Book Corner: In the Garden of Beasts

I am sure I’ve mentioned it before but I absolutely love to read. My goodreads challenge is to read 46 books, one more than last year. I am currently up to 31  or 67% finished. Goodreads tells me I am 10 books ahead of schedule. I have really tried to give myself time to read this year. I would like to try to review a few of those I’ve read, either this year or even in the past.

I want to start with “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin” by Erik Larson.

larson - beasts

Photo from Amazon

This was the second book I read by Larson and I quite enjoyed both books. Larson tends to give a lot of detail, so much so that you feel like you are there. Larson uses a lot of personal letters and diaries so you feel like you know these people.

Both books I read by Larson are non-fiction, which I get is not for everyone. If you are interested in history I would recommend looking into Larson’s work.

In the Garden of Beasts takes place in pre-WWII Germany, specifically 1933. I have read several books on this period but this book contained a lot of information and insight I don’t recall reading before. It really showed how Hitler and Nazi Germany came to be and how many were blind, or chose not to see, what was really going on.

The book focuses on the family of William Dodd, the new American ambassador who has been sent only to collect the debt Germany owes. Dodd was a professor and is a tad out-of-place in the embassy. He is an outsider and never really fits in.

Early on few see what Hitler is really capable of. Dodd even thinks he can talk to Hitler and show him the error of his way. Dodd stumbles through his duties and social norms of being an ambassador. He is smart but in over his head. Eventually he comes to see what Hitler really is but no one wants to hear it.

A parallel story throughout is that of Dodd’s daughter. She is a wild child, the party girl of her day. Before Germany she married and divorced in secret. She loved the German nationalism, at first. She dated Nazis and Russian communists. She was young and naive. She was having a ball and in love with life. Eventually she see the horrors up close and becomes appalled.

Overall this is an excellent book. I would recommend it to anyone but especially those interested in the WWII era. You see the horror unfold and wonder how it happened under the world’s nose. No one wanted to see it. No one wanted to believe this evil was happening because no one wanted another world war.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. I don’t often give out 5’s so this is a pretty big honor in my world. I know this is not a long, in-depth review but I am not a professional and just wanted to get a few thoughts out.


New Rules of Lifting and Other Random Fitness Thoughts

I am currently reading The New Rules of Lifting for Women because I am hoping to implement the program when I finish my current one. I hope to start this sometime in August.

You can purchase the book through amazon (linked above – photo from amazon)

I feel I am learning a lot. Or maybe re-learning. I first started weights in high school and have learned a lot over the years.

Here is something I learned and found interesting:

Your body digests warm starches faster than cold ones. So cold pizza provides slower and steadier supply of energy than warm.

I did not know that and I guess it’s good I like cold, leftover pizza!

Also, many recipes in the book sound tasty, have a decent amount of calorie and of course tons of protein. I am always looking for ways to increase my protein. My macro goal is currently 45/30/25 but I hope to move closer to 40/30/30. I struggle to hit 25% protein some days. It is a slow process but I will get there.

I will be sure to post some pictures of the recipes I try. I am hoping to get a Foldio from photojojo to aid in taking even better food photos.

I may have to modify some of the lifts from NROLFW routine because I only have dumbbells. I am just getting to the section about the actual routine so I will know more shortly. I do plan to eventually have a power rack and bar/plates but it takes money. I have also debated joining a gym. It seems like an unnecessary expense for now.

I also need to decide on my running. I love running and like training for events but something is holding me back. I can’t figure out what. I keep blaming the heat. I can walk in it for about 15 minutes but it just gets too hot.

Half or full marathons require summer training. I just can’t bring myself to do it. I have a few shorter races I want to do in December through March. I may focus on training for these distances come fall. I would like to increase my speed. I didn’t do as well in these last winter as I would have liked.

I also have thought about taking ballet and jazz again. I enjoy and miss dance. Ballet Arizona offers adult classes; I just need to by the passes and start going.

I also want to increase my yoga and maybe start going to a studio. The only problem is there is only one studio near me and it is only a Bikram studio. I have no issues with Bikram but I’d like to do a variety. I may buy the Bikram groupon next time it comes up, just to have some classes to go to.

I was going to start going to a woman’s boxing class. I had a groupon and finally had the courage to go. Last night I put on my gear and drove about 20 minutes for this class. I get there and there is not a lot of cars in the lot but I see some women. I think they must be coming for the class. I walk in and it’s dark and three guys are standing near the door like they are about to leave. I ask about the class and they tell me the class isn’t done on Friday nights but I can come back in the morning. Uh, I have plans Saturday morning. I planned around this Friday night class, which apparently doesn’t exist.

I basically called them out. I told them their website isn’t specific so I had asked for clarification. I was told the times were for Monday – Saturday. To me that means the three class times listed are available every day they are open. This is why I usually don’t do business with places who can’t even bother to give good information online. I even checked their facebook page (which they haven’t updated/posted to in 6 months) and the time says “always open” Uh, no, you are not.

So needless to say Sonny’s Boxing Gym in Goodyear has lost my business. I was planning to continue going after the groupon, if they classes were good. Now I am not even going and we are going to fight Groupon to get a refund since we were lied to about their hours. So frustrating. There is limited fitness places near where I live. Apparently no one wants to be fit in this area…

I am seriously thinking of opening some kind of studio to fill this gap. It is ridiculous. The college area has a ton, as do the richer areas. You don’t think us middle class folks want to work out? I guess in the mean time I will just continue to work out at home and adding to my collection of gear.

What do you do for exercise? What do you want to try? What are some of your favorite books on fitness?

10 Things I Love

Continuing on with my theme lately, here are 10 things I love:

1. sunrises and sunsets – the colors are usually just amazing. I much prefer sunsets because sunrises usually occur really, really, really early. Although winter time I am usually on my way to work.

2. the ocean – there is just something so peaceful about it

3. fruit – especially berries. I could eat berries all day. I have only met one fruit I don’t like. There may be others but I doubt I have tried every single fruit yet!

4. dark chocolate – it is so rich and yummy.

5. sunshine – I love stepping outside after a long day at work and let the sun warm me up.

6. drinking water – It makes me feel good to know that all of this water is doing me good.

7. fashion – clothes, shoes, make up… I love it all

8. smell of baking bread – I don’t really eat subway sandwiches (I prefer the salads) but walking by subway when they are baking bread? Oh, it smells so good.

9. fun colored pens – yes at work I use black or blue for important documents but when it doesn’t matter I like to use red or purple or green. It reminds me of when I was a little kid and you got those pens with the multiple inks inside and you clicked down whatever color you felt like at the time.

10. paper planners – I have a calendar on my phone and I use it but there is nothing like a paper planner. I still use one. I plan my week every weekend. I track workouts, work schedules, games, bills etc. I just feel better knowing it is in my planner. Something about writing it down rather than typing it in my phone feels more real.

There. 10 simple, random things I love. It really is the little things in life which give us joy.

What is something you love?

10 Things I’m Grateful For

This was hard and I feel like all my answers are typical. But maybe I am just typical. I easily came up with the first four but struggled with the rest of the list. I added a few over the course of yesterday. I thought about it last night and finally added the last few this morning.

1. My parents – they have always been there for me and have always helped out however they can. Thanks to them I was student loan free when I got my undergrad degree. Thanks to them I was able to move across the country. Thanks to them I always believed in myself and that I could do anything I wanted. I was not limited because I was a girl. They taught me to measure my self-worth in my intelligence and abilities, not my looks. Of course they think I’m cute but don’t all parents?

2. My boyfriend – he is always there for me, even though I may fight it. And even though he doesn’t always say it or make the grand gestures he does all the little things when it matters. The other night I went to bed and he stayed up because he was off the next day. I woke up to the sweetest messages on twitter.

3. My dogs – they love me no matter what. I may say how crazy they are when I get home from work but I love it. I love opening the door to two dogs that cannot contain their excitement that I’m home. The barking, the jumping, the spinning in circles is crazy but it’s their way of showing love. And I complain about them trying to lick my face when doing yoga but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

4. My overall health – it’s good. I have good insurance. I plan to keep it that way *knock on wood* I like being healthy. I like not having to go to the doctor all the time. I was sick a lot as a child (nothing serious, strep, allergies, ear infections) and it is so nice not to have to worry about that.

5. Music – I love music. Music has gotten me through tough times. It has been there for me. I listen to music while I run because it pushes me. A good song toward the end of a run? Amazing. Music also allows me to be creative. I make up dances to my favorite songs. I paint while listening to music.

6. Coffee – it is my little daily ritual, pleasure. I love the smell of brewing coffee. I love the creaminess of liquid creamers. I love holding a warm mug in both my hands, steam rising in front of my face. It is like a little break from everything around me. I have tried tea but there is something about a hot mug of coffee that takes me away.

7. Bus rides – I love my commute by bus. I don’t have to worry about traffic on the 10. I don’t have to think. I can relax. I can play a game on my phone, read, sleep. I usually take the time to read. Some afternoons though I prefer dozing off. Or if I see a friend, I will have a nice chat with them. It is my time.

8. Security – I am secure at this stage in my life. I have a nice car and home. There is money in the bank. I have a job. My boyfriend has a nice car and a good job. We can go on multiple vacations a year. We are by no means rich. We have enough to be happy.

9. Hawaii – I loved Maui. I love that Hawaii has given my boyfriend focus. He has a retirement plan and savings now. He is always keeping up with the real estate to see what we can afford in 20 years. Of course I also loved all the different types of landscapes Hawaii offered. Ocean, rain forest. It was just gorgeous and a photographers dreams. It also doesn’t hurt that it is like 80 degrees there a lot.

10. Friends – Sometimes I feel like I have no friends but that isn’t true. I have a few, very dear friends. They are some of the best people I know. I also have a lot of coworkers that are closer to me than just coworkers. We may not hang out but we talk about our lives, hopes and dreams. Then there are all of the people on myfitnesspal on my friends list. They are the ones who understand my desire to cut calories and workout 5 or 6 days a week. I share personal details on my wall and they do too. They may not be friends in the traditional sense but they are friends.

I am blessed in all I have. I am sure if I thought more I could come up with more items but these were the first 10 that came to mind.

What are you grateful for?

10 Things I Love To Do

I am working on journaling. I think it helps as I am not good at expressing myself verbally as I am in writing. Most of what I write is rambling and nothing I would share but I am working on improving myself as a person and my life. I have decided to share some of the items I journal on, mostly these lists.

 I will add… it can be hard to come up with 10 things in some of the categories I am writing on!

1. Reading books – fiction, non-fiction, chick lit, classics – I will try almost any book. If I can’t get into it, I just move on. I used to waste my time and energy finishing books I didn’t like just to finish. Now, if I haven’t gotten into it by 5-10 pages or 5-10% (on kindle) I move on. I’ve learned I need to focus on things I love. I don’t have to finish a book because it is supposed to be great or everyone else has read it.

2. Photography – I love to take pictures and edit them. I also like looking at others works. Photography helps me see the beauty in the world around me, whether it is the way the light looks or something that most may overlook.

3. Working out – I love the energy I get from it. I love feeling strong. Currently I love yoga and weight lifting. I still love running but am taking a break. I want to try all kinds of workouts and do it all but unfortunately I am struggling with this. I have a groupon for a boxing class but cannot bring myself to go. I have to go. I will go.

4. Writing because I feel I can express myself better with pen and paper than verbally. I also like to try to help others through my thoughts, ideas, experiences etc

5. Art – both creating and viewing others work. I love drawing and watercolor. I am not great but it is something I do for myself. It is relaxing yet I never get around to doing it.

6. Baking. I like making yummy desserts. I love sharing my desserts with friends and family. I feel good when others like my baked goods.

7. Organize – Weird but I like to organize things. So much so that I am always looking for better ways to do so. My closet has often been the victim of my need to organize.

8. Research – Another weird one. I like to learn. If I read something interesting I tend to go and look for more information on the subject.

9. Dance, when no one is watching. I often break out in dance at home, while cleaning the kitchen or making dinner. Sometimes I do this when my boyfriend is home. For example when I am getting water, I will do ballet moves while filling my cup. Or waiting for water to boil I might start making up a dance routine.

10. Singing in the car. I love blasting the radio and singing along to all my favorites. I even sing at stop lights so the people around me probably think I am nuts. They maybe right. :)

There are 10 things I love. I do not do most of those enough. As becoming a better me I am going to work on including more of these activities into my daily life. Art, photography and baking are probably the top ones i want to work on.

I am working on my next list, 10 things I am Grateful for. I have been meaning to do this for a while and I have seen several people working on these lately.

What do you love to do? Do you get to do the things you love as often as you can?

Second Guesses

I have been having second and third and fourth thoughts about my decision to do a marathon. It is a topic I have gone back and forth on for quite some time and I thought I was ready for it. But after committing, I am second guessing myself.

What if I don’t have the commitment to train for 26.2 miles? I struggled with my half training. I started off great, had some problems but finished strong. I didn’t meet my time goal but was quite close. I always think, “If my training had gone better I could have made my goal”.

What if I am not fast enough? I am trying to increase my speed but what if I don’t make the 5 hour course limit? I want to finish. I don’t want to be the last person across the line. I don’t want the trailer vehicle to pick me up because I am too slow.

And about a million other what ifs are constantly running through my head. I need to keep talking about it, writing about it and banishing the negative thoughts. I don’t want to run from the things that scare me (no pun intended).

I would say my biggest concern is being too slow. I am going to focus on increasing my speed. I am working on a sub-30 5k program right now and keep skipping workouts. I can’t do that any more. I am committing myself to completing this program and then my next program and so forth.

I am planning three half marathons to do this fall/winter/spring to keep me going and I hope to achieve sub-2:30 in each of them. There will be a few shorter distances as well. Mostly because I have done these races the last couple of years.

 What do you do to motivate yourself to achieve a goal? What rewards, if any, do you give yourself for meeting your goal? How do you overcome your fears to complete a goal?

Of Photography and Fear

If you haven’t noticed… I haven’t been posting here much recently. I have decided I am going to cut back on posting to this blog for a bit. I really want to focus on getting my photography going. Photography is where my passion lies and I really want to start to pursue it.

I have been doing it but going about it half-assed. I need to focus my attention there so I can work to pull myself out of a bad place.

The problem is I am afraid. Afraid of failure. Afraid of not being good. Afraid nothing will come of it. I need to stop being afraid and go for it. I fear asking people to pose for me. I have never really done portraits. I don’t know if it is something I’d be good at. I fear hearing my photography sucks. It is like a never-ending pit of fear.

I missed out on an opportunity to test myself recently because I was afraid. Someone was looking for a volunteer to snap a few photos at a charity event. I didn’t volunteer because I thought, “What if I mess up and ruin their photos?” I allowed that thought, amongst others, to dominate my mind. I went to her request several times and re-read it.  A few times I started typing a response but then chickened out. I can’t allow myself to act like this if I really want to be a photographer. Right now I am my only critic and biggest obstacle.

I need to force myself out of my comfort zone and prove to myself I can do this. I am what is standing in my way.

I would appreciate it if you checked out my photography website, maybe give it a follow, bookmark it, whatever it is you do. Maybe leave a comment or two. I am aiming to make that blog all about the photography. There is little in way of writing there, mostly to describe what I was doing or how the photo came to be.

As I get photos edited and ready to go, I will update over here. I would like to finish my Hawaii trip posts. And if I make any really yummy, amazing looking recipes I can throw those up. Or if I just have something I want to talk about, I will post. I just can’t keep up with my rigorous schedule I had. This blog will become more random. I want to write at least once a week but am not promising anything. ;)

I hope you all stick around during this slow time and go look at my photos!

Marathon or 26.2 Miles

Either way you look at it, it’s quite a feat. A feat I have decided to undertake. Not anytime soon but in the near future. I plan to document my journey. I wish I had done that with my half. I hope you will follow along with me! (You don’t have to do the running, just the reading. I’ll make it easy on you!)

I have decided on the Vegas Rock n Roll Marathon in November 2015. There are several reasons for this.

  • I will get two medals (Desert Double Down)
  • I will have plenty of time to work on my speed (gotta finish in 5 hour course limit)
  • I will be 35. I want to be like I was 35 and I finished!
  • I’ve heard the course is flat/fast/easy.
  • It’s at night.
  • It’s on the strip.

I decided this yesterday. And last night I started looking at a few things. Things I want to research include:

  • Training Plans for hitting 5 hours or less (I’d prefer 4:30 or so)
  • Nutrition during training
  • Nutrition in days before
  • Nutrition day of
  • Recovery/Sleep (warm-up, cool downs)
  • Breathing
  • Reverse taper (for after)
  • How to find all the time
  • Cross training (yoga, weights, ??)

When I first started my half training I wasn’t eating enough and skipped a few runs. I think this impacted my training and I’d like to avoid that in future. I want to eat enough but not gain weight. I’d prefer to maintain. I think fueling is just as important as the running.

I know I can run faster but my breathing is what is holding me back. Stupid asthma/allergies. I want to look at and try different techniques to become better at breathing while running faster.

I am interested in the reverse taper idea because I always struggle to get back into running after. And I hate walking if I am not walking to somewhere. (I can run for 13.1 miles for no reason but I can’t walk around the block without getting bored. Weird, I know.)

I am always interested to hear about others experience. Please share your marathon tips!

And buckle up, this will be a bumpy ride!


Another outfit with my Gap black pencil skirt. This time I wore it with a stripped top from Express and of course was my favorite boots from Target.

stripes 3 stripes 2 stripes 1

The shirt is quite long so I decided to tuck. Usually I do not tuck tops but it just looked better. I like this top because it has leather piping around the neck and a zipper on the back. Oh yes, and a little mesh triangle on the neck line. It’s sexy but not overtly. Subtle. I like subtle.

stripes 5 stripes 4

And one of the pups wanted to get in on the action.

stripes outtake 2 stripes outtake 1

Hawaii: Day One

Arrival on Oahu
We decided to try Puka Dog, a place that was on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation, but when we walked there the entire building was shut down. Just up the street was Da Big Kahuna and we decided to check it out. I had a drink called Lava Flow which had rum, cream, strawberry and few other ingredients. It was quite tasty and easy to drink. I tried Loco Moco which is an egg on top of a burger on top of rice with brown gravy. It was really good. I might have to make something similar when I get home.

lava flow loco moco

After lunch we walked down to Waikiki beach. It was surprisingly not packed. We walked along the beach for awhile until it started to rain, We decided to drive around the island a bit. Unfortunately we got to Diamondhead just before closing so were only able to see the inner valley. The tunnel entrance was amazing.

waikiki beach 1 waikiki 1 diamondhead tunnel


We then drove to the lookout for the lava tube. That was pretty amazing to see in person. Mostly it was just tiny wisp of water but twice we got a good geyser. I got one decent picture of the waves going through the tube. The rest were just waves crashing.

lava tube

We then stopped at Hanauma bay overlook. There were mongooses in the bushes and running around. I could not get a good picture of them though; it was getting too dark. I snapped a few of the bay below though.

hanauma bay hanauma bay 2

The lighting wasn’t ideal for picture taking. It was far to overcast but I did the best I could. It seems Oahu will be cloudy and rainy while we are here but Maui will be all sun. I don’t mind the clouds and rain; it just doesn’t make for the best photo composition.

For dinner we went to a place called Jawaiian Irie Jerk. It was so good. It was just this little hole in the wall. If you didn’t know where it was or trust google maps you would never find it. I had the jerk rib eye. The boy had jerk pork. Both came with veggies and some kind of sweet potato cake. Mine also had what they called cornmeal “polenta”. There was also some kind of Jamaican bread with butter, which was infused with jerk seasoning. It was a lot of food but I have no complaints about it. We also ordered dessert. I had a Jamaican Coconut Rum Cream Pie. It was sweet but not too much. It was creamy and delicious. The coconut and rum flavors were the right balance. The boy had Banana Paradise, which was a banana rolled in nuts and served with rum raisin ice cream. Again, very tasty (I had a bite). I would definitely recommend this place.

jerk jerk - dessert