6 Random Things…

Spring Colors 

I’m starting to break out the spring inspired nail polishes again. Shade of aqua,  like breezy days relaxing at the beach. When it’s not aqua it’s coral. Speaking of, who’s seen the beautiful colors of the new OPI Brazil collection? I just got my order and am so smitten with the colors and formula.

…and on the Spring theme…

 

Spring Cleaning

I cleaned my entire house this weekend. Top to bottom, front door to attic (just kidding, I don’t go in the attic. Spiders live up there). You get the point. I made a list for each room on Friday night, and plowed through it starting on Saturday and finished the biggest problem areas, like the kitchen, on Sunday. Not the most exciting way to sped a weekend, but it feels amazing to have a clean house. I also took care of a few random house chores, like installing a Carbon Monoxide detector, swapping out a few door bumpers, and replacing a toilet seat (never thought I’d actually have to know how to do that…joys of being a homeowner).

The challenge now is to keep the place looking great all the time instead of having to do this type of cleaning again anytime soon. I put together a schedule to quick hit every room in the house twice a month to keep on top of things. I think I could do a quick 15-20 minute cleanup each day in the scheduled room, and keep on top of things. Quick cleanup would be dust, vacuum, pick up lose items, counters/toilets, fix any small issues.

How do you guys tackle cleaning, do you keep any type of schedule/plan? Or do you do Super Cleaning weekends every few months?

 

The Schedule:

(1st/16th) Foyer/Entry

(2nd/17th) Den/Workout Area

(3rd/18th) Downstairs Bathroom

(4th/19th) Yard/Porch

(5th/20th) Garage

(6th/21st) Dining Room

(7th/22nd) Powder Room

(8th/23rd) Living Room

(9th/24th) Kitchen

(10th/25th) Office

(11th/26th) Spare Bedroom

(12th/27th) Spare Bathroom

(13th/28th) Laundry

(14th/29th) Master Bedroom

(15th/30th) Master Bathroom/Closet

 

Anxiety/Stress

It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve experienced overwhelming anxiety, but much longer that I’ve been drowning in stress. Some days are worse than others, of course. I came across an article on Greatist.com this week and I really enjoyed it, 15 Ways to Beat Anxiety Now. If you deal with anxiety or high stress, you may enjoy this article as well.

 

Natural Beauty

In the past I’ve always been a fan of technologically advanced beauty, but more and more, I’ve transitioning to a more natural beauty regimen. I still use non-natural brands and products, but I strongly believe that when you know better you do better. So I’ve started to embrace brands like Shea Terra, and Stark Skincare.

 

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I’ve also started experimenting with making some at home beauty products. So far my favorite thing is washing my face with honey! Amazing results & easy to make, and customize, at home. I’ll probably do a separate post on this in the future.

 

Recent Reads

I finished the sometimes daughter by Sherri Wood Emmons last week. It’s the story of a girl born at Woodstock and her relationship with her mom and family as she grows into her teens. It’s a fairly simple story of watching a young girl grow up in the 60/70’s and experiencing her personal/family struggles. If you enjoy getting a glimpse into someone else’s family life (we’re all a little voyeuristic, right?), then you’ll probably like this.

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Puppy Love

I’ve been struggling a bit with my pup recently. He’s been having some mobility issues with his back leg. It always seems to be prompted by rough/wild playing, or a long day outdoors so I’m fairly certain it’s muscle strains. However, I think he is also developing some arthritis due to the extra weight he carries around. I’m having to adjust his food and add some supplements in hope of bringing him some natural relief without going to prescription pain killers. He’ll be seen by our vet in a few weeks for a checkup, fingers crossed, I’ve finally found the best nutrition plan for my little one. It’s so hard to see him struggle when I know he really wants to run through a dog park or splash at the dog beach. I hope we can get back to that soon.

If your pup has had similar issues, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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Alright, I’m off to collapse onto the couch and relax after all that cleaning. I hope you all had a great weekend!

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Mental Dumbbells – January/February 2013

Wow…I’m really behind in my book reviews (and everything else)…but let’s start with the books. I purposely skipped December because I read nothing, nada, zip…you get the point. Since we’re already into March, I thought I’d throw both January and February’s reads into a single post. In January I caught up a bit and finished  7 books, and I finished 2 in February.

 

Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life

I was a little disappointed in this book. I LOVED Under the Tuscan Sun, so I thought this would be a great read also. Unfortunately it lost me with all the detailed discussion of artwork throughout the memoir. I found myself scanning pages instead of actually reading them. I liked reading about her time cooking and gardening, but she spent A LOT of time discussing art pieces in detail and she lost me. I’m still a fan of hers and have another of her books on my shelf, but this wasn’t my favorite.

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From Bagels to Buddha: How I Found My Soul and Lost My Fat

This book started out well. The author writes in detail about her time at a mediation retreat (and other experiences) which I thought were somewhat fascinating. However, much of the time she acted very entitled and spent a lot of time complaining or judging others. I do give her credit, she was brutally honest about her thoughts and feelings throughout, which I felt was brave. I appreciate her honesty, but I walked away disappointed (apparently unlike all the Amazon reviewers – they are all 5 stars so maybe I’m missing something).

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The Evernote Bible – The Guide to Everything Evernote, Including: Tips, Uses, and Evernote Essentials

In early February I started using Evernote. I was completely lost in how the program worked so I found this eBook available via Amazon. As a prime member I could borrow it for free. If you use or want to use Evernote, I highly recommend it. It’s a simple read and had a ton of really great information to get you started. I use Evernote daily and love the program, now that I know how to use it.

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Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography

After the bombs earlier in February, I wanted a sure thing. Apparently my version of a sure thing is Rob Lowe a biography. I remember really enjoying the interview he did with Oprah when this book came out, so when I saw this at the library bookstore for $2, it was an easy choice. He shares some pretty hilarious stories, and since he grew up with some big Hollywood names, it was interesting from start to finish. I especially liked how he wrote some of the chapters because he’d wait till the end to reveal the Hollywood name. My jaw dropped a few times and I can honestly say I like him more after reading the book.

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Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel

Favorite book of the month! The basic storyline is that a women experiences a head injury that leads to short term memory loss. She forgets everything when she falls asleep. If you saw 50 first dates…it’s kind of the same thing. However, this is much darker and has some CRAZY, unexpected turns. I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t say much more, but I highly recommend this one. I also heard it’s being turned into a movie with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. I can’t wait!

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White Truffles in Winter: A Novel

If you like beautiful stories that involve food, then you’ll probably like this. I found it to be a really beautiful story (in a tragic kind of way), but it was LONG and moved a little too slow for me. I borrowed this from the library, not sure I would have paid money for it.

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Zen 24/7: All Zen, All the Time

I’ve actually owned this book for a long time and flip through it from time to time. The book uses simple everyday things to highlight Zen lessons. Each topic is only about a page long so it’s a super easy and fast read. If you have any interest in finding peace or ‘Zen’ in your everyday life, this is an interesting read. If nothing else, it helps point out simple ways to find Zen in everyday moments/actions.

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Now You See Her

I always seem to go back to James Patterson when I want an easy novel to read. His short chapters mean the story moves very quickly. It’s a guaranteed to be entertaining, and I always enjoy a murder mystery with a little humor thrown in for good measure. This book felt a little formulaic, but kept my interest.

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Slim for Life: My Insider Secrets to Simple, Fast, and Lasting Weight Loss

A few months back I was introduced to Jillian’s iTunes podcast. I was never a huge fan of hers on Biggest Loser, I’ve always been a Bob fan, but the podcast changed my mind. She’s a very different person on the podcast, than she is on the show. I agree with a lot of her healthy living message so I picked up her newest book on pre-order. I’ve read a few of her books, and aside from Unlimited , this is my favorite. It’s comprised of tips which are easy to read and reference. She also formats it in a ‘magazine quiz’ kind of way. Meaning that you can assign points to the tips you choose to live by and at the end she gives you the ‘quiz results’. I’m not explaining this very well. I didn’t do the quiz, but still found it extremely useful just as a reference book for living a healthy lifestyle.

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What have you been reading? Any suggestions?

 

*Note – links contained within this post are affiliate.

Mental Dumbbells – November 2012

I’m a little late in posting the Book recap for November, but so far it includes some of my favorite books, and a new favorite author. In October I discovered Michelle Moran’s book, Cleopatra’s Daughter which I LOVED! So I went in search for her other novels and found historical fiction novels for ‘The Heretic Queen’, ‘Madame Tussaud’, and ‘Nefertiti’. More on them below and she still has one other story that I’m reading this month. I’m obsessed I tell you!

 

What have you been reading?

 

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe (P.S.)

I believe I purchased this book at Target and it did not disappoint. It was so much more than I thought it would be, and incredibly inspiring. It’s the story of a country in turmoil, and a family that had to figure out a way to survive as the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan. I found the book fascinating (and at times sad/disturbing) in the description of how women, in particular, were/are forced to live. Female children being banned from school, curfews enforced, attire dictated, women beaten in the streets if so much as a wrist shows, etc. It’s certainly not something that I’m familiar with, and I found it to be a great learning opportunity for me to better understand what another country was going through. Throughout the book you are following Kamila who became the breadwinner for the family when her father and brother had to flee for their safety. She taught herself a new skill, created a business that not only provided for her family, but provided a means for other families to support themselves. It was an incredibly inspiring (and true!) story. Definitely recommend.

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From Notting Hill with Love…Actually

After the above book, I wanted something that was light and funny. I’m not sure why, but I started this book with very low expectations. However, I really enjoyed it. It’s a romantic comedy, the story of a young women who LOVES the movies. She finds herself somewhat stuck in life, and take a 1 month ‘vacation’ to house-sit at a gorgeous home in Notting Hill. She has the classic funny Rom Com pitfalls. Meets the cute neighbor, goes looking for her long-lost mother, and ends up in a love triangle. It has a sweet ending that left me smiling. If you’re familiar with films, then you’ll also enjoy the numerous movie references throughout.

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Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

So here we are back with the same author that wrote Cleopatra’s Daughter. Michelle Moran has become one of my favorite authors this past month so I won’t say too much. I don’t want to bore you as I gush about how much I LOVED all her novels. Just know that I do…LOVE LOVE LOVE them. This book was the story behind the Madame Tussaud wax museums. I had no idea there was  history to how those came about. I honestly thought they were a tourist trap, but after reading this book I want to visit one. Granted she takes some liberties with the histories to make them slightly more interesting, but this story was fascinating. The story involves Marie Antoinette and her family and how Madame Tussaud survives the Reign of Terror.

Simply fascinating.

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Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love

I had to break up the novels at some point in the month and I’m a huge fan of the blog, Young House Love, so this was a no brainer. Loved the book, great ideas and layout. Easy to read and will be a great interior reference book in my library. Easily one of my favorite decorating books/blog…enough said.

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The Heretic Queen: Heiress of Misfortune, Pharaoh’s Beloved

Another Michelle Moran novel. This one is probably my third favorite so far. I should have read Nefertiti first, since this book dealt with a relative of hers and how her actions affected this young girl. There were moments that lost me since I wasn’t familiar with Nefertiti’s story. Other than that, loved the book. It’s a detailed and interesting about how a young girl blasted by her relation to a ‘heretic’ becomes queen. Amazing historical detail, a fascinating story.

(Not the cover I have)

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Nefertiti: A Novel

Okay, last book for last month and it caught me up on the story I read previously. My least favorite of the bunch since I really ended up disliking the main character, but still a fascinating read. It’s amazing is that given the liberties the author takes, these are still stories based on real people. The author includes a section at the end of the book, to outline the fiction vs truth of the novel which I really appreciate. There are obviously things they say and do that we cannot know, but she does an amazing job putting these novels together.

For anyone interested in how ‘Nefertiti’ and ‘The Heretic Queen’ connect…Nefertiti’s sister is ‘The Heretic Queens’ mother. I would recommend you read this one first if you plan to read both stories.

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*Please note that book links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links; however, all opinions are my own and all books were purchased with my own money.

Mental Dumbbells – October 2012

It has been a busy month over here. The Etsy shop opened (THANK YOU for all your kind words on the store), I finished a half marathon with my mom in San Francisco, the Fruit Butter eBook I wrote is launching on November 1st (YAY!), I’ve started a few house projects that will be posted next month, and I read 8 books!

The last few months have been slow in the reading department so I was determined to step it up this month. I cut out a lot of TV watching to make more time for reading and it was well worth it. I haven’t missed a single second of housewife drama or SVU reruns. I’ve even considering cancelling my cable again. When I was living in the apartment I had cut out cable for several years to save money, and found that I didn’t really miss it. I used Netflix and Hulu to watch all my favorites. However, when I moved into my new home, I got a great deal on a cable package, so I splurged and signed up. Now that the deal is over, I may give it up, it’s just so expensive.

Then I’d have more time to read…there were lots of good ones this month.

 

The Girl Who Swam to Atlantis

I scored this book for free through the kindle store and was pleasantly surprised. It was the story of a young girl’s summer vacation in 1957. Throughout the summer she learns to swim in an effort to gain her fathers attention/approval; but ends up finding a friend and her own inner strength, as well as the secret of where her mother disappeared to. I liked the story and it wasn’t a difficult read, though it didn’t suck me in the way others did this month. Each time I put it down, it took me a few pages to get back into the story.

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Wild (From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail)

I can’t remember where or when I purchased this book, but I had seen several articles with Cheryl and was intrigued. I have a a soft spot for biographies, so it’s probably not a surprise that I really liked this book. I enjoyed her writing style; she seems like a fun person to sit and chat with. I can also, somewhat, relate to her search for something more in her life. I thought the story was inspiring as I’ve often dreamed of taking off on an adventure at various points in my life. Who knows, maybe I will one day. Although it won’t be the PCT…I’m not that badass.

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A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy

I read Elie Wiesel’s book a few years back and was very moved by it. So much so, that it still sits on my shelf. Thomas wrote a great book and I would recommend it to everyone. It’s such an amazing personal account from a man who lived through the Holocaust and not only survived, but went on to do some incredible things with his life. It doesn’t just focus on his childhood experiences in Auschwitz, but also what came immediately after and later in life as he grew up. Very inspiring.

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Shut Out

Cheesy clearance book I bought for $1 at the library bookstore. I needed something light after the last few books. This book is about a group of high school students, dating the school Jocks. To stop a rivalry between the Soccer and Football team, the girls decide to go on a sex strike. There is a sweet love story that hides in the book…but I was more bothered that I was reading about high school age girls going on a  sex strike. I think I would have liked the story a little more if the setting had been college or twenty-something’s.

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The Total Money Makeover Workbook

As a single gal, I think it’s a very important for me to have solid finances. This concern multiplied when I bought a house. I don’t have a second income to rely on if I lose my job, and I can’t settle with living paycheck to paycheck anymore. I need an emergency fund to cover things like my broken AC, the washer I had to replace, or the garbage disposal that randomly died earlier this month. It’s not just me that I have to think about too, I have my pup. I watched my parents pay a lot of money for unexpected surgeries for their dogs, and that scared me. The way things were, I couldn’t afford to do the same for my pup if it became necessary. It would break my heart if I couldn’t help him, simply because I didn’t have the money.  Since I’ve recently opened the shop, I also needed to start getting my business finances in order. So I picked up two ‘money’ books this month. My favorite financial author is David Bach, I’ve actually read all his books so I have a good background on the topic. However, I think you can always learn something more, so I picked up the Dave Ramsey workbook.

I wanted to buy the Total Money Makeover book, but it was out of stock at BN which is why I bought the workbook. First let me say that I did learn quite a bit from the workbook. I now have a detailed budget set up, have a new debt plan in place, and I’m even following some of his budget tips. However, I wish I had waited and bought the book as opposed to the workbook. There were lots of little quizzes and word play activities that felt childish. I get what he was doing, trying to switch on the light bulb over people’s head, but I think I would have personally benefited more from the book. 

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The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke

This is the second ‘money’ book I picked up this month. I bought this book primarily because it offered something different. A lot of the advice in this book would counter what you find in other financial books, but she wrote this for a specific demographic and I appreciate that. While I’m not broke, I am young…and sometimes rather fabulous. I’m also trying to change my career which was discussed at length in regards to finances, as was buying a car (which I’ll need to do in the next year or so). It did touch on retirement but not as much as other books. It was written in a question/answer format which was very easy to read and reference.

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Cleopatra’s Daughter: A Novel

LOVED LOVED LOVED this book. It’s fairly long, around 430 pages and I read it in one afternoon, it was that good. I could not put it down. I read while cooking, eating, walking, when I should have been working, etc. It’s a historical fiction novel that chronicles the life of Cleopatra and Marc Antony’s children, particularly their twins, Selene and Alexander. The author does take some liberties with the story for the benefit of the reader, which she explain at length in the end. However, it was mostly factual and beautifully written. I have been a fan of Greek Mythology and Roman History since I was in high school, but I think the way it was written would be entertaining to those that are just looking for a good story. Did I tell you that I LOVED this book? Yeah.

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The Well and the Mine

I bought this book at Costco thinking that it was a mystery book. In part it was, but there was so much more to the story that I didn’t expect. It follows a family living in a coal mining town in the 1930s. The story is written chronologically, but told through the eyes of each character. For example the little girl, Tess, tells you about what they were doing at school, then her sister picks up the story from her viewpoint as they make their way back home. I’m probably not explaining that well, but it was a very interesting way to tell each characters personal story while progressing through the bigger family story. This was another book that I really enjoyed, because it was fascinating to hear about a world that I know so little about.

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*The book links in the post are affiliate, but I was not provided with any of these books to review. All the opinions are mine and I paid for each book out of my own pocket.

Mental Dumbbells – September 2012

This was another month light on pleasure reading. Like last month, I’ve been scouring small business and web design books and I think it will be better to create a separate post in the future of all those books. When I pull those from the list, I finished 2 books this past month.

I’ve missed reading random fiction lately, so I hope to pick that back up in October.

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Sometimes when I’m wandering aimlessly around Barnes & Nobel, I find myself in the high school reading list aisle. I keep wanting to read more of the classics and inexpensive copies are usually set out right around the start of the school year. I’m not sure if this specific book is considered a classic, but I was surprised that it was originally published in 1999 and I had NEVER heard of it.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s the life story of a boy transitioning into high school as told in a series of letters from the boy to an unnamed person. He’s unedited, funny, and genuine. I found him endearing and in his own way, an enlightened old soul.

I believe this book just came out as a movie this past month. I’m not sure how they would do that given the writing style, so I may have to check it out.

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Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community

As a long time fan of the blog, Oh Joy, as well as Joy’s design work, this was a no brainer. I snapped it up as soon as it was available. There is a TON of information in this book. I’ve been managing various blogs for the past 4 years so I’ve read a lot of blogging books. This book contained much of the traditional info, but I still found plenty of new to me stuff making it well worth it. I loved reading the interviews the most since there’s always something new to learn from other successful bloggers and business owners.

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What have you been reading lately?

 

 

*Book links are affiliate, but I was not provided with these books or paid to share my opinion.

Mental Dumbbells – August 2012

Truth be told I read a lot of books this month, but I’m not going to share them all right now. I’m currently working on starting my own business, and redesigning the CMD website, both of which are new ventures to me. So in turn, I’ve been reading dozens of books about WordPress, web design, and small businesses. I think it will probably be a good idea to do a separate post with my thoughts on those books at a later date.

When I take those out of the mix, I finished 3 books this month. 

 

Turn to Me (Kathleen Turner Series)

Last month I read the first book of this series, No Turning Back. I liked the story so I followed up with the second (the third is coming out in December). The author did a good job of picking up where the first book left off. There is plenty of action right up front and the story builds on the love triangle to the point where I can’t wait to read the third book. I’m rooting for the other guy. 

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72 Hours (A Thriller)

This was a surprise winner. I borrowed it from someone else who I believe got it for free via the site I shard in this post. The premise is a man on death row tells the world that he’ll pay millions to whoever kills a specific woman. As you can imagine, everybody comes after her. It was an interesting concept for a story and well told. LOTS of action and it draws you in from page one. I think I finished this book in one afternoon.

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To Be A Runner: How Racing Up Mountains, Running with the Bulls, or Just Taking On a 5-K Makes You a Better Person (and the World a Better Place)

Running does not come easy for me, it never has. Lately the idea of running at all has been…blah, but I have a half marathon in 6 weeks so I’m trying to boost my motivation. I picked this book up on a whim while I was walking past the sports aisle at the bookstore. Overall I really liked this book. the author was entertaining and I loved some of the life lessons mixed in with his stories. It didn’t fully inspire me to get those running shoes back on, but in reality, that’s something I have to do for myself. 

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Mental Dumbbells – July 2012

It has been absolutely beautiful out lately. I captured this amazing sunset on Friday night while I was out walking my pup. He was unimpressed with my Instagraming skills, but I showed him anyway.

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On Saturday I was up early to pick up my CSA box and run some errands before heading over to my parents house to celebrate my Mom’s birthday. We went out to dinner at Outback then we went and wandered around the Wild Animal Park. She has a yearly pass which allows her and a guest free parking and entry. We had to check out little Monroe who is 1 year old and apparently enjoyed jumping on his mom’s head while we were there. Who knew little gorillas were so fun.

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Itty Bitty Bat-Eared Fox is about 6 weeks old and still living in the nursery…sooo adorable!

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We also got to see a lioness up close, which was amazing. Unfortunately my phone was dying and I couldn’t get any good pics of her.

Otherwise I’ve been working (too much), reading (not enough), and running. I’m down about 40 lbs and getting ready to run my first ‘official’ 5k in 12-ish years later this month. I say official because my standard workout these days is about 4-5 mile jog/walk so technically I’m doing a 5K all the time, but this will be the first one since 2000 that has been part of an official event.

I’ll be back this week to catch up on a few home DIY projects and this weeks CSA haul…but first let’s recap last month’s reading. This month I read 5 books which bring the 30 in 30 tally up to 20. Only 30 more to go before my birthday in May!

 

What have you guys read lately? Anything worth sharing?

 

Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)

I’ve been more than slightly obsessed with Paris since I was in high school. I took French in College and dreamed about the day that I would get to visit. I’ve had a few chances and still haven’t been which is a sad fact. It’s probably why I love these types of books. I really enjoy reading the true story of a young woman offered a chance to move from New York to Paris (for work) and her adventures along the way. Most of the adventures are all about sweets and chocolate. What could be better? If you’re visiting Paris soon, it also has a whole list of resources for the best places to enjoy delicious desserts.

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No Turning Back

This one was actually a recommendation from my mom. We both have Kindles and keep an eye on the Free Kindle Books Blog. If you use the kindle software, you should follow that blog because he posts dozens of free books a day. This book has been featured for free a few times. In my opinion, this story was incredibly similar to the Shades of Grey series, except this had far less sex. If you enjoyed the story hidden in between the sex scenes in the Grey series, then I would expect you would like this too. It has a great mix of humor and action.

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The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors and Readers, and Set Your Novel Up For Success

Yet another book about writing. Any inspired writer wants to know how to get their manuscript noticed by Agents/Editors. This outlined exactly what should be included and the first 50 pages and gave me lots of inspiration that I hadn’t seen in other books. The author does talk about his other books a few times (which gets a little annoying), but otherwise it’s been a great resource direct from the source.

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Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades, Book 2)

Fifty Shades Freed: Book Three of the Fifty Shades Trilogy

So apparently you can’t just read just one of these books. However, since I was a little torn after the first one, I waited to hear from others if these were any good, then borrowed the books.  I liked the second book the best since there was much more story and action (although not at all lacking on the steamy scenes). By the third book the sex scenes were getting boring since they were busier than rabbits. However, I loved the ending of the trilogy.

There is an epilogue for the last book that provides a few extra chapters where you get to learn more about Christian.  The very last one tells you of the couple’s first meeting from Christian’s point of view. I really hated where this chapter was placed in the trilogy. I loved Christian at the end of the 3rd book, but then reading about that first meeting was a reminder about how much of an ASS he was. I didn’t need to end the trilogy with that image of him in my head. Just a warning if you haven’t read it yet.

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Mental Dumbbells – June 2012

It’s time to play catch-up now that I have a few days off. Last minute I decided to take Thu/Fri off of work since the 4th is an office holiday. That gives me 5 days off in a row, the longest vacation I’ve had since Thanksgiving. I can’t tell you how much I need some time to decompress. Wednesday was a nice lazy day that involved some good food, errands, and a glorious 2 hour nap. I hope to make some progress on the Foyer and Spare Bedroom over the next few days, not to mention a fun weekend of shopping and a Baseball game.

First up is June’s reading recap. Last month I finished 7 books which brings the 30 in 30 count to 15 done, and 35 to go. 

 

Food Revolution, The: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World

LOVED this book. In fact the entire time I was reading it, I kept thinking how great this would have been as a textbook in high school health class to give kids a basis in healthy eating. There is a strong push in the book to stop eating meat, but that’s not the only message. I still eat meat; although it very rare that I eat red meat and I try to only purchase organic/cage free chicken and eggs. I was incredibly impressed that the son of the Baskin Robbins founder wrote this book and that it contained so much great information on living a healthy lifestyle.I took away a lot of great information from this book and would recommend it to EVERYONE.

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On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft

This book was recommended to me in my last writing class and it has quickly become one of my favorite writing books of all time. In fact, even if you’re not a writer, if you like Stephen King, you’ll enjoy this book. It’s a good blend of advice and memoir, as he offers tips throughout the book as he tells you his life story.

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The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future

I am very intrigued by those that are self employed, mostly because I hope to be working for myself someday soon. If I recall correctly, Tim Ferris recommended this via Twitter, and since I’m a fan of his, I wanted to check this out as well. This book gave me some detailed ideas on how to start a profitable venture, as well as real world case studies. It offered encouragement to follow a dream and turn it into a living, which is something I needed right now. It was an easy read that I’ll keep around as a reference book going forward as I embark on my own startup.

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Cure

I have been a fan of Robin Cook for a long time, he’s my FAVORITE medical thriller writer. I also love his series on Jack Stapleton and Laurie Montgomery. This was no exception and I really enjoyed the book. Jack and Laurie work in the medical examiner office and are recently married. Other Cook books go back to before they met, so I’ve been following them for a while. In this story, Laurie is coming back to work after an extended maternity leave and ends up in the middle of a murder/kidnapping. Classic Cook, good fiction if you like Medical Thrillers.

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Don’t Blink

Another favorite writer and a good story. I like that Patterson collaborates with other writers, it gives the story a fresh edge. This one involved a mob lawyer murder, a sports star hiding a secret, and a journalist. Classic for Patterson, it had short, action packed chapters which made it an easy read. Warning: If the title and info graphic doesn’t give you a clue, there is some gruesome stuff about eyeballs…it caught me off guard and grossed me out, so I thought I’d let you know.

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Tick Tock (Michael Bennett)

I borrowed a few Patterson books from my mom so he’ll likely be a reoccurring theme. The same structure holds true for this one, short & action packed chapters. I think it took me only a day to zip through this one as well. This one followed, new to me series star, Michael Bennett. While it was gruesome (it is a murder mystery after all), it also involved a great storyline about him and his kids (he has a bunch of them – adopted). I would read the whole Bennett series just to hear about their family. I like this book better than ‘Don’t Blink’ since the main character reminded me of Alex Cross.

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Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture

I didn’t actually plan to finish this book in June since I bought it on the 30th; however, I was hooked from the first page. It was an easy/fun read that I finished in one day. I never used to like the Housewives (still don’t for the most part), but I LOVED how Andy asked the tough questions at the reunions. I started watching the seasons so I would understand what was happening in the reunions. Later I learned he was also a VP at Bravo (I thought he was just an on air personality) and I was intrigued. I love reading biographies in general and this was no exception.

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*Disclaimer: All the links are affiliate, but all opinions are my own. I was not comped with any of these books.

Mental Dumbbells – May 2012

Wow, looking back I read A LOT this month. I suppose setting the goal of finishing 50 books in the next year was a strong motivation to read 8 books this month. However, in doing so, I have realized how much I’ve missed reading over the past few years. Now, instead of watching TV, I find myself curled up on the couch with a book. I’m loving every second of it.

 

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

Since I’m on my own ‘Happiness Project’ of sorts this was an easy buy. I liked following Gretchen’s progress throughout her year, and she had some goals that I hadn’t even thought of. Easy, and fun read for anyone that is looking for motivation to make a few changes in their life.

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Imagine: How Creativity Works

I was feeling a little lacking in the creative department early this month so I picked this up on a whim while browsing Target. It was an interesting read that goes into the neuro-science of creativity (without being as boring as it sounds).

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The Imperfectionists: A Novel (Random House Reader’s Circle)

I think I need to read this book again to really get everything out of it. I honestly didn’t get it for the first half, but once I figured out that it was telling the story of a newspaper based in Rome from start up to closing through the eyes of everyone involved, it was actually quite brilliant. Very well written. It reminded me of a puzzle that I want to go back and do all over again.

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Water for Elephants: A Novel

This one had been on my kindle for a long time. I bought it when it was on some sort of super sale and just never got around to reading it. I love the LOVE story…but I hated the animal cruelty.  I almost put it down a few times because some of the animal stuff is just awful, probably true, but awful. Is the movie as graphic as the book for the animals? I haven’t seen it yet, and I’m just not sure I could handle it. [Although I did imagine Rob Pattison as the ‘hero’ throughout, so that wasn’t too bad a visual].

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The Skinny Rules: The Simple, Nonnegotiable Principles for Getting to Thin

LOVED this book. I probably have 15 different ‘diet’ books on my bookshelves, but this one actually made sense for me. I’ve been following the eating plan now for about a week and I’ve lost 10 pounds so far. Yes, it’s mostly water weight, but it’s still 10lbs. The rules are easy to understand (not necessarily easy to follow), but outline a healthy eating, weight loss plan that works for me. I can also see building on this once in maintenance mode and using it as life long healthy lifestyle.

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Enough Already!: Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You

Eh, not my favorite book this month. Probably because I’ve heard most of it before. I suppose it’s one of those books that you need to read at the right time, because it just didn’t sink in for me this month. However, I did like the format and will keep it so that I can reference the different sections (i.e relationships, work, family, money, etc.) as I need them in the future. 

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Mud, Sweat, and Tears: The Autobiography

Also LOVED this book. I’m a big Bear Grylls fan so I didn’t even think twice when I saw it at Barns & Nobel. I finished it in a few days and enjoyed the whole story. He shares bits from his life from childhood to now, and the writing is similar to how he talks on his TV shows which I found endearing. He’s funny and incredibly honest throughout. Definitely recommend if you’re a fan…or if you just want to hear amazing stories of someone that has climbed Everest, and survived SAS training. 

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Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy

Ugh…I don’t know what to say about this book. I’m sort of sorry I spent money on it out of sheer curiosity. Alyssa Milano’s tweet probably sums it up best…

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Ok, let me try my recap…

Little miss innocently ignorant, meets gorgeous arrogant asshat…they have lots of hot (mostly kinky) sex.

I’m sorry but even though I kind of like the arrogant asshat in the end (what is wrong with me!), the writing in this book sucks. I almost put it down after chapter 2 because I was so annoyed by the bad editing…and I hadn’t even gotten to any of the ‘juicy’ parts yet. There’s a really interesting love story in there, if you can get past the porn. I can’t bring myself to buy the second book since I’m still partially pissed that I spent money on this one. Has anyone read the 2nd book? Is it worth it?

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What are you reading right now?

Mental Dumbbells – April 2012

This year is flying by, I can’t believe we’re already done with April! Reading for April started out pretty slow, then I finally decided to crack open The Hunger Games trilogy and I finished all three books in three days.

But first I started with…

Unlimited: How to Build an Exceptional Life – Jillian Michaels

I read this book at the start of the month, right after I finished the four agreements. While they are not related, I thought they were great to read together. Overall I really loved this book and I plan to hold onto it for future reference. It wasn’t a diet book, like one would expect when you see Jillian, but instead was a book about potential. It had a ton of great tips on how to change my mindset on certain experiences in life and how to move forward. It also contained exercises that I find myself using even a month later. I particularly enjoyed the goal setting, pyramid exercise. I highly recommend this book.

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ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income

I think I’ve been very honest about the fact that I’ve been trying to come up with ways to bring in some extra money while I try to get out of my current work situation. I haven’t monetize the blog so far, with the exception of adding Amazon affiliate links to some items. However, I do my research and you can’t get much better than Problogger if you are a blogger. Another great resource book that I expect to reference for as long as I continue to blog. The nice thing is that it isn’t written like an affiliate marketing ad as some blogging books are, this one was honest and had great examples.

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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I started school this month and this was one of the recommended books. While it’s particularly helpful for anyone that enjoys writing, it was also an entertaining read. I think my favorite part was about giving yourself permission to write shitty first drafts. All of a sudden I was able to silence that inner critic and just get my thoughts on paper. Writing (even for the blog) became much easier after understanding that concept.

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The Hunger Games

Ok, so I may be one of the last people on earth to finally read this book. I was also a little slow on reading the Twilight series. I actually bought this months ago since it was super cheap online. Verdict: I really liked the first book. It was interesting and kept my interest throughout. Although, are these seriously young adult books? I guess times have changed. I thought this book was a lot violent for young adults until I read the last book in the series. Compared to Mockingjay, this really wasn’t all that bad if you don’t mind the kids killing kids thing. (insert sarcastic face here) I still haven’t seen the movie yet, but I intend to.  I give Suzanne Collins a lot of credit, she came up with an incredibly novel idea.

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Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)

I liked this book a little less than the first one; however, I like that they continued with another Hunger Games (I feel a little disturbed saying that). Since the hunger games finished in the first book I was a little worried about this story getting boring. At the same time, the whole second round of hunger games was disturbing. However, I can’t deny that I purchased this on my kindle within minutes of finishing the first book since I wanted to keep reading.

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Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)

My least favorite in the series, although I did like the very ending (which I’ll keep a secret). I kept wanting to yell at the characters in this book, scream some sort of sanity through the pages. There was a lot of gore, and it just wasn’t as exciting as the others, in my opinion. I’ve read books about war, the best part of this series was the dynamic of the Hunger Games since that was a new concept so I was a little disappointed in this last book. However, I am looking forward to the movie simply because I just don’t see how they’ll get away with PG-13.

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What have you guys been reading? Any suggestions?