Friday, August 29, 2008

My Book Club Thoughts....

Yes, another book. I finished it last night, In Defense of Food an eater’s manifesto by Michael Pollan. It was a quick read, but interesting and powerful. The realizations are not rocket science, but practical – perfect for the average person like me. And with a quote like: “the whole may well be more than, or maybe just different from, the sum of its parts.”

How could I not like it?

A few more tidbits that I enjoyed:

Did you know that before 1898, imitation butter had to be pink? And labeled. Anything that wasn’t a whole food had to admit it!

Senator McGovern in 1976 was not elected. The author suggested that McGovern’s advocacy to use food in the food pyramid may have angered a few people in the cattle industry. Interesting, very interesting – interests groups.

The book takes us through the history of “nutritionism.” I never realized how effected I am personally to this thought process. Yes, it may not come much of a surprise reading my blog. During my treatment days, I was very focused on not eating certain foods, eating the right ones and taking supplements that may help. I was looking for the “magic bullet.” To be honest, for the most part I am conscious of what I eat, but I still eat. If I want something “bad” I eat it in a small portion. I know that if I don’t squash the craving it will be much worse the next day. So when I was reading it and thinking in relation to the Zone (which I haven’t followed for 9 months). I thought, wow, I am so stuck in nutritionism – more than I ever imagined myself.

Pollan focuses very much on the metabolic diseases, so it did peak my interests since I am hell bent against getting diabetes or cancer or high blood pressure or heart disease. I feel that PCOS has taken more than it deserves when it comes to my health and the fact that it is a precursor (in my case) to all the above named diseases – I am a little health bent on getting ahead of those diseases.

To say I liked this book seems to be a bit of an understatement. I actually went as far as to type in a few key AVOIDS that I thought I would try to put into practice. Just to see how well it works. Also, I am interested in getting fruits and vegetables directly from a farm. (You should read that section, I am shocked, basically our fruits have been so fertilized and are so rushed that they have technically less nutrients than they had 50 years ago. This is the kicker, organic is not much better because it doesn’t mean that the standards are any better!)

It was very informative, worth the read, and makes you think.

On that note, enjoy your long weekend

My Book Club Thoughts....

My late month book club chose, Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh. A short synopsis:

Bakerton is a community of company houses and church festivals, of union squabbles and firemen's parades. Its neighborhoods include Little Italy, Swedetown, and Polish Hill. For its tight-knit citizens -- and the five children of the Novak family -- the 1940s will be a decade of excitement, tragedy, and stunning change. Baker Towers is a family saga and a love story, a hymn to a time and place long gone, to America's industrial past, and to the men and women we now call the Greatest Generation. It is a feat of imagination from an extraordinary voice in American fiction, a writer of enormous power and skill.

Did I ever tell you that I went to school in an old mining town? Sadly, fifty years after the last coal was removed from the area, and the town was still effected by the loss of that industry. However, this story had more to it than just the mining town. It focused on the Novak children. Like my Grandmother used to say of her own children, “No two were alike, just like her fingers.” (So you are bound to find one that you relate to or at least find interesting.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. To be honest, I almost missed how much I enjoyed this book (thank goodness for the book club!), because I enjoyed the next book so much!

Peony in Love by Lisa See has the privilege of being my first audio book. I actually shamefully picked it up because someone at early month book club recommended it, but it was also the cheapest one that I could find. Yes, I know – but I didn’t know if I would enjoy an audio book. It felt like a stretch.

After the first CD, I was hooked and remembered why I was a history major. I love stories, especially when they are shared orally!

A short synopsis:

“In Peony in Love the opera The Peony Pavilion by Tang Xianzu, The Three Wives' Commentary on The Peony Pavilion [1], and the theme of love all play important roles. Of the latter, See has said: "I wanted to explore different aspects of love: gratitude love, pity love, respectful love, romantic love, sexual love, sacrificing love, duty love, and finally mother love". [2] See also states that The Three Wives' Commentary had a special influence on her as she researched the large amount of writing done by Chinese women in the 17th century, most of it largely unknown today. "Then I came across The Three Wives' Commentary -- the first book of its kind to have been published anywhere in the world to have been written by women -- three wives, no less. With that, my interest turned into an obsession". [3] The three wives of Wu Ren in the novel -- Chen Tong (Peony), Tan Ze, and Qian Yi were, in fact, the real women who wrote The Three Wives' Commentary. [4]”

The story is beautiful. In the beginning you are introduced to Peony a teenage betrothed girl turning 16 in 16th century China. She is cloistered and the only child of a first wife. Peony is adored by her parents, and is granted privileges by her father that are not socially acceptable. For example, he allows for a play to be performed for Peony’s 16th birthday. A forbidden affair, since unrelated men will be present. From there Peony, well a lot happens and we see her life unfold. It truly is beautiful. I maybe one of the best stories that I’ve heard in many – many - many years.

What is next? Actually “In Defense of Food” by Michael Poulton. Very interesting so far. Also, a book on McCain and another on Obama. Yes, my book club decided they wanted to learn a bit more about the pair of Presidential candidates.

Should be interesting :).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My book club thoughts...

I guess I have been busy reading, just not posting about it. (By the way, my next post will also be about books.)

The Gathering by Anne Enright was read as the result of my early month book club. Our leader decided that it was time to read a book from the Irish genre. Ironically, I didn’t know that there was anything of the sort. But, I was up for anything and after hearing the synopsis we decided that we had to read it!

“A dazzling writer of international stature, Anne Enright is one of Ireland’s singular voices. Now she deliver The Gathering, a moving, evocative portrait of a large Irish family haunted by the past. The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, who drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him --- something that happened in their grandmother’s house in the winter of 1968. As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations, she shows how memories warp and secrets fester. As in all Enright’s work, her distinctive intelligence twists the world a fraction, and gives it back to us in a new and unforgettable light.”

Well, everyone in the book club agreed, it was a complete and total bust. Not one of us enjoyed one iota of this non-cohesive, fragmented, confusing, sad novel. It was hard for me to find one good thing about it.

The one piece that I liked - the wake scene, I actually enjoyed reading that to a certain extent. It was my first introduction to an Irish wake and it was very interesting. How it was held at home, how the family never leaves the body, and how it is a social gathering.

Otherwise the main character and narrator Veronica completely did not appeal to me nor did the story have any rhyme or reason. It was totally and completely fragmented. And we believe may be the point of the story which is about sexual abuse. However, it failed to make a point. But, maybe that was the point? I'm still confused.

Enough of that, I also read, Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama. I picked this novel up months ago. I knew that it discussed Obama’s family history and that it was written after his studies at Harvard. To be honest, I wanted to read to know more of what made this man tick (for obvious reasons). The synopsis:

“In this lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir, the son of a black African father and a white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American. It begins in New York, where Barack Obama learns that his father --- a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man --- has been killed in a car accident. This sudden death inspires an emotional odyssey --- first to a small town in Kansas, from which he retraces the migration of his mother’s family to Hawaii, and then to Kenya, where he meets the African side of his family, confronts the bitter truth of his father’s life, and at last reconciles his divided inheritance.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was less of a memoir and more of a story. Obama had me enthralled. It truly is his journey to realizing who he is and the introduction to “Audacity for Hope” (which I have no intent to read). But, his journey to realizing himself is beautiful, circular, eventful, and worth the read.

I don’t want to say too much for fear of giving too much away. However, his struggle was palpable and I am glad that it is resolved for him.

Ironically, both of these authors were reviewing their past to come to a conclusion on their present. The first was so negative, that it simply lost me. But, the second was very matter of fact in the situations (and as a result the events were neither good nor bad). And as a result, the story unfolded beautifully, hopeful. If Obama doesn’t become President, I like to see him write some more.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I am sorry that I have been MIA. Life here has been crazy, so let me start from the beginning:

1. Work. I basically have a new job with the same salary and benefits. As of now, I still report to my direct report, however CHANGE is the big word for work. So many changes, that it has my head spinning. To add to the stress, my office is moving. My once manageable commute of an hour and half (total) is turning to three hours (total). Yes, you got that right - it is doubling. Gas prices anyone? Not to mention that the attire will be changing - not necessarily a bad thing, but in the last three and half years I saved so much on dry cleanning. And now that is changing as well.

The good news is that the new company has many possibilities. And I've promised to give a year and see where it takes me. Afterall, I really do love my job. It is just that I see so many changes, that I wonder if my job will be still the same.

2. Refrigerator. Basically, we had a tax free holiday. We decided that it was time to replace our twenty something year old fridge. On the Friday before the weekend we went to S.e.a.r.s and found a lovely fridge. I provided the clerk our new information, from the last time we made an appliance purchase and requested a Saturday/Sunday delivery.

Well, you guessed it. A complete and total FUBAR. The clerk didn't give us a weekend delivery date which I justified that there more than likely wasn't any left. So, I decided to work from home until the fridge was delivered today. Well, last night I realized there was a problem when I didn't have a message. The clerk didn't update our current telephone numbers or have our unit number listed on the receipt. Basically the delivery people don't know where to deliver the fridge. And I have called and provided the information three times thus far. I am thrilled. They already tried to make the delivery once.

Oh and did I mention that muckity mucks are in the office today looking for me.

I've been answering their questions via email. But seriously, I'd like to make a good impression to make sure I still have a job to pay for the fridge.


By the way, I am behind on my fitness report for last week. You guessed it, more Yoga. But I think I only managed the required three days - if that. I should do it everyday considering how much stress I am currently feeling.

And I did try the audio books which I really enjoy. It reminded me why I was a history major - story time! I love it. I am almost done with "Peony in Love" by Lisa See. I'll provide a review along with the others. Maybe this weekend.

I am so excited for the long weekend. An extra day off. I cannot wait.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's for dinner?

The latest and greatest:

Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops by Rachel Ray 365: No Repeats

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
4 1-inch thick center-cut pork loin chops
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (eyeball it)
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup chicken stock or broth

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for the chops. Add 2 tablespoons of the EVOO (twice around the pan). Season the chops with salt and pepper, then add to the hot skillet. Cook the chops for 5 minutes on each side.

Transfer the chops to a platter and cover with foil. Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining tablespoon of EVOO and the onions, thyme, rosemary, and garlic, then saute for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, honey, and chicken stock. Cook until the liquids have reduced by half.

Once the balsamic glaze has reduced by half, turn off the heat and add the two tablespoons of cold butter. Stir and shake the pan until the butter melts. Add the chops to the pan and coat them in the balsamic glaze.

The recipe was easy enough. My only complication was that our pork chops were larger than 1 inch and took longer to cook. Also, instead of cooking the pork chops on the stove, I'd rather broil. Then transfer the liquid to the reduction.

Also, T actually cut the chops in half to make it easier to glaze.

It is definitely another recipe for the arsenal :). Overall, very yummy!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Marching with the Barren Bitches Book Brigade--Tour Fourteen

This is my first Barren Bitches Book Brigade. I am so excited to finally talk about Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert!

I absolutely adored this book. It had me hooked from the beginning. Even with a few bits that threatened to loose me, I felt overwhelming at home with this book. It could have been that I simply related to Gilbert. And the times I didn’t she made me laugh out loud.

To the questions:

What is the word that defines your city? workplace? home? yourself? Why?

History defines me and my city. I live very close to Boston. And I identify very much to the city. It is the beginning of the Revolutionary War. It has the cobble stones and old building mixed in with the new and modern. It attempts to be contemporary while maintaining its past.

Which of the three sections of the book -- Eat (Italy), Pray (India) or Love (Indonesia) -- could you most relate to & why?

At this point, I don’t think that it is a secret that I’ve been searching for gratification. And I love to eat. So, Italy was the section which I most identified with, also the place I long to visit. The descriptions of the food had my mouth watering.

Taking this question one step further, ironically the section in India I related to the least. But, it is because I love yoga, but I don’t use it to pray. I don’t relate the two. And the section that almost lost me was this section. There were descriptions of transcendence and spiritual connections – which out of my realm of comprehension.

In chapter 25, on page 75, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how "the Augusteum in Rome warns (us) not to get attached to any obsolete ideas of who (we are), what (we) represent, whom (we) belong to or what function (we) may once have intended to serve." Through our struggles with infertility and/or loss many of us have had to revisit our ideas about what our life would be like and who we thought we were supposed to be. How have your ideas about your identity and purpose in life changed since your began your journey to have a child(ren)? Have you been able to make peace with your new found identity and/or purpose if it doesn't embody the dream you originally had for yourself at this point in your life as an adult and/or parent?

Since deciding not pursuing treatments or adoption, I’ve been struggling with my new definition, identity, wants out of life. The passage spoke volumes to me. It shows with a place how I feel in many ways. The passage of infertility made me feel that my body was aging and decaying. With the passage of time, I feel better in my own skin, that the age and decay, may just be another element to my history. To where I have been.

Personally, at this point, I feel that I am beginning to undergo renovation. As I am taking more interest in the corners of my existence – nurturing other parts of me.

As you can tell, I adored this book. So if you don't believe me, hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fitness - Being Fit

Yes, you must be thinking, when did this blog become weekly updates on exercise? Well, I promise I have more to come. In the next few days you'll see my thoughts on Elizabeth Gilbert's book - Eat, Pray, Love - and a new recipe! Also, I did finish two other books which I need to update you on, The Gathering by Anne Enright and Dreams of My Father by Barrack Obama. Not to mention everything that is going on at work. Oh what fun!

But, today a fitness report. This week again was less about physical exertion and more about calming my mind. It was a very stressful week and as a result:

Monday: Yoga
Tuesday: Yoga
Wednesday: Yoga
Thursday: Yoga
Saturday: Yoga

See a theme?

Like I said, today is a continuation of my why. I believe the best way for me to put this is to take a quote from Jen Lancaster, I want to be a "fit bitch." Now, I will say, as previously disclosed, I am not overweight. But, I would not call myself "fit."

And I know that means very different things for different people. So let me attempt to explain, I will always be asmatic, therefore running will involve my inhaler etc. But, the fact that I can run. Well, that is my estimate of being fit. As well as being tone, healthy, and in shape. Yes, that is a high order. But, that is what I want.

The years of infertility treatments have left more scars than I care to mention. The biggest one is an accute awareness of the inadequacies of my body. The extras that I am not proud of, etc. Infertility also made me feel the failure of my body. Therefore coming to peace with it, involves becoming proud of it again. And the only way I can think of becoming proud of it, is to be comfortable in a bikini, at a beach, where other people know me.

Ahh, but that is next week's topic. Vanity.

I promise to make some time to update on life's events. But, I have a feeling that it will take me some time to find the time. I will leave you with this question, does anyone know of any good services for books on tape? More specifically a rental service for audio books - preferrably on CD? Thanks!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fitness - Aging

This week, I would call it less successful. Work was crazy. I had to prepare for my mother’s big birthday. And I wanted to spend some time with T. As a result, exercising took a back seat. But, I did manage to still hold up the three workout rule and they were:

Tuesday: Yoga
Friday: Yoga
Saturday: Yoga

(I needed the nirvana feeling.)

As promised the Whys - Ageing is my first reason. It is an ugly and scary thought to think what becoming older can mean.

Let me preface this by saying I am not afraid of being older. I think with age comes respect and some comfort of knowing who you are, were you have been, and where you are going. I like to think acceptance with it all also comes with age. So in many ways, I think it can be a blessing – it is much needed time. However, I am afraid of looking and medically feeling older.

Looking older is complete and total vanity. I know that. It is the fear of wrinkles and what they mean. Not necessarily laugh lines. I actually think the right amount of those are attractive. Heck, it shows that you have laughed often. It is the aging with out a purpose. I know it is vanity and a fear of being discriminated against. Beyond using a good moisturizer, eye cream (just started this year), and sunscreen – I’m not really willing to do much else. But, having someone look at me with a thought that I’ve outlasted my usefulness doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies.

The medical complications of getting older terrifies me the most. The cost and the mediocre health insurance that is becoming the norm doesn’t help the situation. When I think that I have PCOS and all the possibilities of getting diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, it doesn’t exactly give me peace of mind. But, these are all diseases that I would rather fight then get.

Then there is the issues of old age like the ability to walk. I intend to make sure that I am fit enough to do so as long as I can. My much adored paternal grandmother had a difficult time doing so from an early age. It had to do with weight, her sciatica (which I’ve inherited), and poor circulation.

Getting old is one reason to attempt to stay fit. Especially when you read articles such as this one about yoga. I hope that it is the fountain of youth.

Ultimately, I am hoping that becoming fit will add to my arsenal.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Fitness Report - The Why.

Recently, I realized how crazy my blog may seem. Granted I did post about my evolution. Lately, it was more than that it is my deliberate attempt at being happy and reforming my thought on who I want to be. And it is working. I feel more content and slowly am invisioning someone other than what I thought I would be as a 30 something.

Part of that new vision is being fit. Hence, the weekly fitness reports. Oh, before I forget. Lets get that over with - this weeks fitness report:

Sunday: Yoga/Pilates (Stomach)
Monday: Eliptical/Bike/Yoga
Tuesday: Two Miles on the Eliptical (Under 25 Minutes!)/Pilates (Stomach)
Thursday: Yoga
Saturday: Pilates

Not bad.

Back to business.

Ultimately I have three reasons to why I am pursuing fitness, they are:

1. Aging;
2. Fitness; and
3. Vanity.

And they are actually all tied to eachother. But, they are also seperate. So I'll talk more on those topics later. Now, I got to go and be happy.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Crazy thought?

So, after the my Book Meme, I was thinking that I would like to read most of those books. And wouldn't it be cool to say you did it? Granted there are a load of books there and it could/should take years. But, wouldn't it be cool to make it a challenge?

I joined Shelfari after seeing cool bookshelves on other people's blogs. (Yes, I am that lame that joined because I wanted the widget.) But, I am really enjoying it. It would be a great tool to discuss our progress on a challenge such as this one. Especially it would allow for discussions on the books and even swapping the books.

I could set up the group.

Thoughts? Takers?

Did I tell you that one of The 100 Simple Secrets to Happiness is Read ;D?

A book meme.

I saw this over at Loribeth's and Erin’s blogs. On this list of books, I've bolded those that I have read -- those that I love are in GREEN -- and books that I plan to read are GREEN and italicized.

Apparently the average American has only read six books from this list. I do love being above average. : )

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible (I have read parts of it, does that count?)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (I tried. Really I did.)
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
(I love all of John Irving’s books.)
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel(It has been sitting in my to read pile.)
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (I’ve been looking for a copy of this book since reading “Lolita in Tehran”.)
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell (brilliant)
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad(I hated it. It was for high school.)
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (In French – May explain why I don’t remember it.)
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (I read this in high school and I adored it.)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo