Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: Run Your Butt Off

A Breakthrough Plan to Lose Weight and Start Running

By:  Sarah Lorge Butler, Leslie Bonci, and Budd Coates

Published: March 15, 2011

Shed unwanted pounds and keep them off ONCE AND FOR ALL with Run YourButt Off!, a back-to-basics, test panel–approved weight-loss plan and beginners’ running program that yields sustainable, healthy results. The Run Your Butt Off! program is founded on the simple concept that in order to lose weight, calories burned must exceed calories consumed. No gimmicks, no shortcuts, no silver bullets can circumvent that reality. With this program, you’ll learn to burn fat from both sides of the weight-loss equation—the calories in and the calories out—at the same time. Run Your Butt Off! will make you fitter, stronger , and leaner .

This book is aimed at non-runners who would like to learn how to begin running.  Th book featured a target group of people who tested the system.  Different chapters of the book featured what things worked for that member of the test panel as well as for other beginning runners.  I appreciated their honesty and the struggles, as well as, successes that they shared.  

This book gives you a very clear workout plan to begin running.  You start with walking for 30 minutes straight and work in more running each week, or however long it takes you to feel ready to move to the next step of the workout.

I ran/walked a 5K in June so I am obviously ahead of week 1 already, but I truly appreciated the explanation that running doesn't necessarily mean fast.  I think I have been trying to push myself to run faster, but I can still get just as good of a workout in running at my walking rate or a tad faster.  I am anxious to see if this extends my time that I can run.  

The steps into full-on 30 minute running are gradual and at your own pace which I appreciate.  The book also gives lot of websites and tracking journals for you to use.  A lot of the book also includes nutrition tips and heavily encourages you to keep a food journal.   As a new runner, I am not always sure what is the best to eat/drink before and after a run and this book explains all of that.

I really appreciated the tips in this book and had a few Aha! moments.  I am anxious to really get started with this plan because it is one of the few that really feels manageable.  

I read this book on my Kindle, but I almost wish I had this book in hand because of the workbooks and journals it includes.  I can go online and print them off though, which I appreciate.  

If you have never been a runner, want to get back into running, or are just curious about eating right and working out, I highly recommend this book.  "Those first few steps are a leap of faith."  Won't you take the leap with me?  I will keep you posted on how it is going for me.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Scenes from Our Week - Week 43

We finally had a week where we were mostly at home.  I spent a lot of my week on the porch in our new furniture reading and enjoying the cooler weather.

Pat took the kids to Des Moines to watch our baseball team play in the state tournament.  
Even though we didn't win, I know he and the kids had a great time. 

On Saturday, our niece, Laura got married to a wonderful man....Eric.  The location was a private pond, the weather couldn't have been more perfect, and the couple was blissfully happy.  Perfect day!

Pat and I

Our cute kids

My glad she could come and enjoy the day!

My beautiful, niece, Jena and I

Congrats to the happy couple!

Me and my niece

You can just see how completely happy she is here!

At the end of the night, some photos with my boys

And this sky was the perfect ending to a wonderful day!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review: Solomon's Oak by Jo-Ann Mapson

By:  Jo-Ann Mapson
Published:  October 19, 2010
Solomon's Oak is the story of three people who have suffered losses that changed their lives forever.
Glory Solomon, a young widow, holds tight to her memories while she struggles to hold on to her Central California farm. She makes ends meet by hosting weddings in the chapel her husband had built under their two-hundred-year-old white oak tree, known locally as Solomon's Oak. Fourteen-year-old Juniper McGuire is the lone survivor of a family decimated by her sister's disappearance. She arrives on Glory's doorstep, pierced, tattooed, angry, and homeless. When Glory's husband Dan was alive, they took in foster children, but Juniper may be more than she can handle alone. Joseph Vigil is a former Albuquerque police officer and crime lab photographer who was shot during a meth lab bust that took the life of his best friend. Now disabled and in constant pain, he arrives in California to fulfill his dream of photographing the state's giant trees, including Solomon's Oak.
In Jo-Ann Mapson's deeply felt, wise, and gritty novel, these three broken souls will find in each other an unexpected comfort, the bond of friendship, and a second chance to see the miracles of everyday life.
I'm guessing the publisher/pr firm was trying to get more buzz about this book since I received it over a year after it came out.  It finally may its way to the top of my to-read pile and I am certainly happy it did.  I have never read a book by Mapson, but I plan to add a couple of hers to my list.  
This story reminded me a bit of THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS because of the way it involved a women who was hurting and a foster child needing to be loved.  But, beyond the foster child story, were so many pieces to the lives of these characters that you were rooting for them from the very beginning...even without knowing the whole story.  
Grief, anger, hope, family dynamics, friendship, love, photography, nature, and animals are just a few of the tags that could be attached to this novel.  This novel is also rich with book club discussion topics.  Mapson wrote so beautifully that it was almost poetic at times.  Places were so descriptive that I could imagine them.  The character's faces appeared in my mind and I could smell the food that was being made.  
I appreciated the honest way the author gave the character's feelings.  My heart ached for them as I turned the pages, but I still believed there was hope for them.  My most favorite part of the whole story was when Glory finally calls her sister, Halle for help.  Even though their relationship was contentious and difficult, Glory swallowed her pride and called her sister.  Halle, didn't even blink an eye and came immediately to her aid.  That's was love is all about.  
Even though the story drug a bit in the middle, I was interested enough to keep reading.  The long chapters also made the pace of the novel move a little slower for me.  Sometimes the story was held up a bit by the descriptions.  But, I hated to see it end.  I'd loved to hear more about the lives of Glory, Juniper, and Joseph.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My mom, A Schwannoma, and Our Last Three Months

This is my mom and I from March of this year.  We had spent the weekend together and had so much fun. 


Then, just a month later, everything started going downhill.  Mom called me on April 20th, to let me know she had just gotten home from the ER.  She had been struggling with diarrhea that whole week before and had gotten dehydrated enough to need to go to the ER.  After performing an x-ray of her abdomen, they ended up finding a mass on her lung.  I will remember that moment and phone call forever.  I was going out the door to our daughter's dance recital rehearsal and I was a wreck the whole night.  

The next week began numerous appointments with doctors in LaCrosse, WI.  I would travel to my parents and pick them up and then drive on to LaCrosse, a 4 hour trip for me.  Over the course of the next three months myself and my sister, LeAnn would make several trips to LaCrosse.  I knew that I needed to be at these appointments and attended nearly every single one.  
Thankfully, I have a husband who is willing and able to step in for me at home.  
I have really found these past 3 months with my parents to be such a blessing.  

After CT scans, a bronchoscopy, a colonoscopy, ultrasounds, PET scans, labs, and explaining her situation dozens of times, it was found that mom had colitis that was causing the diarrhea.  
It was also decided that this mass needed to be removed.  
Mom had surgery to remove the mass on Friday, July 13th.

Once they were in, it was found the mass wasn't even on her lung, but attached to her chest wall.  So the surgery was much easier because part of the lung didn't need to be removed along with the mass.  
All along mom would tell the doctors and nurses that God must have given her the diarrhea so that this mass could be found before it caused any real problems.  Even right up to the day of surgery, the diarrhea was still causing problems and she would joke, "Ok, God, you can let the diarrhea go now."  The surgery went well and after a week in the hospital, she was released.  Pathology reports showed the mass was a Schwannoma, or a tumor that generates from the nerves coming out of the spinal cord.  They are very rare and usually benign and thankfully hers was....BENIGN!    

We are so grateful that this has ended with such wonderful news.  The tumor is gone and can't continue to grow and harm her organs.  It left nothing behind to fester and spread.  Mom can now focus on improving her strength and eating.  The colitis has been difficult to get over, with mom losing nearly 40 pounds in these last 3 months.  It will take her lots of time to get stronger and realize she can't go, go, go and do everything for everybody like she used to.  She is slowly reintroducing foods back into her diet and hopefully, someday, she can enjoy her most favorite food of cream.  I know when that day comes, I will be so happy to bring her whatever flavor of ice cream she wants!

Thanks to every one of you who prayed for my family and for my mom.  It has been an exhausting and stressful three months, but am so thankful that I was able to support my mom and dad through it all.  

My mom and I just a couple weeks ago.

My favorite Bible verse has a whole new meaning for me now:

Proverbs 22:6 
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Product Reviews: tili bags, Masqueology, Stila, and thebalm

Here is what I thought of last month's box of goodies.  It took me a bit longer to try them all and give you my full opinion.  Watch for this month's review soon!

tili bags
These cute little travel bags are the perfect size for carrying lip gloss, smaller toiletries, or loose change.  They are great for those items that may leak or get lost among your purse contents.  The best part is they come in fun prints and colors.  They are made of durable plastic and zip to seal.  These bags retail for $8.49 and you get 12-1 quart size bags and can be found at  If you travel or like to carry products in your purse, I recommend these fun bags!

Masqueology Pore Minimizing Mask
This is a cottony type of mask that is loaded with cleansers. The cleansers in it help the mask to naturally stay on your face. There are holes already punched out for your eyes and mouth so you just have to line them up on your face.  I definitely looked a little funny wearing it around the house for 20 minutes, but as soon as I put it on I could feel the minty, cool cleansers going to work.  This mask intends to minimize the visible appearance of pores as well as refine your skin's overall texture and appearance.  My skin felt really refreshed and smooth after using it and I am sure with regular use, there would be long-term benefits. This mask retails for $24.00/3 Masks HERE.

Stila One Step Bronze
This three-in-one primer, bronzer, and skin perfecter goes on quick and smoothly.  This has been my favorite from this month's choices.  It wasn't heavy and provided just the amount of summer color to my skin.  I have worn this a lot this summer and has given me that just-right touch of summer glow.  I would definitely purchase this item again!  This retails for $36.00 HERE and would easily last you all summer and keep that glow going into the fall.

theBalm cosmetics Stainiac
This product is a lip/cheek stain.  You can apply it to the apples of your cheeks or lips for long-term color.  But don't expect it to have the lip gloss type of feel.  If you want it shiny, you would still need to apply a lip gloss over the top.  For those that like to carry around just a couple products this will cover your lip and cheek color in one, but it really wasn't for me.  I'm sure it would just take some time getting used to applying it, but the color choice also wasn't perfect for me either.  The lip stain retails for $17.00 and can be found HERE.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Porch/Patio Before and After

Last summer we decided it was time to replace the deck that was built by the previous owner.  
After much thought and discussion we decided on a screened-in porch.  
Because the deck was still in good shape, we were able to use the deck supports and build from there.  

After hiring our favorite contractor, Neil, the porch soon came to shape 
and by August, we were enjoying some beautiful summer nights on the porch.  
We even recycled the old decking and used it to build a storage area underneath the deck.

Since we had that lower deck area removed as well, we knew we wanted to do something in that area.  
Pat researched online and drew up ideas, finally coming up with this patio design.  
Since I have been gone so much this summer, I really had minimal input into this patio....
but it is exactly what I would have wanted.  

Pat finished this gorgeous oasis just last week and I just love it.  The plants are perfectly spaced, the water fountain is the perfect touch and the lighting at night has just the right hue.  
Saturday night, I took my glass of wine out to the patio and enjoyed the peacefulness it.  
What a perfect way to end an evening.

In case you are interested, the porch is on the west side of our home, so the plants get a good amount of sun.  
We planted...
- French Lace Weigela along the steps
- Burning Bushes and Boxwoods along the front
- Pentas in the pots
- Miss Kim Lilac along the south border
- Rose bushes on each side of the fountain.

I can't wait to see their beauty next spring and summer.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Scenes From Our Week - Weeks 41 and 42

Many of you know my mom has been sick.  In mid-April, she went to the ER for diarrhea that couldn't be controlled and left finding out she had a mass the size of an orange that was on her lung.  Three months and multiple doctor appointments, labs, x-rays, CT scans, PET scans, and retelling her medical history a gazillion times, she had surgery to remove the mass.  Once the surgeon got in there, they found it wasn't really on her lung, but behind it, attached to the chest wall, which was a much better option.  Her lung didn't have to be removed which shorted her recovery time.  

After spending 4 days at the hospital with my mom, writing down everything in a notebook, chatting with family, and getting very little sleep, we dropped off my mom at the hospital near their home for her to stay and receive skilled care for a week. 

This week has been busy catching up from being gone last week, 
shuttling Reagan to swim lessons and the boys to basketball camp,  
preparing to celebrate and then finally, celebrating Bennett's 11th birthday. 

 Bennett is looking pretty cool in his new Pittsburgh Steeler Sunglasses.

 We can fit a lot of family on the porch!  


Happy Birthday Bennett!!!

There are less than 30 days of summer left before we go back to school.   Part of those days will be a vacation, part will include school shopping, and the rest will have to be some of the items we still want to do.   We will definitely have to prioritize and just enjoy the time we have left.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

10 Years with Mary Kay and My Favorite Products

This month I have been a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant for 10 years.  My sister-in-law, Julie, is a Mary Kay Sales Director and talked me into having my own business.  As a huge fan of Mary Kay products almost since I started wearing make-up, it was an easy decision.  Over the years, I have mainly just kept active with a core group of customers as well as being my own best customer.  I love having a stash a awesome products on hand for gifts or for my own make-up emergency.  It is so convenient having my own make-up store in my closet.

I have some items that I cannot live without and definitely want to share them with you.  Even though I am a consultant, if you are interested in these items, please seek out a local consultant in your area by going to

Mary Kay Acne Treatment Gel retails for $7.00 and is the only product I use to get rid of those pesky pimples.  It takes care of them right away and has saved my face on many occasions through the years.

Mary Kay Facial Cleansing Cloths retail for $15.00.  These dry cloths turn into the perfect wash cloth when water is added.  They cleanse, exfoliate, and tone in one easy step.  They are perfect for travel (no worries when going through airport security) as well as perfect for taking to the gym.  I make sure I never run out of these!

One of Mary Kay's newest products is the Lash and Brow Building Serum.  After use, 7 out of 10 women noticed their lashes were fuller.  I have noticed in huge improvement in the look of my lashes and have also built up areas in my brow line where my brows were too thin.  This product retails for $38.00.

Mary Kay Lash Lengthening Mascara retails for $10.00.  It is the perfect finish after applying the above serum.  It isn't clumpy and lasts all day long.

Mary Kay Mineral Powder Foundation offers me the perfect, flawless finish I am looking for.  The foundation applies so easily and evenly.  I also love that you can close up the holes in the container for mess free travel.  This foundation retails for $18.00.  I also recommend getting the Mary Kay Mineral Powder Foundation Brush which retails for $10.00 to apply the product.

Mary Kay Satin Hands Peach Hand Cream is the only hand lotion I use.  I carry one with me at all times.  I love its non-greasy formula and its light peach scent.  It retails for $10.00

Anyone that knows me at all, knows I can't be without my Mary Kay Satin Lips Lip Balm.  I start and end each day with this product as well as apply it multiple times throughout the day.  It keeps my lips moist and is the perfect glossy finish when you are looking for just a hint of gloss on your lips.  My disclaimer is that my husband isn't a fan of this product and I usually have to say, I have lip balm on before he lays a smooch on me! LOL!  This product retails for $9.50.

Mary Kay TimeWise Skin Care.  I have been using these products since they came out with them and have not wavered from them for my daily skin-care routine.  The 3-in-1 Cleanser ($18.00) and Moisturizer ($22.00) have kept my almost 40-year old face from having much less wrinkles.  Along with those two products, I add a few others to my routine including:  Mary Kay Even Complexion Essence ($35.00), Microdermabrasion ($55.00), Age Fighting Eye Cream ($26.00), and Targeted Action Line Reducer ($40.00).  All of these have kept my face feeling and looking its best.  Even though these products may seem pricey to some of you, they last a long time and not all of them are daily items.

Mary Kay also offers numerous other cosmetic items including mineral eye and cheek powders, lip gloss/stick, and other products for specific target issues.  If you are interested in any of the above products or having your very own Mary Kay business, go to and find a consultant nearest you.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bennett's 11!

On July 19th, 2001, at 7:35 AM, I delivered this happy little boy.  
He surprised us by coming 2 1/2 weeks early.  
The summer was much like this one, hot and humid, and with chasing a 1-year-old, I was ready to pop!  
At 8 pounds 6 ounces and 21 inches, I was glad he came early!  

Bennett was always smiling....except for those first few months of colic.  
That was a challenge, but since then he has and continues to be the happiest kid I know.  

We call this picture, "Bennett in the Balls",  and is one of my all-time favorite photos!  
We had just told him it was time to go home and as you can imagine, he was not very happy with us.

Bennett was a bit sneaky and mischievous you can see here.

Bennett brings us joy every day.  He is usually the first kid up in the house, always the first to offer a hug and say I love you, and cares about his family deeply.  

He loves to swim and have water fights in our yard. 
 In the winter, he is the first to ask if we can play a game as a family.

Bennett is bright, talented, and brings a smile to my face every day.  
He is the best worker too, offering to help with jobs and chores around the house.

Bennett has lots of favorite foods including supreme pizza and tacos.  
I think he asks me at least once a week if we can have tacos for supper!

Happy Birthday Bennett!  These 11 years have flown by.  
I look forward to building many more memories 
and enjoying lots of future laughs, hugs, and tacos with you!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Quote for the Day

“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.”
-Iris Murdoch

How do you treat yourself after reaching a goal, getting through a tough week,  or just ending your day?  If we don't treat ourselves every once in awhile, life would just be dull.  When we set goals, it is important to reward ourselves, so we have something to be excited about. 

Not all treats have to be related to food, but here are some of my favorite small treats:

reading a book
playing scrabble
watching Friends or another favorite show
glass of wine
listening to a favorite CD
sitting on the porch and listening to the birds
chat with a friend on the phone
some one on one time with my husband

It is important to treat ourselves once in a while.  Take some time to treat yourself today.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Review: Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim


By:   Laila Ibrahim

Published:  December 17, 2010


Mattie was never truly mine. That knowledge must have filled me as quickly and surely as the milk from her breasts. Although my family ‘owned’ her, although she occupied the center of my universe, her deepest affections lay elsewhere. So along with the comfort of her came the fear that I would lose her some day. This is our story...

So begins Lisbeth Wainwright’s compelling tale of coming-of-age in antebellum Virginia. Born to white plantation owners but raised by her enslaved black wet nurse, Mattie, Lisbeth’s childhood unfolds on the line between two very different worlds. Growing up under the tender care of Mattie, Lisbeth adopts her surrogate mother’s deep-seated faith in God, her love of music and black-eyed peas, and the tradition of hunting for yellow crocuses in the early days of spring. In time, Lisbeth realizes she has freedoms and opportunities that Mattie does not have, though she’s confined by the societal expectations placed on women born to privilege. As Lisbeth grows up, she struggles to reconcile her love for her caregiver with her parents’ expectations, a task made all the more difficult as she becomes increasingly aware of the ugly realities of the American slavery system. When Lisbeth bears witness to a shockingly brutal act, the final vestiges of her naiveté crumble around her. Lisbeth realizes she must make a choice, one that will require every ounce of the courage she learned from her beloved Mattie. This compelling historical novel is a richly evocative tale of love, loss, and redemption set during one of the most sinister chapters of American history.

After reading and loving books like THE HELP and WENCH, when I saw this as a free Kindle purchase, I figured I had nothing to lose.  It is currently $3.99 for Kindle and $9.95 for paperback HERE and I think you should stop what you are doing and purchase it now!

I have had several friends who read it and told me I needed to read it now, but it took a day at the hospital with my mom for me to get it started.  I read it nearly straight through and fell in love with Mattie, the wet nurse and Lisbeth the white girl cared for by Mattie.  As a mom, my heart ached with Mattie as she "kissed Samuel (her 3 month old son) tenderly on his round cheek and poured I love you into his tiny ear." I couldn't fathom leaving behind your own baby to take care of a stranger's baby, not knowing if you would be back in months or years.   Then watching from the window of the big plantation house to get a glimpse of your son knowing that while you are sleeping in a bed, your son is on a hard pallet.  This type of living that was commonplace in America is just mind boggling to me.

I appreciated how the author told us the story of Mattie and Lisbeth from both sides and let us explore the character's personalities.  Ibrahim tells a wonderful story with such description that I could picture the plantation, the people, and the situations that evolved.  I am still in awe of how blacks were treated during the 1800's through the 1960's.  Anytime I read a story from those eras, I end up feeling so ashamed even though I wasn't even born.  The line between blacks and whites was so harsh and completely different it is almost unimaginable to me.

I love finding out how the title of the book works its way into the story and I think the author chose well with this one.  The author brings us to the yellow crocus early on in the story and then it finds its way to come around in the end.  What a beautiful way to bring this novel full-circle.

Because this was set around wealthy plantation owners, I also enjoyed the story of their culture and lives.   The white families lived such a strict, rule infested way of life, that I can only imagine I would have felt claustrophobic.  Lisbeth's thoughts and feelings were so different from those she lived with, that I wondered if I would have been strong enough to stand up for my beliefs like Lisbeth did.  

This would be an excellent choice for book clubs as the setting alone provides for a wealth of topics.  If you are a lover of historical fiction, you won't be disappointed.  

Laila Ibrahim was the founder of the Woolsey Children's School and is a birth doula.  She currently works as the Director of Children and Family Ministries at the First Unitarian Church in Oakland.  YELLOW CROCUS is her first novel and I am hoping there will be more.  For more about her, visit