Sunday, 24 July 2016

Stitchfix! What were you thinking?!

In June, I decided to order a second Stitchfix box. I rated my first box as an 8/10. If I'd had a coupon referral or a few things fit just a little better I would have kept all of the items.

My second box? I gave it a 3/10. It had two items in it that I actually liked and one of them I'd requested. I kept the dress I requested but the shorts that I thought were cute were too big and too pricey.

I feel like Stitchfix pulled a bait and switch. My first box was great, but the box where I had a referral coupon to spend was pretty terrible. I'd really wanted a second box filled with summer styles and colors. I went in financially prepared to buy the whole box- I had the buy all 5 items discount, plus a coupon and was so excited. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way.

Here's what they sent:


These shoes were over $100! I'm not a fan of snakeskin, or the bendy flats- there's just not enough support. Also, my stylist mentioned something else she send would pair well with a kitten heel but sent me these.

I'm not a pink fan, but I didn't check the "avoid" box for this color because I do wear it sometimes. However, this shirt hung so awkwardly on me. 


I like these shorts. In fact, I used to have a similar pair but they were too big and if I remember correctly over or around $50.

I checked avoid purple and to me this dress looks pink, purple and blue. It was insanely comfortable but not very flattering. Also, I thought the print made it look like pajamas.


I kept this dress and I love it. But, I requested it so I already knew that I would like the print and cut, it was just a matter of fit and price.  My heads cut out in this picture because it had just finished storming and my head was soaked from the rain!

Friday, 15 July 2016

Weight Loss Goals + a Review

During the two years that I spent in Korea, I lost somewhere around 10-15 pounds. I was eating smaller portions and exercising 3-5 times a week, in addition to walking everywhere I wanted to go. My abs were gaining definition, my thighs slimmed down and I felt very confident about my strength and my body. I did things like participate in a pickup basketball game because I could actually run around without getting out of breath in the first five minutes.

Fast forward a bit. I've been home 10 months and I've gained back all of the weight plus some. Running on the treadmill feels like a chore but I have mixed feelings about running outside, mostly its a mix of anxiety about safety and a lack of confidence. Some have said that I look like a praying mantis when I run. When I was in Korea, I didn't care what people thought, for the most part I was ignored. Now, I'm worried about catcalls or pointing and laughing. Thanks, America.

I hate this.


Anyway, when I was in Korea and back when I lived in PA I participated in a challenge inspired by Six Sisters Stuff and that worked well to inspire and motivate me. If you're looking for accountability I would definitely suggest starting a challenge with your friends and family. 

The success I had with the challenge made me very excited to try one of Six Sisters Strong fitness programs. I was lucky enough to be gifted with a complimentary copy of the 4 Week Home Workout Program and Menu Plan in exchange for a review.

I really enjoyed both the exercise and menu parts of the plan. The exercise plan consists of different interval workouts combined with cardio. I think the combination is very important. I didn't lost much weight in Korea until I started running. The interval exercises keeps me focused on intensity and prevents my mind from wandering like it does when I go to the gym alone.

The plan offers two choices of meal plans. I followed the simpler plan simply because it was all my schedule allowed at the time. I'm getting ready to start the plan again and plan on trying the more in depth eating plan this go around. I found the simple eating plan to be varied and sufficient. I certainly didn't go hungry

During my first two weeks I lost 6 pounds!

And then I went on vacation!

Which is why I'm about to start the plan over. I highly recommend purchasing a plan. This plan was perfect for me because the exercises were challenging but not difficult. I mean that I worked up a sweat and had sore muscles but that the moves don't require much skill to execute. Perfect for the clumsy.  Now, this program worked for me but it does take dedication to to do the full workout and to stick with it. But it is worth it! Also, I think (vacation days notwithstanding) the eating plan is fairly easy to adapt to your daily life once you have hit your weight loss goal. You can just fit your favorite recipes into the recommended rations and serving sizes once you get to the point where you are just trying to maintain. 

If you need extra accountability, they also offer a personalized plan with check ins from a coach. 

What kind of workouts work best for you? Any weight loss tips?

Monday, 4 July 2016

Pantry Challenge!

Merissa from Little House Living has challenged her readers to eat down their pantries and freezers. This challenge came at the perfect time for me as I have just under 2 weeks until my next big grocery shopping trip and my hubby has challenged me to spend as little as possible over the next two weeks.



Tonight  I did a quick freezer and pantry inventory and then made a list of meals that I think I can make completely out of the times in my fridge, freeze and pantry.

Breakfast

I have a gallon bag full of scones in the freezer. These are either from Jessica Fisher or Alana Chernila, 

Lunch

(1) grilled ham and cheese
(3) cinnamon apple oatmeal
(1-2) Tuna salad on Triscuits

Supper

(3-4) Curry porkchops with rice and broccoli
(2) Turkey Pasta Salad
(1) Bacon Egg and Cheese sandwich
(2) Turkey, black bean and tomato bowl
(1) bacon, egg and grits or bacon, egg and toast
(3-4) HomemadeTuna Helper
(4-5) Quiche (either veggie or leftover turkey/bacon with onions and bell pepper)

Snacks
Apples
Raisins/Raisins with PB
Popcorn
Biscuits
Hot chocolate or chocolate milk


If my leftovers don't give me enough lunches once my "lunch menu" is finished I will allow a purchase of deli meat and cheese to go with the loaves of bread in my freezer.

I'm also planning on tidying up my freezer by making a batch of chicken broth and vegetable broth out of the assorted bags of bones and veggies hiding out in my freezer.

What are your favorite "go to" pantry meals? Also, have you ever done a challenge like this? How did it go? Any tips?

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Book Review: They Say We Are Infidels by Mindy Belz



In They Say We Are Infidels Mindy Belz goes into an in-depth explanation of the politics and people of the Middle East, focusing on the persecution of Christians by ISIS. Belz meets and becomes personally involved with different individuals in order to best tell their stories from their view. One such individual is Insaf Safou who Belz helps smuggle money to her friends and relatives in Iraq sent by exiled Christian Iraqis living in Canada. Belz tells this story and many like it, of people trying to liberate kidnapped Christians, of people trying to build a "normal" life amidst the chaos and persecution.



Belz does a wonderful job of providing a background and context for the events being covered in today's media. They Say We are Infidels  is thoroughly researched and well written. I find it a very necessary book to help those who want to go deeper than your standard news article about the middle east. That being said, I wish there were more personal stories or perhaps a more personable writing style. Belz is a journalist at heart and the book is very journalistic. I feel like I would have retained more if the book read a little more like an novel than a term paper. Overall, I found Belz's book to be very educational but not easy for the average Joe to understand,

*I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Book Review: A Lesson in Hope by Philip Gulley




A Lesson in Hope is the the story of Sam, the new pastor of Hope Friends Meeting. Sam must quickly put his pastor-ing skills to work when the oldest member of the church passes away and leaves her one million dollar estate to the church. The church is quickly divided over the best way to deal with the property and how to spend the money. But that's only the beginning of their problems as a "long lost" relative shows up with a lawsuit challenging the will. All of this on top of Sam trying to deal with various family dramas including: his son dating the daughter of a "rival" minister and his eccentric, retired, parents deciding to move nearby and have him help with the "fix" part of their new"fixer upper".

I really enjoyed the story and the premise of A Lesson in Hope but I felt hard to really be immersed in the story. I felt like the characters were hard to relate to- like they were paper dolls being moved across a scene. Overall, I felt that the story was sweet  but I didn't connect to it in the way that I thought I would.

*I was given a complimentary  copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Korea Eats

I may have mentioned that the hubster and I spent a little  time in South Korea. One of the things we miss is the food...especially the Korean barbecue.

So, when I was offered the chance* to check out Koreatown by Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard I jumped at the chance. The hubster was pretty excited too as he liked Korean food a lot more than me because a lot of it was spicy!


I tried quite a few recipes out of this book. One the first night I made bulgogi, bok choy kimchi, sigeumchi muchim (soy and seasame spinach) and Kongnamul muchim (crunchy seasame bean sprouts).

The bulgogi was the best part of the meal that night. Although it didn't taste quite like bulgogi it was still very flavorful and delicious.



 I asked my husband what he thought and he gave me his verdict with his thumb-o-meter:

The bulgogi:


The bok choy kimchi:


The kimchi looked so good and he was sooo excited for it but it tasted like a long dead fish. I used less fish sauce than the recipe called for because I knew we both aren't fans of it and it still came out too fishy. He said the spiciness was dead on but he couldn't get past the fish flavor. Neither could I, so the whole jar went straight into the trash!

The second night I made bibimbap:


I thought the bibimbap was a good way to use up the spinach and bean sprouts that weren't especially good on their own and the bibimbap sauce turned out really well too. Mike enjoyed his but didn't agree with my verdict that it was better than any bibimbap I ate in Korea. I said that mainly because there are a few "veggies" thrown in that I usually didn't like and a lot of times bibimbap is served lukewarm and I really hate eating lukewarm food. Give it to me hot. Give it to me cold. Or don't give it to me! :)

The bibimbap verdict:



The overall Koreatown experience?

I think that this cookbook makes Korean food accessible to the masses. It tells you were to find items that aren't traditionally found in a Western grocery store. There are a lot of pictures, which I liked. I also liked all of the stories and side notes. I feel like I will make more recipes out of this book as I found a good many that I want to try. 

There's also a "fusion" section with recipes like Korean sloppy joes or a shrimp and grits style pajeon.

*I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.








Monday, 23 May 2016

New ATM Favorite: Messenger by Moonlight by Stephanie Whitson






I just finished reading a great book by Stephanie Whitson.

Messenger by Moonlight tells the story of Annie, Frank and Emmet Paxton. Left penniless after the death of their father, they travel on to the big city searching for work and the blue-trimmed house of Annie's dreams. The brothers agree to put aside their wages to help buy a home for Annie before pursuing their own dreams of adventure and marriage.

But the changes in Annie's life don't stop there. Her two brothers spotted a sign hiring Pony Express riders and the two decide to give it a go. Annie and her brothers travel on to George Martin's station in  the middle of nowhere. The station serves as a "home base" for Frank and Emmet's Pony Express rides and Annie will earn her keep as the station's cook.

The book follow's the boys adventures as Pony Express riders as they discover their own dreams and learn who they truly are. However, the story centers around Annie as she adjusts to the harsh life of a cook for Mr. Martin. Annie is such a strong female character. I loved seeing a heroine who isn't there just to provide a counterweight for the hero. Annie doesn't expect her brother's or Mr. Martin to change their lives for her and fully expects to earn her own keep. This makes the moments when her brothers or Mr. Martin go out of their way to provide for Annie extra meaningful.

I highly recommend this historical fiction novel. It made me very interested in the women who contributed to the success of the Pony Express. I look forward to enjoying Whitson's other books.