigor this year as my boyfriend and I are planning on moving in together when my lease is up.  I’m of course incredibly happy to be moving in with my partner but also nervous!  To that end, if any of you want to check out my ebay store, there’s mostly lp’s/records, clothes, and of course, books!  This is also why I’ve been reading so many books for my Bottom of the TBR Pile Challenge.  Most of my print books are for that challenge, and I’m trying to clear off my shelves.

My vacation also consisted of a lot of cooking.  Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies, and I hadn’t had much of a chance to make more complex recipes since I was so busy and exhausted.  I made: 4 hour lasagna (I call it that since it takes me…4 hours to make), twice-baked rutabagas, and pumpkin monkey bread muffins.  You can see all of the recipes over on my Pinterest Pinned It And Did It board.

This month also brought back the real motorcycle riding season.  My boyfriend got me an awesome vegan jacket (for safety) and a helmet (obviously, for safety), and we’ve been going on some nice evening rides together.  I’m looking forward to some longer ones out into western Mass later in the season.  I also got to dig my bicycle out of winter retirement and go on my first ride of the season.  I’m pleased to say my legs stayed in much better shape over this winter season than previous ones, although my seat bones weren’t so happy with the first ride. Ow.

In related work-out news, my gym’s 60 day challenge completed last week.  I had signed up for the body composition challenge, which was about body fat percent rather than body weight.  Over the course of the two months my body fat percent went down by 1.2%, and I gained 2 pounds of muscle!  I was totally shocked by those results, as I mostly just kept on doing my regular fitness routine, where I focus in on being healthy and acquiring more personal bests in weights/cardio/etc… I mostly wanted to see what impact my routine really has on my body, and it clearly is helping me build muscle.  I’m very excited about that.

I’m also pleased to report that writing is progressing on the sequel to Ecstatic Evil! I’m really in a paranormal frame of mind right now, and I’m having fun with it.  I hope to give the Tova fans the sequel as soon as possible.

In reading news, this month I read 7 books, which is the most I’ve read so far this year in a month.  I’m not even going to try to guess as to what made it go up, but I’m glad that it did!  I read a wide variety including scifi, urban fantasy, historical fiction, thriller/mystery, and horror, and I read across all reading platforms (ebook, print, and audio).  I have yet to write up reviews for 4 of these books, so rest assured, more reviews are coming!  For June I intend to continue my focus on predominantly choosing books that appeal to me most in that moment, although I would like to knock out at least one from my Bottom of the TBR Pile Challenge that is unappealing.  Additionally, I got an arc for the next book in Madeline Ashby’s artificial intelligence series that is releasing next month, as well as the final book in Jackie Morse Kessler’s series that is also releasing in June, and I’d like to read/review both of those around their release dates.

How were your Mays? What was your favorite read of the month?

Friday Fun! (Teaching, Fitness, Blog Tour)

July 13, 2012 2 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

I hope you all had great weeks. Mine has been incredibly busy but in a fun way.  The teaching sessions at work have been increasing since medical schools and medicine in general run on a calendar that starts in June (except for the first year students who start in August).  I was warned things would get busier, but I must admit it still has been a bit of a shock for me!  But I’m a person who enjoys being busy, so I’m loving it.

In fitness news, I had plateaued for a few months. I took a few tips from other fitness folks to increase intensity across the board.  Well, this week I decided to check my measurements (I don’t weigh myself), and in the last 1.5 months I’ve lost half an inch (1.27 centimeters) on my waist! Also an inch (2.54 centimeters) on my chest and hips, but the waist is the important factor!  You’re supposed 33 inches or under around the waist (for women) for cardiovascular health, and with the heart disease that is strongly prevalent in my family, that is one of the things I keep tabs on for my fitness. (source)  I’m so happy to be half an inch closer!  I now only have two inches to go.  🙂 Also this means that the changes I made in my fitness routines are working, so yay!

In other exciting news, today is the first day of the official Waiting For Daybreak blog tour!  I’ll be adding links to features as they come in, but I also will be mentioning the features in every Friday Fun post for the duration of the tour, since not everyone will be clicking through to the blog tour page.  Since today is the first day of the tour, there isn’t too much to talk about this week, but I do want to call attention to the reviews and interviews that have gone up that were not a part of the official tour.

The Chronicles of an Enamored Soul is running an international giveaway that ends July 17th, so you have plenty of time to enter!

Kelsey’s Cluttered Bookshelf says, “This book is recommended for Zombie fans, there are some sexual scenes and violence, but it’s not over the top which is good. This was a great first debut book for the author.” Be sure to click through to see her whole review.

Waiting For Daybreak was also reviewed on Beauty in Ruins, who said, “The writing is solid, the dialogue creatively engaging (even with Freida’s silent cat), and the novelty of the personality issue alone definitely makes this worth a read.”

Nicki J Markus says, “The pacing of this piece is well managed and the tension was maintained perfectly from start to finish.”

And Reflections appreciated Frieda, “Even though Frieda has a personality disorder and periods of extreme depression, the character was still somehow easy to relate to.”

Finally, in addition to a review best summed-up with the great phrase, “Wonderful book!” Love, Literature, Art, and Reason also interviewed me!  Be sure to check out the interview to find out everything from how I deal with writer’s block to why I decided to give Frieda Borderline Personality Disorder.

Phew! No wonder I’ve been feeling so busy…..Evidence-Based Medicine, fitness, and book tours. Oh my!

Happy weekends all!

Friday Fun! (The Only Shoes I Talk About: Gym Shoes)

Hello my lovely readers!

I feel like I’m being terribly dull after the excitement of my Seattle and gashed knee Friday Fun posts but things have been honestly rather calm around here.

*looks around*

*knocks on wood*

Well, besides the Social Sciences Librarian Boot Camp and the release of my book that is. 😉

The most exciting things that happened in the last week were:

  1. My recently planted container garden seeds sprouted.
  2. I wore out my gym shoes and bought new ones.

Ok, so, to me the fact that seeds that are organic, heirloom, and over two years old sprouted was pretty damn miraculous, particularly given that right after I planted and liberally watered them we had no sun for around four days. (Things got…moldy).  But I am literally speaking to you about plants growing, so.

It also was a big deal to me that my gym shoes wore out.  We’re talking holes appeared and a heel is half off.  To me this is a sign that my fitness thing went from an attempt to a part of my life.  I literally worked out so much that I wore my gym shoes out. Wow. To celebrate, I let myself buy nice ones.  When I put my feet in them, they said ahhhh.

Oh, before I go, btdubs, I finally realized I totally neglected to put my novella I published almost a year ago, Ecstatic Evil, on Smashwords for all of you lovely folks without kindles, so it is up there now.

Waiting For Daybreak will be there as well after the first 90 days of exclusivity to Amazon are up, aka on September 4th.

Happy weekends!