Not Getting Any Younger

I read this blog called Back to Her Roots written by a girl named Cassie who’s a few years younger than me. She bought her childhood home from her parents and moved back there to live a simpler life. But when I read a lot of her posts, I can really relate. She’s trying to lose weight but not by crash dieting (and she weighs almost exactly the same as me). She struggles with the same desires to do crafts but also the need to work. And she’s really into cooking and cooking with whole, good-for-you-foods. 


What’s truly inspired me lately though, is she created a “Thirty before Thirty” list of things she wanted to get done before she turned thirty. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and I decided (since I’m already over thirty) I’d create a “Forty before Forty” list. Just a compilation of things, great and small, that I wouldn’t mind accomplishing in the five and a half years before I turn forty. 


1. Finish a multi-chapter story.
2. Visit Boston again.
3. Visit Vancouver.
4. See Pavel Datsyuk play in person.
5. Read every Jane Austen Novel.
6. Read everything by Shel Silverstein.
7. Read everything by Astrid Lindgren.
8. Go one week wearing a dress every day.
9. Buy a Vespa.
10. Make an entire piece of furniture.
11. Hand-make an entire garment.
12. Buy an ice cream maker and invent my own ice cream flavor.
13. Walk from my apartment on Pearl to Mark’s mom’s house.
14. Take a hot air balloon ride.
15. Learn to shoot archery.
16. Cook a meal over an open fire.
17. Design, plan & orchestrate a lunch or feast at an event.
18. Make fresh pasta from scratch.
19. Get a facial at a spa.
20. Get a pedicure.
21. Make every recipe from Baking: From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
22. Own a pair of Tom’s.
23. Volunteer for a charity or the library.
24. Lose another fifty pounds.
25. Have a meal at a 5 Star restaurant.
26. Plant something and help it grow.
27. See the symphony play again.
28. Go to another play @ The Starlight Theater.
29. See a whale in person.
30. Hold an owl.
31. Get several more tattoos.
32. Wear a dress that could have been pulled out of Jane Austen novel.
33. Take a cooking class.
34. Eat REAL barbeque from one of the states famous for barbeque.
35. Finish an embroidered scenery panel.
36. Stay a weekend at the Viking Inn in Minnesota.
37. Buy an entire outfit at
38. Host a tea party.
39. Go to another Canucks game (even if it’s at the United Center).
40. Complete this list.


I’m close to completing a few of these, actually, and some of them might take a lot of saving and scrimping, but I think it’s all doable if I work hard. I’m about to start a new chapter of my life and I’m highly looking forward to it. Hopefully this list can keep me focused on doing some of the things I’ve always wanted to do. 


Do you have a list? What are some of the goals you’d like to accomplish before your next milestone birthday? 


The Bug

My wonderful, supportive boyfriend keeps telling me that I have caught “the bug” for exercise. I suppose that’s true. Exercise, in any form, has always been a struggle for me. I am, deep down, a generally lazy person — which is probably why I’m in this state to begin with.

In 2005, I lost 50 pounds and got down to 226 — the lightest I have been since, I’m guessing, my middle school days. It felt amazing. I felt great, and I pushed myself to do things I’d never done before. But even then, working out was a challenge, and not really a part of my success. Then the years that followed, I gained 58 pounds back. Since then, I’ve joined gyms, but failed to go. I’ve devised programs for myself but failed to stick with it. I just thought that exercise was beyond me because I could talk myself out of doing it very easily.

However, ever since I can remember, I have harbored a secret desire to be a runner. One of those folks you see on the side of the road, jogging away, wearing matching clothes and the remnants of some number badge from a race. I have always wanted to be one of those people.


But there’s also always been an excuse. I have asthma, I’ve been overweight since I was two, and now that I’m in my 30’s, I have joint problems. With every new ailment I saw my dream of becomming that runner slipping further and further from my grasp.

But three weeks ago, all that changed.

I don’t know what it was. It was still very cold out. But I’d begun cooking low-carb meals for my boyfriend and I thought to myself, “If I’m cooking all of this healthy stuff for him, I have no excuse but to cook healthy stuff for myself.” That night, I sat down at my laptop and dug out an old walking plan that I’d designed to be a sort of “Pre” Couch-to-5K plan. And the next day, I started.

Week one started off badly. My first walk out, which was only supposed to be 10 minutes, I slipped on a patch of ice and banged my knee up pretty badly. Though it didn’t affect my ability to walk home in shame, it did hurt and caused other related strains. The next day I decided not to brave the ice, and instead walked in place for ten minutes. The rest of the week, for whatever reason, I sat on my butt and did nothing.

Week two started out the same way — sitting on my rear. By Wednesday, however, the weather warmed up and things had begun to melt, so I began walking outside. The kind of awesome thing was, on the first walk of the week, I thought it was so nice to finally be outside that instead of walking only ten minutes, I walked 30. Then the next day I walked 30 minutes. By Friday, I had caught the bug, and convinced one of my boyfriend’s kids to walk with me to her favorite park. The journey took us 40 minutes and we were both tired afterwards, but it was so great to share that experience with her and maybe show her that exercise can be rewarding.

Week three had a bit of a bump. Not only was my boyfriend’s mom having surgery, but we were going to an SCA event that weekend and I had a lot to do. Looking back, I can see how these things were all just excuses. With so much down time at the hospital, I could have easily gone for a 30 minute walk. And I know during those sewing days I took breaks to rest my hands, long enough that walks could have been taken. I only managed to get in four walks as a result, and was a little disappointed in myself.

This week starts week four, and I’ve also bumped into a snag — the weather. Previous sunny days with highs in upper 50’s have spoiled me. Now I’ve got three days worth of rain. I decided, however, that weather in the spring shouldn’t keep me from walking. I’ve already added ten minutes to my walks with little strain on my legs. Yesterday I managed to find a span of time to fit my walk in between rain storms, and today I’m looking to do the same. The idea of not going on a walk kind of makes me twitchy — like I need to go out and do it to feel like my day had some meaning to it.

As soon as I’m done writing this, I’m going to throw on my heaviest hoodie, a scarf, and a pair of gloves and go out now that it’s stopped raining for a little while. I feel like I need to go out and do it. Just the little bit of walking I’ve done has helped my breathing a ton, and I’ve found that my knees that usually plague me even when I spend the day rest them, haven’t been hurting nearly as much, and I have loads more energy and drive to do other things. Also, when I get my walk in, I don’t want to eat foods that are full of fat and sugar because they make me feel so heavy. It’s a win-win.

And I have to say, there are worse things to become addicted to. If I have caught that bug, I hope there isn’t a cure!

25 Books in a Year, a Lengthy Recap

Let me start off this post by reminding everyone that I am not a reader. Even when I was little, I used to find a book I liked and read it over and over and over, until the pages were all dog-eared and the text was faded and worn. I couldn’t even count the amount of times I re-read Pippi Longstocking, or How to Eat Fried Worms, but I can guarantee that by the time I was eleven, I could have recited both of them to you, word for word.

When I got into my teen years, I really wasn’t into reading for fun, unless the stories came out of the pages of Pop or Teen Beat. College gave me a reason to read, with classes like “Contemporary Fiction” and “Shakespearean Literature” but still, reading was for class, not fun. When I got out of college, I began reading again, but really, unless something grabbed my attention, I really only read every once in a while.

The last few years, reading for fun wasn’t something I was really interested in. And yet, nearly everyone around me was a voracious reader. I’d sit in groups of friends listening to them talk about the latest Laurel K Hamilton novel (a guilty pleasure of my early adulthood), or another of Jim Butcher’s fantastic mysteries, and I’d be lost and a little jealous. I’d wish that I could just read, and continue reading, like habit, like everyone else, as if it wasn’t something I had to make the effort to do.

So, a little over a year ago, I decided to try an experiment. Could this off-again-on-again reader set a goal of so many books in so much time and actually meet it? There were dozens of “Fifty Books in a Year” challenges, but I really kind of thought that might be a bit much for me. So, I decided that I would set myself a goal of 25 books in a year, and I didn’t really set limits on what kind of books those had to be. This way, even if I got burnt out on reading and took a few weeks off, theoretically, I could still meet my goal. After all, meeting the goal and proving to myself that I could be a reader was the point of the experiment.

I managed, just barely, to meet the goal, and I have to say, I’m rather proud of myself. I’m not really huge on finishing a goal, even though I’m awesome at setting them for myself. I won’t go into details about self-sabotage and what could possibly imply about my psyche. But here are a few things I learned along the way:

#1. Reading is relaxing: I’ve had a trying year. Job endings and new job starts, trying to sort out a new relationship with my parents in a very different way, financial struggles and the like, have made me a little frazzled at times, to say the least. What I learned was that a good book could easily suck you in, and let you live someone else’s life for a little while. I found it was distracting enough to take my mind off my own problems, and also gave me a bit of perspective. I might be struggling to make ends meet, but at least I didn’t have to ride a giant dinosaur through the streets of downtown Chicago to stop a mad man bent on destroying the world.

#2. Reading should not be a competition: I am a slow reader. Someone once told me that I read word for word, sentence for sentence, which apparently isn’t the way most people read. While I may enjoy a book as much as Joe Blow over there, he might be reading it four times faster than I am. When I started, I knew that 25 books was a small number compared, and I had a few friends who decided to join me and read their own goals. I have to admit that when I heard some of these goals of 100 books or more, I got discouraged and gave up reading all together for a while. It made me feel like I was somehow not as smart as these fast readers. I had to remind myself that, while this was something I wanted to see to fruition, reading was meant to be fun. And if I tried to keep up with folks who had tons more time to read than me, or folks who were just plain read faster than me, it would feel more like a chore than anything else. I had to make sure I was having fun, because otherwise, what would be the point of all this. And chores are definitely not fun.

#3. Reading a good book doesn’t always have to improve your mind: There are brilliant books out there, written by brilliant minds. In fact, Pride and Prejudice, by the very talented, and late, Ms. Jane Austen, is one of my absolute favorite books. I also have Utopia by Sir Thomas More on my “to-read” list, and a very science-y book called Relic about extinct species of animals roaming the jungle and being brought back to the city to wreak havoc on my “read” list. But I’ve also read the likes of Twilight, by Stephanie Meyers, volumes upon volumes of a manga called “Fruits Basket” and several children’s books, all of which have no scientific, or philosophical benefit whatsoever. And so what? They were entertaining, and enjoyable, and if I wasn’t a better person for reading them, at least they helped me escape life for a bit, and improved my imagination (along with my inner child).

#4. It shouldn’t matter what other people think of what you’re reading: I’ll admit it, I tease my boyfriend’s fourteen-year-old about her vampire-romance riddled reading habits. But honestly, if she is happy reading them, and it’s not causing her any harm, why should it matter what I think of the books she chooses? One of my favorite books I read this past year was ten pages long and told the story of an old Italian grandmother with a magic pasta pot. What you read isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Like life, you will always have folks who agree with you, and folks who disagree. What matters is whether or not the book appeals to you, holds your attention, and gives you a good feeling for reading it. Don’t listen to other people when choosing a book; just because one person doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean you won’t.

#5. Just because you think you have an “omg all time favorite” book, doesn’t mean that can’t change: I thought I had it nailed down. Ever since I picked up My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George when I was eight, I have loved it. Every few years, just when I’ve forgotten parts of the story, I re-read it, and fall in love with it all over again. When asked, I’d quickly say this was my favorite, all time book. And then, this past year, I picked up Ronja the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren and it blew My Side of the Mountain out of the water. I didn’t think it was possible, but I loved Ronja more than I ever felt for little Sam Gribley. I suppose this only goes to show that you have to keep giving other books a chance to be your favorite. Who knows, you might be surprised.

Drawing this very long-winded post to a close, I just want to say the most important thing: I had a lot of fun doing this. There were nights when I didn’t want to read but I made myself anyway. There were days when work seemed like such an intrusion into my reading time that I felt grumpy all day until I could get home and continue reading. Some of the books I read disgusted me and I wanted to throw them away or put them in the freezer (ala Joey Tribbiani). But I got through it, I had a blast, and I am happy now to continue reading at a leisurely pace.

My advice to those “non-readers” like myself: just pick up a book. It doesn’t matter if you finish it in a timely manor, if it takes you two days or four weeks to finish. Just do it. You’ll be the better for it, and I can guarantee you’ll have fun.

And just for kicks, here’s a list of the books I read this year. Cheers!

25 Books in 1 Year
1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
– Started 11/29/2011
– Finished 12/3/2011

2. Dead(ish) by Naomi Kramer
– Started 12/5/2011
– Finished 12/7/2011

3. Relic by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
– Started 11/23/2011
– Finished 12/12/2011

4. Dead Beat by Jim Butcher
– Started 12/12/2011
– Finished 12/29/2011

5. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
– Started 12/13/2011
– Finished 1/5/2012

6. Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
– Started 1/20/2012
– Finished 1/20/2012

7. Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
– Started 2/4/2012
– Finished 2/4/2012

8. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
– Started 1/11/12
– Finished 2/22/12

9. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
– Started 1/30/2012
– Finished 2/28/2012

10. Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
– Started 3/7/2012
– Finished 3/13/2012

11. White Night by Jim Butcher
– Started 3/17/2012
– Finished 4/4/2012

12. Small Favor by Jim Butcher
– Started 4/7/2012
– Finished 4/9/2012

13. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
– Started 4/22/2012
– Finished 4/23/2012

14. Turn Coat by Jim Butcher
– Started 4/20/2012
– Finished 4/30/2012

15. Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris
– Started 5/1/2012
– Finished 5/2/2012

16. Changes by Jim Butcher
– Started 5/7/2012
– Finished 5/10/2012

17. Side Jobs by Jim Butcher
– Started 4/9/2012
– Finished 5/11/2012

18. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stig Larsson
– Started 5/6/2012
– Finished 7/11/2012

19. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
– Started 8/31/12
-Finished 9/29/12

20. Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren
– Started 10/2/12
– Finished 10/4/12

21. Shakespeare’s Landlord by Charlaine Harris
– Started 10/5/12
– Finished 10/7/12

22. Mio, My Son by Astrid Lindgren
– Started 10/8/12
– Finished 10/12/12

23. Shakespeare’s Champion by Charlaine Harris
– Started 10/13/12
– Finished 10/14/12

24. Ouran High School Host Club (all Volumes) by Bisco Hatori
– Started 10/15/12
– Finished 11/15/12

25. How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew by Erin Bried
– Started 11/16/12
– Finished 11/29/12

Gonna try with a little help from my friends

After a long conversation with my breakfast companions yesterday, I decided there was no more room for excuses. While I’ve managed to keep off the 40 pounds I’ve lost, I’ve been stuck at the same 40 pounds for months, and I’m still not down to my lowest weight (in the past ten years). I also decided that weight loss can’t be my only goal. I need to get in better shape, so that going up and down stairs to do laundry doesn’t wear me out, and that playing with the kids doesn’t feel like a chore. I can guarantee that my cholesterol is probably high as is my blood pressure, and my energy level is absolutely abysmal.


To that end, I’m giving myself a set of goals to meet every week, and a reward for completing each. This week, I have three goals:


  1. Walk fifteen minutes every single day. If it’s raining, or too hot, do either fifteen minutes of The Firm, or two circuits of one of Allen’s callisthenic routines. The reward will be a new bottle of nail polish from ELF.


  1. Go an entire week without eating out at a restaurant. This goal has an exception: Thursday night after Fighter practice. Other than that, everything else I eat has to be home cooked, if not by me, than by someone else. The reward will be an ice cream cone at the end of the week.


  1. Log all my food and exercise for the whole week on My Fitness Pal. I don’t have to stay under their recommended calorie allotment, but I do have to keep track and hold myself accountable. The reward will be new music from iTunes.


Hopefully I can do this. I feel like I’ve challenged myself a lot in the past few months and have managed to come through, so this should be small potatoes. Next Sunday, depending on how well I did this week, I’ll have new goals. And I’m posting this here so you can all hold me accountable.


No more excuses. I know I can do this and I’m so very tired of being so very unhealthy. So here I go. Wish me luck. 

Sink or Swim


I’ve been thinking a lot about commitments lately, and about safety in life, in and out of the SCA. Nine years ago, I broke up with my fiancée of a year and a half, left the Society and began living on my own, without a boyfriend or roommate, for the first time in my life. It was terrifying, at the time. I had no idea if I could afford the bills on my own, or if I was destined to be one of those people who moved back in with their parents.

And the thing is, I fell on my rear. I had to move back in with my folks to get my debt under control, and to sort out my life. I thought I wanted to go toCulinarySchool, I thought I wanted to finish college. I lost most of my friendships, all of my pride, everything, and gained only one, very important thing:

…the courage to fail.

So now, three years into a new relationship (and a new love of the SCA), I’m faced with another scary proposition. My “secure” job of the last fourteen years is ending, and again I don’t know how I’ll be able to pay the bills, or find a new job, or manage my life without it. I’ve had to face interviews and applications for the first time in over a decade; purchasing work appropriate clothing for the first time; insecurity about my near financial future. I’ve already had to secure promises from friends of monetary assistance if I can’t find a new job in time to pay my rent for June. And I’ve already been rejected and scammed out of a dozen jobs at least.

And to add to my stress, I’ve stepped up to take on the regional Chronicler position for theMidlands. This is the first time I’ve ever done something in the SCA outside of my Shire or immediate friend circle. When I was first approached, my immediate reaction was to say no. I didn’t think I could handle it with what is going on mundanely. But then, something incredible happened.

My new mentors told me I could do it. My regional Seneschal told me I could do it. My boyfriend told me I could do it. My friends told me I could do it. People who barely know me, told me I could do it. And I think that if so many people see qualities in me that make them believe I can do something outside of my comfort zone, and make a commitment beyond my shire, and beyond my immediate friends, then why shouldn’t I have the courage, and faith in myself to do it?

Why can’t I once again have the courage to fail?

If I never face things like this, and never push myself to succeed, how will I ever know my own worth? How will I ever see beyond what’s local, what’s solid, or what’s safe? I will never know my own potential, and that, I believe, would be a tragedy. I have to see what lies beyond my Shire, beyond my “secure” job, beyond what I know and what is comfortable.

Am I scared? Yes. But if I never try, then what’s the point? It’s no longer about being a big fish in a small pond, or even being a small fish in a big pond. It’s about having the courage to swim. 

Question: Which Books Count?

It’s been two months since I started my “25 Books in One Year” Challenge and I’ve fallen behind a bit… sort of.

I’m still a book ahead of my four books by January 23rd goal, but now I’m behind schedule reading my books due for February 23rd. The reason for this is that I stopped reading my current books to finish off a manga series I’ve been working at on and off for the past year, called Fruits Basket. I read 12 volumes of this manga series, which included 71 chapters. Even though the artwork takes up most of the page, and you don’t even have an entire paragraph worth of dialogue on each page, that is still a lot of reading.

The trouble is, I feel like these books shouldn’t really count toward my 25-in-a-year goal, and I suppose that is because the amount of work that went into reading so many volumes was very minimal compared to how much work it would have taken me to read 12 books. However, it was reading, and I do feel like I should get some kind of credit for so much time spent pouring over these pages.

I also want to re-read a book from my childhood, The Boxcar Children, which I’ve already downloaded onto my Kindle from This book will take a few hours to read, since the words are familiar, and the text is written for a child of ten. Should this book count as well? I’ve never tried to read a certain amount of books in a certain period of time, and I’m unsure whether or not reading manga or children’s books is cheating or not.

What do you think?

I like books: Update

A month and a week ago, I set out to read twenty-five books in one year. I’m happy to say that as of today, I’m ahead of schedule by two books. 🙂

Twenty-five books in one year breaks down to a book every two weeks. When I set this goal, I kind of thought I was really pushing myself, but I’ve managed to read four and a half books in five weeks. I couldn’t be more pleased. Now, granted, I’ve had a stomach flu that’s knocked me on my butt for three straight days which has given me time to read, and I’ve also had a late night or two up reading a book I just couldn’t put down, but I’ve done it, and I’m so proud of myself.

I thought making reading schedules and forcing myself to keep up a steady pace was going to make reading these books feel like a chore — and it might yet — but right now, I’m pleased to read. I think having no cable has helped, since I’m now forced to be choosy about what shows I watch on Hulu, which gives me plenty of time to read. And I do think it’s improved my writing, and improved my intelligence, just to be constantly filling my brain with the written word.

I’ve also employed both physical books, and the Kindle app on my iPhone, which has opened up a whole new spectrem of time to read, since I can now read whenever I have a spare moment or two, as long as I have my phone (which if any of you reading this knows me, I have constantly attached to my palm).

I’m counting this experiment as a success, and look forward to totally blowing my goal out of the water by next November. Here’s what I’ve read so far:

1. Relic by Preston & Child, Pendergast #1
– Started 11/23/2011
– Finished 12/12/2011
– My thoughts: I really didn’t think I would enjoy this book when I first started reading it. It was a gift from a friend, and I really did like the description on the back cover, but when the first chapter started discussing all these technical things, it took me a day or two to continue it. However, once I got into the book, I was hooked. Filled with technical jargon (much of which I actually had to Google), you would think this book would be a tough read. But it was so intriguing and thought-provoking, and the language flowed so easily, that I simply got swept away by it, and didn’t struggle through it at all. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it kind of grossed me out a bit, but most of all, it gripped me and held my attention. Borrow this book from me. You will not regret it.

2. The Hunger Games by Collins
– Started 11/29/2011
– Finished 12/3/2011
– My thoughts: This book came highly recommended by the Eldest Celtling (who happens to be 13). I realize that I’m not the target market for this book, and that made it easier to read. But as you can tell from the amount of time it took me to read, this book was one I could absolutely not put down. Once I got into it, I became obsessed with it. I was lucky that I had the Kindle version because every spare moment I had I spent reading it. And there was even a Friday night I stayed up until 3 a.m. reading it. It was impassioned, it was tragic, it was awe-inspiring. There wasn’t a single word in this book I did not love. My only complaint, however, was that there were a few moments that I felt too adult to be marketed toward kids under 16. There were a few gruesome scenes that turned my stomach, and I’m not sure, if I was a parent, I would want my kids to read this book before they were over 16. I wish I had read it before the Eldest Celtling, though she seems to have handled it fine.

3. Dead(ish) by Kramer
– Started 12/5/2011
– Finished 12/7/2011
– My thoughts: Um… well, this book was a short read. And the ending kind of redeemed most of the beginning and middle. But there wasn’t much I enjoyed about this book. I think I kept reading it because it was very odd and one of those “I have to know what happens to understand it” kind of books. I wouldn’t recommend this one to anyone, though. It was… very strange, and not in a good way.

4. Dead Beat, Book Seven of the Dresden Files by Butcher
– Started 12/12/2011
– Finished 12/29/2011
– My thoughts: I am very impressed by Butcher’s imagination. And his descriptions of Chicago are very impressive. However, Butcher, it’s Soldier Field, not Soldier’s Field. That mistake was made twice and as someone from the Chicago area, missing that tiny detail bothered me. Isn’t that what copy editors are for?

I’m halfway through Water for Elephants as well, and I’m kind in love with it, too. I still have a list of books left at my disposal, plus I can easily get my hands on the second Hunger Games book, the eighth Dresden Files Book, and I will probably be picking up the second Pendergast book. I don’t think I will have a lack of books. 🙂