2014 Reading Recap

It’s once again that time when I look back over my reading goals and see how I did for the year. SPOILER ALERT….I didn’t make my goals for sure but I did make some decent effort so that counts for something, right?

First off let’s take a look at my goals for last year and see how I did:

  1. Read 50 books – I didn’t get close and I have an excuse…life!
  2. Read 15 Non-Fiction books – close but didn’t happen…it will happen next year
  3. Read classics – still didn’t happen and probably won’t in 2015 either so it’s coming off the list of goals

Let’s take a look at some of the stats:

  • Total Books: 28 – 1 more than last year!
  • Non-Fiction: 12
  • Fiction: 16
  • Shortest: None…probably Charis
  • Longest: The Liberator
  • Least Favorite(s): Nothing really stuck out as awful
  • Favorite(s): Charis and The Liberator
  • Average books per week: .53

And now for the actual list:

1. The Chase by DiAnn Mills

2. The Survivor by DiAnn Mills

3. Digitalis by Ronie Kendig

4. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

5. When the Smoke Clears by Lynette Eason

6. Fight by Preston Sprinkle

7. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

8. Unspoken by Dee Henderson

9. The Malacca Conspiracy by Don Brown

10. Damn Few by Rorke Denver

11. Trapped by Irene Hannon

12. Fearless by Eric Blehm

13. Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow

14. Face to Face with Jesus by Samaa Habib

15. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Khalig

16. Charis by Preston Spinkle

17. For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

18. Undetected by Dee Henderson

19. Submerged by Dani Pettrey

20. Brothers Forever by Tom Manion and Tom Sileo

21. The Liberator by Alex Kershaw

22. Vanished by Irene Hannon

23. No Where to Turn by Lynette Eason

24. Firewall by DiAnn Mills

25. No one to Trust by Lynette Eason

26. Out of Control by Mary Connealy

27. Shattered by Dani Pettrey

28. One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War by Bing West

And that’s it. Not as good as I would like, but also not as bad as  I expected. This year threw a few curve balls so that I’ve even read this much is rather amazing. There’s always next year to improve.

Now it’s time for some goals for 2014:

  1. Read 30 books – I want to challenge myself to do better than last year, but still want my goals to be attainable.
  2. Read 20 non-fiction books
  3. Read more books that I don’t necessarily agree with or that challenge my beliefs

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2013 Reading Recap

Quick Disclaimer….this has been written since January, but thanks to technical difficulties it is just now posting.

It’s once again that time when I look back over my reading goals and see how I did for the year. Hard to believe is already been over a year since the last time I wrote one of these posts.

First off let’s take a look at my goals for last year and see how I did:

  1. Read 50 books – I didn’t get close; I blame hanging out with friends for this one J
  2. Read 15 Non-Fiction books – DONE…with one to spare!
  3. Read classics – specifically I’m thinking some Shakespeare and Vanity Fair (which are on my shelf!)…I dropped the ball on this one – again

Let’s take a look at some of the stats:

  • Total Books: 27
  • Non-Fiction: 16
  • Fiction: 11
  • Shortest: Undaunted by Christine Caine
  • Longest: Either No way Out or The Boys in the Boat
  • Least Favorite(s): Wild and The Long Walk Home
  • Favorite(s): No Way Out, Seabiscuit, and The Boys in the Boat
  • Average books per week: .52

And now for the actual list:

1. No Way Out: A Story of Valor in the Mountains of Afghanistan by Mitch Weiss and Kevin Maurer

2. The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor by Jake Tapper

3. Bad Company by Jack Higgins

4. Dark Justice by Jack Higgins

5. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

6. Bloom by Kelle Hampton

7. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

8. An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff

9. Damascus Countdown by Joel Rosenberg

10. Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

11. Enemy of Mine by Brad Taylor

12. You Saved Me, Too by Susan Kushner Resnick

13. Greater by Steven Furtick

14. Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

15. Living with Honor: A Memoir by America’s First Living Medal of Honor Recipient Since the Vietnam War by Salvatore Giunta

16. Coming Home by Karen Kingsbury

17. Collateral by Ellen Hopkins

18. The Last Man by Vince Flynn

19. Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson

20. The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva

21. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

22. Mud, Sweat, and Tears by Bear Grylls

23. The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian

24. Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

25. Nightshade by Ronie Kendig

26. The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life that Follows by Brian Castner

27. Undaunted by Christine Caine

Overall, I’m really happy about this list this year 60% of the books I read this year were non-fiction; that’s a 30% increase over last year when only 30% of the books I read were non-fiction. Also, the quality of my reading this year was still up there. I didn’t read as many books, but the books I read were bigger and more difficult. I read books that I didn’t agree with, books, that made me cry, books that made me want to go on an adventure, and books that challenged me to really live what I believe.

Now it’s time for some goals for 2014:

  1. Read 30 books – I want to challenge myself to do better than last year, but still want my goals to be attainable.
  2. Read 20 non-fiction books
  3. Read more books that I don’t necessarily agree with or that challenge my beliefs
  4. Read those classics that are still sitting on my bookshelf!

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Sweet Home Virginia….

Nope doesn’t sound quite sound right does it? I realized that yesterday was my 2nd anniversary here in Virginia and this year I actually feel like I officially belong here. At the one year mark I still didn’t feel like a Virginian, but this year is different – this year it’s home. I spent the evening looking back over the last two years and was amazed at everything that has changed.

Back in August of 2011, I got in a car with a trailer filled with everything and drove 1,000 miles to a city where I knew 3 people and had no job and no prospect of one. Considering I’m not naturally comfortable with change and I’m never a risk taker this still amazes me! Those first six months were not the easiest months that I’ve ever experienced. I had no job, no money, and lots of time to worry – not the best combination for an OCD planner (I did have the cleanest house I’ve lived in though!) I had the privilege of getting to watch my cousins grow up some, and got to know their parents as adults. I spent some quality time in the library applying for jobs, and read an impressive number of books. I experienced my first Christmas alone and without a real tree – although my spray painted sticks with ornaments will always be a sweet memory. I started working through a temp agency and spent a few months working in the most interesting environment I’ve ever been in.

By August of 2012, I hit my one year mark in Virginia, but still didn’t quite feel like this was home. It was definitely the kind of year that should have made me feel like a permanent resident, but I guess the roots hadn’t had time to grow in deep and strong. God blessed me with a job that while it wasn’t perfect, it was in the perfect industry. I sat at the front desk and had plenty of time to look up new recipes and perfected my baking skills even more. I learned to swing dance, laughed a lot, did a couple of puzzles, moved into a condo, learned to love the beach, visited DC with the parents, spent time with family, started running, found an amazing church, and got to go home for the first time since the move.

Since last August, I’ve started a new job, considered major life purchases, rented cars and taken my own vacations, ran 13.1 miles for fun, and realized an unorganized house isn’t the worst thing in life – especially when it’s messy because you’re investing your time in people. I’ve met some awesome people, eaten at some good restaurants, lived through some stress, and generally found that the roots have gotten a lot deeper than they were a year ago. I’ve learned that family doesn’t have to be related, eating an entire pound of brussel sprouts over two days isn’t the wisest decision you’ll ever make, and that while it’s not the greatest solution – cookies can solve a lot of problems. A few months back, I took a trip down to CLT and got to visit with some friends. It was a great trip and just what I needed to clear my head, but the best part about it was that I realized how much I missed Virginia. I missed the industrial feel of the area, I missed the crazy weather, I missed the people, but if we’re being honest here (and I am) I did not miss the traffic!
So to celebrate these 2 crazy years and in anticipation of what the next one holds, I’m having a slice of pie and taking a deep breath after visiting the DMV! Yep….it only took me 2 years declare residency. Oops.

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Marine Corps Historic Half

Also known as the weekend where we fit in as much Marine Corps activity as possible while managing to run to 13.1 miles…and yes, the .1 is extremely important!

*This post contains way more photos and probably more details than most of you want so consider yourself warned!

Let’s start on Saturday morning getting ready to leave town. This was my very first 1/2 marathon and also the only time I’ve traveled for a race. I met up with Ryane and left town around 10:00, after making my new awesome juice (thanks VA Ingersolls) of oranges, carrots, and sweet taters. Seriously though, getting a blast of vitamins the day before was probably one of the best decisions ever. This stuff also kept me hydrated really well, which is something that I usually struggle with. Normally I drink some Nuun the day before, but I never felt like a needed to after my morning juice.

JuicePacking for a race is totally different from any other packing! I’m sure I had enough combos of clothing for every season except the harshest of winters in my bag. We also got a good laugh because on my own I had 6 different water bottles in my bag! I had my skirt and capris, a tank top, shirt, long sleeve top, but only one pair of socks (some decisions early in the morning just need to be easy) and my shoes.

The weather was less than promising looking when he headed out, but it wasn’t 90 and sunny out so I was happy enough. We decided to drop by the expo and pick up our race packets before doing anything else. We were able to get there, park, and had everything taken care of in under 5 minutes flat. Talk about some efficiency! We looked around the expo, tried some nuun (lemon tea was nasty) and then headed out for lunch.

After lunch, we headed to Quantico to hit up the MCX looking for shirts for the race since it’s basically impossible to find Marine stuff in Norfolk. On the way I suggested visiting the National Museum of the Marine Corps, I’ve been before and really liked it, so we stopped and really enjoyed looking around. I mean when you’re having a weekend of all things Marines, it’s basically necessary to hit up their museum and also check out Quantico.

Enjoying the museum

Enjoying the museum

After driving around Quantico and enjoying how pretty it was, we stopped at the MCX and bought some shirts to wear. Next stop was the hotel in Fredericksburg. We stayed at Country Inn which was fairly new and nice. They were also really accommodating for runners and had breakfast ready early and had even thrown together some to go baggies of fruit and bagels for anyone interested. After dressing and enjoying some coffee and my toast, we walked across the street to the shuttle and took a quick 10 minute ride to the start. We met a girl on the shuttle ride who has done this race a few times so she gave us all the good details and helped us find baggage check. We breezed through baggage check, the potty line and headed to the corral just in time to take off. There were never any crazy wait times anywhere and not having to stand around and wait definitely helped keep the nerves at bay.

Ready for race day

Ready for race day

Getting ready to leave the hotel

Getting ready to leave the hotel

Before the race I had studied the elevation of the course and knew it would have some challenging climbs at the end, but the beginning had a lot more hills than I was expecting. Miles 1-4 seemed to be going well and I was feeling fine just trying to settle in and keep a nice easy pace.

I was beginning to worry about the final uphill considering that the Marines seemed to think we started by going down. HA!

I was beginning to worry about the final uphill considering that the Marines seemed to think we started by going down. HA! This chart is full of lies!

I decided to have a Gu at mile 6 thinking I was half way there (my brain wasn’t quite working – and this explains why the 2nd half felt so much longer!) It was also right before this point that we decided to take a picture of ourselves.

Mid race while we were supposedly running downhill!

Mid race while we were supposedly running downhill!

Miles 7 -10 were definitely some of the best. We were running through some really cute neighborhoods and the people were all out cheering and playing music and just being really encouraging. We also through some corners with awesome Marines who were giving out high fives and encouragement, which was nice. The scenery through this section changed from the historic district to the river and ended at the base of a brutal looking hill.

Mile 10, also known as Hospital Hill, was the start of the places where I struggled. I kept hearing about the hill, but now knowing what to expect made it a little more intimidating. Basically from 10-11 you climb 200 ft and you get to the top and the amazing EMTs there tell you it over. Then you turn a corner get some water from the Marines manning the water station along with some encouragement and then promptly climb another 100 ft. No big deal, right? HA.

I decided at the base of the hill that I was going to run as much as possible. I made it about half way there and then decided that if I planned to finish strong then I needed to walk the rest of the way. I really believe that I could not have run anymore than I did so I’m really proud of myself. Once I got to mile 11 I kind of fell apart mentally. I’m blaming the hill and the fact that I was in uncharted territory distance wise at this point. I just trying to remember that it was almost over and that I could actually sit down once I got to the end (I had a crazy desire to just sit for a few!). There was also this amazing stranger standing right before the mile 12 marker that must have seen I needed some kind words so he let me know that the worst was behind me and that I quitting now would be pointless.

Once I got to mile 12 I was determined to run the rest of the race. I didn’t care how slow I went, I just wasn’t going to walk. Amazingly my time during this section was actually really good. I really wanted a hug about this time – strange I know, but I just wanted a hug and someone to tell me that I was okay. One of the Marines was standing in the middle of road and encouraging everyone close to the end and that seemed to help me find the final little burst of energy that I used to finish out. I don’t have a clue what he said but I know it had to do with running and the end!

After I crossed the finish line they had Marines waiting with medals and he dropped it on my neck and nearly took me off my feet with the unexpected weight! I managed to find a place to rest and waited for Ryane to catch up. Once she came across we took some pics and started collecting some water and snacks. They gave us some kind of granola, Gatorade, orange slices (heavenly!), and pretzels – the BEST pretzels ever according to the Marine handing them out. His sales pitch worked and all I could think about was eating those pretzels, but I couldn’t get the bag open because I ran out of hands…I was completely devastated. Much to Ryane’s amusement I ended up asking the nearest Marine, who ended up being a Major, for help and after giving him what must have been one of my saddest looks ever got to taste those awesome pretzels. From there we collected our bags and jackets (no wait), walked to the grocery store for some milk, and got back on the shuttle.

Overall it was an amazing weekend. I had tons of fun just hanging out with Ryane on Saturday and then left my race with crazy amounts of pride and the desire to do it again. As for this particular course, I definitely want to run it next year, but I’m also wanting to look into some other longer distance races for the future.



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Pancakes…the semi healthy way

Since this is one of my favorite recipes that I eat at least once a week (Sunday morning pancakes anyone?), I thought it was time to share. Since January, I have been working very hard to control the amount of sugar and refined foods that I eat, with an emphasis on the sugar. My diet mainly consists of veggies and fruits, with some gluten free rice pasta for fun. My body is super grateful, and the change for me has been amazing. When I first cleaned out my system, the one thing I truly missed were my weekend morning pancakes. Once January was over, I couldn’t quite figure out what to do since I love pancakes, but I knew my body wouldn’t be able to tolerate the crazy amount of sugar that is normally involved – a true dilema! I finally tweaked the original recipe to come up with something that I actually really look forward to eating! Other than the flour involved, it’s actually a healthy recipe and extremely filling. In fact, I usually don’t eat lunch whenever I make these because I’m still so full in the afternoon, which is why I don’t mind the big calorie count to start the day. I orginally used Joy the Baker’s Single Lady Pancakes, but have adapted the recipe to fit my wants and needs.

photoSugar Free Yummy Breakfast Pancakes

1/3 cup flour

1 tablespoon of oats (I prefer Old Fashioned)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons of oil

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of buttermilk

dash of vanilla

1 tablespoon of walnuts

Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl adding the walnut last. Cook just like regular pancakes.

To serve mine I like to slather on some almond butter, slice up a banana, and drizzle with coconut butter and a tiny bit of agave (for the sticky factor).

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Reading Recap for 2012 and Some 2013 Goals

It’s officially that time of the year for me to look at how I did with my reading goals and to set some for the coming year. At first glance, my quantity dipped a little, but the quality improved greatly so I’ll take the trade off. Anyways, let’s see how I did on last year’s goals:

  1. Read 50 books – I didn’t make it, but like I already mentioned I’m proud of having quality material this year.
  2. Read 6 nonfiction – way overshot my goal here, as in I more than doubled my expectations
  3. Read some classics and some books on my shelf – failed.big time.oops.

Let’s take a look:

  • Total Books: 44
  • Non-Fiction: 14
  • Fiction: 30
  • Shortest: I Will Carry You
  • Longest: not sure but just guessing it would be Black Hawk Down
  • Least Favorite(s): Blackwater and Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime
  • Favorite(s): Unbroken, Black Hawk Down, and War
  • Average books per week: .85

Here’s the list:

1. Imposter by Davis Bunn

2. All Neccessary Force by Brad Taylor

3. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

4. Blackwater by Jeremy Scahill

5. Longing by Karen Kingsbury

6. A Team for America: The Army Navy Game that Rallied a Nation by Randy Roberts

7. Kill Shot by Vince Flynn

8. American Sniper by Chris Kyle

9. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

10. Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

11. Chatching Katie by Robin Lee Hatcher

12. Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden

13. Whispers from Yesterday by Robin Lee Hatcher

14. The Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark

15. The Curious Incident of the Dogy in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

16. The Judas Gate by Jack Higgins

17. One Rough Man by Brad Taylor

18. Bossypants by Tina Fey

19. A Devil is Waiting by Jack Higgins

20. Courageous by Randy Alcorn

21. Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose

22. At Risk by Stella Rimington

23. Secret Asset by Stella Rimington

24. Loving by Karen Kingsbury

25. The Letter by Marie Tillman

26. Eye of the Storm by Jack Higgins

27. Black List by Brad Thor

28. Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson

29. Thunder Point by Jack Higgins

30. On Dangerous Ground by Jack Higgins

31. Hostage by Elie Wiesel

32. Dear Marcus: A Letter to the Man Who Shot Me by Jerry McGill

33. Angel of Death by Jack Higgins

34. War by Sebastian Junger

35. Drink with the Devil by Jack Higgins

36. The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

37. The Heart and the Fist by Eric Greitens

38. The President’s Daughter by Jack Higgins

39. The White House Connections by Jack Higgins

40. Day of Reckoning by Jack Higgins

41. I Will Carry You by Angie Smith

42. Edge of Danger by Jack Higgins

43. Midnight Runner by Jack Higgins

44. Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan by Sean Parnell and John Bruning

Goals for 2013:

  1. Read 50 books (45 didn’t seem like much of a goal improvement)
  2. Read 15 Non-Fiction books
  3. Read classics – specifically I’m thinking some Shakespeare and Vanity Fair (which are on my shelf!)

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Greek Pasta Salad

I usually make this salad on Sunday night and then eat on it all week for lunch at work. When I buy the ingredients, I usually end up with enough to make it 2 weeks in a row so it’s not too expensive to make. It’s perfect for the summer time when you don’t want anything to hot or heavy and it would be a great dish to take to a summer cookout. Here’s the recipe for this delicious looking bowl of healthy goodness.

1/2 lb of orzo pasta, cooked and cooled to room temp

1 cucumber sliced

1 bell pepper, choose your favorite color

greek olives cut in half

1/4 of a purple onion

Stir all of these together and then mix equal parts olive oil and red wine vinegar with some black pepper (I usually mix it together so that I have 1/3 cup of liquid). Pour the dressing over the salad and let it sit overnight. I usually end up adding more vinegar to mine bc I like the tartness, but adjust as you see fit.

When I get ready to eat a bowl I sprinkle on some feta cheese and slice up some tomatoe and enjoy!

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