Friday, August 31, 2012

Book Review: The Chosen Series

I recently read books 1-3 of The Chosen Series by Denise Grover Swank. They were recommended to me by as a fun and quick read. But the real reason I picked them up is because my brother was reading them. He rarely, if ever, reads. Naturally I had to find out what captured his attention!

The books are titled Chosen, Hunted, and Sacrifice.

Basically, the stories follow Emma, her son Jake, and the man who soon fills their life, Will. I don’t want to give too much away, but in a very basic summary they are seemingly every-day humans who become caught up in an centuries-old elemental battle.

I really like the character development---Will is a lot more interesting than Emma---and the overall storyline. Authors, take note: If you want to win me over then have solid character development. I want to practically see each character front of me! I want to know what they look like, how they move, how they act, how they think---and, most importantly, how I can relate to them.

Back to the series. The elemental part is also an interesting take on things. It’s a fantasy without moving into a new world. The books are a fast read, filled with action, and they keep you hanging over a cliff and clamoring on to the next title.

That said, the imagination does fall flat with all the get-away scenes. I mean, really, how many car chases can there be? I swear there’s one every chapter. The author tried to break things up and throw in an airplane getaway, but that was too much of a stretch.

Book four, titled Redemption, is not out yet, which is good and bad. I’d like to keep reading but stepping away from the series is nice too. Sometimes you need a breather from even the good things.

My overall take is that The Chosen series is a quick and fun read. When you start, be sure to have books two and three next to you because this author rocks at making you want to jump through the series!

I leave for Lake Powell in a week, so I hope to be able to conquer a few books while I’m out there. Reviews will come.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Bet

I recently got a free health screening at work and they sent me a 32-page “heath profile.” Although most of the blood work results were mumbo jumbo to me, the profile was still able to peg me pretty well.
Area of Interest: Nutrition

Generally, I’m healthy but I need to work on my nutrition.

No surprise there. I’ve known this for a while. I try to eat better each and every day. I pack my lunch for work almost every morning and I try not to keep ice cream in the house. However, if I have a craving or see any stray cookies in the office then GAME. OVER.

Packed lunch. This little lunch bag is the best thing I've ever bought. Ever.
Considering how much I work out, I should be a lot skinnier than I am. And this is not a woe-is-me statement nor am I fishing for compliments. I’m saying the truth; looking from the outside in. I need to build muscle and lose fat.

So, my sister-in-law and I---via text message---started a bet. The terms are:
  • We both have to lose 20 pounds by Christmas (which is about 17-weeks away, calculating to a little over a pound a week)
  • On the line is $250. Whoever doesn’t lose the weight has to pay the other person $250
This sounds impulsive, but it is all very strategic. Here’s our thinking:
  • $250 is enough money to be damn good motivation. We can both afford to lose it, but not without a fight!!
  • We are both good with our workouts, but where we fail is our diets. So, the goals are to focus on good dieting, calorie control, and clean eating while still working out
  • We are both competitive. Very competitive
Everyone talks about clean eating. It shouldn’t be so hard, right? Right? Well, three days into the diet we have both been fighting headaches. I feel like I'm having a harder time than she is. Not fair! Processed food is an addiction, y’all!!! An addiction!!

And, to be honest, I’m really struggling this morning. I’m hungry. I want white flour. And salt.

But instead I’m going to eat my oatmeal with chia seeds and strawberries (really yummy, actually!), drink my green tea, and continue to repeat this mantra: $250. $250. $250. $250. $250.

Whole Foods salad for dinner last night

Monday, August 20, 2012

Instagramming and Running

I went on a long run on Saturday.

I knocked out 12-miles along my favorite route---heading south on the Lakefront Path.

My run consisted of Instagramming (is that a verb?) more than running and it was the most fun I've had in a long time. (Ahem, loser.)

Join in on the fun! For your viewing pleasure:

Chicago skyline from the Shedd Aquarium

Soldier Field

Flags at a memorial for fire fighters

Sailboat in the harbor. This boat had a full, uniformed crew. So cool!

Chicago Yacht. I'll take one, please. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Laziness begets laziness---and I have been laaaaaaazy.
Lazy - a: disinclined to activity or exertion : not energetic or vigorous; b: encouraging inactivity or indolence
See exhibits a, b, and c below for a full description of my life right now. Except, add food in each. Lots and lots of food.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: The Big Sleep

For book club we recently read The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. Published in 1939, It is considered one of the classic murder-mystery novels.

This book was my choice. I chose it mostly because I looooove Humphrey Bogart in the movie adaptation and I wanted an excuse to watch the movie again. If you haven't seen the movie, watch it. Watch it now. The Big Sleep isn't on Netflix (WTF, Netflix?!?) but it is available to "rent" on Amazon for $2.99. The link is here. And no, your tv/computer/iPad isn't broken---the movie is in black and white.

I liked the book. I thought it was well done. This is saying a lot because I typically don't like mysteries. I often find the plot too complicated and way over my head. Then I feel like a big dummy. I may be a big dummy, but authors, please don't make your readers feel like dummies.

Chandler was very descriptive, which I like. I like being able to picture the whole room, the developing scene, and the people within it. However, there was a tendency to be slightly too descriptive. Phillip Marlowe was looking through his mail---specifically, two pieces of junk mail. Is that pertinent to the story or case? No? Then leave out the junk mail part, please.

The book was good, but I actually liked the movie adaptation better (gasp!!!). Besides my love for Humphrey Bogart, I think the script pulled out the best parts of the plot, played up the love story, and let the weird parts slip away peacefully. Thank you, William Faulkner (famous American writer and the film's screenwriter)! You're the best!

There were a few lines in the book that I loved. Great writing, very intimate, and straight to the point.
Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.
So I got out my office bottle and took the drink and let my self respect ride its own race.
You can have a hangover from other things than alcohol. I had one from women.
Sexy and yet oh, so cool.

For next month's book club we're changing gears and reading What's the Matter with Kansas? by Thomas Frank.

Monday, August 13, 2012


My summer marathon training is cursed. Cursed, I tell you!

Saturday morning I woke up at 4:30 am all gung-ho and ready to conquer 15 miles. I even laid out my running clothes the night before. 

And then I was instantly doubled over, sick.

So, yeah. I didn’t run Saturday. But as soon as I felt better I managed to go to yoga!

On Sunday I ventured out on my own and ran 6 miles. Hurrah! I know that 6 miles isn’t even close to the 15 miles on my training schedule, but considering that I haven’t run for weeks (not kidding, it has been weeks) then it’s not too bad. I ran through my new neighborhood to try to get know the area a little better. In Logan Square, there are these pockets of neighborhoods with gorgeous homes, big leafy trees, and laughing children. But the main roads are dirty with vacant storefronts, trash everywhere, and a crazy amount of broken glass. My apartment is on the intersection of two major roads. Sad panda.

Back to the point. Right now, my marathon training is in salvage mode. I’m already waaaaaaay behind and I’ll miss the crucial 18- and 20-mile weeks because that’s when I’m on a vacation in Lake Powell. I cannot run there, as we are literally on a boat the whole time, but I did just buy some swim goggles to keep up my fitness.

So, new goal: Keep with the biking and yoga, continue running as best I can, and, well, just go out and enjoy the marathon. I know I’m not going to win the thing (*snort*), or even set a PR, but I can enjoy the training and eventually the race if I just relax, do my best, and have fun.

Fun? Fun, you say? Watch, there will be a post as I freak out about the race---again---in just a few weeks.

Friday, August 10, 2012


I promised I'd post every day. I'm now posting at 11:30 pm---just before the new day---because I want to keep my promise.

But today was just a day. It was just Friday. Nothing special, which isn't a bad thing. Ya know, just a day.

I'm running tomorrow with my running group for the first time in a long time. It has been over a month, to be honest. We're supposed to be halfway through our marathon training program and I haven't gone on a training run in weeks.

This is bad.

I try to always keep a base fitness with soccer and biking and yoga, but we're running 15 miles in the morning. I think that I can get through it, but it will hurt. A lot.

I guess it's now time to get serious about this whole marathon thing. Again.

I'll report back tomorrow. Unless the run kills me, which is very possible.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Niece Is My Mini-Me

The eldest of my nieces and nephews, Ava, is my mini-me. She is three and a half years old and her mom and I often laugh at how similar Ava and I are.

Most importantly, we both love butter. I mean we loooooove butter. As in a lick-straight-from-the-tub love affair with butter.

We also share a love of the color pink (even though I've somewhat grown out of this). When I was little I had a bright pink leotard that I would never, ever take off.

Ava now has a big girl, princess room. I'm even jealous of this room as an adult.

Snow White dress in Ava's big girl room

Pink! I would've died if I had this bed when I was younger.
And now, for the pièce de résistance, Ava and I have the same haircut! It seems that just this afternoon Ava decided to cut her own hair. I've done this before too. It looked so bad that I cried for days! But luckily Super Mom came to the rescue (after shedding a tear or two about losing that long, flowing hair) and gave Ava the most awesome haircut ever. My haircut!

Ava's self-styling

Ava's cute haircut---and now gone hair!

Here's the side/back view
And here's my haircut!

The back view
I say, Way to go Ava! Way to take control of your own hair and end up looking like your awesome and incredibly stylish Aunt Claire!!
Even though I live many states away from Colorado, my legacy lives on. And I couldn't be more thrilled to have a mini-me!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Art of Bike Commuting

My Cannondale road bike
I've blogged before about bicycles.

But here I am to elaborate again on how much I love having a bike in the city.

I sent my car back to Colorado last year because it didn't make sense to spend $200/month in parking for a car I never drove. I found it easier to get around via public transportation.

But since I don't live in the Loop anymore, my bicycle is essential. Besides, it makes things a lot more fun! I'm also getting a sense of all the streets and neighborhoods.

I have become that "biker chick" I've always envied. Chicago is all about confidence. Confidence at work, confidence when going out, and, most importantly, confidence when riding your bike on the streets. I've had to use my voice on many occasions. I especially feel a twinge of joy when I yell at cabbies right before they pull out in front of me. They immediately slam on their brakes, their face showing a mixture of confusion and respect. Yes!!!

I've also found out that bicycle commuting is an art. It must be planned out the night before.

The above picture shows everything piled on my back during a typical ride to work. Moving from left to right:
  • Kryptonite lock. These things are heavy!
  • Bern bike helmet in Matte Neon Yellow. I'll take anything and everything that makes me more visible on the road
  • Yoga bag, mat, and towel. I try to go to yoga in the morning as often as possible. This bag is the only Lululemon thing I own and at $40, it was the cheapest thing in the store
  • Sherpani bag. I bought this years ago in Boulder. It has now proved invaluable
  • Sunglasses, compact, lip gloss, and pens
  • My kindle---which I can't live without. I'm currently reading The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler for book club
  • Chicago bike map. This little thing has gotten me back home many times
  • Wallet
  • Lunch bag. I try to bring lunch to work as often as possible
  • Work clothes. Luckily my office has great showers. I keep in a locker a towel, hairdryer, straightener, and makeup. I think I shower at work more often than I shower at home
  • Headphones (absolutely necessary in the city, but not while you're riding!), running watch, CTA card, and work pass

Here is everything strategically packed away. Didn't think it would all fit, did you? Did you? Like I said, commuting is an art.

Want a lesson in physics? Try carrying your bike up two flights of curving stairs. Fun times.

So, my advice to you? Get a bike. Ride to work. You don't have to ride every day, but just a few days a week. It's worth it. Next lesson? Bike lights. They're even more important than my neon helmet.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Every Day

I wrote a long post last night while on the plane. I had a late flight (landing time 1:08 am in Chicago) and I'm terrible at sleeping on planes, so I figured I'd at least get something done and start blogging. So, I typed everything up on my iPad, had a great post completed... and it's now gone. Gone. Nowhere to be found. Isn't technology great?

In any case, I'll try to recreate my original post here.

I was just in Colorado over the weekend. Overall, it was a great trip! But I was also excited to come back and attack my To Do list again. There's something about traveling that helps you to push that reset button. I always feel more motivated when I return.

So, here's what I would like to accomplish over the next few days:

1. Blog every day. Even if it's about nothing. I just need to write---even if it's not written well.
2. Tackle the reading list a colleague recommended to me.

3. Cook more and find good recipes for my upcoming trip to LAKE POWELL!! I just downloaded the Pioneer Woman's new cookbook on my iPad (even if my iPad does lose blog posts, it's awesome to cook from). I think I bookmarked every recipe in there.
4. Run. I'm supposed to be midway through my marathon training program for the Chicago Marathon in October. Except for soccer, I haven't run for two weeks. Oops. It has been so long since I last run that I'm actually afraid to get out there again! What if my legs have forgotten how to move?

If I kept thinking, there are a million kajillion things that I want to do and accomplish in my life. But I think this list is a good start. The above are all goals that I can accomplish if I put my mind to it.