Thursday, April 14, 2016

Book Review: Better Than Before

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday LivesBetter Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading this book. The author works through what she calls the four tendencies, or types of people with regards to habits. She describes each and includes lots of examples to help the reader discern which they are. There is also a chapter on distinctions that further separate different types of people within the tendency framework and discusses other ways people are different. For example morning person (lark, according to her terminology) or night "owl". Marathoner, Sprinter or Procrastinator? There are others, and she maintains and gives examples to support the theory that these further disctinctions shape the way we state and pursue our habits. She then steps into different strategies to establish or change habits, for example, monitoring the habit, or accountability. There are some interesting strategies that make sense as you read them, but I doubt I could have come up with!

So overall, I feel like with some time spent on introspection, this book could be helpful in choosing and following through on new habits. I enjoyed the book, but would definitely need to read it again and do some homework in order to really implement it well. It was easy to read, and engaging, but my style is not to deep dive on the first read, especially when I'm trying to read quickly (for a review.... ahem). I'd suggest reading through the tendencies and further distinctions and doing some journalling or thinking and applying that information, and then maybe identifying a few potential habit areas before jumping into the next section and figuring out how to best implement them.

I do wish she had maybe added a chapter to guide one through the process, but perhaps that will be so different for each reader that it isn't possible. I think this is an interesting concept and could be a helpful book to read and keep around.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Trim Healthy Mama Plan

After receiving and reviewing the Trim Healthy Mama cookbook and seeing the delicious looking recipes, I quickly snagged up a copy of the Trim Healthy Mama Plan.  The introduction of this book is so refreshing. It seems that most diets completely box you into certain rules, do eats and don't eats and are so frustrating to comply with. I love that the THM program is more of a lifestyle theory. The writing style is so easy to read and down to earth.  The authors are open and honest about the flexibility in the plan, for example, with regards to whole foods vs. convenience foods. I LOVE that they say "you don't have to get this down perfectly on your first day." It takes so much of the stress out of learning and starting a new program.

This guide is very complete and clear. The writing is so easy to read. Pearl and Serena write as though they are having a conversation with a good friend.  There is a bit of advertising in it for Trim Healthy Mama products, though what I very much appreciated was that the offer of their own products was always quickly balanced by the statement that you do not need to buy their products to be on plan. You can find these things in other stores as well, they offer their line as a convenience as they control the quality of the products.

The book addresses many different types who may be interested in the plan, pregnant and nursing mamas, men, working moms etc, and discusses how they might implement the plan differently. The plan stresses that the plan will work differently for each person and while offering suggestions and sample meal plans, they strongly encourage each person to make it their own.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to lose weight or even just feel better and be healthier. Its a big book, but is very easy and enjoyable to read.  I plan on trying this plan to see how it works for me!

Update 3/11/2016:  Just a quick update, I am really loving this plan. I love that there is such a variety of things you can have including sweets and shakes!  I don't feel deprived at all, if my family is having pancakes, I can whip up a single serving for myself with a plan approved recipe, or throw together a muffin in a mug recipe that tastes like a sneaky treat!  The shake recipes are delicious and I love having those quick recipes to for a quick breakfast or snack on the go. I have not bought a lot of the specialty ingredients, and there are still a lot of recipes you can use just with the things from the grocery store.  And if your budget doesn't even allow for those, you can still do the plan with very basic things. I have lost about 20 pounds so far in about 2 months. I'm sure it all won't drop this fast but it is so motivating to see the scale drop!

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book review: Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook

I have a friend who lost quite a bit of weight using the Trim Healthy Mama plan. And I have not lost the baby weight after baby four... So when I saw the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook as an option for a book to review, I snatched it up!  It has not disappointed either!

  This copy is a paper back, but it has such a quality feeling to it! The cover is sturdy with a matte feel and the binding has blue strips with a different texture on it that just feel great when you hold it.  This is not some scrawny cookbook either! It is over an inch thick, with 511 pages! Flipping through, you notice that the pictures are beautiful.  Not every recipe has one, but they are quite liberally scattered through out the book, both full page photos and inset ones. If I had to guess, I'd say that well over three quarters of the recipes have a photo with them. If you had handed me this book without showing me the cover, I'd never have guessed it is a cookbook for weight loss!

The book is nicely broken up into one-pot meals, hearty mains and sides,  sunrise eats, sweet treats, beverages, and all things smooth and crunchy. It includes crockpot meals, skillet meals, soups, salads. Each main category has several subcategories and many include both family size meals and single portions. The crockpot section has instructions to prep "from freezer to crock" which I LOVE. This is my favorite way to freezer cook. I think my first to try out of this section will be the Cilantro Lime-burst Chicken Thighs. Cilantro and lime are my absolute favorites! Scattered through with explanations of why they are healthy, or chats about the recipe's origin or a little story about the author's family.  There are so many recipes I want to try immediately. How about cashew chicken or Blackened Chicken With Mango and Black Beans? Chicken Alfredo or Chicken Jalapeno Popper Soup? I feel like I'm gaining weight just looking at this book! Pancakes, waffles, french toast?! Donuts?! I feel like this may be an easy plan to give a go...

The authors also include a section of Sweet Treats! Volcano Mud Slide Muffin, anyone? Again they include single serving sweets as well as family sized ones. Now these desserts look amazing, and I have to keep asking myself... "in a diet book?" When you look closely at the ingredients however, you'll  notice that they aren't your typical ingredients.  Things like coconut milk and coconut flour, flax, and sweetner help make these desserts a bit healthier. 120 pages of sweetness people.  Cheesecake! Ice cream, creamsicles, ice cream sandwiches.  This book is LOADED. Can you tell I have a sweet tooth?  Found my favorite section...which may just be why I've not lost the baby weight...

Another favorite section is the Beverages!  It has options for healthy all day sippers, like Good Girl Moonshine (it gets its kick from apple cider vinegar!), a Singing Canary (tumeric!), Pumpkin or Apple Pie Sip. A whole section on shakes and smoothies... sigh. Key lime. Strawberry cheesecake. How am I supposed to lose the weight again? Frappacinnos! And then there's the hot drinks... Ginger Cream Trimmy...Chai Trimmy...Salted Caramel Creamy Oolong. There are cold drinks as well, like Iced Tea, Iced Coffee and Root Beer Float.

The last section is snacks like Swiss Crackers, Crunch Puffs, and Apple Dip. There are also quite a few dressings, as well as jelly, chocolate syrup, pancake syrup and ketchup.

Wow.  I feel I talk way too much about cookbooks, but man, I wanted to list tons more recipes! As a cookbook, I'd say this is a must if you are already trying out the Trim Healthy Mama plan. Even if you have no interest in losing weight and just want to have a great cookbook filled with some really amazing recipes filled with healthy, nourishing ingredients, it would be great for you!

Now, with regards to the plan. This book does not give you a whole lot of information about the plan, but suggests that one read the companion book. They do say that there are no "Spartan diet foods" because "Food Freedom is our mantra!"  They say that many of the sweets work great for breakfast (yay!). And most of the recipes are quick and easy (Yay, yay!). They share that you will learn to "tune in to your own hunger and full signals". And as I said, they do very much recommend their companion book Trim Healthy Mama Plan for the complete explanation behind the plan to help you be successfull. There is a very short explanation in the back of the different types of meals and suggested foods, but I still think it would be difficult to follow the plan only based on this information. I have to tell you, after seeing the recipes in this book, I'm off to find a copy of the THM plan! 

There is also a very nice section in the front that goes over the items that are helpful to have in your kitchen, and some of the newer, different ingredients in the book. What I love about these authors is that they don't set out to make you revamp your kitchen or spend a lot of money at the kitchen store on new appliances.  They will tell you what is helpful, but they will also tell you if it is necessary and whether its a big deal to go for the fancy expensive model or the yard sale special!  Similarly with the ingredients, they detail the ingredient, the healthy benefits and where you can find them (some items are found in their Trim Healthy Mama store, but most are available and most local stores as well), but they'll also tell you what you can substitute. I appreciated that this wasn't a cookbook written to sell their products or tools. The authors seem to genuinely want you the reader to be successful in this plan, regardless of your access to the specialized ingredients.

So in summary, if you love the Trim Healthy Mama plan already, then I'd definitely tell you to pick this book up.  But even if you've never heard of it, or you don't need to lose weight but just want to be healthy, full of energy and choose better ingredients, then it's for you too!

Update 3/11/2016: I have been using this cookbook pretty hard for 2 months now and have lost about 20 pounds! I am loving the recipes; I use the shake section almost every day and usually have a Good Girl Moonshine every day as well! The Skinny chocolate takes some getting used to (the Treeces -Faux Reeces- are great though!)but I used cheap cocoa so i'm looking forward to trying again with some Ghiardelli. So far I'm mostly using it for the sweets section, but will try some of the other recipes too!  My only complaint is that a few of my index pages have come out so its not as sturdy or well bound as I had hoped.  Maybe a coil bound book would have been a better option for the cookbook. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Book Review: Ragamuffin Gospel

"Many of us believe in grace, yet we live as if we still have to earn God's love."

I've heard about this book since college and never got a hole of a copy until now.  This book is a must read for all. Brennan Manning reminds us that we all come to God as ragamuffins.  There's no scale, some aren't better than others. We are all ragamuffins , yet He loves us and shows us His love.

In full disclosure, I am only about half way through. I sit down to try to buzz through it for review purposes, and find myself unable to. There is so much good Godly truth in each page, I want to savor and enjoy and let it marinate.  Growing up in the church, its hard not to try to do it on my own. This book is a beautiful reminder that what I do doesn't matter at all.  I can't ever be good enough. Praise God that He accepts me as I am, and loves me.

Definitely recommend this book to all who want to know more about the freedom of God's grace.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Book Review: Forgiven, The Amish School Shooting, a Mother's Love, and a Story of Remarkable Grace

Forgiven: The Amish School Shooting, a Mother’s Love, and a Story of Remarkable GraceForgiven: The Amish School Shooting, a Mother’s Love, and a Story of Remarkable Grace by Terri Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

T his book... Wow. I thought when I chose this book to review that it would be difficult to read. I spent probably 90% of my reading time in tears. This book is authored by Terri Roberts, the mother of the man who shot ten girls in an Amish school house and then shot himself. I grew up and still live (after a few detours) in another area in Pennsylvania with a large Amish population and I remember when this happened. We were shocked. Having grown up seeing the Amish daily, I couldn't imagine why anyone would choose to do this to them, and especially to a schoolhouse full of children. Also difficult was hearing that several of the girls shot were 7 years old: the age of my own oldest daughter now. So this part of the author's story definitely brought me to tears, the horror of the experience. But what also brought me to tears repeatedly were the expressions of grace brought to life. I remember hearing about the gracious response of the Amish population in Lancaster, but this book just brings it so vividly alive. It is amazing what a representation of Christ's grace these Amish families, the same Amish families who lost daughters, or watched their daughters suffer as the recuperated, or continue caring for daughters to this day who may never walk or talk or be as they were, what grace they extended to the author and her husband as well as the perpetrator's wife and children. I don't know that it ever crossed my mind, even once, how his parents would feel knowing what their son had done. She writes this story so transparently and beautifully. She shares her struggles of being a mother of faith who prayed fervently for her sons almost every single day of their lives and her anger at God for not stepping in and answering her prayers and changing the story. This story is full of grace, forgiveness, healing and God's love. If you have struggled with your circumstances, please pick up this book. It spoke to me as a mom of a boy born without part of his brain, who is severely developmentally delayed. It spoke to me as a mom who gets frustrated with her children and struggles with showing grace. No matter what your situation, this book is excellent and moving and beautiful.

I recieved a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Testing! Women's Ascent Pullover

I finally sewed something for myself!  

I was lucky to test the women's Ascent Pullover by 5 Out Of 4 Designs! I love that these are great versatile everyday patterns. My absolute favorite part of her patterns is that she takes the time to make them nursing friendly!  
Sorry, this one was a quick kid shot for a fit picture!

The only downside is that I'm finishing up nursing my last baby of 4... where were these patterns when I started?!  This is an awesome pattern for a nursing mama in the fall! You can make this pullover all one solid color, or add contrast panels like mine. The sleeves can also have the contrast panels, but as I ran out of the butterfly so I just added piping instead.
You can see the tab for the hidden nursing zipper above the pocket! 

The pattern also includes the option for these great hidden zippered pockets.  The pattern directions and line drawings are clear and helpful and the designer always adds helpful hyperlinks to help you jump quickly to the options in the pattern that you need without wasting time flipping through pages.  Another favorite thing is the no trim pages!  The patterns are so quick to put together since you don't waste time cutting off strips. The PDF sizes are also layered so you can only print the sizes you need. 
This pattern is great with just plain, cheap antipill or blizzard fleece (which is what mine is) or you can make it with microfleece, french terry or other snuggly fabrics.  One tester made one with cotton lycra (sized down) for a super cute top.  I think you could easily add a full length zipper for a great fleece jacket.  Tons of options and a great layering piece for fall and winter! 

Make sure you check out 5 Out Of 4 Patterns for this and other great patterns for the whole family. She already has the men's version for sale, and a kid pattern is in the works.   I LOVE her work out top, the Agility Tank and Dress, which I used to make a nursing swimsuit which was amazing to have during our week at the beach! 
Please don't laugh too hard at my swimsuit and jeans look... I was comfy. :)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Book review: Murder Freshly Baked

Murder Freshly BakedMurder Freshly Baked by Vannetta Chapman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another fun, simple, clean mystery. I enjoy this series more than other Amish books I have read. The main character is Amber, who runs the tourist town, and her friends including Tate, her husband, Pam her assistant, and  her Amish coworker Hannah help solve the mystery of the murder of a young man from the community, as well as the "Poison Poet" who has been leaving pies along with poems about the poisons that are supposedly  lacing the baked goods. I think I have said about the first book, and I feel the same way about this one: these books are not for deep thinkers, they aren't going to change your life. They are easy to read, fun clean mysteries. Entertaining and enjoyable (And recommended) if that is what you are looking for!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  

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