Monday, February 20, 2012

January Book Review: Memoirs of a Geisha

As I started thinking about my goals for 2012 (not resolutions, mind you) I decided that I wanted to try to read 12 new books throughout the a month.  I got this idea from my dear friend and realized that now that I am out of school, I have no reason not to read on a regular basis.  The great perk to this though is that I get to choose what I want to read rather than a professor assigning it to me.  Joy!  My plan is to switch each month between a book for enjoyment/entertainment/fun and a book for growth/learning/education.

I got started a little late in January and therefore the reading of this book bled into February a little bit, but that's fine because I feel confident that I'll catch up this month.  To be completely honest, I started this book for the first time back in July when I was visiting family in California.  I had a month off of summer classes and was just flying through books and asked my sister-in-law for some suggestions while I was out there for a week.  I read her first and second suggestion and then purchased her third suggestion, Memoirs of a Geisha.
I actually had this book in hard copy at home (forgot about it..oops!) and had attempted to read it years before when the movie came out, but I never really committed to it.  It is lengthy and you definitely do have to commit to it.  I believe this was my mistake several years ago and in July when I tried and failed to start the book.  I typically am adamant about not watching movies before I read the book, but I did watch it years ago when it came out and only remember that I really liked it, but could not remember the details.  I am realizing that this is the case for me on many things....I remember liking/disliking something but don't remember why...that really bothers me.

Anyway, I started AND FINISHED this book and really enjoyed it.  I absolutely love books where it is obvious that authors have extensively studied cultures and use this to educate their readers about the culture while telling a story.  I get sucked into the way of life of the character and immediately make comparisons and contrasts to my own life.  I think I enjoy it in the same way that I fall in love with other cultures whenever travel to another country.  I am often mesmerized by it all and am left researching the culture as much as possible on my own time because I just want to learn more about the language, customs, taboo items, and viewpoints.  This book was one of those books.  I cannot say that I know much about the Japanese culture and I have an especially limited knowledge of geisha, but this book had me diving in to learn more and more about this intriguing, yet sad (in my opinion) lifestyle.

I don't want to go into the details of the story because I'm pretty sure that you could read the back of the book cover and gain the same knowledge that you would get from me.  However, here are a few of the key thoughts I took away from the story as I was reading:

  • The character is extremely reflective.  It is great to live the story through the eyes of the character and see things as she sees them.  At times, she is a young girl and her outlook is that of a young girl's.  You have to piece some of the details together to understand what she is speaking of rather than her just coming right out and saying it.  Also, in many of her reflections, she correlates them to something within her culture which allowed me to better understand the feelings and emotions tied to her culture.
  • This book is centered around a goal that the character has made for her life.  It reminded me how important goals are to our lives and I was constantly amazed at the character's persistence and patience in reaching her goal when I so often am ready to give up or throw in the towel after just a few months of trial or waiting.  
  • We have been studying the effect of "Letting Go" in our series at church and we have focused on how refusing to forgive can be unhealthy for us psychologically as well as physically.  I'm sure it was because it was fresh on my mind, but there were more than one incidents within this book where being unwilling to forgive or a need for revenge was the downfall of a character.  I recognize that the book is fictional, but how often do we see this in our own lives?  When we refuse to forgive, we are choosing to let that other person always have a hand within our lives.  We are letting someone else effect everything we do and in turn, we are hurting ourselves more than we are hurting them.  Such a great reminder of how dangerous it can be when we choose not to forgive or let go. 

Ok, my book reviews won't all be this long, but it was fun to reflect back on the book that I spent an entire month reading.  Next up, for the month of February: The Fred Factor.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Week Around Our Table

Whenever I tell someone that we've gone Paleo, one of the comments early on in the conversation is "Well, what in the world DO you eat?"  Are you kidding?  We eat a TON of stuff!  And, might I add, we eat good-sized portions.  I eat until I'm full, but that doesn't mean I gorge myself.  Without all of the fillers that I was used to, I have become extremely aware of my body and what it is telling me.  When I am full, I know it.

OK, that was a side tangent, but the purpose of this blog is to copy what I found on Everyday Paleo when I was first starting out.  Seeing all the great stuff she made in a week made me understand how delicious and attainable this lifestyle truly was.  If it does it for you, great!, but if not you can hopefully enjoy a few of the recipes whether you are Paleo or not.

Note:  We eat breakfast and dinner together everyday, but our lunch is usually leftovers from the day before.

Breakfast:  Scrambled eggs with local eggs, local pork sausage, paleo grits from my Paleo Comfort Foods cookbook (awesome gift from my bro/sis-in-law), and a nice cup of black coffee

Lunch & Dinner:   Creamy Cabbage & Double Smoked Bacon Soup made with local pork and bacon.  This was so good that we ate it for both meals.  You HAVE to put the spicy brown mustard on it.  Like Oktoberfest in a bowl!


Breakfast: Sweet Potato Latkes (with local eggs & bacon), grilled bananas, avocado, and a cup of black coffee

Lunch:  We had lunch at my parents house.  My mom has gone Paleo (woo-hoo!) so we had some awesome ribeye steaks, roasted vegetables, and a great salad.  Yum!

Dinner:  Paleo Lasagna made with local beef and pork.  This makes SO much.  We ate on it all week which comes in handy when your husband likes to eat 5-6 meals a day!


Breakfast:  Sweet Potato Hash made with leftover sweet potatoes and local sausage

Lunch: Leftover "lasagna"

Dinner:  Pizza Soup made with local sausage, Applegate pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, and black olives.  Don't add as much liquid as they suggest if you like your soup chunkier/heartier.


Breakfast:  Sweet Potato Hash again (I was really feeling this dish this week!), unsweetened applesauce with cinnamon added, avocado, peppermint tea

Lunch: Leftover Pizza Soup

Dinner: Spiced Chicken with Pineapples and Peaches and broccoli (forgot to get a picture of it at dinner)


Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with local eggs, local bacon, unsweetened applesauce with cinnamon added, Earl Grey tea

Lunch: Leftover Spiced Chicken

Dinner:  Paleo Fried Chicken and Collard Greens (both from my Paleo Comfort Foods cookbook) and Fried Apples


Breakfast:  Paleo Oatmeal, local sausage patties, avocado, Earl Grey tea

Lunch:  Leftover fried chicken, greens, and apples

Dinner: Beef Goulash made with local beef and chocked full of veggies


Breakfast:  Bacon, scrambled eggs, banana...lame, I know, but I was in a hurry

Lunch: Leftover Goulash

Dinner:  Made a stir fry with venison, onions, and green peppers (made it with cauliflower rice last week and it was so good!), roasted sweet potatoes, some mango slices, and a glass of wine.  

Whole30 January was over so I enjoyed a nice glass of wine and also made a little treat for our small group that night...Raw Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites  Certainly a treat and not something I'd eat every night, but what a great occasion to share them with friends.  Good thing we shared too because I could have eaten them all just by myself!

So, there you go!  That's a glimpse into a week of our life.  I will say, this past week didn't have nearly as many veggies as we usually eat.  I love to get veggies in any chance we can and you'll see them mixed in a lot of stuff, but I usually like to have more than I had this past week.  

Life...As I Know It

Shoo! Anybody out there still? I can't say I wouldn't blame anyone for taking me off of their Reader. Gotta update every once in a while, right?

Alright, so here I am again. Completely inspired by my friends who update on a regular basis so I actually know what's going on with their lives. Sorry. I can't promise I'll be back to what I use to do, but I figured updating more often than every 6 months would be a step in the right direction!

There's been a few events that have happened since I last updated that have kept me a bit busy. Some of these events happened before my last update, but I never got around to blogging them. I realize EVERYONE is busy, that's my I give major kudos to all of my friends who are able to do this on a more regular basis. So, those events...took a trip out to California to see our niece, Noa, got a attend a training on classroom Disney (tough life, right?), we gained another beautiful niece, Avery, I won Teacher of the Year (yay!), started going to a new church, the husband started (and is getting ready to finish) paramedic school, I went into full drive with school and graduated with my Masters (woo-hoo!), and I celebrated my 7th year of marriage (hard to believe).

Didn't know where to start back into things so I'm going to continue on from my previous post and give you a little more about our switch to Paleo. I still get questions all the time about it, so I'm going to share some personal effects it has had for our life.

First change we made was getting rid of our microwave. WHAT?!?! I know, I know, why would you get rid of that? We weren't using it when we eat everything fresh and let me tell ya, that sucker was taking up a lot of space on our countertop. Look at life without it...Huge shift in our lifestyle change was getting rid of all things non-Paleo from our cabinets and refrigerator. You all know I love to bake so that was A LOT of stuff. Here is the cleaned out spice cabinet in our house....

That shortening shouldn't be in there, but everything else is Paleo-friendly.

Now, I had a hard time throwing it all out since a lot of it was brand new and I was worried that we may change our mind and then I'd have to go back and buy all of these flours and supplies again. I stuffed them all up in the top two shelves of my cabinets (the tea is Paleo-friendly) but I can honestly say I've only had to get something down 2 times and that was when I pulled out the rice to put in a bowl to dry out the husband's iPod when I washed it. Oh wait, did I say 2 times...that would be because I also washed his cell phone. Oops! We are all about cleanliness here....or just not checking our pockets.

Since then, we have stayed pretty strict on Paleo and have not had many of the side effects that many get from going Whole30 but I believe that's partly from going gluten free for some time initially. Anyway, I wanted to share the results of going Paleo/Whole30/Raw...whatever you want to call it. I don't have a bunch of great pictures mainly because I didn't want to capture my weight gain over the years, but let's take a look at the changes.

This is me at the heaviest that I weighed in the summer of 2009. I really got myself to a point of being apathetic. In my head, I had "tried everything" and eventually just decided that God had made me this way and I didn't need to feel unhappy so I should just quit trying to fight and enjoy life.

At the end of summer 2010, I gave up gluten and started working out my husband training me.  I did end up losing a little over 20 lbs over a year's time which was so exciting, but I could not get under a certain weight hurdle.  I hit the wall and I hit it hard.  That spring, gluten started creeping back into my life slowly and things got busy so the gym was low on my priority list.  I ended up gaining about 10 lbs of my original weight back.

So, this past summer, we switched to a  Paleo lifestyle, as I have already described, started making the gym a regularly occurring event (2-3 times a week), and started making sleep a priority (6 hours crucial, 8 hours preferred).

Flash forward 6 months and I have lost those 10 lbs again and have kept going an extra 20+ lbs before my graduation.  These pictures were taken in December and I've actually lost an addition 9 lbs since then (5 lbs thanks to Whole30 January).  So, if you're keeping track, that's 53 lbs. since those Summer 2009 pictures.

First off, I look back and am extremely grateful that I have a husband who loved me regardless.  He still saw me as beautiful everyday and always let me how much he loved me.  I am so thankful for our friends, the Cracrafts, that showed us how Paleo fits for us.  I am an avid "foodie" and my whole view of food has grown and matured since I've started using food primarily as fuel.  The husband and I say all the time, "Man, we eat REALLY good!"  Seriously, finding enough to eat is not a problem (blog to come).

Finally, I am so thankful that I didn't settle with the thoughts that this was all God had in store for me...a terrible metabolism where I was just going to have to deal with the cards I was dealt in life.  I am not saying that I could not be happy without the weight loss, but there was a tugging after a while that I was personally using that excuse for me to eat what I wanted and not to give God the glory for who He made me.  I got my life in order and God has been able to bless me tremendously since then...extra energy, a strengthened marriage, a renewed appreciation for life, and a renewed appreciation for Him.